The more I hear the rumor about the Cardinals trading Oscar Taveras to the Texas Rangers for shortstop Jurickson Profar, the more nervous I get.
Last night there was a big discussion about the rumor that won't die on ESPN radio. And I had to bite my lip to stop from screaming "No, no no!!!" at the radio.
I don't care about organizational depth or the fact that Profar is slightly better ranked by some than the slugging St. Louis outfield prospect. The Redbirds can't afford to roll the dice by swapping a player we've been impatiently waiting to see at the major league level for two years for a guy the organization that drafted him thought so little of that they signed the incumbent at his position to a huge, long term extension.
That's not to say, by any stretch, that Profar is a bust. But if he's destined to be an elite player at the prime defensive position, why would the Rangers decide to go overboard and offer $20 million a year to the guy that he could have replaced?
The reports I have heard about Profar lately are consistent in their assessment that he's going to be a solid major leaguer for many years, but probably not a superstar. The reports about Taveras compare him favorably to former MLB slugger Vladimir Guerrero, a .318 career hitter who smacked 449 career homers.
Taveras has got extremely quick hands -- and attribute that can't be taught or acquired -- that allow him to make last millisecond adjustments and make consistently solid contact.
It's true that the Cardinals don't currently have a lot of flash at shortstop in the minor leagues. But that doesn't mean they need to sell the farm to get it.
Taveras' value isn't in the position he plays. It's in the fact that scouts believe he is capable of consistently hitting .300 with 30 or more home runs every year in the big leagues. Profar is a .276 hitter in three plus minor league seasons and has never hit higher than .286 for a full year. He's averaged 13 homers and 19 stolen bases in a full season of play, very respectable numbers.
But Taveras was the best hitter, hands down, in Class AA baseball last season with a .321 batting average, 23 homers and 94 RBIs. The year before he hit an eye popping .386 in 78 games in Class A Quad Cities. The guy is a hitting machine. And the Cardinals -- or any other team -- can use one of those any time it can get one, no matter what position he plays.
Unless Taveras is a knucklehead and the rank and file just haven't found out about it yet, the Cardinals have everything to lose and little to gain by trading the promising young outfielder. Every time Taveras hits a homer in that tiny ballpark in Texas, St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak is going to hear about it for the next 15 years.
A much better solution to the St. Louis Cardinals lack of institutional depth at shortstop is to take that first round draft pick the club got from Milwaukee and use it to DRAFT A SHORTSTOP!!!
For the time being, Pete Kozma is doing just find holding down the fort at the MLB level. The Cardinals have tons of pitching depth to trade later if they need an upgrade. And they could sign a fill in for the next year or two from the free agent market if they needed to keep the seat warm for that college shortstop they draft. But it makes no sense to give away your best asset because you're sub par at one position. Especially when the guy you would trade plays the corner outfield and the two guys who currently man those positions are firmly in their mid 30s.