Tag Archive | "Rafael Furcal"

Peralta Signing Creates Best-Case Outcome

The aggressive Cardinal offseason continued this weekend, when the club came to terms with free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta. It is a signing that seems contrary to how the team has operated in years past, but it certifies one thing above all others: the team is ready to get over the hump.

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The woes that the club had at shortstop began early in the year, and continued on through the fall. Pete Kozma gave everything he had, but could not recapture the regular effort at the plate he found in September of 2011. The reality of the situation was grim: Kozma was the worst regular in baseball at the plate last season, who’s defense was solid, but not to a transcendent level that would entice the team to give him another chance. So the team gritted through a lemons-to-lemonade style situation at the position, but made no secret that making an upgrade was of the most essential of priorities.

While virtually every shortstop in baseball was discussed in some fashion or another as being a fit with the team, and “how much is too much for Player X” has been the hottest water cooler talk in the city, it is clear that John Mozeliak’s commitment to keeping his homegrown talent in tow continues to be the highest priority for the future of the team. However, with such an immediate need, there had to be not another fill-in resolution; there had to be an end brought to any further concern about the position.

Peralta represents both middle ground between upgrade, compromise and a rescue. What he adds is another extra-base hit threat. At his worst, he’s an above replacement level player (which is a .255 hitter, with a .308 on-base percentage), which are both numbers that Peralta has regularly surpassed over the course of his career. For the better part of the past decade, with Kozma, Ryan Theriot, Brendan Ryan, Cesar Izturis, and even Rafeal Furcal, the Cardinals have hovered around or below those replacement level numbers, and now have a drastic increase in the balance of their everyday equation, and potentially an All-Star level performer, although the depth at shortstop in the NL surpasses that in the American League.

A clear advantage that he brings to the lineup is a much needed upgrade against the left-handed pitchers that plagued the club over the last two seasons regularly. As a team, the Cardinals hit .242 against left-handed starters, nearly 30 points beneath their team mark of .269. Peralta hit .352 in 2013 against southpaws. Also, while framed with an image of being an offense-only performer, he is capable currently of making more plays in the field than he is credited with, although the Cardinals will likely take a step backwards regarding infield defense with Matt Carpenter restricted to third base and Peralta being in the mix.

All of this was made available in the form of a four year, $53 million dollar pact, which pays him just north of $13 million per year. For a player that has proven to be an above average player at a premium position, it is a fair amount. The roundabout word is that Peralta actually left money on the table to join the Cardinals, which shows signs he is motivated to win as well. There are the rumblings about rewarding a player that was suspended last fall for performance enhancing drug usage, and what the deal represents regarding the acceptance of these players post-suspension. And it is true that the deal represents a departure from the club’s usual method of operation: cost-controlled, low-risk/high reward deals, as well as a preference for defense-first production up the middle. Yet, in the current state of the team, a change of course was needed.

The reality of the case is that Mozeliak is going all in to get the Cardinals past the last step on the mountain right now, while not compromising any of the young talent that is the nucleus of the organization. Peralta’s signing is a victory on all of those fronts; the team has addressed all of its biggest concerns, made a win-now decision that won’t cripple the team long-term and keeps all of its greatest assets in tow, with protection of the potential yet to be fulfilled.

 

Matt Whitener is a staff writer for I70, and can be followed on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan and contact directly at WhitenerCSP@gmail.com.

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What Does The Future Hold – Cardinals Contracts and Scenarios

As the St. Louis Cardinals face the final weekend of the National League Championship Series, and the baseball year as a whole rolls into its final go around shortly, the show still goes on, regardless of outcome. Sooner or later, the tone of the year quickly turns to the personnel part and the future becomes the present. Free agency, retirements, trades and rumors will rule the roost for the next three months, and the Cardinals will be far from on the outside looking in.

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While the team has the rare pleasure of having the vast majority its entire core and active roster under team control for not only 2013, but 2014 as well, the business is safe to continue as is for the near future. But exactly how is the design of the team set up entering the winter? Here is the entire breakdown of the Cardinal roster, including what’s to come, what will cost what and how contract status works into the personnel decisions that could loom.

(Contract figures per Cots Contracts & Baseball Reference)

Guaranteed Contracts—$71.5M guaranteed in 2014

Adam Wainwright (32, $97.5M through 2018)

Matt Holliday (34, $51M through 2017 w/ $17M team option in 2018)

Yadier Molina (31, $44M through 2017, w/ $15M team option in 2018)

Allen Craig (30, $28.5M through 2017, w/ $13M team option in 2018)

Jaime Garcia (27, $17M through 2015, w/ $23.5M total in separate team options in ’16-’17)

Jason Motte (32, $7.5M through 2014)

Randy Choate (38, $6M through 2015)

The vast majority of the Cardinal veteran core is not only signed, but is contracted through the next four seasons at minimum. Wainwright, Holliday and Molina are likely on career carrying deals, while the team locked up young, quickly proven players such as Craig and Garcia early in their careers, and have control through their best years underway. Motte is the lone pending free agent on the 2014 team, and will have a show-and-prove year as he returns to the ninth inning from Tommy John surgery early in the season.

Arbitration Eligibles

John Axford (31, Stage 2, $5M in 2013; Non-Tender Candidate)

David Freese (31, Stage 2, $3.15M in 2013)

Jon Jay (29, Stage 1, $524,000 in 2013)

Daniel Descalso (26, Stage 1, $511,000 in 2013)

Fernando Salas (29, Stage 1, $512,000 in 2013; Non-Tender Candidate)

While Craig and Motte are locked up, the remainder of the formerly young Cardinal cast is in the midst of their arbitration years. At maximum, Freese, Jay and Descalso are under team control through 2015, but there will be a few tough calls in this tier of the team, and none harder to predict than Freese, who is due for a raise into the $5M range, but had his worst year of his career. Axford’s case will be the most interesting case, as he is a high-ceiling talent, but will carry a difficult price tag for what is likely a seventh inning bridge pitcher to carry.

Pre-Arbitration

Lance Lynn (27, Stage 3)

Matt Carpenter (28, Stage 3; Buy-out Candidate)

Tony Cruz (27, Stage 3)

Shane Robinson (29, Stage 3)

Shelby Miller (23, Stage 2)

Michael Wacha (23, Stage 2)

Carlos Martinez (22, Stage 2)

Pete Kozma (26, Stage 2)

Trevor Rosenthal (24, Stage 2)

Kevin Siegrist (24, Stage 2)

Seth Maness (25, Stage 2)

Matt Adams (25, Stage 2)

Joe Kelly (26, Stage 2)

Keith Butler (25, Stage 2)

Sam Freeman (26, Stage 2)

Tyler Lyons (26, Stage 2)

John Gast (25, Stage 2)

Kolten Wong (22, Stage 2)

Adron Chambers (27, Stage 2)

The core of the Cardinal team is its youth, as the group that was heralded as the top organization in all of baseball before the season has seen many of its jewels hit the big leagues. Of the 19 players in this section, no less than 12 are virtual locks to be on the Opening Day roster, and none will come in at cost of more than $525,000. This is where the cost control of youth, performing youth at that, shows it’s most advantageous asset. And with only Lynn, Carpenter, Cruz and Robinson on pace to reach arbitration status over the next two years, unless the team decides to up the ante on an early long-term deal to buy out any of this group’s arbitration seasons, this will be a strong asset on the side of the team’s purchasing power, if needed.

Free Agents

Carlos Beltran ($13M)

Jake Westbrook ($8.75M, $9.5M team option will be declined)

Chris Carpenter ($10.5M, will likely retire)

Rafael Furcal ($7M)

Edward Mujica ($3.2M)

Rob Johnson ($750,000)

There are a few ifs and a few certainties here. The certainties start with Jake Westbrook, who’s 2014 option is all but certain to be declined. Furcal and Carpenter will not return as well, with retirement on the horizon for Carpenter and Furcal missing all of the season with Tommy John surgery, and the team having moved on from him before spring training commenced. Mujica is due for a raise, despite his late season struggles, and will likely price himself out of returning for the capacity he would be needed in.

 

Post-2014 Free Agent Candidates

Motte, Axford, Freese

Post 2015 Free Agent Candidates

Garcia, Choate

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Pete Kozma is the new Yadier Molina?

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This Labor Day weekend I was doing what I do pretty much every weekend during the season, watching baseball. I was listening to Dan McLaughlin and Ricky Horton call a Cardinals/Pirates game, which oftentimes is a chore. Now I realize the play-by-play guys are not there to get too analytical about what’s right and wrong with the Cardinals. I understand they are there to entertain and help add something to the game for people who just want to watch baseball. If you are reading this article, or any article online that you had to search for because you have a longing to learn more about baseball, you probably do not find the broadcasters of any team to be particularly deep. So I’m not picking on them. I understand their role. But regardless, they kept repeating something about a certain player that I found to be especially appalling. The same player who I cringe at when I hear any defense for.

Pete Kozma.

I don’t get Kozma. More so, I don’t get what St Louis feels it owes him. I was one who wanted The Cardinals to go after Stephen Drew in the off-season, as Rafael Furcal was aging and becoming too injury prone. After Drew signed with The Red Sox, and a few months later Furcal was reported to miss the entire ’13 season, the general consensus seemed to be that The Cardinals would be okay with Kozma at shortstop.

The season starts and the talking point with McLaughlin and co. was that he was going to surprise everyone, he was going to be better than we expect and any production we get from him will be a benefit (whatever sense that makes). Kozma started off relatively hot, and his defenders felt justified. But soon after, reality caught up. His numbers started plummeting. But, if you squinted, they at least weren’t  completely horrible. Then the talking point from McLaughlin and co. was that he was a number 8 hitter and his numbers were in line with other number 8 hitters, so what do you expect? Stop complaining. They basically made it clear that if anyone complained about him, they were picking on the poor guy.

But of course his numbers kept getting even worse and worse. Writers such as Bernie Miklasz of The Post-Dispatch (who has anyone noticed he is going through a full transformation into a sabermetrician this last year?) decided they were done defending him. The die-hard Cardinal fans decided that he was slumping too much to defend. Everyone was done with the guy. What he did late last year and in the post-season was fine and all, but he has squandered all goodwill he earned. There finally was a universal consensus:

Pete Kozma is absolutely terrible.

Except for McLaughlin and group who decided they were going to still defend the guy with a hail mary pass of a defense. They decided that:

“Pete Kozma was Yadier Molina from a few years ago.”

They claim he is a high defense, low offense player who will get better. They compare Molina’s poor 2006 season to this year for Kozma. The implication is that if The Cardinals stick with Kozma and continue to start him, he will became what we have now with Molina.

My jaw dropped when I heard this. And every time they repeated it, my jaw dropped even further. After the game, I went online to see if anyone picked up on it. Viva El Birdos jumped on it before I did. I was originally going to not write about it after I saw they covered it, but decided I still wanted to because I want to add to what they said. And it’s such an egregious statement, it needs to be covered even further.

There are so many things wrong with comparing Kozma to Molina. For instance:

Kozma is not Molina defensively, no one really is. 

Molina is just incredible at catcher. He is the best defensive catcher in baseball today, and makes an argument for the best of all time. Kozma is a decent defensive shortstop. Compared to his hitting, it’s his strength. But compared to other players in the league, he’s slightly above average. To even compare the two is a joke. In 2006, Molina’s Fielding Runs Above Average (based on UZR) was 6.3. And that was especially weak for him, as in 2005 it was 9.0 and in 2008 it was 10.0. But even in a weak year for Molina, it still trounces Kozma. This year his FRAA is 2.2. Comparatively, the best shortstop in baseball defensively, Brendan Ryan, posted a 13.8 last year (he’s only played 86 games this year).

In all honesty, I kind of wish we still had Ryan. As he is probably a much better comparison to Molina than Kozma is.

Molina was good prior to 2006, this is probably the real Kozma

In the Viva article, comparing both player’s minor league stats, points out:

In the majors, this year, Pete Kozma is hitting .215/.272/.272 in a league that’s hitting .251/.315/.390. In 2012, he hit .232/.292/.355 in a league that hit .278/.345/.430. 2011 was undoubtedly worse than 2013: .214/.279/.289 in Memphis while the Pacific Coast League hit .286/.359/.448

Yadier Molina, as a 20-year-old in the AA Southern League, hit .275/.327/.332. That’s not a .700 OPS, either, but it did come in a league that hit .255/.329/.374, and that struck out 19 percent of the time while he struck out 11 percent of the time. The year before that, as a 19-year-old in full season ball, he hit .280/.331/.384 in a league that hit .251/.325/.363, and that was, in aggregated, 21-and-a-half.

At 21-and-a-half, Molina was called up to the majors and hit .267/.329/.356 in 51 games.

Their article stops at that, but I would even extend it to his first full year on the team. In 2005, Molina hit a pretty bad .252/.295/.358 with a WAR of 1.2. But in comparison to Kozma this year who is hitting .212/.268/.268, Molina looks like a slugger. His slugging pct is still almost 100 points higher than Kozma’s. Even in 2006, Molina’s slugging is .321, much higher than Kozma’s.

Even when Molina hit rock bottom offensively, he was better than what Kozma seems to be as a player.

Molina was an anomaly, you should not count on that.

What Molina has done is incredible. He has gone from being a defensive ace with no speed and no bat to a hitter battling for the batting title. It’s unbelievable and rarely happens. So the idea that you should count on it at all is silly. Because how many players have come up and weren’t very good, worked endlessly with their hitting coach, never improved and left MLB forever? A majority of replacement level players. Even the aforementioned Brendan Ryan was a project of former hitting coach McGwire that didn’t produce the results of Molina. To say that anyone can do what Molina has done is both a logical stretch and a minimization of what Yadi has done.

At this point, The Cards are stuck with Kozma on the team for the rest of the year. Maybe Ryan Jackson comes up with the September call ups and takes over at short. Maybe Descalso. Maybe in the off-season, The Cardinals get another player. Maybe with Jose Iglesias playing so well for The Red Sox, Stephen Drew will be available again. Or maybe not.  But whatever happens, we cannot physically stand another season of Kozma.

He is not a major league shortstop. I wish he was, but he’s not. And he definitely is not Yadier Molina.

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Matt Carpenter, Pete Kozma could shatter expectations for St. Louis Cardinals

One of the St. Louis Cardinals’ biggest questions marks during the offseason was how the team would fill the middle infield positions, and the answers the Cardinals found could end up making those positions of strength throughout the season.

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The Cardinals had planned to have Rafael Furcal be their starting shortstop on opening day, as he had been last season. But Furcal’s torn right elbow ligament didn’t heal in the offseason and he had to undergo surgery during spring training.

That left Pete Kozma, the player who hit .333 in 26 games for the Cardinals last season, as the man to fill one of the most important positions on the field. However, the Cardinals still didn’t have much confidence in Kozma because they still had bad memories of him being the organization’s first-round pick in 2007 that had a .236 batting average in six minor-league seasons.

But shortstop was only one half of the uncertainty surrounding second base for the Cardinals during spring training.

Daniel Descalso played 143 games for the Cardinals in 2012 and played stellar defense whether he was at second base, shortstop or third base, but he also hit just .227. The Cardinals didn’t think they could survive another season with a second baseman who hit under .230 so they asked Matt Carpenter work on learning the position during the offseason so he could potentially take over second base in 2013.

Carpenter did his work and won the job in spring training, but that still meant the Cardinals planned to enter the season with a rookie at shortstop and a former utility player who hadn’t had more than 300 at-bats in a single season.

That combined inexperience justifiably sent shivers down the spines of many Cardinals fans, and for good reason.

The Cardinals had tried to patch holes in the middle infield before with limited success. They traded for Furcal only when Brendan Ryan and Tyler Greene proved they weren’t going to be good enough at shortstop. Also, the Skip Schumaker experiment at second base lasted for a couple of years, but he was replaced by the .227-hitting Descalso last season.

So for better or worse, the Cardinals ended up with Kozma and Carpenter as the middle infield combination for 2013, but early results show this concoction could not only work, but it could work pretty well.

Carpenter hasn’t played second base yet because he’s been over at third base while David Freese recovers from an injury, but he and Kozma have already made an impact one series into the season.

Carpenter had three doubles in the team’s first three games, and he played solid-to-great defense at third base. Kozma hit .308 in the opening series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, including a double and a homerun.

Granted, that is an incredibly small sample size. Both players could eventually be exposed throughout the course of the season and consistently take terrible at-bats. But at this point, each has looked confident at the plate and in the field, and they are both getting results.

If that continues, the Cardinals might win a lot of games because of a middle infield composed of two players who the team didn’t even consider good enough to start until circumstances forced them into the lineup.

Sometimes the unexpected gifts are the best of all.

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Depth a growing concern for St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals will send nine players on to the field Monday at Chase Field in Phoenix for their season opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but they won’t have many replacement options if one, or more, of those players can’t play the entire game.

Ryan Jackson

The team will have a dugout full of bench players, of course, but recent injuries have suddenly taken a lot of talent that would be on the bench and put it into the starting lineup.

The Cardinals already had limited depth at the middle-infield positions once Rafael Furcal found out at the beginning of spring training he couldn’t throw and would need elbow surgery. Pete Kozma suddenly became the team’s first option at shortstop with Ronny Cedeno as the back-up.

But then the team released Cedeno on March 19 after he hit .290 in 16 games with the club.

That left the Cardinals with three middle infielders: Kozma, Matt Carpenter and Daniel Descalso.

Carpenter had all but wrapped up the starting job at second base, but third baseman David Freese eventually succumbed to a sore back that had plagued him much of the spring. Freese will now start the season on the disabled list, and Carpenter will have to take over the third base job in the meantime.

As the game of musical chairs goes, Descalso will fill in at second base, and Ryan Jackson will take the spot on the bench as the team’s back-up middle infielder. However, Jackson has hit .136 so far in spring training and hit .118 in 13 games with the big-league club in 2012.

Granted, that is a very small sample size, and the Cardinals have seen with players such as Kozma how past struggles don’t predict a bad future. Kozma hit .236 in more than five years in the minor leagues before helping spark a late-season surge by the Cardinals in 2012 with a .333 batting average in 26 games.

Still, a player who hasn’t hit above .150 as a major leaguer isn’t much of an insurance plan to open the regular season.

The Cardinals made Freese’s move to the disabled list retroactive to March 22 so he will be eligible to play in the team’s home opener April 8 against the Cincinnati Reds.

So if all goes well, the Cardinals should have their starting third baseman back within the first week of the regular season, which would allow Carpenter to move back to second base and Descalso could become the utility infielder that provides solid production when the starters need a day off.

Right now the Cardinals can’t afford for their starters to take a day off.

And that could be something to keep in mind late in the season when Kozma and Carpenter, who have started a combined 95 games in two seasons, start to feel the fatigue of a full Major League Baseball schedule.

The same could be said for the Cardinals pitching staff, as well. Closer Jason Motte’s injury had a ripple effect through the bullpen and the starting rotation.

Mitchell Boggs will have to fill Motte’s spot at the back of the bullpen, but Motte’s injury also made Joe Kelly more valuable in a relief role instead of the fifth and final spot in the rotation, which went to Shelby Miller, who the Cardinals have groomed to be a starter throughout his minor-league career.

Kelly at least pitched out of the bullpen in college and made 15 appearances as a reliever last season for the Cardinals in the regular season and playoffs combined.

The Cardinals have remarkably sustained success through a multitude of injuries in the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

They’ll have to maintain that resiliency again in 2013, but this time there is no Carpenter, Descalso, Jon Jay or Allen Craig to insert into a key situation late in the game. Those players now must be the team’s foundation instead of its accessories.

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Kozmamania T-Shirts Available

The St. Louis Cardinals have seen their share of injuries this off-season.  The one that appears to have the most impact currently will be at shortstop.

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Rafael Furcal, the Cardinals starting shortstop, is out for the season after requiring Tommy John surgery to repair an elbow injury that dates back to late last season.  An offseason and Spring of market investigation for a replacement has yielded no results to date, leaving general manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny to react the same way they did last season, with Pete Kozma.

Kozma, an enigma of a ballplayer, had all but been given up on due to his (lack of) performance at the minor league level.  A first round draft pick that seemed to be a bust, Kozma was the reason that Furcal arrived in St. Louis in the first place.  But when Furcal went down last season, the Cardinals were left with very little choice and handed the position to the struggling prospect.

What happened was something no one expected: he succeeded.  Kozma found a glimpse of his potential on the biggest stage possible and performed well during the final month of the season and in the post-season for the Cardinals.  As the Cardinals prepare to break camp, Kozma is prepared to be the starting shortstop once again.

Friend of the site Sam Feldman helped i70baseball immortalize Kozma and the feelings surrounding him with a t-shirt that is now available on TeeSpring.com.  The shirt, which embodies both the spirit of the fans that have an extreme feeling of support for the young shortstop as well as a sarcastic feel for those that feel the hype is a bit too high, is available for a limited time at the price of $15 per shirt.

Kozmamania has hit St. Louis.  Get your shirt today.

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Jason Motte injury has all signs of long-term problem

In four years Jason Motte went from a hard-throwing catcher to a pitcher who closed out a World Series championship and became a linchpin in the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen but, as is the case for many closers, now it is his turn to land on the disabled list with arm problems.

MathenyMotte

The Cardinals announced Saturday that Motte has a right elbow strain and will likely start the season on the disabled list. The team has a viable back-up in Mitchell Boggs, but Boggs could end up being the Cardinals closer for most, if not all, of 2013.

Although Motte technically has a sprained elbow, he underwent an MRI on Friday that found a tear in one of the ligaments. That sounds an awful lot like what shortstop Rafael Furcal experienced when he tore an elbow ligament Aug. 30. Furcal didn’t play the rest of the season and will now miss the 2013 season after he finally had Tommy John surgery.

That’s not to say Motte is headed toward Tommy John surgery and will be out for the year, but a tear in an elbow ligament doesn’t usually heal itself, at least not quickly.

But this isn’t doomsday for the Cardinals. They can still compete for a playoff spot or even win a World Series championship without Motte. Other teams have experienced this type of situation with their closer, and whether they got lucky to have a good fill-in closer or they simply had a deep bullpen, they still won a lot of baseball games.

For example, the 2012 World Series champion San Francisco Giants lost their closer, Brian Wilson, at the beginning of the season. But they eventually gave Sergio Romo the job and he finished game after game all the way to a four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

The Cardinals are even a step ahead of the Giants because they have a back-up closer ready before the season starts. The Giants had a closer-by-committee situation early in the season as pitchers such as Santiago Casilla tried to finish games before they settle on Romo.

The Cardinals already have Boggs ready to make a relatively easy transition from eighth-inning setup reliever to closer. Boggs led the Cardinals with 78 appearances in 2012 and had a National League-best 34 holds.

Plus, the team has a loaded bullpen that should be able to fill in any open spots without much trouble. Flamethrowing righthanded reliever Trevor Rosenthal has the stuff to shut down hitters for one inning, and the Cardinals have a bevy of righthanded relievers such as Fernando Salas and Edward Mujica who can continue to work the middle innings.

Motte’s injury also might affect the battle between Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly for the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation. The Cardinals could decide to give the rookie Miller the starting job and put Kelly in the bullpen since he worked eight games for the Cardinals in relief last season.

In any case, the Cardinals certainly won’t get the type of consistency from the closer’s role they had in 2012. Motte had all 42 saves for the Cardinals last season and tied with Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel for the league lead.

That’s a bit much to expect out of Boggs, who hadn’t had an earned-run average below 3.50 until he broke through last year and posted a 2.21 ERA.

But the Cardinals do have a deep enough team to survive an injury to their closer. This isn’t an obituary for their season, but the words to describe Motte’s 2013 season might already be chiseled in stone.

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Wigginton Should Be Next Cut

The St. Louis Cardinals sent home one unproductive veteran player Tuesday in their latest round of cuts, and they need to do the same with another, even if it costs the team a relatively large amount of money.

Robinson Freese Wigginton

The Cardinals brought Ronny Cedeno in to spring training as an insurance policy at the shortstop position since Rafael Furcal did not recover from an elbow injury he suffered last season, and the team had yet to believe Pete Kozma would be good enough to handle the position full time.

But the Cardinals realized they would not be in good hands with Cedeno, a career .247 hitter, as their primary option at shortstop. Kozma burst out of offseason to hit .429 in the first 10 days of exhibition games while Cedeno struggled to raise his batting average above .167.

Cedeno eventually picked up the pace to finish with a .290 average, and Kozma predictably didn’t hit above .400 the entire spring (he fell to .318), but Kozma showed the Cardinals he could handle the responsibilities of being the starting shortstop. That meant the Cardinals had little need for Cedeno, who had signed for one year and $1.15 million.

Daniel Descalso will now be the Cardinals only backup middle infielder, but Cedeno’s release freed up a spot on the bench for more talented hitters such as first baseman prospect Matt Adams.

But that’s only because the Cardinals will likely be hesitant to release the other unproductive veteran free agent they brought to camp: Ty Wigginton.

Wigginton has just four base hits and a .103 batting average with eight strikeouts so far this spring, yet the Cardinals probably won’t release him because they made the poor decision in the offseason to sign the 35-year-old, who hasn’t hit above .250 since 2009, to a two-year, $5 million contract.

Sure, $5 million isn’t an incredible amount of money in the modern world of baseball, but expecting Wigginton to be a productive player at all, much less two years, is almost asking for a miracle to happen.

Maybe Wigginton will run into a late-inning homerun and ends up helping the Cardinals win a game at some point this season, but they have much more talented players who will start the season in the minor leagues.

Future second baseman Kolten Wong, future outfielder Oscar Taveras and even outfielder Adron Chambers provide more potential benefits to the Cardinals that Wigginton, but they aren’t making $5 million across two years and they are young players who the Cardinals don’t want to rot on the bench.

So Wigginton will probably make the team no matter how bad he hits. Thankfully, there should still be a spot for Adams, who has hit .304 this spring and is tied for the team lead with 12 RBIs. It would be nice if the Cardinals went with Chambers, who provides speed, or outfielder Shane Robinson, who has had a great spring with a .465 batting average and 12 RBIs, but one will likely be left off the opening day roster.

The Cardinals are chiseling away at their roster for opening day. Unfortunately, they will probably leave one blemish and give Wigginton a job based on what they hope he can do, because he certainly hasn’t shown them anything this spring that makes him worthy to make a Major League Baseball roster.

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St. Louis Cardinals Will Win Despite Lack Of Speed

The St. Louis Cardinals project to have an Opening Day lineup full of players who will regularly get on base and it also features plenty of power to drive them in. The one thing the team will lack, however, is speed.

Jon Jay

The Cardinals stole 91 bases in 2012, which tied them with the Texas Rangers for 24th of 30 teams in Major League Baseball, but players who stole more than a quarter of the Cardinals bases last season are either hurt or no longer with the team.

Shortstop Rafael Furcal stole 12 bases last season but is out for the season with an elbow injury, and fellow shortstop Tyler Greene, who had nine stolen bases, is now with the Houston Astros.

That leaves the Cardinals with about four regular stolen base threats. Slow-footed but incredibly intelligent catcher Yadier Molina stole 12 bases last year and could very well steal another dozen or so this season. Rightfielder Carlos Beltran had 13 stolen bases last year, but he is 35 years old and has slowed down considerably in recent years after various knee injuries.

The other proven stolen-base threat from last year’s team is centerfielder Jon Jay, who had 19 last season. He will likely lead the team again this season unless outfield prospect Oscar Taveras makes the team, but even he hasn’t stolen more than 10 bases in a season during his four seasons in the minor leagues.

Shortstop Pete Kozma stole just two bases during his brief 26-game stint with the Cardinals at the end of 2012, but he once stole 24 bases in 2008 and had 13 in 2010, all in the minor leagues.

Other than those options, the Cardinals will likely enter the season with a pretty slow team, but that’s not necessarily a terrible fault.

The Cardinals won the World Series in 2011 after stealing just 57 bases, which ranked last in the National League, and only the Detroit Tigers had fewer steals with 49 that season. The Cardinals also made it to within one game of the World Series in 2012 while ranking 24th.

And they aren’t the only team that has found it can win without stealing bases. In fact, just three teams that made the 2012 playoffs ranked in the top half of baseball in stolen bases. The Oakland A’s were ninth, the San Francisco Giants were 10th and the Washington Nationals were 15th.

Otherwise, all of the best teams didn’t steal many bases. The World Series-champion Detroit Tigers actually ranked dead last for the second year in a row, but they had great power and great pitching.

Those two factors are also why the Cardinals shouldn’t be too concerned about the number of bases they steal in 2013.

They have a lineup that should easily rank in the top 10 in all three of the Triple Crown categories, batting average, homeruns and runs batted in, and they have a pitching staff that should be more than solid if not for too many injuries.

Sure, Chris Carpenter is no longer an option at the top of the rotation, but the Cardinals have arguably the most young talent on their pitching staff since the days Tony La Russa decided to come to St. Louis because Matt Morris and Alan Benes were on their way to the big leagues.

The Whitey Herzog disciples will forever yearn for the days when Cardinals players of the 1980s slapped the ball into play and ran like the wind around the bases, but those days have long since passed. And they aren’t coming back anytime soon, at least not as long as the Cardinals furnish a lineup with five batters who can hit 20 or more homeruns.

So while the Cardinals style of play might not be terribly exciting on the basepaths, nearly every other aspect of their play is good enough that they will likely once again be playoff contenders come September.

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Cardinals Position of Interest: Organizational Shortstop

The most talked about issue for the St. Louis Cardinals is what is going on at shortstop. The loss of Rafael Furcal to elbow surgery has hastened the future of the lone position on the organization’s map where there is no ideal succession plan in place. It was an issue that was on thin ice all winter, and could be a focus throughout the summer and into next winter as well. The options at shortstop include more questions than answers, and addressing the issue start both at the bottom of the organization all the way to the top of it.

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Majors: The injury to Furcal set everything in a different direction than hoped for. While there was always a cautious optimism regarding his status, if not a given assumption that it would be a multiple man job this season. The worst came to be with Furcal never even making it to a spring lineup, and simultaneously activating every backup scenario possible at once for a replacement.

The initial answer to the question will be Pete Kozma, incumbent replacement for Furcal when the injury ended his season last fall. Kozma has been making a statement for his fitness for the spot, hitting .419, through 10 games, but due to his inconsistent past since being made the team’s first round pick in 2007, questions will continue to surround his performance. Defense will continue to be a work in progress for him, but the idea is that his only job is to keep the position stable for the time being.

Behind him, is a mixture of utility men in Ronny Cedeno and Ryan Jackson. Cedeno was brought in to be a support option in case Furcal wasn’t ready, and he has remained in that capacity behind Kozma. He has struggled in the spring, which has gone very noticed by GM John Mozeliak. Despite having a partially guaranteed Major League contract, prolonged struggles could make him this season’s J.C. Romero. Jackson was the first promotion to fill in for Furcal last year, due to his similar range to Furcal in the field, but his greatest advantage with the glove has been offset severely by his limitations at the plate.

High Minors: The minor league ranks have begun to blend with the Major Leagues as of late. Jackson could very well be the odd man out in the chase for a spot in St. Louis, and would be left to continue on in Memphis. He’s got the best glove of any shortstop in the system, but has shown no bat at all in brief stint last season (.118 in 18 at-bats) or this spring (.143 through 10 games). But he did manage to hit over .270 for three seasons while he rose from the Single to Triple A levels, so there’s some medium for him to improve upon…if he regains the chance to do so, due to a new teammate this year.

Greg Garcia is looming as perhaps the best current fit for the long-term picture up the middle. He played the entire season at Double-A Springfield, and hit .284 with 20 doubles and 10 home runs, while managing to have an impressive 80 walks vs. 83 strikeouts. He’ll be 23 this season, and will be the starter in Memphis this season. Garcia’s future is probably more of a Descalso (who he profiles quite similarly to thus far in the minors), but an offensive profile of this sort plays much better at shortstop than at second base. He has shown a steady improvement throughout the system, and is perhaps the lone prospect with a chance to actually fill into more potential as he matures.

Cardinals hitting coach John Mabry stated in February at the Cardinals Winter Warm Up that Garcia would see plenty of opportunities to show what he could do this spring, due to the World Baseball Classic’s impact on the spring roster, but the loss of Furcal has now made auditioning Kozma the top priority, and Garcia’s chances thus far have been less than originally anticipated.

The lone issue at hand is how Jackson fits into the picture now, especially with Kolten Wong being the everyday second baseman at Memphis for the time being. Garcia’s improved stock, combined with Kozma’s increased role and the presence of Cedeno, have thrown his role into question.

At Springfield, Jake Lemmerman, who was the return from the Dodgers for Skip Schumaker this winter, could see some opportunity. The 23-year-old hit has hit .285 as a minor leaguer, but has struggled since reaching Double-A, hitting only .233 in 137 games.

Low Minors: There’s no true emerging option at any of the lower levels of the Cardinal system. Many of players that take on shortstop do it in a moonlight capacity, while making most of their impact at second base. Some could find their future at shortstop due to organizational need, but the clearest sign of the team’s need to draft well up the middle is here. The only player that made a majority living at the position was Matt Williams, who played 126 games as short for the Class-A Quad Cities River Bandits.

Prognosis: If there is any position that the team could have its hand forced in, either via trade or draft, it is at shortstop. There is 0% chance that Furcal will retained after the season, so the page has been turned in real time for the Cardinals. While there are bodies to fill the space now, the answer over the long-term simply is not there, nor is it on the horizon. Even if Kozma, Jackson or Garcia can become an adequate major leaguer, the need to restock the organization’s depth at the spot is well past due. For a team that is full of succession plans, the lack of one at short has hit a dangerous level and isn’t going to be a quick fix.

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