The St. Louis Cardinals are looking for better infield defense after a dreadful 2016 season. Currently, Jhonny Peralta and Jedd Gyorko are slotted to play third base but what if that isn’t good enough?
The St. Louis Cardinals have mocked up their defense for the 2017 season to be Matt Carpenter at first base, Kolten Wong at second base, Jhonny Peralta and third base, and Aledmys Diaz at shortstop with Jedd Gyorko on the bench as the utility infielder. With defense being the offseason priority, many fans have questioned why there were no additions to the infield and specifically for third base.
Despite there being many reasons to believe Jhonny Peralta will bounce back, we must consider that he doesn’t and Jedd Gyorko can’t take on the responsibilities of playing full-time. If that happens, the Cardinals may have to look outside of the organization for a remedy.
Granted, they could potentially move Carpenter back to third base and have Matt Adams play 1st, but if they trust starting Peralta at third and Carp at first over Adams now, then what makes you think he’ll be their solution later?
So let’s assume Peralta doesn’t rebound from his injury and poor 2016 season and let’s assume Gyorko can’t properly produce while playing full-time, where do the Cardinals look for a replacement?
Well, Drew Silva of NBCSports and Rotoworld threw a couple of ideas out during the Kevin Wheeler Show on 101 ESPN Radio earlier this week. He mentioned two third baseman that could be available for teams in need: Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals and Todd Frazier of the Chicago White Sox.
1. Mike Moustakas – Kansas City Royals
The St. Louis Cardinals could attempt to talk to the Royals for a deal regarding third baseman Mike Moustakas. However, for this to even become a reality, the Royals would have to be out of the playoff race and decide that selling is in their best interest. Currently, they are holding on to a number of players that are due to be free agents in hopes that they can compete in the 2017 season. Moustakas is one of those players who will be a free agent at the conclusion of next year.
Moustakas is an interesting candidate for any team to consider. He only played in 27 games in 2016 before being shut down for the season due to an ACL tear which required surgery. In those 27 games, “Moose” batted .240/.301/.500 with 7 home runs and 13 RBI. However, his last full season (2015) he was really strong at the plate and batted .284/.348/.470 with 22 home runs and 82 RBI. He also became an All-Star for the first time.
Before the 2015 season though, Moustakas was pretty poor at the plate but the Royals liked his defensive ability. He had an incredible year in 2012 where he posted a 15.8 Ultimate Zone Rating and 14 Defensive Runs saved through 1314.1 innings but since then has been about average. In 2015, his last full season, Moustakas saved 4 runs while having a 1.5 UZR. His defense isn’t gold glove worthy, but it’s reliable and the St. Louis Cardinals would surely appreciate that.
Overall, it would take a mixture of Kansas City failing and Jhonny Peralta failing for this potential trade to come to fruition. Moustakas would give the Cardinals another left-handed bat with 20+ home run power while also playing consistent defense at the hot corner. However, he’s only under contract for the 2017 season and would likely want to test free agency. 2017 will also be a test for Moose and teams to see if his 2015 All-Star offense was just a fluke.
2. Todd Frazier – Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox have gone into full rebuild mode after they cashed in on the big trades involving Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. Since then, however, they have been quiet which could mean that many of their previous trade suitors have moved on.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were reported to have been interested in Todd Frazier to play third base but they re-signed Justin Turner and now look for a second baseman. If there were other suitors in on Frazier, they haven’t made much noise and have kept things quiet. Because of that, Frazier could end up being someone that becomes available near the trade deadline. This is where the St. Louis Cardinals could enter.
Frazier is no stranger to the National League Central division after spending his first five seasons with the Cincinnati Reds but he spent last season with the Chicago White Sox and is due to be a free agent after the 2017 season. So like Moustakas, the risk with trading for Frazier would be the Cardinals giving up too much for a rental.
However, Frazier has a power bat that could really make a difference in a Redbirds lineup, especially if Peralta is struggling offensively. In 2016, which was a down year for Frazier, he batted .225/.302/.443 but hit a career-high 40 home runs and a career-high 98 RBI. We also see his power if we go back another year to Frazier’s All-Star 2015 season when he hit 35 home runs and 89 RBI while batting .255/.309/.498.
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So the main issue with Frazier is his on-base ability. For his career, Frazier averages a .317 on-base percentage which really conflicts with John Mozeliak’s current offensive scheme. However, if the Cardinals offense is unsuccessful in 2017, maybe changing things up with a big-time slugger could turn things around.
Frazier is also enticing because of his fielding ability. Again, 2016 was a bad year for Frazier and it showed on the field. After 1320.1 innings at third base, Frazier posted a minus-4.0 UZR and a minus-2 DRS but there is reason to believe he can bounce back. In the 2015 season Frazier totaled a positive 6 DRS and a positive 7.2 UZR after 1371.2 innings for the Reds. Furthermore, Frazier had not recorded a negative UZR or DRS in a full season until he played for the White Sox.
So like Moustakas, Frazier could be an interesting trade candidate to watch out for if the 2017 St. Louis Cardinals need help at third base. The Cards current plan is to trust Jhonny Peralta and Jedd Gyorko to play good defense and provide decent production but things often don’t work out according to plan. If that is the case, John Mozeliak has two third baseman in the Midwest region that could be available and that could make an impact immediately.
The price for these players is going to be interesting to watch going forward. Moustakas is coming off a season ending injury while Frazier had a down season offensively and defensively but both have qualities that the St. Louis Cardinals could be interested in. Again, all of this largely depends on how Peralta performs after his injury-shortened 2016 season.