Today we have a pretty good idea of how the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals will look different from the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals, but it’s all right if it doesn’t sink in for you until the Winter Meetings, out of habit—it’s all happened kind of fast. We’ve had plenty of time to contemplate contemplating Jhonny Peralta and Peter Bourjos, who’ve figured in the Hot Stove League Cardinals’ many and varied plans for years, but no time at all to consider it actually happening; in baseball, the more time you spend idly speculating about something, the less prepared you are when it actually happens. Acquiring Peter Bourjos is a little like learning that the Cardinals actually have traded Chris Duncan for Matt Cain, or actually are telling Matt Holliday to bunt a runner to second base.
You can take as long as you like, then, to come to terms with the Cardinals’ new roster. Once you have, though, you’ll have to come to terms with the inevitable next step: This new roster’s inevitable and terrifying disasters.
Between now and The Best Month of Their Life, in February, you will find yourself consumed by all the ways in which the Cardinals’ realigned roster could—nay, will—go off track. Some of these awful scenarios will be the result of messing too much with a good thing; some will be the unyielding consequences of not messing enough with something that was never very good at all. Lots of them will be contradictory, and none of those contradictions will sooth you.
We’re just getting a head start here, basically.
Bernie makes two good, related points in the course of responding to the chorus of subtweets Peralta got upon signing his $50 million contract:
Peralta has been punished, and no part of the punishment baseball’s players and owners agreed to for PED users involved wage-garnishment or salary caps or sackcloth.
I’m not the first person to pull this out of the Cardinals’ deal, but I think the thing some people are reacting to isn’t so much Peralta’s insufficient penitence as the Cardinals’ insufficient concern.
We’ll see what happens when Stephen Drew signs, but the contract the Cardinals (and other teams) offered Peralta has no "steroid discount" at all, and that absence doesn’t suggest a lack of moral compunction so much as a lack of concern. Based on this contract the Cardinals either don’t think steroids made Peralta a better player or don’t think the testing program will keep him from using steroids. Score one for Mark McGwire’s defensive apology, I guess.
Peralta's career looks superficially steroidy anyway, with sudden bursts of 20-home-run power and 60-point batting-average swings and a stocky third-baseman's body that seems stop-motion-animated to play shortstop as some kind of joke.
This is going to convince people he's taking steroids, whether he has a good year or not. If he has a bad year, though, cycling-off-ha-ha, he's still an improvement on Pete Kozma. This is the good news. If you believe his defense is fringe-average, and you think he can hit .239/.305/.384 like he did while taking steroids in 2012, that's 1.2 rWAR.
With Greg Garcia behind Peralta (whether that's in Memphis or St. Louis) after a full season at AAA, the floor at shortstop could finally be significantly higher than replacement level. The Cardinals are paying every bit of face value on the Peralta contract for that privilege, but in 2014, at least, it's worth it.
Question: Do you think the Cardinals are going to trade Jon Jay? That's pretty important when discussing the Worst Bourjos Scenarios. Right now the Cardinals have a very good fourth outfielder and Oscar Taveras in Memphis, which makes up for Peter Bourjos's biggest deficiency, which is playing more than 110 games in a season.
The wrist injury scares me a little, too—not hitting after a wrist injury gives me the Mark DeRosas—but if he makes a full recovery the Cardinals have done a fine job of acquiring a player whose weaknesses they're already adapted to. Much has been made of Bourjos's nonexistent platoon split, but Jay has a big one—.300/.360/.417 vs. righties, compared to .269/.343/.346 vs. lefties—and the Cardinals will benefit from being able to pick their spots with him, provided Bourjos is healthy enough to start.
The real worst-case scenario here is what happens if Kolten Wong struggles again at the major league level. Greg Garcia and Daniel Descalso are also left-handed and unlikely to push Wong off the position at midseason, and I'm not going to talk about Pete Kozma, and while moving Matt Carpenter back to second is an option that's a serious change to make.
Wong's a good prospect, but that's the main weakness opened up in this trade: He's the second baseman, and there isn't much between him and a bad month anymore.