Cheap Seats

As long as Paul DeJong is a Cardinal, St. Louis doesn’t need to go get a shortstop

There has been a lot of talk on social media lately about the possibility that the St. Louis Cardinals could forget about trying to add a corner infielder and, instead look for a shortstop in trade.

According to the theory, Paul DeJong could slide over to play third base to accommodate a gifted glove man up the middle. I don’t like the idea and this is why:

First DeJong is a pretty solid shortstop. If it isn’t broke, why try to fix that issue when you have so many legitimate problems to address? It seems like a waste of time and resources. Second, DeJong is a pretty exceptional power hitter for a shortstop. There aren’t a lot of big league shortstops who are a threat to hit 25-30 home runs. His bat stands out at his position. Slugging third basemen are a lot easier to come by. Two years ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers were able to retain Justin Turner for a reasonable four-year contract. Last year, former Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas couldn’t find anyone interested in giving him a multi-year contract. Manny Machado knew he was a lot more valuable commodity as a shortstop. That’s why he switched from third, where he’s played most of his games in the big leagues to line up at a premium position that makes his bat stand out more.

The Cardinals definitely need to be better at fielding in 2019 that they have been the last two or three years. But replacing Dexter Fowler in center field with Harrison Bader is a big help. Replacing him in right with Tyler O’Neill is a further improvement. The Cardinals aren’t as weak up the middle as they are in the corners. Matt Carpenter has never been a spectacular infielder. But he’s better at first bast than he is at second or third. Kolten Wong is an elite defender at second. So, if you can find a third baseman who can catch the ball, keep Carp at first, play Wong at second and have DeJong at short, you have a darn solid infield.

Jean Segura, who might be available in the Seattle Mariners salary purge, is an exciting player with a .304 batting average and 20 stolen bases in 2018. His .341 on-base percentage is appealing. But his 10 home runs aren’t what St. Louis most needs. Without a true cleanup hitter to bat behind Marcell Ozuna, the Birds left fielder is vulnerable in the middle of the order. If St. Louis had a second slugger, he and Ozuna would present an imposing obstacle in an offense that lacked consistency last season. With a young and talented pitching staff, it’s important that the Cardinals turn their payroll muscle into muscle at the plate to take the pressure off the young hurlers. It will not only help the team to win in the short term — it will help the youngsters to develop for the long haul. After all, winning is contagious — and so is losing.

There has been a lot of talk the last few days that Moustakas might be in the Cardinals’ sights this winter. He’s eminently acquirable and, if last year is any indication, he ought to be affordable. But, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: He’s not a centerpiece player to build around. St. Louis has plenty of supporting cast members. It’s leaders and difference makers that are in short supply right now. As previously mentioned, Nolen Arenado would be a much better pickup .unless the Birds were able to land the likes of Bryce Harper through free agency and then pick up Moustakas, too.

Imagine a lineup of: Matt Carpenter at first base, Marcell Ozuna bumped up to second and playing left field, Bryce Harper playing right field, Moustakas at third, Yadier Molina catching, DeJong at short, Bader in center and Wong playing second. That’s something I can get behind.

Trading for a shortstop seems to be wasting time and energy working on something that isn’t really a need. The Cardinals could certainly make better use of their time and their financial investment.