The St. Louis Cardinals finally parted ways with shortstop Brendan Ryan Sunday. Ryan heads to Seattle in a trade that brings fireballer Maikel Cleto to the Cards organization.
Ryan had been the team’s starting shortstop the past two seasons. In that time, he emerged as a top defensive player who could make every play up the middle. But questions about his mental toughness and his ability to bounce back with the bat were big enough to overshadow his glove.
The shortstop batted .223 and stole 11 bases last season for St. Louis. He hit .292 and swiped 14 bags the previous year. Overall, Ryan just wasn’t the catalyst the Cardinals needed to set the table for Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. Despite his major drop in batting average in 2010, he only scored five fewer runs (50) and drove in one fewer run (36) than he had in 2009. The team needed a spark plug on a team that depended too much on the big bats, but no one stepped up.
Albert Pujols led the team in stolen bases with 14. Ryan was third with 11. As a light-hitting shortstop with some speed, he should have turned stealing bases into a defining aspect of his game. It would have made him more valuable and it would have helped the team win more games. It’s not just Ryan who could focus on base running, but it could have saved his job.
And despite his glove work, he wasn’t always mentally prepared. He caught heat in some controversial situations during the season, but it has been documented that he isn’t the most mature player on the club.
All of these factors led to the Cardinals trading Blake Hawksworth for Ryan Theriot. What Theriot lacks defensively, he makes up for with his consistency at the plate, his base-stealing ability (20 or more steals four times), and his professional and scrappy reputation.
The team had been looking to deal Ryan after landing Theriot, but the market cooled after the Orioles and Padres made moves for J.J. Hardy and Jason Bartlett.
Seattle gets a possible starting shortstop in Ryan and the Cardinals get a project with major upside in Cleto. The 21-year-old right-hander has been clocked at 100 mph. He could be a valuable arm one day, but he has a long way to go as evidenced by his 6.16 ERA. Cleto has been a starter most of his career, but the velocity on his fastball could make him an intriguing option for the bullpen.
Ryan gets a fresh start in Seattle, which struggled despite high expectations in 2010.