Shortstops and Prospects and Trades (Oh my!)

Hey friends.

So I was sitting in class today checking my nearly dead phone (at 12:30 P.M. no less) and saw two good friends on twitter discussing baseball and possible moves that my beloved St. Louis Cardinals could be making (or moving toward) in the upcoming GM meetings. Well it’s never been my inclination to pass up a good sports discussion, especially when it comes to the Cardinals or baseball in general, so I joined in a friendly discussion with them.

It’s only been a few weeks since the Cardinals season came to a gut-wrenching end at the hands of the bearded Red Sox and #BostonStrong and I’m still not over it by any means. Am I visibly upset anymore? No, but I also realize that, as a Cardinal fan, I’m a bit of a spoiled brat when it comes to my team. They’ve been to three straight Championship Series and made two World Series appearances in that midst, getting one game away the other time. This type of success rarely comes around and may not be around for long. With the outlook of the organization, I’d think they’ll be back at the top within the next few years and for years to come. But you never know, especially when it comes to postseason baseball.  So one of the best ways I can cope with the loss of a title that was almost within reach is to try to fix the team’s problems in my own mind. When I was younger, I pretended I played for the Cardinals and was pitching them to victory in Game 7 of the World Series. Think of it as the same mindset, except now I’m 20 years old and am pretending I’m the general manager, making deadline deals and sealing the team’s future success. It’s all a big game of make believe, I’m just older now. So enjoy the next few paragraphs of off season analysis and please discuss with me. Give me your opinions, your thoughts, your criticisms. Not only do I love to talk baseball, but I have nothing better to do (in my own mind at least – homework can wait.) Also, preface your reading with the facts that  (a) in no way am I a baseball analyst – just an enthusiastic fan who thinks their ideas are pretty stellar (b) objectivity isn’t exactly a thing in this blog, at least not for the most part, so if you call me a homer, you’d be accurate. Onward and upward we go…

I want to start by saying that the recent talks from national pundits about the Cardinals pursuing Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies are probably spot on. I don’t see why they wouldn’t be. The Cardinals are in desperate need of a shortstop, and Tulowitzki is probably the best there is. The Rockies say they don’t want to shop him (can you say “public relations”?), but let’s be honest, they’d trade him away if they got the right price. They aren’t going anywhere as a franchise, so what’s a star shortstop going to do for a team with not much depth, talent or upside? That being said, I don’t think Tulowitzki will be a Cardinal by next March. Why not? Well let’s get into it a little shall we?

The Rockies are going to want a premium package for Tulo. How premium? We’re talking the type of premium that says goodbye to some of the Cardinals premier young talent, as well as any type of bench depth. I’ve read all sorts of different player combinations in what would surely be a 4-for-1 or, at least, a 3-for-1 deal. Adams/Siegrist/Rosenthal/Jenkins; Craig/Miller/Rosenthal; Adams/Miller/Siegrist/Rosenthal. I’ve seen them all out there. So let’s take a closer look at Troy Tulowitzki:

Tulowitzki is a career .295 hitter who averages 29 home runs and 103 RBI’s per year and his WAR has always been around 6.5 or higher (if you’re into that sort of thing). For Cardinals fans who are used to Pete Kozma’s wild mishaps at the plate, these numbers seem salivation worthy. He’s a two-time Gold Glove winner, seemingly a stand-up guy and would be motivated playing for a contender. So what’s wrong with getting him? As one of my friends told me, you can sacrifice for the top shortstop in the game, especially when you have trading chips available. And while I agree with that, I don’t think Tulowitzki is the Cardinals best option.

While Tulowitzki is a premier player, he’s also extremely injury-prone. In his 8 year career, he only averages 108 games played per year. 108. And it’s not as if he had a bad stretch of years. He hasn’t played in over 145 games in 4 years and played only 47 in 2012. He’s now in his 30’s and there’s been some talk that he might want to move to a less strenuous position as he gets older. And yet, his numbers are still great. So what would the Cardinals be giving up for this player? Let’s say the Cardinals would hypothetically put together a Matt Adams, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal package. At least two of these players would probably have to be present to get Tulo, with two more players on the side.

Matt Adams provides the Cardinals with significant bench depth and big upside as a potential first baseman of the future. He’s young and can improve in many, many areas that he’s already proved adept at. Craig is the more favorable option due to his team-friendly contract, but Craig is also injury-prone. However, Adams is probably the most expendable of the bunch (IMO).

Shelby Miller is coming off of a stellar rookie campaign that earned him honors as a finalist for ROY. The Cards have been high on him since they drafted him. He’s got a plus fastball and good offspeed stuff that should improve. But the rotation is a 5-man committee that will be ripe with competitors. Wainwright, Wacha and Garcia will be guaranteed a spot, leaving two holes open for (get ready): Joe Kelly, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Lance Lynn, Tyler Lyons, John Gast and Miller. Kelly has proven he’s a valuable back-of-the-rotation guy, the Cardinals have told Martinez he is being groomed as a starter, Lynn is a veteran of the rotation and Rosenthal has made it known he wishes to be a starter. So is Miller expendable? Yes, but he’s also a better pitcher than anyone on this list when it comes to being a starter, at least at this point in time. I think the Cardinals see him as a piece of their club going forward. Plus, he’s a magician! (as evidenced by the disappearing act he did in the postseason). And what team couldn’t use a magician?

Finally, Rosenthal is already nationally famous for the fact that he can consistently pump fastballs in the range of 98-100 MPH. He’s got decent offspeed stuff that will only improve with time and is unhittable when he’s on. But the Cardinals are in a tough spot with him. 40-save man Jason Motte will be back at some point next year, relegating Rosenthal back to a setup man. He’s WAY too valuable to stay in that role forever. I don’t know that his game translates well to being a starter, but that’s what he wants to be eventually. Could I see the Cardinals going there? Not really. I think the Cardinals want Rosenthal as their long-term closer and I think they’ll eventually convince him to stay in that role. That may stink for those of who love Motte and his beard, but for those of us who have watched the two, there’s no question: when they’re both throwing well, Rosenthal is the superior closer.

So would the Cardinals be willing to trade away their future closer, a future top-of-the-rotation starter and an extremely promising power hitter for an aging star at a physically demanding position who already has a history of being fragile? I don’t see John Mozeliak as that type of general manager. Sure the Cardinals are interested in Tulowitzki. Who wouldn’t be? If the Cardinals can get him at the right price, I’m sure we’ll see Tulo with the birds on the bat next year. I just don’t see the right price being totally reasonable.

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