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Open Thread - the difficulty of signing a shortstop

Why the shortstop discourse confuses me

Chicago White Sox v Minnesota Twins Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

We’re coming to the end of the line. Tomorrow, I release the results. Today, well I’ll give everyone one last warning to vote in the most recent Hall of Fame ballot. I realized I have given an extra day for the previous three ballots and it would be weird to not do it for the last ballot. Plus, to the best of my knowledge, nobody has tomorrow in the VEB writing staff. It just makes sense.

In the meantime, there seems to be a push to sign one of the shortstops. I understand the logic for sure. With Bryce Harper killing it in the playoffs, it has reignited the discussion from a few years ago when the Cardinals chose not to pursue Harper. And I was one of the people wanting Harper and still kind of think that was something of a mistake. Things have worked out alright though, since they acquired both Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, and whether or not the Cardinals could have had all three, they wouldn’t so it really is an either/or situation.

I’ve also seen people on VEB convinced the Cardinals will get one of the shortstops. This, to be honest, confuses me. It is for starters, not really anything the Cardinals have ever done to my knowledge. Secondly, it really isn’t a Cardinals move when they have internal options. It’s one thing to pass on Harper when you know Harper will be a big upgrade over the third best outfielder in the midst of an uncertain outfield situation. It also didn’t require a trade. Neither of those things seem true to me personally.

The middle infield situation has about as much depth as you can possibly hope for right now. There’s Tommy Edman of course, coming off a 5.6 fWAR season, and for his career has been a 4.2 fWAR player. There’s Brendan Donovan, whose on-base skills give him a fairly high floor, and whose defense in the infield at least is acceptable. There’s Nolan Gorman, who might not be able to play 2B but if he can play it at even a below average level, is probably a future All-Star. And then there’s Masyn Winn, who has huge upside, and if the defensive reports are at all accurate as well as his speed translating at the MLB level, a pretty solid floor.

So you can probably see why I’m confused why there’s a big push for a shortstop. Especially on a team that needs two catchers (arguably), a centerfielder, and really could use a starting pitcher as well. All of those would seem to be higher priority than... a middle infielder. The issue with getting Correa or Turner - to me - is just a matter of resources. The Cardinals have a limited amount of resources - I’m not sure it’s wise to upgrade a position and block a bunch of prospects at the same time.

And they would be blocked. If the Cardinals signed a shortstop and moved Edman to 2B, then no spot on the infield opens for three years. Edman seems unlikely to be traded to me, just because he is very undervalued by arbitration - even taking into account that arbitration suppresses salaries, his projected number is not giving him anywhere near what a 4 WAR player should make. You can’t move him to the outfield either because 1) he’s not especially good there and 2) he is so good defensively at 2B. Then of course Nolan Arenado is here for five more years and whoever the shortstop is stays here for probably at least five years too.

So where do they go? Left field? Right field? Certainly not centerfield. Designated hitter? Well, there’s more issues there. The Cardinals have a bunch of corner outfield/designated hitter options already. Tyler O’Neill, Lars Nootbaar, Dylan Carlson, Juan Yepez, Alec Burleson. By midseason - or earlier - we will probably need one of these spots to go to Jordan Walker. So that’s O’Neill - who if healthy should play - Carlson, who will play if healthy, and now the final outfield spot is between Nootbaar, Yepez, Donovan, Gorman, and Burleson. That’s five MLB ready guys for one spot - TON gets hurt a lot fair enough, but all of these guys need to be getting MLB plate appearances - or should anyway.

So, the obvious conclusion is: trade, trade, trade. Trade this depth. You probably have to trade two of Nolan Gorman, Masyn Winn, and Brendan Donovan. At least by next offseason. If not all three. I realize Brendan Donovan just won the utility Gold Glove, but he is clearly a better infielder than outfielder and if there is no real route to him playing in the infield, that’s going to be tough. Yeah injuries happen, but before you know there’s Winn to suck up any playing time in the infield, at least longer term. I don’t know, I’ve thought about this, but if Donovan repeats his 2022 or comes approximately close to it, you don’t need to hand him a specific position, but you should probably make sure there’s a route to him playing like 150 games. It’s okay right now, because there’s some uncertainty, both with him and his competition, and he’s going to play in 150 games if he is for real, but if they sign Correa... he will not. See what I mean?

Anyway, all of this is a long-winded way of saying I support signing Correa or Turner, on the condition that the Cardinals have a specific plan to use all this depth to upgrade the 2023 MLB roster in other ways. And it’s possible they do. But these situations where fans dreamcast about signing a big free agent and then trading a valuable player in their way away - that valuable player might only return prospects, even if they’re good ones, and it would seem easier just to upgrade the actual problems on your team.

Anyway discussion question: if the Cardinals sign Carlos Correa (or your free agent shortstop of choice), who are they trading away and try to be specific for what exactly? It seems like a given they’d trade for Sean Murphy in this situation, it just makes way too much sense. But maybe they get an actual centerfielder (apologies to Carlson, still not a believer)

Also, I’ve sort of talked myself into rooting for this because there’s just no way the Cardinals wouldn’t have a plan to trade for another MLBer in this situation. Still don’t think it will ever happen though. But would be an exciting offseason.