Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cardinals still looking for heir to Ozzie Smith's throne

Ozzie Smith retired from baseball in 1996 after 15 seasons with the Cardinals.  During that time, he won 11 Gold Gloves and was voted to the All Star Team 14 years.

In the 16 years since his retirement, the Cardinals have had 6 different shortstops (Royce Clayton, Edgar Renteria, David Eckstein, Cesar Izturis, Brendan Ryan and Rafael Furcal) and, other than Edgar Renteria's 6 years, none has spent more than 3 years at the helm.

I understand that in this day and age, it is difficult to develop and retain a player.  Renteria, the best of the bunch, left the Cardinals for greener pastures after the 2004 season.  Whereas the other players were either traded (Clayton, Ryan) or allowed to leave via free agency (Izturis, Eckstein) and chances are Furcal will join the latter group.

The cheapest way for the Cardinals to find an heir to Ozzie's throne would be via the draft, whereas the Cards can control the rights of the player for several years at a below market rate.  However, the Cardinals have already tried this route twice, drafting Tyler Greene in the first round (30th overall) in the 2005 draft and selecting Pete Kozma 18th overall in the 2007 draft.

Greene never panned out for the Cards, hitting .218/.295/.329 in 495 at bats over 4 years before being traded to the Astros.  Kozma doesn't look much better, despite his strong September and postseason, as his .236/.308/.344 career line in the minors hints that his performance was a small sample size fluke.

So, with Furcal likely gone after this season, where can the Cardinals turn to fill the gap?

One option is free agency.  However, a quick look at the potential free agent list for 2014 reveals a bunch of players on the wrong side of 30.  Yeah, you could take a chance on someone like Yunel Escobar or Stephen Drew, but they are not a long-term solution.

The best bet is to trade for a young, major league ready shortstop.  This is where the Texas Rangers come in.  The Rangers have two young shortstops in Elvis Andrus and top prospect Jurickson Profar and it seems likely that they would move one of the two to fill a hole elsewhere.

One such hole is starting pitching.  The Rangers have been searching for starting pitching all offseason, pursuing the likes of Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson, before they signed elsewhere, and recent reports indicate that the Rangers are looking more at trades than free agency to improve their team at this point.

The Cardinals have an abundance of young pitching that they could offer, including Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha.   It seems, on paper at least, that the two sides could work something out.

However, despite Buster Olney's speculation that the Rangers would likely trade Andrus this offseason, the Diamondbacks tried unsuccessfully to land either Andrus or Profar for Justin Upton, before settling for Didi Gregorious in a 3 team trade involving their top pitching prospect, Trevor Bauer.

So, could the Cardinals pry either one away from the Rangers?  Probably, but it will be costly.  I'm guessing it would take at least Lynn and one of the other 4 youngsters to land Andrus.  Profar may be a little cheaper in terms of prospects, as he is as still unproven, but he is generally considered the top prospect in the game and would still likely require two young pitchers in return.

A trade like that would put a big dent in the Cards pitching depth.  But, if it fills the Cardinals hole at short for the next 10 years, it would be worth it.


  1. What about the Khalil Greene debacle?

  2. Sorry, I must have blocked him from my memory. Considering that the Cards gave up Luke Gregerson, a closer-worthy reliever, for him, this would certainly qualify as a bad trade. He only played 77 games for the Cards and has not been heard from (at the major league level) since.

  3. It would take more to get Profar than Elvis. You would probably have to include 2 of those 5 pitchers and one really good prospect hitter.

  4. I don't think so. Are you saying you think the Cards would have to give up more for an unproven hitter (no matter how high he's ranked by Baseball America and the like) than Andrus, who has a proven track record in the bigs?

    There's a reason that you will often see teams sell the farm (i.e. give up 3-4 prospects) for a player like Roy Halladay, he's has a track record and you know what you're getting. Rarely (if ever) do you see a team sell the farm for another prospect, because, no matter the hype, they have to prove their value at the big league level (i.e. too many can't miss prospects do just that).

  5. The Cardinals and the Indians were alleged to have had discussions regarding a couple of scenarios that would solve the Shortstop problem and help BOTH clubs. The Indians were to trade current or now Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (good for two years SS Service) and Francisco Lindor (comp'd pretty much as an Ozzie Smith type) to the Cardinals for a handful of prospects that included Lance Lynn, Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter and a couple other prospects.. Not sure why this didn't happen

  6. I understand the Cardinals haven't had success in the draft with ss, but how many teams have. Remember with the Cardinals success since Ozzie retired they aren't getting a lot of high draft picks. I think the best chances of the Cardinals landing a cornerstone ss is through trade. But then again we do have two rings since Ozzie left.

  7. There may be one more option available that I did not think of. According the the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Cards plan to attend the workouts of Cuban defector and shortstop Aldemys Diaz, who is only 24 and is known for his ability to hit for power and average.

  8. Nice take, but Kozma will play next season at 25, maybe he will put it together enough to let the Cards keep their pitching depth

  9. Thanks Scott.

    I don't think that Kozma is the answer. I think once the league catches up with him, he's going to struggle offensively and his defense is suspect too.

    Hopefully he proves me wrong, as it would be nice to hold on to that pitching depth as we may need it in 2014 (article to come).