COMMENTARY | While the St. Louis Cardinals continue to wring their hands over the prospect of giving their ace starting pitcher a lucrative contract extension, rumors persist that the team is hopeful of making a deal to trade for the Colorado Rockies' most expensive player.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is signed through 2020 in a deal that will pay him $157.75 million over 10 years. Eight years and $144 million remain in the contract. Despite that high price, reports from various sources including the Denver Post and ESPN note that the Cardinals have been in contact with the Rockies about the talented shortstop. It's a rumor that popped up several times over the winter.
His paycheck is high. But the Cardinals could swallow Tulowitzki's price tag, if they so desired, because they have several large contracts due to come off the books after 2013. Carlos Beltran makes $13 million in the last season of his two-year contract. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright make $12.5 million, Jake Westbrook makes $8.75 million and Rafael Furcal makes $7 million in the final seasons of their current deals. That's $53.75 million, enough to swallow the Colorado shortstop's $20.5 million annual average salary, re-sign Wainwright and give required raises to the team's arbitration eligible players.
The Rockies might be eager to get rid of Tulowitzki's salary. But a possible snag in a potential deal is that, when you have a bumper crop of top prospects like the Cardinals currently enjoy, any potential trading partner is going to hold out for the jewels of of your farm system.
The Cardinals certainly can't be considering the inclusion of their top prospect, slugging outfielder Oscar Taveras in a Tulowitzki trade package, could they? I would be loathe to see the team part with pitchers Trevor Rosenthal or Michael Wacha in any deal. Would Colorado be willing to settle for a package centered on Matt Adams and Shelby Miller? I think if they were, a deal likely would likely already be done. So the standoff remains.
Tulowitzki is a .292 career hitter who projects to average 28 home runs over a 162-game season. (But it should be noted that he's a .309 hitter with 71 homers in 373 games at Coors Field and a .275 hitter with 59 homers in 371 games at other ballparks.) He's been in the top eight in National League Most Valuable Player voting three times and he has a pair of Gold Gloves. But Tulowitizki missed the bulk of the 2012 season with a groin tear.
Ironically, while the Cardinals try to trade for a player who hasn't proved he has recovered from a significant injury, they apparently are stalling Wainwright to see where he is in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. The St. Louis ace reported to camp ready to talk. But both sides announced that things were on hold a couple of days later. Now Wainwright's agent is on vacation and talks seem to be at a standstill.
Wainwright has expressed an interest in signing an extension with St. Louis. But, while the Cardinals play it safe, the window of making a deal before the season starts closes. Wainwright, expected to be the top starting pitcher on the free agent market after the 2013 season, could become considerably more expensive to retain if he decides to test the free agent waters. Would Wainwright be offended if the Cardinals took a risk of someone else's player while they played it safe with a loyal company man? Or would he be bowled over by the addition of Tulowitzki to the Cardinals and be even more eager to sign?
Scott Wuerz has been a reporter and columnist at the Belleville News-Democrat, located in suburban St. Louis, since 1998. During that time he has covered three St. Louis Cardinals World Series appearances, the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star game and Mark McGwire's chase to break Roger Maris' home run record. He has penned the View From the Cheap Seats Cardinals fan blog for the News-Democrat since 2007.