While there is much consternation about the St. Louis Cardinals shortstop situation in the stands, it doesn’t seem like there is much worry at all in the front office.
Redbirds general manager John Mozeliak and skipper Mike Matheny seem content to let minor leaguer Aledmys Diaz and recently-acquired second baseman Jedd Gyorko battle it out for playing time in place of injured starter Jhonny Peralta.
The Cardinals, as of Wednesday, have made no public overtures towards former New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada who has been placed on waivers.
Tejada was reportedly shopped to the Cardinals earlier this spring but a deal wasn’t struck. Now the Cardinals could have him for no player compensation if they’re willing to pick up his $3 million paycheck. So far, at least, they haven’t bit.
They’re still sticking with their story that they’ll fill the Peralta hole like they filled the Jason Heyward hole -- with internal options.
If playing time is any factor, it appears the spot is Diaz’s to lose.
The Cuban defector, who signed with St. Louis two springs ago only to struggle in the minors before being put through waivers last season, leads all St. Louis infielders with 28 Grapefruit League at-bats. He’s hitting .286 but has seven strikeouts and only one walk.
Gyorko got a start yesterday to close in a bit with 23 at bats. But he’s struggled at the dish with a .174 batting average and five strike outs with no walks.
The rap on both Diaz and Gyorko isn’t their offense. It’s their ability to field the most demanding position on the infield. Neither has a great glove. But, then again, Peralta wasn’t making anyone forget about Ozzie Smith. So if the replacements catch the balls an average shortstop would get, the Cardinals shouldn’t see much drop off.
Then again, I think of Cardinals teams and being solid fundamentally. So it makes me cringe to think of an infield with a poor shortstop and the possibility of a career outfielder, Matt Holliday, playing first base. Is it alright to accept mediocre defense?
As I have mentioned previously, I think it ought to be a priority for the Cardinals to find a long-term solution at shortstop.
Let’s not forget that Peralta was a bit of a reach two years ago. He’s a guy who was being transitioned from the middle infield to left field by his previous team. Opposing GMs snickered when Mozeliak pounced to put Peralta back on the infield.
It’s worked out so far. But his range isn’t getting any better. The Cardinals would be a much better team if Peralta moved to first base or left field and a slick fielder with good range was put in place to take advantage of the ground balls produced by the St. Louis pitching staff.
I worry that the Cardinals have left themselves exposed both offensively AND defensively by not looking for a better tested shortstop option.
Diaz has never played in a major league game. And Gyorko has a career .293 on base percentage. You can live with lousy production from a shortstop if he saves you two or three runs a game. But if he costs you a run a game with his glove and he can’t make it up at the plate, that’s big trouble.