St. Louis Cardinals: Could Nick Ahmed Join the Redbirds?

Apr 5, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Nick Ahmed (13) hits the ball against the Colorado Rockies at Chase Field. The Arizona Diamondbacks won 11-6. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Nick Ahmed (13) hits the ball against the Colorado Rockies at Chase Field. The Arizona Diamondbacks won 11-6. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Cardinals have a few questions to answer regarding their infield depth. However, Arizona may have just put the answer on the trade block.

The St. Louis Cardinals will surely start Aledmys Diaz at shortstop but answering who will be on the bench is proving to be a tougher question than expected. Greg Garcia and Jedd Gyorko are the most likely candidates, however, Matt Adams will also need a place and teams often don’t carry three infielders (not including a catcher) on their bench. A bench usually consists of two infielders, two outfielders, and a catcher.

This presents an issue because Garcia has proven to be a very solid utility infielder but he is also out of minor-league options. This would force him to either make the MLB roster or to be placed on waivers. Meanwhile, Gyorko’s power bat is far too valuable to not keep on the roster and Matt Adams is the only left-handed power on the bench. He’s also the only real option for first base if Matt Carpenter is injured or is playing elsewhere.

Simply put, the Cardinals can’t carry all three on the MLB roster without sacrificing another bench spot and putting the depth of the team at risk. Meanwhile, the Arizona Diamondbacks just made a valuable shortstop available according to MLB Trade Rumors. Nick Ahmed seems to be a man without a place after Chris Owings has taken the inside track on the starting shortstop position.

Adding Ahmed seems like it would only add to the St. Louis Cardinals’ infield roster issues. However, there are a number of reasons why he could potentially solve a lot of the issues and why the Cardinals should be interested.

Firstly, let’s discuss Ahmed’s value.

Currently, the Diamondbacks have Daniel Descalso, Chris Owings, Nick Ahmed, and Ketel Marte fighting for the starting shortstop job. Behind them are two prospects: Jack Reinheimer and Ildemaro Vargas. Clearly, their middle infield is extremely crowded at the MLB and near-MLB levels. Therefore, someone has to go and Ahmed looks like that guy.

With Ahmed on the block, the Diamondbacks would like to add prospects to their system. But, when looking around the league, not many teams are looking for a starting shortstop. That lack of demand immediately lowers any value that Ahmed would normally be worth. And don’t be fooled by his below average offensive stats, Ahmed is valuable.

Almost all of Ahmed’s value comes defensively. When using UZR/150, Ahmed is ranked as a top 4 defensive player at the shortstop position. If John Mozeliak wants to talk about adding defense and athleticism, then there aren’t many better options than Ahmed. He’s also recorded a dWAR of 4.9 but is making just above the league minimum and will be arbitration eligible after another full season.

Overall, Ahmed is one of the best defensive shortstops in the league and also has the ability to play second base while likely being solid at third if needed. His market is pretty dry which should make him cheaper to acquire and he also is costing the team close to nothing considering his low salary. Defense is becoming more and more important and expensive and Ahmed is a premier defensive player that is incredibly cheap.

Secondly, let’s discuss how he fits the St. Louis Cardinals.

The issue I originally brought up earlier was the over-crowded infield at the MLB level for the Cardinals. Ahmed would just add to that crowding and possibly make things worse. However, Ahmed has something that Greg Garcia does not…a minor league option remaining. This only adds to his value to the Cardinals because that minor league option makes the bench and depth more versatile.

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If the Cardinals could acquire Ahmed, he wouldn’t have to be on the MLB roster but they would still have control over him for at least 4 more seasons (including 2017). Having Ahmed in the minors would open up a number of possibilities for the front office of the Cardinals.

First, they could continue to build Matt Adams’ trade value and ship him off to a team in need since he has little to no value to the Cardinals. Secondly, the Cardinals could live with Greg Garcia going through waivers and potentially being claimed. Ahmed is a clear upgrade over Garcia defensively and could be optioned to the minors if needed.

And lastly, the Cardinals need to consider what would happen in a worst case scenario. If Diaz gets injured or does not perform anything like he did in 2016, who would be his replacement? Yes, Gyorko or Peralta could play shortstop but defensively, neither are great options. Also, if Diaz is injured and Gyorko is needed at second or third base, then Greg Garcia would be starting and the depth and ability of the Cardinals would be compromised.

Ahmed could be a solution to any and all of these issues. Yes, his offensive ability up to this point has been below average but what he does on defense makes up for that. When compared to Gyorko, Garcia, or Peralta, Ahmed is an obvious defensive upgrade and would allow the Cardinals to remain stable on at least one side of the ball. However, if they rely on Garcia, the Cardinals could risk production on both sides.

Next: What Can We Expect From Matt Adams in the OF?

In all likelihood, the St. Louis Cardinals will not pursue Ahmed and the Arizona Diamondbacks will not sell him. He’s a very valuable player but the timing of his availability is not favorable to Arizona. But as a Cardinals fan, you have to ask yourself if there is an opportunity to upgrade at a position, even a bench spot, then why not do it? The St. Louis Cardinals want to be a playoff team and a World Series contender again and they’ll need all the help they can get.