Cardinals' set lineup presents case for DH in NL
St. Louis suited for AL game with abundance of bats locked up and more in pipeline
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Welcome to the fraternity, Matt Carpenter.
A third baseman for mere weeks, the guy who was such a force at second base for the St. Louis Cardinals has become the latest member of the locked-up club. He joins baseball's most set lineup -- one of five veterans guaranteed a combined $245.25 million for 21 seasons.
Factor in three option years, and Yadier Molina, Jhonny Peralta, Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and Carpenter are due an additional $45 million, which would run the combined value for those guys beyond $290 million.
That's a big, tall stack of Benjamins, even if it is less than the Angels have promised Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. The Cardinals are doing baseball business in bulk, and they're doing it well.
First baseman Matt Adams, second basemen Kolten Wong and center fielder Peter Bourjos have 14 years of team control between them. The Cards don't have to make decisions on any of those eight players until 2017, when the option year for Holliday arrives and Bourjos could enter free agency.
Oh, and we haven't even mentioned some prospects being produced by the organization's rich pipeline. Oscar Taveras, a .320 career Minor League hitter rated by MLB.com as the No. 2 prospect in the Minors, is knocking on the door, and fellow outfielders Stephen Piscotty and James Ramsey aren't too far away. Ditto Randal Grichuk, a first-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft who was acquired alongside Bourjos in the trade that sent David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Angels.
Until Taveras arrives, Mike Matheny's plan has Adams at first base every day and Craig in right field. But things get complicated once you put another bat in the mix. Make it two more and it will be a crazy abundance of riches.
We've got the answer, although it wouldn't be embraced by many in Cardinals Nation.
Add the designated hitter to the National League!
Wouldn't you rather see one of these guys hit than continue to watch the Cards send the likes of Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez to the plate? I would, but maybe I'm biased, because I grew up watching American League games, not worshiping at the altar of the double-switch and that predictable daily double -- the No. 8 hitter being walked to get to the pitcher and the pitcher giving up an out with a bunt.
Will the NL ever seriously consider the DH, or is this just media talk? I've been asking executives that this spring, and the trend I've found is the younger the general managers, the more open-minded they are about the proposition. It's not going to happen in the next few years, but it might have a real chance in five to 10 years.
"It's something that comes up, but I think that's sort of idle conversation," Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said. "I don't know if there's any real discussion about it. I always kind of look at it that way.
"When Major League Baseball asks our opinions, and it looks like there's going to be a rule change, it's at that point we'll pay attention. But to date, there's never been anything like that. It's always been gossipy, and therefore I assume it's going to stay the way it is."
Reds GM Walt Jocketty believes the NL will always stick with the original set of rules, not the experimental ones that the AL first tried in 1973.
"It's a talking point, but it's never been seriously discussed," Jocketty said. "I don't think so. I think there's some good in both, personally. I spent lot of time in the American League, and I thought that was great. Now [that I'm] in the National League, I like the strategy of the game, some of the other things that come with having pitchers hit. I don't think it will ever change."
Dodgers GM Ned Colletti doesn't rule out a change, but he says he doesn't expect change in the near future -- even though his club is like the Cardinals. The four-outfielder formation -- with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig, as well as the presence of Joc Pederson in the wings -- should make it easy for Don Mattingly to write lineups in AL parks.
"That's a tough question," Colletti said. "I don't know. I don't think so, but it's always possible. Probably some people would make a strong argument for it, but it's almost polarized now with one league not having it, one league going to have it. I don't think it's going to happen any time soon."
Brewers GM Doug Melvin, who started his career in the AL, has long been more open-minded about it than some of his brethren. He acknowledges that it's easier to put together a team in the AL because of the flexibility of the additional position for a hitter.
"It is a little tougher in the National League [to build a team]," Melvin said. "The talent pool is a little different. In the National League, we may have an advantage [in free agency attracting] pitchers. A pitcher may say, 'Hey, I don't have to face that DH,' and they choose our league.
"At times it's tough putting an offense together [in the NL]. You just can't get that one player an extra 200 at-bats. I know [free agents] have walked away from us a number of times because I can get them 250 at-bats at one position but can't get them that extra 100 at-bats that a DH can in the American League."
Melvin would love to see Major League Baseball use a uniform set of rules.
"I personally would like to see both leagues be the same," he said. "I don't know if we'll ever get to that, whether it's [keeping] the DH or the no-DH. It gets brought up at GM meetings, but I don't know if it's going to go very far."
In the meantime, Rockies GM Bill Geivett might have the best idea for an NL team.
"We're worried about trying to get wins and losses," Geivett said. "As far as the DH and all that goes, we don't really talk about that that much. We try to make our pitchers hit better. We like that game in Colorado."
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.