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What will the Cardinals do with Allen Craig when Lance Berkman returns?

Jul 3, 2012, 12:16 PM EDT

Allen Craig Getty Images

It seems crazy to think about considering how wrecked by injuries the Cardinals have been all season, but they could be on the verge of having too many quality hitters to fit into the lineup.

Lance Berkman is nearing a return from knee surgery and looks likely to come off the disabled list shortly after the All-Star break, so assuming the rest of the Cardinals’ hitters can stay healthy in the meantime manager Mike Matheny will have a decision to make regarding Allen Craig.

Craig has been filling in for Berkman as the Cardinals’ primary first baseman, with Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran playing the outfield corners and Jon Jay in center field. Matheny could shift Beltran to center field on occasion, opening up right field for Craig, or he could take an even bigger hit defensively by using Craig at second base over the three-headed monster of Daniel Descalso, Tyler Greene, and Skip Schumaker.

Because of Beltran’s legs and Craig’s glove neither of those options are ideal, but when Craig is hitting .322 with 13 homers, 11 doubles, and a 1.046 OPS in 40 games–including two homers last night and four homers in his last 16 at-bats–it’s awfully tough to bench him. He’ll come back down to earth a bit at some point, but Craig has now logged 518 career plate appearances–slightly less than one full season’s worth of playing time–and has hit .300 with 28 homers, 33 doubles, and a .909 OPS.

  1. stex52 - Jul 3, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    Nice problem to have, I guess. Would they like to trade Craig to Houston?

    • ultimatecardinalwarrior - Jul 3, 2012 at 12:55 PM

      No no no no no. I think Craig is our 1B man for the next 6 years. He’s such a quality hitter. Would you like Berkman back? I love the guy, but…it’s time to think of the future.

      • stex52 - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:08 PM

        We love Berkman in Houston, too. But if you think St. Louis needs to think of the future, imagine how much more Houston does. The guy is great, but the Astros are rebuilding from the ground up.

      • ajcardsfan - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:07 PM

        It was mentioned in another post yesterday I think, but Berkman could go to DH for a year or two. I would think Houston could get him for a reasonable offer

  2. redguy12588 - Jul 3, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    Lot of talent, but a lot of injury prone guys. Good chance the decision will be made for Matheny.

  3. thefalcon123 - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:06 PM

    Just do what Tony LaRussa did.

    Tony: Hey Allen, can you play second base?

    Allen: No.

    Tony: Ahhh, sure you can!

    • paperlions - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:44 PM

      Well….you can repeat that same conversation with Skip and Greene. At least with Descalso they get some defense….though he seems to be fairly inconsistent as well.

      • saints97 - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:10 PM

        The Cardinals prefer light-hitting, poor-fielding second basemen. Craig only meets half that criteria.

        Kolton Wong can’t get through the system fast enough.

    • stlouis1baseball - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:36 PM

      A better question would be…

      Tony: Hey Allen, can you play second base if I give you more than 12 – 15 innings at the position?

      Allen: I think so if given the opportunity to get comfortable.

  4. stex52 - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    BTW, thumbs-down guys. I don’t really expect the Cards to trade Craig to the Astros. Doesn’t hurt to suggest, though. :-)

  5. metalhead65 - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:15 PM

    why is this even a question? according to the book of dusty baker you bench the young kid no matter how well he is doing untill the veteran,berkman in this case comes down with another injury or needs the day game after the night game off. you can try squeeze in to another position for the occasional start if he has ever played before in his life or he becomes your top pinch hitter off the bench. yea it does not make any sense to Reds fans either but they are in first.

  6. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jul 3, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    Trade Berkman to Detroit, where he can either play CF or 2B. Really, would it make their defense any worse?

    Seriously, too many excellent bats right before the trade deadline when your team needs some starting pitching. Even a young lad from Schenectady, like myself, can figure this one out.

  7. thomas655 - Jul 3, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    I would think that Craig should play second base if he can play the position defensively reliably. If he is even close to as good a defensive second baseman as Greene or Schumaker, he sure has more offensive punch than either of them. Then use Greene, Schumaker, and/or Descalso as backups/pinch hitters/day off relief players for the starters as needed. Yes it is a good problem to have, but I would not trade anyone until we see what Berkman’s status of recovery is. It is also good to have some experienced players on the bench just in case…… Maybe Craig and Berkman can alternate at 1B and right field to give each other’s legs a break once in a while.

  8. rcali - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    Trade Berkman to a team who still believes last year was the new norm for him.

  9. rooney24 - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    This same question came up the first time Craig came off the DL. It worked itself out that time, as half of the guys involved missed time. Can Beltran play two games a week in CF?

    In a six game week (if Beltran can play 2 games in CF):
    Beltran – Three games in RF, two games in CF
    Holliday – Five games in LF
    Jay – Four games in CF
    Berkman – Five games at 1B
    Craig – 1 game at 1B, 1 game in LF, 3 games in RF

    I would guess something similar to that could work. If Beltran can’t play CF, then Craig only get 1 game in RF and 1 or 2 at 2B. It is a better problem to have than to have a full DL.

  10. jengibre23 - Jul 3, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    I would use him at 2nd because he can play there an also he brings slot more power to the team.

  11. paperlions - Jul 3, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    Did you guys know that Todd Frazier is hitting .278/.344/.562 (OPS: .906), with 8 HR, 27 RBI, 1 SB, and fWAR: 1.5?
    :-)

  12. uclafightfightfight - Jul 3, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    The Dodgers are looking for a first baseman. They might be able to get Berkman for a reasonable price, being that his health is in question. If he does come back healthy, he can change the Dodgers’ line-up entirely.

    • willsolo - Jul 3, 2012 at 5:50 PM

      Yeah, lets just add a guy who is coming off knee surgery and is in the latter stages of his career. Makes perfect sense!

      • uclafightfightfight - Jul 3, 2012 at 6:08 PM

        You’re right. We’re better off with Carlos Lee. Actually, let’s just stick with Loney. Even better, how about someone who is unproven so we can send some prospects for a guy who might tank it with us. Lance Berkman is a great hitter, and he can help us contend this season. We can worry about a long-term fix later.

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