COMMENTARY: Season-ending injuries to Chris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal may force the St. Louis Cardinals into making some key player decisions before they anticipated that would be necessary.
They enter the season with a younger pitching staff than they had counted on, an unsettled situation at second base and no proven major league shortstop. They can cover the first two but not the last one.
Pete Kozma will probably start the season at shortstop, but odds are that he will not be the Cardinal shortstop of the future. So who will be? Whoever it is will have to come via the trade market, but few teams are willing to part with a veteran shortstop before the season has even started.
Still, for the first time in recent memory, the Redbirds have a combination of young players and veterans which might interest another club. Successful trades satisfy needs for both clubs and the Cardinals’ top trade candidates offer a variety of possibilities for a potential trade partner.
Carlos Beltran’s $13.5 million contract expires this year and will probably not be renewed. The Cardinals have one of baseball’s top prospects in Oscar Taveras, a speedy 20-year-old ranked in the top five by every major ranking service. He has gap and home run power but the feeling is he’s not quite ready and needs at least some time at AAA, which could keep Beltran around for half the season.
Beltran’s age (35) and 2012 late season fade hurt his marketability but a fast start would erase that but also make it difficult to trade him if the Redbirds are contenders.
Matt Adams, the Cardinal organization’s best power hitter (18 HRs, 50 RBI, .329 at AAA Memphis) can only play first base but at 24, is ready for the majors. Will Allen Craig play a whole year at a high level or does Adams get a look? If Beltran goes, Adams could play first and Craig could move back to right field. But either Adams or Craig is likely to be gone by year end to make room for Taveras.
Odds are that at some point in the season, Shelby Miller will be the fifth starter and with Trevor Rosenthal in the bullpen, Joe Kelly could be expendable if the Cardinals feel hard-throwing youngster Carlos Martinez (good velocity but too many walks) or 2012’s first pick Michael Wacha are rotation contenders in 2014.
Pitching depth is a luxury the Cardinals haven’t had, but parting with a young arm may be necessary to get a deal done.
NEXT: What the Cardinals should do and what I think they will do.
Mike Bailey is a former part-time professional baseball scout who has followed the St. Louis Cardinals organization for over 40 years.