Friday, November 2, 2012

Cardinals Should Trade for Elvis Andrus

Elvis Andrus and Matt Holliday - 2011 World Series Game 6 - Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals
                Elvis Andrus avoiding a Matt Holliday slide in the 2011 World Series

The Texas Rangers have the luxury of having two outstanding shortstops in their organization. In the big leagues, they have Elvis Andrus. He took over as Rangers shortstop at age 20 in 2009, moving Michael Young to third base. Andrus is one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, and a big part of their two World Series teams. Andrus hit for a career high .286 in 2012, and set a career high in doubles, RBIs, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. Andrus is just entering his prime and is still only 24 years old.

Texas also has the top rated shortstop prospect in the game in Jurickson Profar. The Rangers signed him out of Curacao in 2009, and he was a Little League World Champion in 2004. Before the 2012 season, Profar was rated the #7 prospect in baseball, barely after he turned 19. Profar will turn 20 next February, but he may be ready for the big leagues. Profar homered in his first major league at bat this past September, and made an appearance for the Rangers in their wild card game loss.

What will the Rangers do with Profar? They recently signed second baseman Ian Kinsler to a long term extension, so moving to second is out of the question. They also have third baseman Adrian Beltre signed for several more years, so moving to third isn't going to happen either. They could keep him in Triple A next year, as insurance in case someone gets injured. Or they could trade him for another bat in the outfield or first base. Another possibility is that the Rangers could put Andrus on the market to make room for Profar.

Its not often when a team would consider trading someone like Andrus. But, Andrus is two years away from free agency, and Profar would be six years away. Profar is also 4 and a half years younger than Andrus, and has more power. Like Andrus, Profar steals bases and is an excellent defensive shortstop. Rangers GM Jon Daniels has a good problem to have, but may make a move to address weaker spots in the organization. Josh Hamilton is a free agent, and its quite possible he will depart. The Rangers could be in the market for a big bat, and use either Andrus or Profar as trade bait.

The Cardinals might be a player for one of those two players. Rafael Furcal isn't likely to be ready for opening day, and it would be a miracle for the Cardinals to get 121 games out of him again. Thats the second highest total of games played by Furcal in the last 5 seasons. Furcal is also in the last year of his deal, and is 35 years old. Pete Kozma had a terrific September, and had some big hits for the Cardinals in the playoffs. However, Kozma also had some errors and fielding misplays in the playoffs. Also alarming is that Kozma is just a .236 career hitter in the minor leagues. Its also possible that the Cardinals could stick with a platoon of Kozma and Furcal, but that plan could blow up if Furcal isn't healthy. That would leave Kozma as the main guy, and who knows which version you would be getting. The .236 career minor league hitter, or the .333 September hitter in 72 at bats.

I think the Cardinals should make a major push for either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar. Andrus is the most likely target and its rumored the Rangers might be shopping him. I'm not sure what the Rangers would want for him, but I have a few guesses. I would think they would want one of our bigtime pitching prospects like Shelby Miller or Trevor Rosenthal. But the Rangers have several top pitching prospects of their own. Another guess would be a big bat to replace Josh Hamilton. That could be a number of players, they could want Oscar Tavares, but I would want Profar instead of Andrus if that was the case. They could want Allen Craig, Matt Adams, or Matt Carpenter. I would hate to give up Craig, but it would be worth looking at.

There is one more option, and while not as likely, but is something I would do in a hearbeat. Matt Holliday for Elvis Andrus, straight up. It might sound like a radical idea to some, but I don't think it is. Holliday will be 33 next year, and still has 4 years and a option left on his contract. Holliday is still productive and hit .295, had a .379 on base pct., 27 home runs, and 102 RBIs. Holliday did a good job as the #3 hitter this year, and actually had a better year than the guy he replaced this year, Albert Pujols. However, Holliday set a career high with 132 strikeouts this year. His defense is somewhat shaky, and while he has some big hot streaks, his bat can go cold for long stretches. Holliday always plays hard(just ask Marco Scutaro), but he never seems to get a big hit when you need it.

I don't know if the Rangers would be interested in picking up the rest of Holliday's contract, but they might if Hamilton leaves. They would need a big bat to replace him, and Holliday would be that guy. I also don't know if Holliday would accept a trade to Texas or not. The Cardinals could move Craig to right field, and put Adams or Carpenter at first base. They could also leave Craig at first, and put Carpenter or even Oscar Tavares in left. Its obvious the Cardinals need a shortstop, though and Andrus would fill that void. Andrus is two years away from free agency, and the Cardinals could use the money they save from the Holliday deal to sign Andrus to a long term deal.

The Cardinals should be considering upgrading shortstop this offseason. It looks like they might, I've read a story on them looking at Stephen Drew. I also just read a Bleacher Report story about the Cardinals trading for Elvis Andrus. Middle infield is really the Cardinals only weakness, and shorstop specifically. 2011 top pick Kolten Wong will soon be ready to take over second base, and Matt Carpenter is learning how to play second this offseason, so I'm not as worried about that. Daniel Descalso was overexposed this year, and would be better off as the Cards top utilityman like he was in 2011. Descalso is a scrappy player, takes good at bats, and plays good defense, but is a weak hitter overall.

Shorstop is a position the Cardinals will have to go outside the organization to upgrade. Andrus would be a huge upgrade from what we have. Andrus hits for a .270-.280 average, steals bases(stole over 30 bases in 3 out of 4 big league seasons), and is a defensive wizard. Andrus also wears #1 in Texas, like Ozzie Smith, but would obviously have to change his number in St. Louis. Besides the huge upgrade in defense, he would add some much needed speed to the ballclub. Jon Jay has turned into a stolen base threat, stealing 19 bags this year, but he's pretty much it. Andrus would add a new dimension to the Cardinals with his speed. At age 24, Andrus is young enough where he could be the Cardinals shortstop for years to come. I hope John Mozeliak is looking into acquiring him.

                            Jurickson Profar, the Rangers shortstop prospect

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