For many teams, the St. Louis Cardinals included, the highest hope for spring is to make it to Opening Day without losing any players to injuries. It is not a goal where a team can be measured in success or failure, but generally has to do with luck. The Cardinals apparently have received some unlucky news as Jhonny Peralta will have his thumb examined and the fear is a tear which would keep Peralta out 2-3 months.
While the diagnosis and prognosis are not yet final, a three month injury would keep Peralta away from the team until the beginning of June. Looking to the free agent market for solutions yields not positive results. Ian Desmond, who might have been a good fit if this news had come through just a bit sooner, signed a one-year, $8 million contract to play left field for the Texas Rangers. Given the unknown timetable for Peralta and the fact that even if he is gone for several months, he is expected to return which might not lend itself to a trade.
Internally, the Cardinals have a few options. The team acquired Jedd Gyorko in the offseason with the idea that he could occasionally spell Jhonny Peralta at shortstop, but Gyorko has spent the majority of his career at second base and does not profile defensively as an everyday shortstop.
Greg Garcia, who finally unseated Pete Kozma as the final man on the roster at the end of last year, was expected to return to that role at the beginning of this season. Whether the Cardinals would trust him as the everyday shortstop for several months remains to be seen, but he will certainly get a longer look in Spring Training.
At this time, what seems like the most likely scenario is for Garcia and Gyorko to remain in their roles while promoting Aledmys Diaz. The Cuban shortstop signed with the Cardinals two years ago, but had a difficult time breaking through after being forced to take time off from playing due to the complicated process of defecting from Cuba and eventually landing in the United States. The Cardinals signed Diaz to a four-year contract worth $8 million, and he began to fulfill some of the promise toward the end of last season and in the Arizona Fall League.
At the plate, the 25-year-old might be ready for the majors, at least compared with shortstop production after a .278/.339/.445 line in the minors last season. In the field, our prospect write-up from the red baron showed concern about his shortcomings in the field, but ultimately indicated he could play short regularly if needed.
In the field, Diaz has good hands and an average arm, as well as decent range. Overall, he's a little short of what you want from a starting shortstop in the big leagues, if I'm being honest. All year, every time I've watched him, he's come across to me as a guy who will make his living either moving around the diamond in a utility role, or possibly settle in at second base, where the range+arm equation is a little less demanding. That being said, I don't think he would kill a team forced to start him at short; it's just not an ideal solution. He's seen a little time in left field here and there, as well, leading me to believe the Cardinals likely view his best long-term fit as a super utility player too.
The Cardinals will have the next month to evaluate their options, but the best case scenario is likely Diaz having a very good month and showing the Cardinals he is ready for a role on the big-league ballclub. Losing Peralta for any amount of time hurts, but the Cardinals do have a bit of depth to cover while he is out.