As the San Francisco Giants showed in their run to the 2012 World Series title, a good pitching staff is possibly the biggest factor in winning a championship. The St. Louis Cardinals have good, young pitchers, but they could also use an upgrade at shortstop.
To make that improvement, the team will likely have to give up some of its stock of young pitching talent no matter what type of trade it pursues, but especially if it wants an established shortstop such as Cleveland Indians’ Asdrubal Cabrera or the Texas Rangers’ Elvis Andrus.
There aren’t many free agent options at the middle infield positions this year. The Giants will likely resign National League Championship Series MVP Marco Scutaro, and the next best options are Placido Polanco or Adam Kennedy, neither of which would be very attractive signings.
That means if the Cardinals really want a solid option at shortstop for 2013 and beyond, they’ll have to look toward the trade market. Cabrera is probably the more likely choice. The Rangers don’t have nearly as many needs as the Indians, and the Cardinals’ young talent is likely much more appealing to the Indians.
However, the Indians could command a high price for Cabrera.
Cardinals minor-league first baseman Matt Adams is a likely trade chip because Allen Craig will remain at first base for the big club for the foreseeable future. Losing Adams would not be a huge deal, but the Indians are sure to want some pitchers, as well, considering their 4.78 team earned-run average last year was worst in the American League and only the Colorado Rockies had a worse ERA in all of baseball.
So who should the Cardinals be willing to give up? People have mentioned Lance Lynn as a possible trade chip. His 18 wins in 2012 make him attractive to other teams, and the Cardinals saw a few areas that still need to be polished if Lynn is going to be a consistent starting pitcher. He certainly pitched well for much of 2012, but he also had the league’s highest runs support and melted down in the playoffs.
One pitcher and Adams also likely won’t be enough to pry Cabrera from the Indians, but the question of who to trade gets even more difficult behind Lynn. Joe Kelly pitched great after he was called up to fill in for Jaime Garcia in June, and he has potential to be a key piece of the Cardinals pitching staff for many years, as would Lynn.
Garcia’s shoulder troubles will keep him off the trading block, and the Cardinals would be absolutely foolish to part with Trevor Rosenthal after he posted a 2.78 ERA and 25 strikeouts in his 22.2 innings pitched while consistently throwing 100 mph or higher.
Shelby Miller is another young pitcher who would be attractive to a team such as the Indians, but the Cardinals have also ranked him as their top pitching prospect for several years now and may not want to lose him now that he has made it to the big leagues.
The Cardinals also have pitching prospects such as Carlos Martinez who they have implicitly deemed untouchable in a trade.
In any case, the Cardinals will have to give up good players who will likely become long-time productive major league players, if not stars in the future. However, a shortstop such as Cabrera combined with up-and-coming second baseman Kolten Wong could finally end the carousel of middle infielders the Cardinals have had for about two decades.
But as the Giants showed by winning two of the last three championships, pitching is the most valuable part of a baseball team.