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

Should the Cardinals trade starting pitching for a shortstop?

The St. Louis Cardinals need to improve their middle infield for 2013. Few, if anyone, would dispute that. The challenge is how to best go about it.

As I have commented here, I believe the preferred path should be to acquire a long-term answer at shortstop. There does not appear to be such a player near the majors currently within the organization.

Columnist Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch believes the Cardinals have “real” interest in Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, though it is unclear whether the 26-year-old is available. (Follow the player name link to view his career stats.)

From a contract perspective, Cabrera has a reasonable deal, though not a bargain. The two-time American League all-star (2011-12) will make $6.5 million in 2013 (just under Furcal’s $7 million) and $10 million in 2014. Those would have been the Venezuelan’s final arbitration-eligible year and his first free agent-eligible year. He is now slated to become a free agent prior to the 2015 season.

Incumbent shortstop Rafael Furcal, he of the injured elbow, could be shifted over to second base for his final season under contract with St. Louis. Furcal will need more time off than the average player and could also serve as reserve shortstop in 2013. That means Daniel Descalso could still get ample at-bats at second and Matt Carpenter can be focused on positions where he can offer more defensively.

The Cardinals first-round draft pick in 2011, Kolten Wong, may need at least a half-season at Triple-A. Currently playing well in the Arizona Fall League, Wong could be brought up during the second half of 2013 as an apprenticeship for taking over the second base job in 2014.

Having said all that, even if the Cardinals could pry loose a standout shortstop such as Cabrera, what would be the cost in trade? Would they be willing to pay the price?

Strauss speculates that a deal such as to acquire Cabrera would require the Cardinals “to part with multiple prospects,” including at least one of their young hard-throwing starting pitchers. Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez would be among the names most likely mentioned.

Cleveland looks to need pitching, so from that aspect, they could be a good fit for the Cardinals.

If you were John Mozeliak, what would you do?

Which pitcher would you be most inclined to include in a package for Asdrubal Cabrera?

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On the other hand, if you were Cleveland’s GM, would you hold firm to get the guy the Cardinals least want to give up? This could be a challenge for the Cardinals this winter in trying to make any deal.

Which pitcher would you be least inclined to include in a package for Asdrubal Cabrera?

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Would you give up any two of them? (identify which two in the comments below)

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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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23 Responses to “Should the Cardinals trade starting pitching for a shortstop?”

  1. crdswmn says:

    I wouldn’t trade any prospects for Asdrubal Cabrera.

    • CariocaCardinal says:

      not at those salaries! maybe if Cleveland picked up over 50% of the salary I’d think about it.

    • blingboy says:

      I wouldn’t trade anybody on the poll list, and I doubt the Indians would let him go for any prospects I would trade.

      I really can’t see Mo going for a first tier SS with a substantial contract until Furcal is off the books.

      It is possible the major media source is overstating the level of interest.

      • crdswmn says:

        Possibly, since that major media source recently said that Rick Ankiel was interested in pitching again and then had to back off later and that same major media source has a history of overstating things.

        • blingboy says:

          He might be overstating it for some strategic purpose dictated by Mo. Major or not, he’s still 314 media. Even though he cleverly uses that term to refer to everybody but him.

  2. Nutlaw says:

    Trading either Lynn or Kelly for Cabrera would certainly improve the major league roster without question. Descalso is being overexposed as a starter.

    • blingboy says:

      I am surprised at the number of times I’ve seen somebody willing to trade an 18 game winning all star cost controlled rookie who excells at both starting and relieving. Jeesh, what more do want?

      At worst, Lynn had the misfortune to be hot early rather than late. Had it been reversed, nobody would be talking about trading him.

      • crdswmn says:

        Over at VEB, they are so anxious to trade Waino they are willing to give him away for a bucket of baseballs and a case of sunflower seeds.

        Some people just get off on making trades.

      • Nutlaw says:

        I’ve been a big fan of Lynn – don’t get me wrong! I even defended leaving him in the rotation last year longer than I should have, and longer than the rest of the crowd around here.

        The Cardinals have a problem with their middle infield and don’t have a problem with their pitching. Trading the latter to improve the former would help the team. Landing someone in free agency would be ideal, but that isn’t always possible without blowing one’s budget.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      The Giants prevailed by starting pitching depth. No reason for the Cards to give up a lot of pitchers.

  3. crdswmn says:

    “Aviles is 31. He’s a right-handed hitter who batted .250, with 13 homers, 60 RBI and 14 stolen bases, for Boston last season. He’s a career .295 hitter (.797 OPS) against lefties, a skill the Tribe desperately needs.

    Defensively, Aviles was ranked in the middle of the pack among starting shortstops by most metric services. Cabrera was near the bottom, as he led the league with 19 errors and his range has been shrinking for the past two years.

    Aviles also can’t be a free agent until after the 2014 season, and he made $1.2 million last year.

    Cabrera has two years left on his deal at $6.5 million and $10 million.

    Cabrera averaged 20 homers and 80 RBI while batting .271 during the past two seasons, making the All-Star team. But his declining defense is alarming for a 27-year-old as he battles weight problems. His numbers have fallen down in the second half of the past two seasons. In 2011-12, he batted .290 (.834 OPS) before the All-Star break and .248 (.698) after.”

  4. Bw52 says:

    IMO Cards can survive with Kozma and Jackson backing up Furcal.How many times have we heard the Cards have a surplus of pitching and by the time the season starts 2 or 3 guys have sore shoulders or elbows etc;…………………….keep the young arms.Every Cards starting pitcher has had a injury issue of one type or the other.Don`t deal away any of them.You want SS insurance other than Kozma and Jackson then sign a minor legue FA or a cheap vet .

  5. somofannomo says:

    Kozma and Descalso are good infielders and will continue to improve. Leave them alone and trade Holliday, Westlake and Garcia for a top level starter. Those young, strong arms make a good bullpen, but are any of them ready to start on a regular basis?

    A super defensive outfield that can play small ball would be more productive than the occasional homerun hitter that can’t defend an area larger than my front yard.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Unless the Cards let Wainwright get away after next season, they shouldn’t be in the market for a top level starter any time soon. In your scenario, they would trade two starters to get one, so they would be more dependent on the youngsters to fill out the back end of the rotation, not less. Trading Holliday would be a bold move, but I would give it much of a chance of happening.

  6. JumboShrimp says:

    Cabrera was involved in an incredibly one sided trade. The Mariners surrendered him for just one final year of aging Eduardo Perez, an incredibly bad trade for them.
    Cabrera is a switch-hitter, good from each side. He hits well relative to many other SSes and is a slick fielder. He is an elite player for an important position.
    Cleveland is a tough team to negotiate with. We had to surrender Chris Perez for a soon injured 3Bman back in 2009; that turned out poorly. If the Indians make Cabrera available, they will want a heck of a lot of talent in return. The trade could be explored, but it would not be easy to arrange.

    • Brian Walton says:

      crdswmn has looked into his defense and has a much different view.

      • crdswmn says:

        Yes, I do, but Bling seems to be the only one that agrees with me. So be it.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Pluto’s article is good and pretty persuasive Cabrera will be moved.

        The guy used to turn in highlight reel plays and looked fantastic a couple of years ago, when I last knew.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          It seems plausible the Cards could join the competition for Asdrubal Cabrera. Why?
          One reason we lost to the Giants is they had more left swingers. Cabrera can join Jay, Descalso, and Beltran in matching up against RHPs. He would be a great add for the lineup.
          Even before injuring his elbow, Cabrera had a sore back and has slowed offensively. Its not clear how much he can contribute for 2013.
          Mo likes to go after ambitious deals for difference makers, trading for Matt Holliday, signing Carlos Beltran.
          We have been going through a string of SSes. Izturis for 2008, Khalil Greene 2009. 2010 was Ryan. For 2011, Theriot and Furcal. 2012 was ebbing Furcal plus surprising Kozma. Cabrera could stabilize the position for 2013/14.

  7. JumboShrimp says:

    The Cards will shop for a left handed reliever. This guy would supplement Rzepcynski or replace him. Matheny did not seem to trust Rzepcynski.
    Also a backup catcher. This is a certain need.
    Also a middle infielder.
    There is rumor of a right swinging OF. But they also need a backup CF, so the chance of finding a better right swinging CF than Robinson seems remote.

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