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UCB Roundtable Day 1: The Middle Infield…

It’s time once again for the annual UCB Roundtable! And this year, yours truly gets to kick things off with the first question. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, each day a different blogger poses a question to the rest of us by email. Then, we spend the rest of the day kicking it around and pretending to know what we’re talking about. When it’s all said and done, the blogger who posed the question posts the discussion transcript on his/her blog. Of course, I posed the question for day 1, which means you’ll find the transcript below.

To read all of the UCB Roundtable discussions, CLICK HERE. Now, let’s get into it…

Question:

Good Morning!

Because the Giants swept the Tigers, today is the first day of a new baseball “year.” Sadly, today is also the first day of a new World Series Champion and the end of the 2011 Cardinals’ reign as Emperors of All Things Played with a Ball and Stick! (um…wait…okay, let’s just move on…)

But cheer up! Because today is also the first day of the UCB Roundtable! YAY! *crowd noise*

Daniel – in what was clearly a drunken decision made in haste – decided to let me kick things off. So, without further delay, let’s get right into it.

In the last two years, the Cardinals have seen many different faces manning second base and shortstop. Mozeliak and the rest of the organization have acknowledged a weakness at the shortstop position within the system while using Spring Training to create competition at second base. We’ve seen Mo and Company sign free agent shortstops, acquire shortstops through the trade market, and even promote long-forgotten and/or never-expected shortstops from AAA.

But this offseason has a different vibe. Many expect the Cards to “go big” at the SS position and finally resolve their exposure at a critical spot in the infield. Others see the ascension of Kolten Wong at second base beginning in 2013. And the rise – and fall – of Pete Kozma has only complicated the issue further.

So here’s your question…

Play GM and Manager rolled into one for a day and address the Cardinals’ middle infield for 2013 and possibly beyond. Who do you see at SS and 2B (and even utility man?) in 2013 (and beyond?), and how did they get there? Some have suggested a Tulo trade with Colorado…others, a trade with Texas. Where does Kozma (and Ryan Jackson?) squeeze in…and will they be turning double plays with Wong, Descalso, or *blank*?

Hey…I know it’s Monday morning…but why not go big on the first day, eh?

GO CARDS!!!

- Kevin

What we know from the brilliant reporting from the guys at the Post Dispatch (mark my words, Goold will join Broeg and Hummel in the writer’s wing of Cooperstown some day) is that Matt Carpenter’s homework this offseason is to learn how to play 2nd base.  Whether this means he will be a super-utility man is hard to tell.  Wong is playing in the Arizona Fall League and I expect that he will be invited to the major league camp.

That said, I would not be surprised if Wong were to start the year down in Memphis and be called up a month or two later.  I think that facing AAA pitching could be beneficial to his offensive development but I believe that he is ready to start full time for the Cardinals.

Greg Garcia played short stop for Springfield this past season and he and Kolten both played at Hawaii together.  If the opportunity presents itself, I would love to see both turning double plays together.  Is he the SS of the future?  I don’t know but the Cardinals need to find a long term solution to the middle infield.  Wong is, at the least, a start.

- Daniel Solzman

Good start to looking forward, for sure…

I, for one, am in the camp that suggests Texas as a good partner.  The Rangers will be looking for young pitching and the Cards have a glut.  In addition, the Rangers have been said to be shopping Elvis Andrus and that is a very intriguing option.  So, give me Andrus at short.

Second can be a combination…Descalso, Furcal splitting time between there and short, probably Ryan Jackson backing it all up.  Matt Carpenter seems to have the inside track on a Skip like move to the middle infield and that could put a solid bat in the lineup consistently.

Thanks,

- Bill Ivie

The organization has a very short window to figure out Furcal’s status. If he is going to need surgery, and if it may put 2013 in jeopardy then they’ve got to get in the market during winter meetings. 2B is well covered as it sits. Descalso is serviceable at the position, Matt Carpenter will be learning it, and oh yeah, they’ve still got Skip. In summary, no trades at 2B, but unless Furcal has a sudden and miraculous recovery, look for SS action. Tulowitski would be a reasonable choice.

- Wes Keene

Here’s my thought. I think the Cardinals make a move at SS regardless of Furcal’s surgery situation. However, the gravity of that move will depend on Furcal’s need. If he has to have surgery, A Tulo/Andrus style deal isn’t out of the question. If there will be no surgery, I expect them to go after more of a backup type shortstop. Sure Kozma was great in September and had some clutch hits in October, but he is still a player who in my opinion has a backup SS ceiling.

The utility man question is interesting. With the Cardinals encouraging Matt Carpenter to learn second base, that leaves the bench pretty thin. I don’t know who it will be, but I would be shocked if it was Skip Schumaker. If Furcal is healthy, a backup SS with a decent bat could work to help both situations.

I think Wong starts 2013 at Memphis (unless Carpenter doesn’t impress at second and I don’t expect that.) The Cardinals have been pretty persistent about not wanting to rush their young talent. Wong will see time in St. Louis in 2013, but I wouldn’t expect it in April.

Good question!

- Corey Noles

As attractive as a trade for Elvis Andrus would be, I greatly dislike the idea of giving Texas more pitching in exchange for a 2 year rental.  At his current pace, Andrus is due for a huge payday, and I don’t see the Cardinals giving him that.  The Tulo idea makes even less sense to me.  His contract runs for another 9 years.  If the team was shy about giving Pujols a long term mega-deal, then taking on Tulo’s contract with his penchant for getting hurt makes less sense.I like Kolten Wong a lot…for 2014.  His swing/miss rate on breaking balls is still awfully high, and that was against pitchers in AA who didn’t have great secondary pitches.  He needs some time at Memphis to become a better hitter.  Although his glove would probably play in Stl, he wouldn’t be a significant difference from Descalso/Skip/Kozma, and moving him up too quickly could stunt his growth.  As for Garcia, he doesn’t have the same ceiling Ryan Jackson has at SS, so I still think Jackson gets the chance to win that job at some point.Let’s just remember that this team won 88 games with both a lot of weaknesses and a lot of injuries.  They don’t have to much to improve to a 93-95 win team except stay healthy.

- Dennis Lawson

Good Question – on Day 1!

I dont mind going young at shortstop, and letting the Furcal experiement finish it’s way out in 2013. So if Pete Kozma has a good spring, why not let him start on the Opening Day roster and either playing his way out of town or making his way into the every day lineup? Sure, Kozma had some troubles in the postseason, but with this year under his belt, he may be an answer.

Im saying this, but Im not a real big fan of Kozma. Im just not sure going to get Elvis or Tulo makes sense for the Cardinals right now.

- Rodney Knuppel

I love the idea of Matt Carpenter, second baseman, but am not sold he can make the transition successfully at this point. I’m also worried about the year Wong had in a hitter-friendly park, and how his numbers tapered off as the season went on instead of the other way around. I also think Furcal is finished and Kozma is terrible. I love Garcia’s on-base skills, but can he really play short in the Majors? Ultimately, I do think the Cardinals need to look outside the organization for a shortstop, but the chances of filling second internally are a little better. In the likely event there are no deals that make sense this off-season, might as well let Furcal try to earn the money on the remaining year of his contract and see who wins with spot at second. It’s really beyond 2013 the team will have to figure something out at shortstop, not necessarily right now.

- Spencer Hendricks

Mozeliak acknowledging the need and addressing the need are obviously two different things. Since Edgar Renteria, the organization has decided to go with second-tier middle infielders, which played right into Tony LaRussa’s management of super-utility players. Scrimp up the middle on hitting and $, and spend the big bucks on top-tier starting pitcher and big bats at corner infield and OF. You can’t argue with the strategy from a results standpoint, but a GM is never going to stand up and say that they don’t want to invest in top-tier players in the middle infield. I believe the organization thinks there is enough talent coming up through the system, and enough team-controlled guys that produced well (Descalso, Carpenter), that I don’t foresee them making a trade to give up prospects for a big salary up the middle. There are enough bats and pitching to win a World Series without Elvis Andrus, Tulo, or whoever.Mo going after one of these guys would represent a shift in organizational philosophy, in my opinion.

- Chris Mallonee

You snooze, you lose around here. I was away from keyboard today and come back to see all the good stuff taken.I’m in the “Furcal is done” camp, honestly.  I can’t see him avoiding surgery, but I can see him not having it until the worst possible time.  That is the nature of Cardinal injuries.I think Skip is nontendered and Descalso gets to be utility man. I think Carpenter starts at second. I just don’t know about short–don’t see Tulowitski or Andrus being a real option.  Kozma won’t be either–does Dirty Dan get the shot there? I just don’t know.- Daniel ShoptawReally good question to start off the roundtable…that could kind of have a more dubious end than we’d like. I don’t see the organization doing anything major a shortstop, due to both a high asking price and prior commitments. For better or worse,

Furcal is going to be the answer headed into the season unless they find out something is going to be very wrong early on. He’s owed $7 for next year, and I can’t see the team dumping another huge contract number into that spot. So Tulowitzki: no for that exact reason. And Andrus, no, because he’ll cost the team prospects that Mo just isn’t going to let go.The answers aren’t much better either. Ryan Jackson/Pete Kozma/Greg Garcia are all one in the same in effect. All would be at best solid to a bit below average bench guys that are limited in positional versatility, something doesn’t earn much play in St. Louis. The free agent answers aren’t much better either, with Stephen Drew and Jason Bartlett being the cream of the crop on the open market. This may be a spot where a certain level of struggle just has to be accepted. At second, having Carpenter’s bat in the lineup every day would be great, but isn’t this more of the same in what was tried with Skip? I don’t know about anybody else, but I want a solid answer and I’m not sure if the team isn’t better just going defense-first completely up the middle and saving Carpenter as ready to play gun off the bench.

With this team’s durability, there will be no plenty of chances for him to get everyday looks.If Wong is ready, why wait? Let’s see what he learns this fall and winter and give him a shot. If all else fails, lets let Descalso have the gig and 8 hole in lineup on lock. With the pantheon of ex-Giant second sackers leading the way on the FA market in Freddy Sanchez, Marco Scutaro and Ryan Theriot leading the way, I’m not too thrilled about another quick fix there. Unless, they could get Kelly Johnson to bite on a one-year deal, what’s here is the best option already.The issue for me is to either get better at the top of the lineup with a SS so Jay can move to the seven spot and just pickup the production at 7-8, which Skip could do, but it seems like for whatever reason that’s not happening.

- Matt Whitener

Is it Monday/roundtable already? Lol

Descalso – Double D has shown us what qualitities he has with his glove and especially his bat, so he needs to be at one of the positions as a regular.

Shumaker – Although Skippy didn’t have one of his better years in ’12 I still see him as a major cog in the wheel (maybe Skip-utility). He’s also still good in the OF.

Pete Kozma – The Hammerin’ Hungarian had a tough postseason, but that wasn’t his fault was it?  We expected too much of him too soon. When he was out there to be our basic shortstop, he really came through for us.

Furcal- Don’t forget we have Furcal on for another year. If they can get him into shape, without any surgery, he can be another shortstop-in-waiting.

Carpenter – Carp2 was right there when we needed him. He’s good at all of the infield positions.

Kolten Wong – He would be good in a utility situation.

You’re right – I can’t pick just one! I like a combination of all the above-mentioned guys. Mix-or-match them for 2013.

You really never know what will happen during the offseason. We will have good reading and it will be for some interesting blogging Cardinal-wize!

- Mary Clausen

I see that Stephen Drew had his option declined by the A’s.  That might be a nice short-term possibility for the Cardinals.  He did better with the A’s and perhaps McGwire could take a run at him.  His option was $10 million, so he’s going to make significantly less than that on the free agent market.

Not saying I’m starting up the bandwagon, but it’s something to be interested in.

- Daniel Shoptaw

*tasers Daniel*

- Dennis Lawson

That had absolutely nothing to do with the answer, you’ve just been waiting to do that, haven’t you?

- Daniel Shoptaw

Guilty as charged. Using the taser on the Blogfather should be a UCB event next year.

- Dennis Lawson

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of Drew as a Cardinal, but he has not developed into the hitter I hoped he would. For a minimal commitment, I could see him being worth a look, ala Khalil Greene in 2008. It’s just… obviously, I’d hope it’d go better than that experiment did.

- Spencer Hendricks

Hi Kevin, Nice Question!

I’ll start with SS — They are obviously going to have to get someone. Here’s why. Furcal is great but injury prone. Kozma is still quite young and had a really great last month and postseason. You could see him slowing down during NLCS though. Kozma would be a good guy to have on the bench. I think he’s get more time that a certain someone did!

Tulo is injury prone so I’m not sold on him. This is why, while I like the sound of it because he has a good glove and bat, I’m hesitant of them looking at Stephen Drew.

I would actually like to see them get Elvis Andrus. I like his enthusiasm and he’s got a good bat and glove.

I think Ryan Jackson is still a couple of years off. Real immature and needs more than bench time he would receive in STL to help with hitting and fielding issues.

2B … I’m actually wondering if they are planning to start Descalso at second base and then move him over to SS to make room for Wong. That said, I don’t understand the appeal of wanting Matt Carpenter to learn 2B when you have Descalso and Kozma (who played that position plenty in Memphis) available and Wong in the wing.

…. Not to mention Skip Schumaker can handle 2B too. But wait… he will either ride the bench some more or actually do that super utility position they were talking about last offseason… Right? Right?!

- Miranda Remaklus

@ Matt — apparently The Riot is the secret to unlikely World Series wins, so why not? ;)

Now back to your regular programming…

I honestly don’t see this organization making a dramatic change or the 2013 season. I think 2B is Kolten Wong’s, as soon as they feel he’s well-rounded enough to claim it. But, I see every indication that Mo and company want too hold him back a little — perhaps unnecessarily so — just to let him fully establish himself. All that means is, he’s the star of the future. Not 2013, at least to begin with.

I’ve been saying for a while now that Matt Carpenter needs to do some serious work at 2B, primarily because I want him in the lineup, and that’s the biggest opening. Who knows if it will work — or how long it would last– but if I’m GM for today, that’s a definite possibility in my mind.

It’s hard to guess on Furcal, although I think it’s probably safe to say he won’t be at an All-Star level all season … if at all. In my estimation, we’ll see another Descalso/Greene-esq battle for the middle infield position(s), this time with Kozma playing the part of Greene at SS. (But, I actually like Petey … on a personal level anyway! Ha.).

I don’t see a big-name player being brought in, because the future hopefuls are pretty well set, and it seems to be a matter of biding the time until they’re ready to go.

- Tara Wellman

Sorry, almost too late for the first question. My wife and I are traveling through Texas and currently in San Antonio… I will try to keep up daily. Great question.

I believe we have to attempt to put Furcal as our starting shortstop next year. If not then Ryan Jackson will likely get an opportunity to show his stuff with Kozma pushing him.

Second base is being handed to MAtt Carpenter to get his bat in the lineup. If he doesn’t succeed as a regular there then Desclaso get the return nod… If Carpenter can’t make the adjust, I expect to see Wong up by All Star break. He is having a good Arizona Fall League season to date.

Bench currently has no one that scares opponents. Maybe Matt Adams gets some bench time but no one else currently is a power guy. Look for a veteran presence to be acquired to replace Berkman.

- Tom Knuppel

I love the idea of Kolten Wong being the second baseman next season, but I don’t know that it will happen from the very beginning of the year. And I don’t necessarily think there’s a big need to rush him yet.

It was intriguing to read Mo mention the possibility of Matt Carpenter at second, and I’m not opposed to that idea. To me, it would be beneficial to have his bat in the lineup regularly. There has to be a veteran available for a reasonable cost who can come off the bench (although no names are immediately coming to mind — it’s been a long day!) I think Daniel Descalso also would be better suited to the utility role that Skip Schumaker formerly had. (Sorry, legion of Skip fans.)

As for shortstop, hmmmm. I guess I will play the overly optimistic one here and believe that Rafael Furcal will indeed be able to avoid surgery and be healthy when the season starts. I don’t like the idea of going after Elvis Andrus or Troy Tulowitzki or Stephen Drew. If Furcal isn’t healthy, I would like to see what Ryan Jackson can do — yet I’m also a little skeptical on him since he certainly seemed to be persona non grata for whatever reason in September. Pete Kozma — well, he was certainly a pleasant surprise in September and the start of October. But so was Bo Hart once upon a time … for a short period of time. And Kozma’s previous numbers don’t make me think his September/October BAMF ways are actually sustainable.

- Christine Coleman

A great question to start off the October Roundtable.Perhaps somebody should share game films of the 60s and 80s Cardinals with the front office so that they get a good look at what a shortstop and second baseman actually look like when they play the position.  With total appreciation for what Skip Schumaker went through to try to learn the position, we still have a fifth outfielder as infield depth on the current roster.  That should be taken care of when it comes time to offer arbitration and Schumaker is non-tendered.  That should not be seen as a poor reflection on the effort he put in and I hope that he finds a spot with another team.Kolten Wong, Greg Garcia and Ryan Jackson are not ready to play in the major leagues, except under emergency conditions, such as an injury to the primary and backup middle infielders.  The Cardinals are best served by having Wong and Jackson play a year in Memphis, working on their hitting.  Greg Garcia is an interesting young player, who seems to be without a position at the moment.  He might have to repeat in Springfield, just to get playing time.What I’m trying to understand is why some are so quick to throw Descalso and Kozma off the roster.  Descalso has earned the second base job, and his offense is acceptable for the position, given the plus numbers elsewhere in the batting order.  Perhaps even more since run prevention makes for a happy starting rotation.I understand John Mozeliak’s desire to get Matt Carpenter’s bat in the lineup, but sacrificing middle defense seems a risky way to go about that.  We’ve already been down that path (Ryan Theriot and Skip Schumaker anybody???) which led to the Rafael Furcal trade.  Ironically, the best second baseman the Cardinals would have had was traded to the Dodgers for Furcal.  Even taking the Albuquerque inflation into account, Alex Castellanos posted an OPS of 1.010 (yikes).Pete Kozma will be just fine as a backup shortstop until the return of Rafael Furcal, be that in spring or later, should he have surgery to repair his elbow.  Ryan Jackson is still the future shortstop and Pete Kozma’s late season performance (which was actually pretty Kozma-ish) has bought Jackson the needed time to become a better hitter.Mo has bigger problems than middle infield at the moment, which I expect will be one of the next Roundtable questions.

- Bob Netherton

Addressing part 1 of the question regarding a trade I just don’t see it as likely. Tulo not at all given the fact the Rockies just extended his contract through 2020 I believe plus he’s coming off a significant groin injury. As far as a trade with Texas (assuming Andrus) it’s intriguing but again unlikely. Of course with a talent like Jurickson Profar on his way fans of other teams would love Andrus to be dealt to their team to make room. The issue is the fact that Profar has very little MLB experience and can benefit from a season behind Andrus. Plus Profar can also play 2nd to spell Kinsler and of course the AL has that fairy tale position also known as the Designated Hitter in which to get a bat into the lineup. I’m not saying Texas won’t listen to offers but the price will be steep.As far as the Cardinals are concerned I’m getting a strong sense they’ll go with what they have. Keeping in mind this team won it all in 2011 and was one win away from the World Series this season regardless of how they arrived in the playoffs. Most are high on Kolten Wong as the 2nd baseman of the future, but as Dennis stated 2014 seems more likely. The 2013 Opening Day middle infield will depend on the health of Furcal. ‘IF’ healthy he will be at short and more than likely Daniel Deckscansco (McCarver’d for fun) will be at 2nd. Skip, Kozma, Jackson and even Matt Carpenter will all have opportunities to get in the mix for playing time. And also I don’t think anyone needs to get too bent out of shape about sacrificing defense at 2nd with Matt Carpenter. I really think his playing time there would be limited. It would just be an option to get him in the lineup more. If things start to crumble then there’s a possibility Mozeliak would get serious about a deal but even then it would probably be for a 2nd tier player.

- Dustin McClure

Boy, you sure can tell its early in the discussion, can’t ya?  I’m trying to remember the last time the Cards went after a notable name for a MI, and Gregg Jeffries & David Eckstein are the names that come to mind.  I just don’t see this as an area where they’re as likely to go outside the organization at a level that raises many eyebrows.  Hell, last time they needed a 2B, they just converted Skip from the OF…and waited until everyone showed up in Jupiter to share that news with everyone, including Skip himself.  Given that they’ve told Carpenter about what they’re thinking this far ahead of time, and the fact that, while its true we aren’t dealing with TLR & his experiments any longer, Mo has been here through all of those years, I wouldn’t expect much in terms of acquisitions or deals.  As far as who plays where…I think we’re 17 weeks from watching that begin to play out–could be anyone’s job to win.

- Dathan Brooks

The lack of respect for defensive stalwarts Ronnie Belliard, Aaron Miles, and Hector Luna is shocking. That 2006 team was absolutely loaded up the middle.

- Dennis Lawson

I think recent history tells us that barring something shocking and catastrophic, Matt Carpenter will be the starting second baseman. If they let Skip do it, why wouldn’t they let Carpenter? The fact that he’s been told to play second base means he will play second base. If the bat develops holes, then they fall back on Descalso for defense, just like ’12. Schumaker doesn’t have a place in the infield anymore other than *maybe* a spot start here and there, but if he’s destined for another home it will be via trade or outright release, not non-tender – he is under contract for ’13.

I believe that Mozeliak will kick the tires, maybe pretty hard, on Elvis Andrus to play shortstop. Again, we’ve seen the organization display a “bird in the hand” philosophy before – they know what they have in Furcal, and hoping for his health is always a fall-back, but Andrus would represent a sure thing for ’13 (as much as anything is sure in baseball). Worry about a contract later, win now. Kozma and/or Jackson will find their way onto the team in a backup role but neither is capable of holding down the job full-time, in my opinion. Jackson could probably benefit from full-time at-bats in Memphis.

Wong needs to hit at Memphis. Hope to see him in 2014. Greg Garcia…would be a nice story, wouldn’t it?- Nick (of Pitchers Hit 8th)

Kevin:

In 2013, Cardinals should let Daniel Descalso play second base as a bridge to Kolten Wong in 2014. Cardinals would be asking for trouble if they go into 2013 with a shortstop combination of Rafael Furcal (likely to break down again) and Pete Kozma (unlikely to repeat his September sizzle again). Cardinals should trade for a high-impact shortstop, using a package, for example, of Mitchell Boggs and Matt Adams in order to get a shortstop the quality of, say, Edgar Renteria in his prime.

- Mark Tomasik

Unfortunately, I’m also of the belief that Skip Schumaker gets non-tendered this winter. He did a lot of good things for the Cardinals, but he just doesn’t seem to have a role with the team anymore. I also think that if Rafael Furcal can go, he’s the starting shortstop. There’s no way they keep that $7 million on the bench or platooning. But if he is not ready by Spring Training, I would not be at all opposed to a Pete Kozma/Ryan Jackson competition for the role in Furcal’s stead. It’s not the greatest depth in the league, but it will do. I also expect to see some competition for 2nd base between Daniel Descalso and Matt Carpenter. And if either of these positions are shaky come June, then I would not be surprised to see Mo address it in-season.The reason I don’t expect a big trade for a marquee shortstop or 2nd baseman to happen is because it would certainly cost some pitching that the Cards will definitely need in the next year or so. Will they need all of it? Maybe not. But this past season we saw Chris Carpenter go down–again–and how many more years will he be with this team? Jaime Garcia now has a balky shoulder, too. That’s a huge question mark. Kyle Lohse is gone this year; Jake Westbrook will likely follow after next year. And they have yet to get into contract discussions with Adam Wainwright. With all that in mind, who from this list would you like to include in a deal: Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez? Because you can bet the Rockies’ or Rangers’ demands would start with at least one of those names. Maybe two.The other option is to continue combing through the Caribbean to find the next big thing at either shortstop, 2nd base, or both. I would also advocate drafting a middle infielder high next June, but that hasn’t exactly worked very well recently for the Cardinals. Next season may be another patchwork middle infield; hopefully they can take steps to make it the last one we see for a while.- Chris Reed

Even a healthy Furcal isn’t a super option, so if I’m GM, I try to trade for Andrus first, with Rosenthal or Miller as headliner. Failing that, I’d pursue Drew as a FA. Otherwise, I head to spring training hoping that Furcal heals and with Kozma or Jackson as my first call-up if Furcal doesn’t.

With the early hints that Matt Carpenter will be part of the equation at second base, I’d take my chances with him as starter (assuming he acquits himself as well as Skip Schumaker has) and figure Descalso as the limited-exposure backup for both of the middle infield spots. Wong comes up in September.

So best case: Andrus and Carpenter, but without one of the dynamic duo. Worst: Kozma and Descalso, but with both Miller and Rosenthal.

- Pip (Matt Philip)

Thanks for all the replies, all! I’ll throw my two cents in below…

There’s so many good points out there to address that I think I’ll just touch on each of them “briefly” (*snicker*) item by item…

1. Skip Schumaker: There just doesn’t appear to be a place for Skip in the infield, and after 2013, possibly not on the bench or in the outfield as well. He could play 2B in a pinch, but Spring Training should find him neither the offensive or defensive choice at 2B…especially considering DD and MCarp are both LH. In 2013, I see him as the fourth or fifth OF and 2B in an emergency or injury situation.

2. Matt Carpenter: I see this one perhaps a bit differently than most. Yes, he was told to prepare for 2B…but I don’t think that means he will necessarily start there the majority of games, or perhaps just won’t finish them there. Either way, the move of Skip to 2B was simply because we had no one at 2B that was a decent option. With Schu there, at least we had a potential .300 hitter in the lineup – especially at a time when we had no leadoff options. Now, we have options. Between a potential Wong, Kozma, Descalso, Schumaker, MCarpenter, etc. situation…we have more than enough options. That means, to me, Carpenter at second is a move to provide the team with more ways to get his bat in the lineup on various days as opposed to establishing an everyday starter. In other words, he may not get a ton of starts at 2B, but could see time there during his 1B, 3B, OF, 2B bench rotation. The fact remains that Freese, Craig, and Beltran will all need days off in 2013 as well (Kneeees, ankles, knees, and toes…knees and toes!). I still see Carpenter as a bench guy who plays a lot. Having him work at 2B just gives them a bunch of options, but I’ll be surprised if he gets more than 2 or 3 starts a week there.

3. Wong: I like Kolten Wong…in 2014. One of the reasons the Cardinals liked the idea of leaving him in AA for the full season is to see how he would perform once the pitchers in such a small league got a chance to see him over and over again and make adjustments. I think what they saw was a need for time in AAA before moving him up too aggressively. He’ll get a shot in Spring Training, but I don’t think the Cards are ready to hand over the keys to the family car at 2B right away.

4. Descalso: For my money, Descalso showed me nothing in the regular season that said “regular starting second baseman.” Great guy, great glove, great versatility…eh…so-so bat on a good day. That certainly has value, but I think the Cards can find a better every day option than DD. Let’s not forget that the team saw Tyler Greene as a better option than DD last year and asked MCarp to learn the position this year. They’re not sold on DD at 2B every day either. I see him in 2013 exactly as he was in 2012…a bench utility guy who gets the majority of his time at 2B.

5. Kozma: I could see Kozma as the Tyler Greene role next season…but much more reliable. Koz can play SS, sure, and he can hit a mistake pitch in the zone as well as work an at-bat and produce the situational hit/sac/etc. the team needs at the plate…but his greatest value could be as a right-handed platoon option at 2B, something the club has needed but failed to produce for a while, now. But, the fact remains…this kid underperformed in the minors for years for a reason.

6. Tulo in Colorado: I could see a possible scenario…but I just don’t see Mo buying into that level of committment with a player. His contract is just too heavy year-wise to entice Mo to give up much, and the Rockies won’t want to let go of a player like Tulo without getting “much” in return. A trade…maybe…but not for Tulo.

7. Andrus: Now THIS I could see happening. I’ll explain a bit of why later, but for now, I like Andrus for all the obvious reasons, and I think the 2 year deal simply gives the Cards time to evaluate Jackson and Garcia for the future while not locking them in with a high-priced SS if either one works out. Also, if the Cards trade Matt Adams and a young arm with a couple other pieces, they might have enough to get Andrus with a team like Texas who could covet both (Adams as low cost DH/sometimes 1B in that homer-friendly park and a young arm for pitching-crazy Nolan Ryan). Plus, the team will want to do something with Adams before his value erodes (learned their lesson with Anderson in AAA)…and he’s blocked by a couple guys in Craig and Carpenter in STL.

8. Furcal: I don’t trust his body as far as I can throw it. He should NOT be counted on as a starting SS for next year if the team wants a regular, every day SS. However…if the team trades for a guy like Andrus, could we see Rafi make a move to 2B to save his arm and get him in the lineup as a leadoff guy…especially on the road when Jay can’t hack it? Hmmm…I like the idea of Furcal at 2B and Andrus at SS with MCarp spelling Furcal, Craig, Freese, and the outfielders plus coming off the bench as a pinch hitter.

Ultimately…here’s what I believe we have to remember with Mo and a Matheny-led group…Matheny is not TLR. One thing we learned about Mike in 2012 as a manager is that he is NOT a mix and match manager – at least not yet. He would much rather get his guys, set the lineup, and let them play. I think most of the discussions I’ve seen here are operating off the TLR mentality of mix and match guys, play guys out of position, etc. – which would favor a DD, Kozma, Furcal, MCarp, Schu, etc. mix at the middle infield. But that’s not Mike Matheny. He seems to want “a guy” at each position and then auto-lineup day to day.

And what it seems like we’ve learned from Mo is this…he is willing to adjust his approach based on his manager’s preference. When Tony was in the office, Mo went after TLR mix-and-match guys. With Matheny in the office, I think we could see him adjust to a “get an every day guy for Mike to plug in every day” approach. The previous approach by the organization and Mo at 2B and SS may no longer apply here.

Given all of that, I would love to see (and believe it at least 50% possible) an Elvis Andrus trade for the Cardinals that could move Furcal to 2B as the switch hitting leadoff hitter he is with much less stress on his throws from second as opposed to short. Make Matt Carpenter the “first in” guy to spell the outfielders, Freese, Craig, and the second baseman while also throwing Descalso in as a defensive replacement/sub when necessary. So…

That would make Andrus your starting SS, Furcal (when healthy) your starting 2B, and Kozma and Descalso your bench SS/2B utility back-ups. Schumaker would be a super utility guy for the outfield and second base while Matt Carpenter is your “first in” opiton at the corner outfield, corner infield, and second base positions when a bat is needed and as the best pinch hitter off the bench.

I just think the organization is tired of not having a good, reliable, offensive/defensive all in one shortstop at the position. Andrus solves that and could be had with the pieces the Cards could offer. Oh…and it allows Jackson/Garcia to develop in the system for a couple years and see if either can be the future at SS.

GO CARDS!

- Kevin

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  1. Pingback: UCB October Project: Postseason Roundtable — United Cardinal Bloggers - October 31, 2012

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