The Cardinals At Shortstop
In Friday’s chat, the question of the day was, “What should the Cardinals do at shortstop?” After doing a little research, my response is, “Does it matter?” It’s not as if Rafael Furcal is in the prime of his career. In 2011-2012, he averaged 1.2 WAR per 600 plate appearances which falls short of average regular at the Major League level.
Rafael Furcal was a star. He’s not one anymore. When he is ready to return in 2014, he’ll be 36 and unlikely to land a Major League contract. Plus, given his advanced age and Tommy John surgery, Furcal may be forced to slide over to second base.
Cedeno serves as a solid insurance policy who has produced 2.1 WAR in less than 650 plate appearances across 2011-2012. The journeyman may have been an upgrade over a healthy Furcal in 2013.
Kozma is coming off a remarkable 82 plate appearance run in St. Louis which elevated him to cult status. His success has caused many to forget his first 500 plate appearances of 2012 while in Triple-A. He was horrendous there. It takes quite a leap of faith to expect Kozma to become even an average bat at the Major League level. Plus, his defense isn’t good enough to carry his weak bat.
In Triple-A, Jackson outhit Kozma and received a brief call up in 2012. It took him 16 plate appearances to play his way back to the minor leagues. After being a high school All-American and University of Miami Hurricane, he was drafted based on a strong defensive profile. His bat has always been a question mark and he’s outperforming what was expected. Had the stick been better in college, he would have been a first rounder.
Over the winter, the Cardinals also dealt for Jake Lemmerman, a 23/24 year old shortstop who spent the 2012 season in Double-A. Having seen him a handful of times, there’s nothing sexy about him as a prospect. However, he’s likely to have a long career as a utility infielder who can draw a walk.
The Cardinals are left with imperfect options at a position which is hard to fill. And while the spotlight shines brightly on them given their history of success, they have more depth at the position than a number of other organizations. In fact, only 15 shortstops performed at 2.0 WAR or more last year.
And with the price the Diamondbacks paid for Didi Gregorius, it could be worse.
This leaves the Cardinals in a difficult spot from an organizational standpoint. In recent years, they have drafted players for this moment. A first round pick was spent on Kozma. Jackson could have gone earlier in the draft. Kolten Wong was drafted as the second baseman of the future — Allowing the young shortstops to duke it out. This IS organizational planning. But will it work?
Of course prospect followers and Cardinals fans alike see a good team, top flight prospects and instantly want to leverage one to improve the other. The problem with this is few teams have the shortstop depth to deal. Even fewer teams have Major League ready shortstop prospects. Other than catcher, it’s the most difficult wish list to fill.
For the record, I don’t think the Cardinals will be able to find a young shortstop who is a significant upgrade over what they already have via trade. If anything, it makes the most sense to acquire a veteran at the trade deadline after giving the kids a shot. However, if you twisted my arm, I’d inquire on three players in no particular order.
Leury Garcia (Rangers) – I floated Joe Kelly for Leury Garcia in Friday’s chat. Kelly would be a good fit in Arlington and the Cardinals have better pitching prospect on the depth chart. Garcia is being groomed as a utlity player for the Rangers because of Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar and Luis Sardinas. In an organization less flush with shortstop prospects, he’d be a better shot to stick.
Tim Beckham (Rays) – Would Beckham be a worthy reclamation prospect? I’ve never been a big fan of his, but it might be worth the Cardinals while to try. Matt Adams for Beckham-plus would be a depth-for-depth deal, free up playing time for Adams and give Beckham the fresh start he may need.
Jose Iglesias (Red Sox) – With Stephen Drew in Boston and Xander Bogaerts on the horizon, I’m not sure where Iglesias fits into the Red Sox plans. Matt Adams might interest the Red Sox as David Ortiz ages and Mike Napoli‘s hip continues to degenerate.
If the cost of acquiring a young shortstop would be less than one of their top-five prospects (Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Oscar Taveras, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez), then it would be worth doing. As the Cardinals age, they’ll need their young talent to remain a contender in the National League Central.
24 Jan 2014 / Mike Newman /
Categories: MLB Analysis
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