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Lately, you’ve probably heard a lot about the Cardinals shortstop problem. You’ve heard about how awful Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma have been lately, and you’ve heard that no one in the organization is really any better. All of these things are true. In the midst of the attempts to solve the problem temporarily (for September and hopefully October), many have also expressed the desire to see John Mozeliak permanently “fix” the shortstop problem this off-season.
What you almost certainly haven’t heard is a suggestion for how Mozeliak ought to fix this problem, or who should play shortstop for the Cardinals.
There is one very simple reason for this.
There aren’t any good shortstops available.
Don’t misunderstand me, there are good shortstops, but none of them are readily available. See, there are only 11 shortstops in baseball (who have played at least 100 games) hitting over .260 this season. There are only 12 more hitting .260 or better in under 100 games.
Of those 23 shortstop options, 10 are pre-arbitration eligible. This means that the team can pay them peanuts for at least one more year. No team is going to be seriously inclined to give up their all-but-free shortstop, in all likelihood. Certainly not cheaply.
Four more shortstops will be arbitration eligible this off-season. This means that the team has to pay them a little bit more, but still probably not what they’re worth. Again, these are not good trade options.
Now, if you do a little basic math, that leaves 7 shortstops hitting over .260 who cannot immediately be ruled out as possible options due to contractual situations in all of baseball. Those shortstops are Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Erick Aybar, Yunel Escobar, Alexei Ramirez, Mike Aviles, and Jhonny Peralta. I’ll deal with them in reverse order of likelihood.
First, Hanley Ramirez. He is playing very well for a very good team. The Cardinals would happily pay him 16 million dollars for next year’s services. Sadly, so will Los Angeles. They’re in contention, and he’s an important part of their attack. He’ll be in Dodger blue next year.
Jose Reyes is an interesting option, but he’s also owed at least 84 million dollars over the next 4 seasons. He’s injury prone, and likely too expensive. Even if the Blue Jays do want to move him, it will probably be hard to come to a deal.
Erick Aybar is owed 25.5 million dollars over the next three years. He’s not a great shortstop, but he’s reasonable, and the Angels might be willing to part with him for the right price. But if they ask too much, Mo should walk.
The Rays’ Yunel Escobar is an intriguing possibility. If the Rays buy out his contract, he could be a free agent. If they don’t, then he’ll be owed 5 million next year, with the same opportunity to buy out his contract at the end of 2014 or pay him another 5 mil for 2015. He has certainly been worth 5 million dollars a year to this point, and I doubt that the Rays will want to part with him. That said, if the Cardinals can offer a contending team some good immediate talent, then he could be an option. And if they don’t pick up his contract, St. Louis would be foolish to not at least glance at him.
Owed at least 20.5 million in the next three years, Alexei Ramirez could find a home in St. Louis. There were talks about him around the trade deadline, but, much like Aybar, he isn’t really a great shortstop. If the White Sox’s asking price is too high (as it was in July), the Cardinals probably won’t bite.
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Mike Aviles is owed at least 3.75 million over the next year. He has not been an incredible player, but he could be an option if Cleveland is willing to part with him. Perhaps for a solid third baseman (Freese)?
Finally — and I think that this is the best option for the Cardinals — Jhonny Peralta is an outright free agent at the end of this season. If you think you might have heard that name somewhere, you’re right. He was involved in the Biogenesis scandal and has been suspended this season. I admit that I would be very hesitant to add a player who has been caught using PEDs, and I am strongly against them, but from a pragmatic point of view, you may be able to get him at a discount.
Last year, after an incredible 2013 season marred only by a PED suspension, the Blue Jays were able to pick up Melky Cabrera on a 2-year contract for a mere 16 million dollars. If the Cardinals could get their hands on a reformed Peralta for a similar price, he’s probably the best option on the market.
That said, I’m not terribly impressed with any of these possibilities. I don’t put it past Mozeliak to pull a gem from out of nowhere, but it’ll have to be a miracle. I guess we’ll just have to see what Mozeliak does.
What are your thoughts? Who do you think the Cardinals should go after?