USA TODAY Sports
The St. Louis Cardinals have been connected with Elvis Andrus since Rafael Furcal was still progressing nicely, but are they ready to pay the prospect price?
We just finished debating hypothetical Troy Tulowitzki trades, which means it's about time for a new franchise-altering trade rumor to take precedence. This week we're back to linking the St. Louis Cardinals and Elvis Andrus, which is interesting to me in part because Dan Szymborski is talking about it. The good thing about all these shortstop rumors is that the skeleton remains the same no matter who the shortstop is. That is:
The St. Louis Cardinals can afford SHORTSTOP X
The Cardinals are embarrassingly prospect-rich, and occasionally it must get difficult for John Mozeliak not to spend some of them on the general-managerial equivalent of the Hammertime Mansion. Elvis Andrus is 24, an above-average hitter for his position, an excellent defender, and under control for two more seasons, and the Cardinals could probably construct a trade for him that didn't involve their top prospect.
The St. Louis Cardinals don't have a very good shortstop right now
Despite this frightening Pete Kozma Fact from Willie McGee's Twin Tuesday—
For fun, here is Pete Kozma's line since being brought up last year (includes regular season, playoffs, and ST)
.310/.381/.520/.901 (ISO .210)
169 PAs/5 HRs/17 BBs (10%)/38Ks (22.4%)
—the Cardinals' depth at shortstop is their designated spring training question mark, and a pretty big one. They're cold on Ronny Cedeno, Kozma's minor league record is almost uniformly terrible, and their top prospect at the position, Greg Garcia, hasn't yet pushed himself into the major-league picture, at least as Mozeliak and Matheny illustrate it.
SHORTSTOP X would make the Cardinals NL Central favorites
The Cardinals topped the Cincinnati Reds' Pythagorean record last year, and have some nice prospects coming up, but it's going to be a tough division, and the easiest spot for the Cardinals to upgrade is shortstop, where ZiPS rates Pete Kozma about half-a-win above replacement in a full season.
Elvis Andrus gets a three-WAR projection, and the Cardinals are in a position where two wins could make an enormous difference.
But should the Cardinals pay the price for SHORTSTOP X?
But! The Cardinals are collecting all these prospects for a reason, and it's not the Walt Jocketty reason. Last year's Cardinals got 26 fWAR from pre-free-agency players who'd spent significant time in their farm system. They've gotten big years from some of those prospects, but their success with homegrown players is as much about volume as it is quality; lots of teams have great top prospects, but the Cardinals have benefited from all-star-caliber years from mid-range prospects like David Freese, Allen Craig, and Jon Jay.
Any package that brought back SHORTSTOP X—any franchise-player, excitement-generating SHORTSTOP X—would involve multiple prospects, especially one that didn't involve Oscar Taveras. It's worth looking into that kind of deal, but it means a not-insignificant change in direction for the team.
Which is where all these SHORTSTOP X conversations start—is this Elvis Andrus trade rumor worth tampering with the Cardinals' prospect-herd mentality?