If the St. Louis Cardinals don’t trade for a shortstop

Dilip Vishwanat

A trade deadline reminder of the St. Louis Cardinals' infield depth, such as it is.

Pete Kozma’s ZiPS projection was off. It was not off because his .569 slugging percentage or preternatural ability to not swing at pitches were portents of an offensive talent his AAA career couldn’t measure; it was off because it thought he could slug over .300, and through nearly 100 games so far he hasn’t done that.

As SB Nation St. Louis alum Nathan Grimm noted yesterday, Kozma fell into his unspeakably deep slump just in time to justify trading for a shortstop. Not Alexei Ramirez, ideally, but somebody. That’s good news for John Mozeliak, in terms of PR flexibility.

It’s also bad news for Mozeliak, inasmuch as Kozma’s slump has now justified casual fans expecting them to trade for a shortstop. If and when they don’t—Bernie is skeptical—whatever remaining goodwill the Cardinals and Kozma have among people who last paid a lot of attention in October will vanish.

As a public service, I’d like to remind those fans of the Cardinals’ remaining internal shortstop options.

Ryan Jackson is Ryan Jackson again

Ryan Jackson’s season has officially slipped into something like the usual Ryan Jackson territory. That’s .291/.366/.376—more walks and less power than last year, but a .742 OPS that fits neatly within 2012’s AAA debut (.730) and AA’s kind-of-breakout (.749.)

Which leaves us exactly where we usually are with Ryan Jackson. As usual, he’s not going to push his way into the big league picture—he’s going to have to accidentally photobomb it.

With Kozma’s defensive grades presumably still at the top of the curve, that could be tough.

Greg Garcia still hasn’t gotten going

We’re about halfway through the worst-case scenario for Greg Garcia’s PCL debut—the one where we’re left wondering whether the power and contact skills that took his strike-zone command to another level were one more left-handed Texas League mirage. (He hit .295/.398/.454 at home and .272/.419/.383 on the road a year ago.)

The walks are still there in Memphis, but they’re propping up a .230/.331/.328 season. He’s got about as many extra-base hits as Pete Kozma; so far his best month was May, in which he hit .238/.407/.310.

At 23, it’s not wise to write him off. But if he’s the future—even the future Daniel Descalso—it looks like that might be year or two off, optimistic Spring Training notices aside.

Hey, what about that guy the Cardinals got for Skip Schumaker—

A very weird .232/.351/.373 season in AA. He’s 24, but at least he's right-handed.

The present Daniel Descalso, maybe?

After a basically solid run of games at shortstop earlier in the month, at the bottom of Kozma’s 0-fer streak, Descalso has made about one start at shortstop a week, including this afternoon's game. If a couple of hits from Pete Kozma are enough to stop that bandwagon, I'm not sure there was a lot of momentum behind it in the first place.

Short of trying to push Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter up the defensive spectrum at the same time, then, there just aren't a lot of internal options for the Cardinals at shortstop. (Alex Mejia, the Cardinals' fourth-round pick in 2012, is hitting .248/.283/.315 between Peoria and Palm Beach.)

So if the St. Louis Cardinals don't trade for a shortstop, get used to Pete Kozma hitting like we expected him to hit. For all his problems on offense, Baseball Reference has him just above replacement level at a high-but-possible defensive valuation of 14 runs per 1200 innings. Get used to wondering if Ryan Jackson would be slightly better or slightly worse, and watching for any sign of extra-base life in Greg Garcia's bat.

And get used to more talk about trading for a shortstop the moment the Cardinals' season ends—whenever that is.

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