Ever since Cardinals GM John Mozeliak stated that he was willing to trade young pitching for a young controllable shortstop, the rumors have been flying as to who the Cards might acquire. There's been speculation regarding Troy Tulowitzki, Jed Lowrie, J.J. Hardy, Stephen Drew and, of course, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar of the Rangers.
After careful consideration of all of the alternatives, I think that Elvis Andrus of the Rangers would be the best fit for the Cardinals.
He's young and controllable
First off, Andrus meets Mozeliak's own criteria of being "young and controllable". Andrus is only 25 year's old and is signed through 2022 (although he can opt out of his contract after 2018 or 2019). Sure, his contract is not cheap--he will make $6.475 million in 2014 and $15 million a year through 2018, but the Cardinals have the money to afford him.
The Rangers have said that they are willing to trade one of the middle infielders (Andrus, Profar or Ian Kinsler). Trading Andrus probably makes the most sense for them, as it would help them shed salary while opening up a spot for Profar.
He can hit lefites
As I pointed out in a previous article, the Cardinals need to improve their lineup against lefties and Andrus would do just that. For his career, Andrus has hit .273/.346/.352 against lefties and .275/.337/.347 against righties. Pretty even splits.
He's got speed
One thing the Cardinals offense lacked last season was speed. The Detroit Tigers were the only team in baseball with fewer stolen bases than the Cardinals 45 (the Tigers had 35). Andrus nearly matched the Cardinals total by himself, with 42 stolen bases in 2013. He would fit nicely atop the Cardinals lineup along with Matt Carpenter.
But, what about the other candidates? How do they stack up?
Tulo is 29 years old and signed through 2020. He is set to make $16 million in 2014 and then $20 million a year through 2019 before dropping back down to $14 million in 2020. While a better all around hitter than Andrus and at least comparable defensively, the downside to him is his injury history and availability.
In his career, Tulowitzki has only appeared in over 150 games twice in 7 seasons. Andrus has averaged over 150 games a year in his 5 seasons.
In addition, Tulo does not appear to be on the block.
That's not to say the Rockies wouldn't trade him, but the Cardinals
would likely have to overpay to get him (one so-called expert suggested Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal AND Allen Craig, i.e. NOT GONNA HAPPEN).
Lowrie is 29 but is signed only through the 2014 season. This is probably his biggest drawback, as, not only would the Cardinals have to give up some prospects for him, but then they would risk losing him after only one season.
That said, the asking price for him would probably be lower, but there has been no indication that the A's are willing to trade him in the first place.
The Orioles reportedly offered the Cardinals Hardy for Shelby Miller, which the Cards quickly turned down. Hardy is already 31 years old and is only signed through 2014, so, like Lowrie, there is a risk that the Cardinals could be back in this same predicament after the 2014 season, only down a prospect or two.
Not a very appealing option.
Drew, a free agent, wouldn't cost the Cardinals any young arms, just money. However, he will be 31 to start the 2014 season and to get him the Cards would probably have to sign him to at least a 4-5 year deal.
The biggest drawback for Drew is his inability to hit lefties. He hit just .196/.246/.340 against lefties in 2013 and just .235/.291/.390 for his career. In fact, since 2010, he has gotten progressively worse in his splits against lefties, going from a .255 average in 2010, to .224 in 2011, .198 in 2012 and .196 in 2013.
Of all of the other candidates, Profar would probably be my second choice. At 20, he is younger and cheaper than Andrus, and would be
under team control for another 5 years (if my math is right). However, he has
yet to prove himself at the major league level and yet would probably cost
more in a trade than Andrus, mainly because of his salary and high upside.
So, given all of the above, I would like to see Mozeliak make a big push for Andrus. It may take a package of Shelby Miller and Matt Adams to acquire him, but I think it would be worth it. If the price goes significantly beyond that, then Mo should turn to Plan "B" (whatever that is).
What are your thoughts? Who would you like to see the Cardinals go after? I will post a poll on the homepage and you can discuss your choice in the comments section.