Cardinals’ Shortstop Situation

With the Cardinals having lost Rafael Furcal for the entire 2013 season due to Tommy John Surgery, many experts have suggested that they pursue a player from outside the organization. The biggest name that has come up in these discussions is Elvis Andrus, the shortstop of the Texas Rangers. Such an acquisition would certainly help the Cardinals overcome the Reds as division favorites, but it would also come at the cost of some of the Cardinals top prospects such as: Shelby Miller, Oscar Taveras, Trevor Rosenthal or Matt Adams. However, at the moment the Cardinals seem prepared to maintain their current roster as all four of those prospects are Major League ready and shortstop has never been a key position for the Cardinals. In Furcal’s season and a half with the Cardinals he posted a combined 2.0 WAR and only batted .262 in that time. This level of production is certainly replaceable without having to sacrifice any top prospects. Also, the Cardinals have made the postseason each of the past two seasons without great production from their shortstops and so this really is not as big of a loss for the Cardinals as many have made it out to be. However, the options within the organization to replace Furcal are very underwhelming as the Cardinals will look for Pete Kozma or Ronny Cedeno to take over at short. Pete Kozma is a 24-year-old former first round pick, who has never made the active roster out of spring training and has a career .236/.308/.344 (Avg/OBP/Slg) slash line. Many scouts regard Kozma as a defense-first shortstop, but the advanced defensive metrics suggest he is a below average fielder. Kozma was almost removed from the Cardianls’ 40-man roster last season, but was left on the roster and went on to be the starting shortstop when Furcal went down with his elbow injury. So far this spring, Kozma has hit .382 with 2 homers in 34 At-Bats. The other option is new arrival Ronny Cedeno, he has a career .247/.290/.357 slash line and is a fairly versatile player with experience all across the infield and outfield. However, Cedeno is only an average defender at best. Cedeno’s spring has not been as productive as Kozma’s spring as Cedeno is batting .240 with 1 homer in 25 At-Bats. Neither of these players seem like excellent options for a team hoping to reach the postseason, but they are not replacing much. Pete Kozma posted a 1.1 WAR in 26 games last season and Cedeno posted a 1.1 WAR over the past two seasons. If Kozma and Cedeno can make similar contributions for a full season, they will likely surpass Furcal’s 2012 production of a 1.2 WAR. While Kozma has not had much success in the minor leagues, he should be able to post an above replacement level performance. I believe that Kozma will be the starting shortstop for the Cardinals barring any new acquisitions at the position, and I do not expect any deals for a shortstop. I think if the Cardinals choose to keep Cedeno then he will be the backup at shortstop, but with Matt Adams putting up good numbers this spring, the Cardinals may cut ties with Cedeno in order to make run for Adams on the 25-man roster. Because most of Adams’s success this spring has come as a pinch-hitter, I believe he will make the 25-man roster and Cedeno will likely be released. The Cardinals did not lose much when Furcal went down for the season and do not need to go outside the organization in order to find the solution at short, but should stand pat with Kozma as the starter and hold their top prospects.

Anthony Cacchione

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