Sports

Sports Shorts: Is Peralta’s injury an opportunity for the Cardinals to find a long-term replacement?

Greg Garcia tries to apply a tag during Friday's game against the Braves in Jupiter, Florida. He’ll help fill the gap left by Jhonny Peralta’s injury for a while, but might the Cardinals seek a long-term solution at shortstop via trade?
Greg Garcia tries to apply a tag during Friday's game against the Braves in Jupiter, Florida. He’ll help fill the gap left by Jhonny Peralta’s injury for a while, but might the Cardinals seek a long-term solution at shortstop via trade? snagy@bnd.com

Now that we know shortstop Jhonny Peralta's surgically-repaired thumb will be in a cast well into June, it seems certain the St. Louis Cardinals will make a move to fill his position.

Then again, I was quite certain the organization would sink some money into the deep free agent pool of slugging outfielders, especially after they whiffed at signing pitcher David Price and lost Jason Heyward to the Cubs.

But I digress.

Spring generally is not the best time to make trades, so Jedd Gyorko and Greg Garcia will share innings for now. In the meantime, GM John Mozeliak and Co. have some time to consider how best to plug the hole.

The team could look for a temporary fix with a free agent shortstop like Everth Cabrera, Willie Bloomquist, or a late spring castoff yet-to-be identified.

But our own Cardinals fan blogger Scott Wuerz suggests there are young shortstops with upside who might be available in trade. In particular, he likes the Texas Rangers' Elvis Andrus. He’s just 27 years old, but is coming off four straight seasons of declining production. And with seven years left on a $120 million contract, I'm not sure that's the route the Cardinals would take.

But Wuerz does raise an interesting point. Peralta turns 34 before the end of this season and will be a free agent at the end of next. Is this an opportunity for the Cardinals to find a longer-term replacement at shortstop?

Such speculation seems to center on Erick Aybar, who the Braves acquired in a trade with the Angels last November, but is a free agent at the end of this year. He's a consistent .276 lifetime hitter with an All-Star appearance and Gold Glove to his credit. He’d be good fit.

Or, could Mo and Co. could turn to the Mets, who with the signing of free agent Asdrubal Cabrera now have a surplus at shortstop? Both Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores are young and inexpensive. The less-proven Tejada can be a free agent in 2018, but Flores is tied up until at lest 2020.

What to do with Peralta upon his return, you ask? Even when the Cardinals acquired him as a free agent in 2013, it was thought his sure glove but limited range would eventually make him a better fit for third base, where he has started 203 games through his career. That would send Matt Carpenter to first base, another unsettled position for the Cardinals.

Peralta, Wong, Carpenter, Aybar with Gyorko as a fifth-man super-sub? That’s a strong and deep infield.

This is all speculation, of course. The club could go with a short-term fix and wait to see how 24-year-old Cuban-born shortstop Aledmys Diaz pans out. He hit .380 in triple-A last season, but over only 14 games. He hasn’t made his big league debut yet.

This is the most likely scenario, I would bet. But Mo and Co. have defied my assumptions once already this season. Stay tuned ...

Mark Your Calendars

The Pittsburgh Pirates will be at Busch Stadium for a three-game series starting Friday, May 6. With them will be their newest infielder — David Freese.

The native St. Louisian and Cardinals 2011 World Series hero signed a one-year $3 million deal with Pittsburgh Friday.

My bet is that he'll receive a warm welcome upon his return to the home town from an enthusiastic and appreciative Cardinal Nation.

Skipping Out

Former St. Louis Cardinal super utility man Jared Michael “Skip” Schumaker announced Wednesday that he is retiring after an 11-year big league career.

I've always appreciated Schumaker because he was one of these guys who, year after year, seemed to have to earn his spot on the big league roster. And, year after year, he played himself into a major role with his team.

His numbers aren't spectacular, but solid — he hit .278 lifetime, averaging four home runs and 40 RBIs per 162 games. He posted a very respectable lifetime on-base percentage of .337.

More than anything, though, Schumaker's career is a case study in reliability and selflessness.

He hit .302 in 2008, splitting his time over 153 games played between all three outfield positions. The next year, manager Tony LaRussa called on Schumaker to play second base, a position he had never previously played.

Schumaker’s defense didn’t cause anyone flashbacks to Fernando Vina, but he hit .303 with 34 doubles playing a position he anchored for three more years, including the 2011 World Series championship season.

He never made more than $2.75 million in any single season, but never cheated an employer of effort. It's no coincidence to me that a gritty and servicable competitor like Schumaker reached the playoffs five times over his 11 seasons.

Congratulations on a great career, Skip Schumaker.

Baseball Birthdays

▪  Kirby Puckett would have turned 56 on Monday. The Hall of Famer and lifetime .318 hitter died of a massive stroke in 2006. A product of Bradley University in Peoria, Puckett played a big roll in the Minnesota Twins’ first championship by hitting .357 against the Cardinals in the 1987 World Series.

▪  Monday also would be the 111th birthday of Jack Rothrock, who earned a World Series ring with the Cardinals' famed Gas House Gang in 1934. He spent eight years with the Boston Red Sox as a shortstop and second baseman before signing with the Cardinals to play in the outfield. He led the National League with 154 games played and 647 at-bats, hitting .284 with 11 home runs and 72 RBI.

▪  Jon Jay, dealt from the Cardinals to the San Diego for utility infielder Jedd Gyorko on Dec. 8, will turn 31 Tuesday. Through six spring training games Saturday, Jay was hitting .211 for his new club. Jay and the Padres will be in St. Louis July 18-21.

▪  Lloyd Waner would turn 110 Wednesday. "Little Poison" hit .317 over 17 seasons with the Pirates stretched between 1927 and 1945 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1967.

▪  With careful consideration, I have personally determined that the greatest player born on St. Patrick's Day was Hank "The Honker" Sauer, who would turn 99 during Thursday's wearin' o' the green. He batted .266 over a 15-year career that included seven seasons with the Cubs. He was the National League's MVP in 1952 with a league-leading 37 home runs and 121 RBIs.

▪  Robert "Squire" Potter, who would turn 114 on Friday, pitched three innings for one game for the Washington Senators in 1923. He gave up 9 runs (7 earned) on 11 hits and four walks. He didn't factor into the decision, believe it or not, but his career ended that day with an ERA of 21.00.

▪  Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn turns 89 Saturday. He spent 12 of his 15 big league seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies. He won two batting championships (.338 in 1955 and .350 in 1958) and led the NL in hits three times (1951, '53, '58). It took a vote of the veterans committee to get him into the Hall of Fame in 1995 -- 33 years after his final season.

▪  And, finally, Hall of Fame pitcher Joe McGinnity would be looking at 145 years old next Sunday. The durable right-hander they called "Iron Man," won 246 games over a 10 year career including a league-high 35 in 1904. He had a 1.61 ERA in 408 innings pitched that season. The "Old Timers Committee" elected him into the Hall of Fame in 1946 — 17 years after his death.

The Watch List

▪  Our man David Wilhelm is in Jupiter this week with BND photographer/videographer Steve Nagy. He'll post a new feature and spring training notebook daily through Wednesday. Watch bnd.com for companion photographs and video.

▪  The Althoff Crusaders continue their run at bringing Belleville its first-ever state basketball championship. The next step is a Class 3A Super-Sectional showdown against Springfield (Southeast) at the Prairie Capital Convention Center Tuesday in Springfield.

▪  The NCAA Tournament opens at Scott Trade Center Friday. Second-round games will conclude Sunday. Get ticket information here.

One More Time

In case you missed it, Rockridge advanced to the IHSA 2A State Championship game with a 45-43 semifinal win over Hales Franciscan Friday night. It took a three-quarter court shot by Carson Frakes to propel the Rockets to the win. You can see the miracle shot here.

The Rockets, unfortunately, lost the state championship game to St. Joseph-Odgen, 61-43, on Saturday.

Don’t forget

I want your feedback. Got a question or a comment? Email me at teschman@bnd.com; call me at (618) 239-2540; or write me at BND Sports, PO Box 437, Belleville, IL 62222.

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