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Ronny Cedeno provides depth for St. Louis Cardinals, but little else

In an offseason of sparse, small moves, the St. Louis Cardinals made another signing Monday that will minimally impact their season, and hopefully it won’t be a factor at all.

RonnyCedeno

The Cardinals signed shortstop Ronny Cedeno to a one-year contract to be a back-up option in case starting shortstop Rafael Furcal’s right elbow has problems again in the upcoming season.

The 30-year-old Cedeno is an eight-year veteran with a career .247 batting average while playing for four different teams: the Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets. At best, he’s been an inconsequential player on irrelevant teams.

The Cardinals aren’t an irrelevant team, and something will have to go terribly wrong if Cedeno sees much playing time. The team has Furcal penciled in to be the everyday shortstop, and  Pete Kozma would seem to be a fairly solid back-up option given his .333 batting average in 26 games at the end of last season.

In many ways, the Cardinals had no need for Cedeno unless they think Kozma can’t hit above .250 and play decent defense. Both Kozma and Cedeno are righthanded hitters without much power, so the Cardinals certainly didn’t improve the back-up shortstop situation by this move.

Maybe the Cardinals think Kozma needs to be pushed during spring training or during the season if he has to regularly play shortstop with Furcal out because of injury. But still, the team has Daniel Descalso and Matt Carpenter as other middle infielders who could supposedly move over to shortstop if Furcal gets hurt and Kozma plays terribly.

General manager John Mozeliak said the team needed “insurance” at the position. Well, as some television commercials suggest, this is a cut-rate insurance policy and not the Allstate value plan. Cedeno should have to play above his career average in spring training just to break camp with the club.

This move also adds fuel to the fire of people who are already frustrated the Cardinals haven’t improved enough during the offseason, while the Cincinnati Reds traded for Shin-Soo Choo, the Atlanta Braves added the Upton brothers and the Philadelphia Phillies added the steady and productive Michael Young, formerly of the Texas Rangers.

Many of the top teams in the National League made significant moves to improve during the offseason, and the Cardinals basically stood pat. OK, they signed bench players Ty Wigginton and Cedeno. Sorry, but those two won’t even make opponents’ scouting reports.

Overall, the Cardinals are going to need their core players to stay healthy and be consistently productive throughout the entire year because the rest of the league has improved. If the Cardinals fall behind six to 10 games in the division or wild-card race, the teams above them might be too good to allow for another miracle comeback.

Right now the Reds, Braves, Phillies, Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers are all built to be strong playoff contenders. Even with the expanded playoffs, only five National League teams will make the postseason, so a playoff berth is far from guaranteed for the Cardinals this season.

That competition should make for a fun season, so long as the Cardinals don’t have to file a claim on the Ronny Cedeno insurance policy.

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