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What will Cardinals do to replace Jhonny Peralta?

AP

I’m curious to know if St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta was really injured over the weekend in a spring training game...

Or is this recently revealed thumb injury the explanation for the monumental drop off in Peralta’s hitting in the second half of the 2015 season?

It’s easy to believe a thumb issue could explain a loss of being able to hit for either average or power. Peralta was a force in the first half of the 2015 Campaign. But he wasn’t able to help St. Louis much down the stretch and in the playoffs.

Regardless of the timing, it appears the Redbirds could be looking at half a season without one of their offensive cornerstones. And that’s not going to be easy to swallow.

This was exactly the reason the Cardinals weren’t willing to part with slick fielding -- but light hitting -- backup Pete Kozma last year. They don’t have an obvious Plan B for one of the most trying defensive positions in baseball. They have guys they can play in a pinch. But no one with a glove good enough to play short for 81 games.

With Kozma gone, the Birds have a backup in Jedd Gyorko who is better at both second and third base than he is at shortstop. The next man on the depth chart is Aledmys Diaz, a Cuban defector who finally started to emerge as a hitter late last season. But Diaz has never played a game above the Class AAA level. And one of the reasons St. Louis was able to sign him was the perception of other teams that Diaz didn’t have the defensive skills to be a starting MLB shortstop.

It’s a shame that Ian Desmond inked a deal last week with the Texas Rangers. The former Washington Nationals star would have made an excellent fit in the Cardinals batting order and in the field. But I suppose the Birds were unlikely to sign him even if he still was available because of the draft pick compensation attached to him.

While Desmond is out of the picture, I wonder if he might help push another player into focus.

Would the Rangers might be willing to deal some of their shortstop surplus to the Cardinals in exchange for help with pitching or in the outfield.

They now have three shortstop candidates with incumbent Elvis Andrus, prospect Jurickson Profar (Remember when people wanted St. Louis to trade him to St. Louis for Oscar Taveras?) who is returning from injury and Desmond.

I think Andrus would be an excellent fit in St. Louis. He’s an excellent defender and at one time was very adept at getting on base and then stealing a bag or two. (He has 32 or more swipes in each of the past three seasaons.)

Andrus seems to be miscast in the American League where Texas doesn’t know for sure what kind of player it wants him to be. A change of scenery could do him plenty of good.

I could see a .270 hitter with a .331 on-base percentage in the American League blosson into a .290 hitter with a .375 on base percentage in the Senior Circuit where pitching is less dominant and hitters are less apt to swing for the fences. he could be the guy that knocks Matt Carpenter out of the leadoff spot and into a production position in the batting order. And in such a role he might steal 50 bases instead of 30.

The problem with Andrus is his ridiculous contract which the Rangers handed him two years ago. But it’s not that far off from being assumable at this point.

Andrus got $120 for eight years with a vesting option that started in the 2015 season. He makes $15 million each of the next five seasons and then $14 million a year for two seasons after that.

The thing is, Andrus is only 27. At least five of his seven remaining seasons ought to be prime years. If the Cardinals got the Rangers to chip in for even a small fraction of the remaining $103 million, it would probably be a pretty reasonable deal.

Inflation has made a $120-million deal seem much more reasonable -- and we know the Cardinals have cash on hand thanks to a new local TV deal and the inability to land David Price or Jason Heyward to mega deals.

To put things into perspective, the Birds could acquire Andrus for a little more than half of what it would to keep Heyward. And they’re offensive production isn’t all that different.

What if the Cardinals got Texas to pay $14 million to cover the last year of the deal? It would erase all financial commitments to a 33-year-old player. That would put St. Louis into a position similar to what it enjoyed with John Lackey last year.

Where would Andrus play when Peralta returns?

Well, with Peralta’s range diminishing, I’d suspect he couldn’t hold a candle to Andrus’ glove. So he’d stay put and Peralta would have to find a different place to play.

What if the Cardinals included Brandon Moss and Marco Gonzales in a deal for Andrus?

Moss could play left field for Texas, where Desmond is expected to play out of position. That means the Cardinals would have some room open at first base and Peralta could slide over into Moss’ spot. Or Peralta could play third and Matt Carpenter could move back from third base to first.

Matt Adams could hold down first base until Peralta comes back and, if he needs help, Gyorko could fill in.

Financially, the deal would benefit the Rangers greatly. They’d replace a $15 million a year player with an $8.5 million player to help offset some of the money they spent acquiring Cole Hamels, Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder.

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