The big talk around Jupiter this morning is a rumor of a potential trade of St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma to the Detroit Tigers.
The scuttlebutt seems to be based purely on speculation as the Redbirds replaced Kozma with new starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta over the off-season. Meanwhile, the guy who replaced Peralta in Detroit, Jose Iglesias, has a stress fracture that could keep him out for much of the 2014 campaign.
Sure, it makes sense at the surface level. But is this really a smart deal for the Cardinals from the perspective of depth?
Suppose that Peralta breaks his leg on April 15. Or what if he gets suspended for an entire season because of an unexpected performance enhancing drug relapse. Who plays the rest of the season at one of the most demanding positions on the field?
We know Kozma could do the job. Even if he doesn't hit as much as the Cardinals would like. But, while the Redbirds have several players who have played a limited number of games at short, they don't have anyone they could count on to play them all. And to play them all well.
Daniel Descalso played some at short last season when Kozma's bat started to sag. He's a gamer who is willing to do whatever the skipper asks of him. But Descalso doesn't have the range to be a starting major league shortstop. If he did, why would the Cardinals have felt the need to go outside the organization to replace Kozma?
Aledmys Diaz might be the shortstop of the future. But the Cardinals know virtually nothing about him right now. He's only worked out with the team a couple of times since signing a free agent contract last week. You can't hang the weight of a potential championship season around his neck at this point.
Mark Ellis played some shortstop from time to time earlier in his career. But the most recent time he spent there came in 2005 and, even then, he only played seven games there all season. Over the course of his career, Ellis has played a total of 15 games at short. Let's also not forget that Ellis is going to be 37 years old this season and has played more than 125 games a year only four times over the course of his 11 year career.
Some folks seem to think the Cardinals' hand is forced with Kozma because he doesn't seem likely to make the major league roster. But he's got minor league options. He may not be happy about it in the short term. But the Redbirds can retain the slick-fielding, weak-hitting infielder regardless of if he makes the big league roster.
Financially, it makes more sense for the Birds to keep Kozma. He hasn't hit his arbitration years. So the Cardinals can keep him for a rock bottom price. That's the kind of insurance policy that a team that's hunting for a championship can't afford to throw away.
If the Tigers did attempt to trade for Kozma, who could the Cardinals expect to get? Max Scherzer? Hardly. Detroit would be interested in a guy like Kozma because he wouldn't cost them much. So St. Louis couldn't expect a decent return for a player they might desperately need later.
Trading Kozma for nothing makes no sense.