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?
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.