St. Louis Cardinals rumors: How far outside the box would you go?

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals need a shortstop, but that doesn't mean they'll get one.

As promised: Yesterday I was the St. Louis Cardinals' representative in DRaysBay's David Price trade series, in which they've asked after most of the teams in baseball in re: their interest in Price, the latest ace Tampa hopes to turn into Wil Myers. You won't be surprised, I think, to learn I turned them down—the Cardinals are a boring offseason team, and I'm a boring person, and I really just want them to find a shortstop, decide what they're doing with David Freese and Kolten Wong, and spend the rest of the payroll excess on a bullpen ansible connected to Tony La Russa's house, maybe against his will.

But just hearing the question—which I hadn't considered at all—was enough to rouse me from my post-Kozma stupor for a few hours. I may be boring, but John Mozeliak isn't; what might he do to surprise us, and what would he risk to make us nervous?

I know a few of these slightly less likely scenarios have already been staked out by at least some commenters, so I apologize in advance for my inability to grasp the particularly nuanced case you are making on behalf of the Cardinals signing Mike Napoli, moving Yadier Molina to short left field, and just playing without a shortstop.

Trading Matt Adams

This is what the David Price trade proposals mostly came down to—if you think the Cardinals might resign Carlos Beltran, or might want to discontinue their profitable habit of cultivating four or five injury-prone sluggers to play the same three or four positions, you can tilt your eyes and squint and see Matt Adams as surplus offense. If the Cardinals were payroll-constrained or had multiple significant holes to fill I could see the reasoning behind trading him after a season in which he exceeded expectations.

Since those things aren't true, though, I don't get it. Short of a once-in-a-decade challenge trade for Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar or Troy Tulowitzki or a once-in-a-generation fan-trolling trade for Starlin Castro, it's hard to see a situation in which the Cardinals are better suited trading Adams (or Wong or Shelby Miller) than signing a slightly pricey short-term deal for Jhonny Peralta et al.

Bolstering a position of strength

This is the other leg of the David Price tray-table—the Cardinals' cheapest wins are at shortstop, where they were classically replacement level, but nothing's keeping them from trying to get stronger in the rotation or the outfield. This is another trade-heavy scenario; the Cardinals just have too many bodies at those positions for it not to be.

Remember: Jaime Garcia, against all odds, still exists.

Sell low on David Freese

There were times last year when David Freese looked completely done, which marked 2013 as the moment the going-on-31-year-old went permanently from Older Than You Think to Younger Than You Think. The power—which had teased us from its minor-league hiding place for years—vanished even faster than it reemerged, the BAbip finally dipped, and the defense combined awful numbers with awful aesthetics.

But if he were a shortstop on some other team, a year removed from being solidly above-average, we'd already be agitating for the Cardinals to buy low. Selling low is always a little less exciting, but dealing Freese would immediately reshape the team; they'd need a middle infielder even more, to spot Kolten Wong as well as starting at shortstop, but he might help them get one. (This is also the scenario where Greg Garcia has a big spring training and becomes a fanbase-wide cult hero.)

Jacoby Ellsbury

Jon Jay finished the 2013 season with the fifth-highest OBP on the team. That might not sound very impressive, granted, but it also left the Cardinals with the fourth-highest OBP in the National League among center fielders.

Okay—that might not sound especially impressive, either. Jay was an above-average offensive player again, is the point, at a defensively valuable position, and at 29 and cheap he's far from the Cardinals' most pressing concern. His career OPS+ is 109, and Jacoby Ellsbury's is 108.

But I do get the appeal, just on a watching-baseball level. Ellsbury's a Beltran-in-his-prime level baserunner, and an excellent defender, and in 2011 he put together what turned out, in hindsight, to be a poor-man's-Mike-Trout kind of year.

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