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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

What market is there for Brendan Ryan?

The St. Louis Cardinals appear to be shopping shortstop Brendan Ryan, but will he generate trade interest?

At Thursday midnight’s non-tender deadline, no shortstops of note were cut loose. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of shortstops on the market, however.

For weeks, J.J. Hardy of Minnesota and Jason Bartlett of Tampa Bay have been in the rumor mill news as available. Those clubs know they have a valuable asset and needed to tender them a contract to maintain their rights, and ability to pull off a trade.

Of course, the St. Louis Cardinals did the same thing with their 2010 shortstop, Brendan Ryan, as the first-time arbitration-eligible player remains under team control. Much has been written about the defensive standout’s fun-loving, but maddening behavior as well as his struggles with the bat this past season.

Recent actions by the club in acquiring Ryan Theriot in trade from the Dodgers and labeling him as their starter at shortstop seemed to move Ryan’s days as a Cardinal near its end. In all fairness, his departure is not a sure thing, as a “super utility” role in 2011 was also mentioned as a possibility.

The events of the past few days to put Ryan out of his starting job, on top of a less-than-positive evaluation from manager Tony La Russa following the season, seemed to further devalue Ryan in an already-crowded shortstop market. Further, questions remain about Ryan’s two-way viability no matter where he plays.

Given all that and considering the state of the position across baseball, I wondered how easily Ryan might be able to find a home. Of course, he could be given away, but I mean in a trade that would net the Cardinals roughly equivalent value.

In addition to Hardy and Bartlett who currently have jobs, the top free agent shortstop, Derek Jeter, technically remains a free agent. Even when he returns to New York, which he surely will, several veteran shortstops will continue to be looking for work.

They include Orlando Cabrera, Cristian Guzman, Cesar Izturis and Edgar Renteria. The latter two are former Cardinals. Other well-known reserve-types at the position looking for a 2011 home include Craig Counsell, Bobby Crosby, Adam Everett, Julio Lugo, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Nick Punto.

In other words, even clubs that may be in the market for a back up shortstop have a number of options that might be more palatable and perhaps even come cheaper than Ryan.

Through the Cardinals’ actions in the upcoming days, including the Winter Meetings, we will see how anxious they may be to unload Ryan. If they deal him, will they be able get a fair return? Should they trade him at all?

Poll: Will the 2011 Cardinals be a better team by keeping Ryan or trading him?

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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