With the trade of Aledmys Diaz to the Toronto Blue Jays last week, the Cardinals did not lose a player with significant value, but they certainly lost a bit of depth in the middle of the infield. That is a consequence of any trade. So, what does the shortstop-second base situation for the Cardinals look like in 2018 and beyond?
Notably, the Cardinals have not had a lot of stability up the middle in recent memory. And “recent memory” can probably be extended further, considering have used ten different players at shortstop to start the season in the last eleven years. At second base, they have used ten different players to start the season since 2003. Stability at these positions is by no means a prerequisite to winning, but the inability to find consistency at these positions is an interesting dynamic given the franchise’s revered farm system.
In 2017, the Cardinals opened the season with Diaz at short and Gyorko at second. As we all know, Diaz struggled, creating an opportunity for the emergence of Paul deJong, and Gyorko ended up moving to third after the unraveling of Jhonny Peralta. Going into 2018, the infield is anything but set. DeJong figures to play a large role at short, but what happens with first base will affect what happens at second base. Will Matt Carpenter move to third and push Gyorko into a platoon with Wong? Or will Carpenter play some second base? What about acquiring Evan Longoria via trade? The possibilities are endless. Furthermore, at about 4 months before the season begins, it is difficult and almost a pointless exercise to attempt to project the opening day infield.
What we can do now, however, is examine the personnel the Cardinals currently have in place to see what the infield situation might look like down the road. Outside of DeJong and Wong, Gyorko and Garcia can both play in the middle infield, but they are not long-term options at either position.
Although Delvin Perez already has the name recognition, he is still too far from the MLB level to seriously project when he might project as an everyday player with the big league club. He probably has four or five more years in the minors. Wilfredo Tovar is a middle infielder acquired a year ago. He played at AAA last year, but is probably not a long-term option for the big league club. A better bet to fill that role is Edmundo Sosa. It is possible he makes the 40 man roster as early as 2020.
The team does have prospects coming through the ranks, but there are at least three to four more years before Sosa and Perez are ready. The Cardinals have a decision to make with the middle infield. Wong and DeJong are solid players, who can be a part of a winning team with high caliber players surrounding them. They are not, however, the cornerstones around which you build a winning team. If the Cardinals cannot put together a deal for a corner outfielder or a corner infielder, they might consider pursuing someone like Andrelton Simmons—a player worth almost 5 WAR a season ago and signed through 2020.
Going into the winter meetings this week, the Cardinals have nothing but flexibility. And it is conceivable that they pursue a corner outfielder, a corner infielder, or a middle infielder. The most pressing need is in the outfield, but the point remains, the Cardinals have plenty of options.