With Jhonny Peralta set to open the season as the Cardinals’ third baseman, they’ll need to find a place for Jedd Gyorko, who swatted a team-high 30 home runs in 2016. Gyorko could wind up at second base, where the right-handed hitter would platoon with the lefty-swinging Kolten Wong, though the latter made it clear Sunday that he wants no part of a timeshare.
Asked if he’d rather the Cardinals trade him than use him as a part-time player, Wong told Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “One hundred percent. I don’t want to be here wasting my time. I know what kind of player I am. If I don’t have the belief here, then I’ll go somewhere else.”
Wong hasn’t requested a trade – notably, the Cardinals rebuffed at least one interested suitor during the winter – and he indicated he’ll “be ready to do what I gotta do to help the team win.” Still, Wong’s frustrated that the Cardinals might not follow through on general manager John Mozeliak’s offseason plan to get him more second base time this year. In fairness to the Redbirds, though, Wong hasn’t necessarily established himself as a full-time-caliber player since debuting in the majors in 2013. The 26-year-old owns a modest .248/.309/.370 batting line in 1,469 plate appearances, including an even worse .247/.290/.327 in 336 PAs versus same-handed pitchers, and is coming off a year which featured a demotion to Triple-A. Plus, it would behoove the Cardinals to find at-bats for Gyorko, the better offensive player.
While Wong has underwhelmed at the plate, that hasn’t been the case at the keystone, where he has totaled 19 Defensive Runs Saved and put up a 9.0 Ultimate Zone Rating in the majors. Wong’s cognizant of the value he has provided the Cardinals in the field.
“On defense, I’m one of the best second basemen in the league,” he declared. “I believe that and I know that.”
Both Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny agree with Wong, having heaped praise on his defensive skills during the offseason. Of course, Mozeliak was responsible for giving Wong a five-year, $25.5MM extension last March. Wong addressed that deal Sunday and wondered aloud whether he’ll finish the contract in St. Louis, per Frederickson. Regardless, he believes the pact entitles him to a longer leash.
“When you are given a contract, you are expected to get a chance to work through some things and figure yourself out,” he said. “Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, all these guys never figured their stuff out until later on down the road. It’s the big leagues. It’s tough, man. For me, the biggest thing is I just need people to have my back. When that comes, it will be good. But, I think right now, it’s just staying with my play, understanding I’m working toward getting myself more consistent, understanding what kind of player I can be. If that’s going to be with another team, so be it.”
Despite Wong’s displeasure with his current situation, he noted he doesn’t “want to come off as being like bitter or anything” and credited Gyorko for an “amazing” 2016.