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Cardinals middle infield situation in same muddled place

Last September, with shortstop Rafael Furcal out and fill-in Pete Kozma excelling beyond anyone’s expectation, the St. Louis Cardinals eked out the last wild card spot and came to within one win of the World Series.

Fast forward six months and the club is in almost the exact same situation with its middle infield. Furcal’s elbow still has him sidelined indefinitely. Kozma remains in the mix to take his place, with the only change the addition of Ronny Cedeno. The latter takes the place of traded Skip Schumaker – in roster allocation, at least.

At second base, the offense of 2012 starter Daniel Descalso was viewed to fall short of expectations as did the defense of Schumaker. The club came up with the idea of trying third baseman Matt Carpenter at second, an experiment for which it is still too early to draw a conclusion.

Based on their action in the market this past off-season, the Cardinals did not appear satisfied with their in-house options. While connected via trade rumors to shortstops such as Asdrubal Cabrera and Troy Tulowitzki, no one knows how serious these discussions were.

Marco Scutaro, with experience at second and short, disclosed he turned down a two-year, $18 million free agent offer from St. Louis. Instead, the 37-year-old returned to the San Francisco Giants.

The Cardinals’ inability to attract other free agents may have been limited by the uncertainty about Furcal’s health and the potential loss in playing time by the signee if Furcal was proven healthy. Prospective Cardinals had to consider the possibility of either sitting or having to move to second base. Not everyone might be willing to accept that risk, especially if regular playing time was more assured elsewhere.

Then, the Cardinals tried a low-budget route. They reportedly offered 36-year-old Alex Gonzalez a make-good contract in December before the shortstop accepted more guaranteed money to return to Milwaukee. As part of the negotiations, Gonzalez said he was queried by the Cardinals as to his willingness to potentially play second base, perhaps in a job-share with Descalso. Gonzalez told the club he wanted to be an every-day player.

By the end of January, the Cardinals apparently had continued down the list of available options and Cedeno was signed. Initially, the 30-year-old reportedly said no other teams wanted him, but later asserted several other clubs had shown interest.

Irregardless, right now, hope for an incremental improvement over the 2012 middle infield is dependent on the Carpenter experiment plus the presence of Cedeno together offering more than Schumaker.

That is essentially the only difference from how the Cardinals middle infield ended the 2012 season – a situation their actions over the winter clearly indicated they wanted to improve.

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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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30 Responses to “Cardinals middle infield situation in same muddled place”

  1. blingboy says:

    Brian, have you heard anything at all about what insiders think of Carp at second so far? Is this looking like something that could realistically happen?

    If its just more middle infield chain jerking . . . .

    Also, I’ve been thinking about your mention of the trade deadline on the other thread. Maybe a Furcal type. A year or two with luck guy.

    The solution wouldn’t have to be finding the shortstop of the future this year or next winter. Patience and stop-gaps may eventually pay off.

  2. blingboy says:

    Also, I saw where Wiggy struck out with runners on 2nd and 3rd. He needs to work with Mabry. Like Ronny is doing. Hope for a miricle.

    I hope our bench isn’t a train wreck. At least Robinson is manning up. He wants a job I guess.

    What’s our record in one run games this spring? Actually, never mind, I don’t want to know.

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    Irregardless is not a word.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      It is said the offense of Descalso fell short in 2012. Daniel improved late in the season and this continued in the playoff vs. Washington during which he slew the Nats.
      Descalso was steady in the field, elbowing aside Tyler Greene and Skip Schumacker. He is primed to build on this progress during 2013, only his 3rd ML season.
      In addition, we are adding Matt Carpenter to the 2B mix. A smart tactical decision, giving Descalso some off days and getting Matt’s wonderful hitting ability into the lineup.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        It is said we tried a low budget route. Be it noted, we are still paying Raffy $7MM. Adding Ronny at up to $2MM represents a spending increase for the SS position, prudent insurance since we did not know with 100 percent assurance whether Raffy would be back in action, either because of his elbow or his chronic sore back.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          What is the optimistic case for 2013, to contrast with the negative case?
          Ronny Cedeno plays SS, unlike Schumacker. Ronny is working with John Mabry to shorten his swing and smarten up at bats. Ronny used to hit .350 at AAA, so has a higher average inside his lumber. On this, Mike, Ronny, and I agree.
          Mr. September is continuing to excel as Mr. March, defying the naysayers.
          Descalso upped his game last year and this continues during 2013.
          Matt Carpenter is a much better hitter than Skip.
          Jackson, Wong, and Garcia provide unusually good understudies at AAA.
          We are good to go, A-Ok for 2013, folks.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            As Bernie opined the other day, Furcal had an on base percentage of .280 from June-August 2012. Furcal’s sore back has degraded away super hitting, back during his prime.

            The silver lining in Raffy’s elbow may be that this keeps him off the field and allows better offense at SS. The worst thing for the Birds might be for Raffy’s elbow to be good enough to play and then we have to endure him hitting like Cesar Izturis, because of chronic back pain.

    • crdswmn says:

      Doesn’t matter, this blog post is really just a figment of your imagination anyway.

      You have entered……..The Twilight Zone. BWAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Its an oft cited example of a non-word.

      • Brian Walton says:

        You are right that it is oft-cited. You are wrong in joining the misinformed by asserting it is a non-word.

        From a far more authoritative source than you – none other than the Merriam-Webster dictionary – the entry for irregardless includes this:

        “…The most frequently repeated remark about it is that “there is no such word.” There is such a word, however…”

        You may now move on to nitpicking and being wrong about something else.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          Ring Lardner is good company. Irregardless brings to mind misunderestimate and Roger Clemens saying Andy “misremembered”, words used in loveable American vernacular.

  4. blingboy says:

    Jumbo, I was hoping for your take on today’s 2 hit, 5 GIDP, klunker. I mean game.

  5. Brian Walton says:

    Highlights from today’s P-D Furcal article, written by Rick Hummel:

    Furcal is to see Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday.

    “After Furcal suffered a torn ligament in his elbow last Aug. 30, Mozeliak said the doctors who examined Furcal in the aftermath didn’t feel surgery was necessary, which was fine with Furcal because he was adamant that he didn’t want it anyway…”

    “An MRI test taken in November showed marked improvement in the elbow…” – note “marked improvement,” not healed…

    Mo quote: “….second-guessing the approach of how this was handled is not fair.”

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