Here we are: The Off-Season. The only thing you want to do is relieve some of the pain of the final loss of the season by day dreaming about next year’s prospects and new talent, and the only thing John Mozeliak will do to pique your interest is offer Carlos Beltran a qualifying offer and wait for him to reject it. Boring.
So the job of entertaining you guys and giving you all ideas to love and hate falls to us lowly sports writers. It’s my turn, and the following moves are the ones I would make were I sitting in the Cardinals’ front office, broken down by position.
The first order of business is finding a serviceable starting shortstop. Anyone looking at the Cardinals depth chart knows that. Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso were just one hair above acceptable this year, and Greg Garcia looks no better. So — as all St. Louis off-season posts must — let’s look at shortstop.
I swear by all things good that I will throw a fit if Mozeliak so much as looks at any of the available free agent shortstops. I do not want to pay Stephen Drew All-Star money and a draft pick for mediocre talent; I do not want another defensive shortstop with no offensive upside like Clint Barmes; and I do not want an aging shortstop well past his prime like Rafael Furcal.
The fact of the matter is that the Cardinals have some really nice trade chips and the shortstop trade market is cheaper, deeper, and younger than the free agent one. That said, I’m obligated to look at the market.
If I had to pick a free agent to pursue, it would be Johnny Peralta, but he’s really not the kind of guy that meshes well with the Cardinals clubhouse, he’s nearly 32, and his range (and thus ability to play shortstop) is quickly diminishing. Additionally, his value went up with a solid postseason performance. Although I think he’s the best option, he certainly isn’t ideal.
Drew (the next best option) is the wrong side of thirty and looking for a big contract. It’s looking like he’ll reject Boston’s 14.1 million dollar offer and look for a multi-year deal for big bucks. As one of the only decent shortstop options on the market, he’ll likely get it. That said, Drew is a career .264 hitter with a little bit of pop and no real speed. That’s a significant upgrade for the Cardinals right now, but that doesn’t mean that he’s worth 15-17 (or even 10-13) million a year over the next three to five years.
The rest of the free agent market is so unimpressive that I don’t want to talk about it. So I won’t. Moving on!
The obvious trade option is Troy Tulowitzki. Honestly, I can’t believe that this is even being explored right now. The Rockies’ GM has made it clear that Troy is staying in Denver, and the last time that Tulo played 150 games in a season was 2009. Don’t misunderstand me, Tulowitzki is worth every penny of his contract when he’s healthy, but the Cardinals aren’t going to send the Rockies three phenomenal prospects and pay $20,000,000 a year for the next five years for a player who can’t stay on the field consistently for more than 120 games. That might change if Colorado eats some of his contract, but that’s not happening either. There are so many things about this trade that simply aren’t going to happen. So get over it: Troy Tulowitzki is not going to play in a Cardinals uniform anytime soon.
Thankfully, I think Mo agrees with me. The only current rumor involving both the Cardinals and a shortstop involved Starlin Castro, a young player who needs some guidance, but with the potential to be an extraordinarily good player under the tutelage of Jose Oquendo and the mature guidance of players like Yadier Molina. Whether the Cardinals actually end up with Castro is a different question, but it at least appears that Mo’s looking in the right places. I’m not willing to take a final shot at who St. Louis finally picks up, but I see two teams besides the cubs that look like likely trade partners.
The Texas Rangers are the first obvious one. With Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar, and Ian Kinsler creating a bit of a logjam in the middle infield, it’s entirely possible that they’d be willing to move one of their shortstops (Andrus or Profar). That said, I also think that the Rangers may be asking way too much.
Profar intrigues me, but he’s stats are also underwhelming. He’s never hit .290, never hit 15 home runs, and never stolen 25 bases at any level. He’s hit a mere .231 with 7 home runs and 2 stolen bases in his major league career. Granted, at 20 years of age he has plenty of time to blossom into a phenomenal player, but I’m disinclined to sell the farm for him at this point. He’s still not a sure thing and Shelby Miller is. I’d rather keep Shelby Miller.
Adrus, on the other hand, I like. He has a reasonable contract (no more than 15 million a year) and is signed through 2018, at least. He’s a .274 career hitter, gets on base at a .339 clip, consistently steals 30 bases, plays good defense, and he’s only 25. The problem I see here is that I don’t think the Rangers really want to part with him. And, like Profar, I’m not willing to sell the farm. I’d make a deal with a couple of decent pitchers (Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly, Jaime Garcia and Lynn), but they aren’t getting a Miller/Wacha/Martinez package for him, and I think that might be what they expect. I will be ecstatic if Mo can put Elvis Andrus in a Cardinals uniform for a reasonable price, but I won’t be shocked if he can’t.
That leaves the Arizona Diamondbacks. Their current shortstop is Didi Gregorius, a 23-year-old with a great glove. He’s shown signs of being a .270 hitter with decent speed (20 stolen bases a season, maybe?). Right behind Gregorius, though, is a 21-year-old kid named Chris Owings: who has a decent glove, 20/20 power and speed, and a good batting average. He hit .330 in his first AAA stint, and .291 in 55 at bats in the majors this past year. Although still technically a prospect, he’s the kind of prospect I hope Mo goes after. Since Arizona could use a pitcher or two who can contend now, picking up either for Lance Lynn and/or Jaime Garcia isn’t outside of the realm of possibility. If Mozeliak can get a solid shortstop without trading away any of his really good, really young starting pitching talent, I’m all for it.
The Last Ditch Effort
My other shortstop trade idea is one that has been tossed around fairly frequently: Asdrubal Cabrera. He is far from the
best option, but he may be the cheapest in terms of the talent the Cardinals would have to give up. It seems to me that a straight up deal for either Lance Lynn or Jaime Garcia would be pretty easy to make with the Indians. If you can make a deal with Garcia, the effective price of Cabrera would only be 2.25 million (St. Louis owes Garcia 7.75 million in 2014, and Cabrera’s contract is for 10 million). That’s not bad for a decent starting shortstop.
Of course, if you’re going to take the final year of a player like Asdrubal, you have to have someone close to the big leagues ready for 2015, and the Cardinals don’t. But I have one more shortstop in mind.
The Wild Card
I talked a little bit about Aledmys Diaz earlier in the season as a potential shortstop option. That said, the Cuban defector isn’t a sure thing. But he could become a high level prospect, and a little bit of luck could result in a very valuable piece. Personally, regardless of what shortstop the Cardinals pick up via trade, I want Diaz. One good shortstop is good; two is phenomenal. I like having options, and the Cardinals have been spoiling me with their depth, and I want middle infield depth. Aledmys is young, talented, and could come for a decent price. I see Mo taking a good long look at him come February, and hopefully picking him up for 3 to 5 million a year for 4 or 5 years.
If Diaz winds up being superfluous, the Cardinals would still have a very valuable trade chip. Just look at how much St. Louis is willing to give up for a good shortstop now, and you’ll get a good idea of what the going price is.