Rumors were swirling around baseball on Monday that the St. Louis Cardinals are interested in working a trade with the Colorado Rockies for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. The interest seems mutual, but one would have to assume that the Rockies would want to loot the Cardinals farm system.
Colorado currently owes roughly $144 million to Tulowitzki over the next eight years.
St. Louis is one team that might be able to afford to inherit most–if not all–of that salary. At the end of the 2013 season, the Cardinals could dump up to $54 million of their payroll by letting the likes of Carlos Beltran, Chris Carpenter, and Rafael Furcal walk.
Some names that would undoubtedly come up is St. Louis’ best prospect Oscar Taveras, right-hander Shelby Miller, flame-throwing righty Trevor Rosenthal, or power hitting first baseman Matt Adams.
If I’m Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, no deal in the world would make me part with Taveras; the guy has the makeup to become the next great Cardinal. Rosenthal was a force out of the ‘pen last season, and if he doesn’t fill a spot in the rotation–like Miller should–he will make a dominant setup man.
Tulowitzki is a bona fide star; he makes any lineup instantly better, and could be the final cog to put St. Louis back in the World Series.
If he stays healthy.
The flyer on Tulowitzki shows an elite defender (three Fielding Bible Awards) with a career .292 batting average, a .373 wOBA, three seasons of 25-plus home runs, and a 117 OPS+. The caution with Tulowitzki is the injury risk. He’s missed significant time in 2008, 2010, and most of the 2012 season. In his seven-year career, he’s only managed to appear in 150 or more games twice (2007 and 2009).
The Cardinals aren’t strangers to injury, having already lost workhorse Carpenter for the year, as well as dealing with Furcal’s health problems at short. The latter would seem to make adding Tulowitzki a no-brainer.
One thing that made the 2012 Cardinals an enigma is how they plucked guys from the farm system and how they stepped up immediately. One in particular was prospect Pete Kozma, who has proved himself a capable big league hitter, though a 400 at-bat season might bring him back down to earth after bursting onto the scene with a .333/.383/.569 through 26 games. Regardless, Kozma deserves a shot to start at short.
Because the Cardinals farm system is hands-down the best in baseball, teams like the Rockies will drive up their asking price, much the same way free agents do with the New York Yankees because of their wealth. Unless Colorado looks to the lower level of the Cardinals farm system, Mozeliak should turn away and not look back.
The Cardinals will be fine without Tulowitzki.