The St. Louis Cardinals had one of the quietest off-seasons of any club this winter. With the team returning every player in its starting lineup and one of the most polished pitching classes the organization has ever seen ready to graduate from the minor leagues, there has been very little reason for re-stocking and re-shaping of the roster.
Until this week.
This week, we learned that shortstop Rafael Furcal’s injured throwing elbow is not fine, as Furcal and GM John Mozeliak have preached to us all winter that it is. This leaves the Cardinals in a bit of a quandary. They are now facing the harsh reality that if something doesn’t drastically change with Furcal’s elbow, Ronny Cedeno will be trotting out to shortstop on opening day.
I can’t even begin to describe what that would say about the current state of the organization.
Ronny Cedeno might be fine for the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, and New York Mets to pencil in to the lineup, but not the Cardinals. I wholeheartedly trust Mozeliak & Co., but there’s a few things about this situation that stink to high heaven. The first is the fact that the Cards’ brass spent all winter believing that Furcal would make a full recovery from his latest ailment. The second problem I have is that even if management didn’t actually think Furcal would be able to play a full season, their best option, they thought, was Cedeno.
In my mind, there is no difference between Cedeno and current in-house option Pete Kozma. So not only were the Birds betting on a player who’s last full, productive season was the same year that Scott Spezio had a productive year, but their contingency plan was to spend money to get a mediocre player they basically already have.
Since the news about Furcal’s elbow broke, the rumors winds have started to blow from St. Louis to Denver once again, howling the name of Troy Tulowitzki, a potential perennial MVP candidate who plays the premium position of shortstop like a Gold Glover and has a penchant for producing in the clutch.
Tulo does have a downside though: he is a regular health concern, and he has a massive contract paying him an average salary of about $20mm that runs through the 2020 season.
The first thing to consider before taking on that contract is do the teams have a fit for a trade.
The birds have the best minor league system of any team in the game. They are stacked with eight (that’s right, eight) guys under the age of 25 that could develop into top-of-the-rotation types. They have arguably the best hitting prospect in baseball in Oscar Tavares, plus a power bat at first base in Matt Adams that could eventually develop into a poor man’s Justin Morneau.
So there’s no doubt the Cardinals have some pieces that The Colorado Rockies would love to get ahold of. The issue I’m sure would be the exchange rate of dollars and talent. The Cardinals could give up a little more in young players so that the Rockies would absorb more of Tulo’s salary.
The other option is that the Cardinals give up less in prospects but inherit more of Tulo’s remaining salary. If, hypothetically, the Cardinals took on all of the remaining money on Tulo’s contract in a trade, I believe a deal could be made that would include Adams (who could put up a decent average and hit 35 home runs in Coors field) and a pitcher like Joe Kelly, Fernando Salas, or Michael Wacha that is young with upside, and doesn’t rely heavily on a curveball.
Would Tulo be a good fit in St. Louis? That I’m not positive of.
His home/road splits suggest a slightly lesser player than the superstar Tulowitzki is in Denver, and he does have an enormous contract to boot.
On the other hand, inserting Tulowitzki in front of Matt Holliday and Allen Craig is certainly a recipe for a 2004-esque murderer’s row in St. Louis. Unfortunately, we will have to wait on the progress of Furcal before we see how this situation shakes out.