COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals do not have a proven major-league shortstop, an unpardonable sin for a team that expects to contend for a division title.
But that is reality. Always cautious, the Cardinals will not panic, and it wouldn't do them any good if they did because no team is going to trade a capable veteran shortstop before the season has even started.
So, here's what the Cardinals will do:
Pete Kozma will start the season and have a chance to own the spot. The odds are that he won't. An average arm with decent range might be good enough if he can continue to hit. But if he dips into the .250s, the Redbirds will be looking, not necessarily for this year and not too early. They will have to wait until teams fall out of contention (which for the Astros, Cubs and Marlins will be opening day) and are willing to unload a veteran (and his contract). So Kozma will be the shortstop at least until the trade deadline approaches. If they are in contention, they will look to rent a veteran. If not, they will limp to the finish line.
Here's what they should do:
It's doubtful they'll pry baseball's #1 prospect, Jurickson Profar, away from Texas, no matter what fans wish. So, John Mozeliak should get on the blower to Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and president of baseball operations Larry Lucchino because there is an excellent opportunity to make a great deal for both clubs.
The Red Sox have a very weak outfield with just Jacoby Ellsbury and aging veterans Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino. They could use Carlos Beltran and his power. With no compelling option at first base, the Red Sox could also use Matt Adams, the Cards' best young power hitter. Add a low minor-league pitcher and the Cardinals can offer a very compelling package.
In exchange for whom? The Red Sox's top everyday prospect, Xander Bogaerts. With Stephen Drew at short and just 29, and the Red Sox desperately needing to improve their club fast, Bogaerts should be available.
He hit .326 in AA with good power, and he's solid in the field. Projected to be a middle-of-the-lineup player, he's not ready now and won't be for at least another year as he works on making more contact and improving his footwork in the field.
The Redbirds have a lot of exciting young talent. Adding Bogaerts in exchange for redundancies and an expiring contract ensures they can contend for years to come.
Mike Bailey is a former part-time professional baseball scout who has followed the St. Louis Cardinals organization for over 40 years.