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Stopping Short

The Cardinals haven't had a consistent shorstop since David Eckstein nearly 5 years ago. Ignoring a brief and seemingly unwanted, commitment to Brendan Ryan, the team has shuffled through luminaries like Julio Lugo, Cesar Izturis and Khalil Greene in an effort to fill the position. Entering 2012, John Mozeliak will either need to acquire a new shortstop or convince his staff that a commitment to Tyler Greene is the best (read: least bad) option. The organization seems to have its farm system hopes pinned on the glove of Ryan Jackson who is still about a year away from being ready. Until then, here are the non-Greene options that present themselves for Mozeliak

Jimmy Rollins: Age - 33, 3 Year Cumulative WAR: 9.3, 2011 wOBA: .329, Bill James wOBA: .328

Danup outlined some reasons to want him to stay with the Phillies. Besides the loyalty factor of seeing a player end their career with the same team, Rollins has the baggage of looking for an insanely long deal given that he is a 33 year old shortstop. That said, he still looks to have the skills of a shortstop right now. His fielding numbers continue to hold up despite the elderly baseball age. Even in his hitting peak days, he never got on base with a great deal of frequency with OBPs in the .340s during 2007 & 2008 but Rollins is a rare hit for power shortstop when it happened. At the end of the day, this probably isn't a shortstop the Cardinals want to hook up with given his desire for a four or five year deal, which Ruben Amaro just might be crazy enough to give.

Jose Reyes: Age - 29, 3 Year Cumulative War: 9.9, 2011 wOBA: .386, Bill James wOBA: .353

Despite missing almost all of 2009, Reyes edges out Rollins on the WAR total for the last three years. The contract season phenomenon proved true for Reyes who put up the best offensive numbers of his career (in a cavernous new ballpark) in 2011. The defensive metrics don't much care for his fielding but this guy is the most exciting player in baseball. I'm excited just writing about him. If the Cardinals sign Albert Pujols, it's hard to see how a Reyes signing could happen. Some team will probably throw 5 years and $60M at him and they might be justified in doing so. That someone probably won't be the Cardinals though.

Alex Gonzalez: Age - 34, 3 Year Cumulative WAR: 5.1, 2011 wOBA: .281, Bill James wOBA: .285

The Cardinals apparently decided to kick the tires on Gonzalez. I'm always surprised by his age as he seems to have reached that old man Omar Vizquel stage of his career where his fielding abilities are strangely still there for the most part but his hitting is so atrocious that you might as well just have him take three pitches each at bat. Still that glove remains viable for the post part and he's (again, surprisingly) no older than Rafael Furcal. If the Cardinals really aren't comfortable with Tyler Greene and/or they need a "Break In Case of Emergency" option, there are worse choices than Gonzalez.

Rafael Furcal: Age - 34, 3 Year Cumulative WAR: 8.2, 2011 wOBA: .288, Bill James wOBA: .324

Derailed by injuries, Rafael Furcal wasn't quite the player the Dodgers were hoping they would get. For the 2011 Cardinals, he was exactly what they needed to replace the therrible player previously manning the position. Furcal, like Rollins, will go on power binges during his peak seasons but he also gets on base at a better clip. Furcal, like Gonzalez, would represent a short term hedge against Tyler Greene. The market hasn't really coalesced around shortstops yet but no one seems particularly eager to give Furcal a multiyear deal. If the Cardinals can snag Furcal on a 1 year contract, that might be a hard opportunity to pass up. Working Tyler Greene in around injuries and at second base could probably net Greene a Craig-like 400 PAs but one of the concerns with Greene has been his inability to play well with limited playing time. A Furcal signing may muddy that situation.

The full list of free agent shortstops is available here. There are other options out there but none of them are particularly good options. If the Cardinals decide that Tyler Greene is their shortstop of today, I'd have a hard time arguing with them given the alternatives. The shortstop of tomorrow still looks like Ryan Jackson who is coming off a surprisingly good offensive campaign in Springfield and a impressive fall in Arizona. If 2012 is a breakout year for Greene, it could drastically alter that but today, right now, it's hard to see Greene, already 28, being a long term solution for the Cardinals.

Pete Kozma could not be reached for comment on this article.