What could the St. Louis Cardinals get in a Pete Kozma trade?

The Cardinals have reportedly placed 2012's flash in the pan on the trade block.

The Pete Kozma trade rumors got started as they so often do—with well-known Twitter gossip Jon Heyman tweeting what he heard from a scout.

Tuesday morning, ESPN's Jayson Stark shrugged his shoulders and tweeted Kozma's name as a potential trade target for the Mets.

Then ESPN's Adam Rubin got into the Kozma trade tweeting game, with the most substantive 140-character burst to date.

I don't know why the Cards are seeking to trade Kozma while seemingly guaranteeing a roster spot to Daniel Descalso, a career .243/.310/.346 batter who can't defend any position particularly well and is quite bad at short. Making Descalso a lock for the MLB roster is even more confusing because of how poorly he fits. As a lefthanded batter, he should never play second base over Kolten Wong or third base over Matt Carpenter, because both players are far superior to him with the bat and the glove. Descalso a true futility man for the 2014 Cards.

Kozma can't hit a lick either (and might actually be worse at the plate than Descalso), but at least he can provide excellent defense at shortstop. Should an injury strike Peralta, the Cardinals will be left with the horrendous Descalso at short if they trade Kozma. The fielding prowess Kozma has shown in the majors as a shortstop would presumably translate to second and third as well. As a righthanded batter, he is a better complement to Wong (although he shouldn't ever play second base over a healthy Mark Ellis) and Carpenter. Because of his batting handedness and defensive skill, Kozma is a better fit for the 2014 Cardinals as a utility man than Descalso.

Now, setting aside the question of whether the Cardinals should keep their former starting shortstop, what might St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak get in return for Kozma?

Let's start by reminding ourselves of just how bad Kozma is at batting.

Kozma Career MiLB Batting

G

PA

H

HR

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

671

2752

573

40

.236

.308

.344

.652

.122

Kozma Career MLB Batting

G

PA

H

HR

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

ISO

185

552

116

3

.232

.293

.315

.608

.061

Kozma is a terrible hitter—one of the worst in the game. There's nothing, save that miraculous run in late 2012, to make anyone think otherwise. But Kozma is also a sharp defender at a premium position entering his age-26 season. He's still fairly young and has a few cost-controlled years ahead. Not that his offensive production will ever render him costly, but still, this has got to be worth something, right?

Maikel Cleto is something.

After a disappointing 2010 season, the Cardinals traded their incumbent starting shortstop Brendan Ryan, who was coming off a .223/.279/.294 line during his age-28 season. But, unlike Kozma, Ryan had a career .259/.314/.344 line that included a .292/.340/.400 season in 2009. In a way, Ryan was a bounce-back candidate. And he brought the best shortstop defense in the game with his questionable bat. (Kozma is a good defender, but he isn't in Boog's league.) Mozeliak swapped Ryan straight up for Cleto, a hard thrower with erratic control coming off an age-20 season in which he tossed 102 1/3 A-ball innings with a 6.16 ERA, 83 strikeouts, and 44 walks.

A prospect of Cleto's caliber is probably the highest quality the Cards can hope to fetch in return for Kozma at this point in time.

Correction: The original chart containing Kozma's career MLB numbers incorrectly listed his slugging percentage as .293. It is .315. The chart has been corrected to reflect this.

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