UCB Roundtable – Day 4

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Photo is credited to Getty Images.

With the Cardinals’ 2016 season in the books, a handful of United Cardinal Bloggers members are participating in the annual roundtable.  I proposed a question to the group on Thursday, and it drew several intriguing responses and sparked plenty of conversation.

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Me:

I think it’s safe to say that the season rookie shortstop Aledmys Diaz pieced together in 2016 was one of the best we’ve seen in recent Cardinals history. I mean, for starters, he didn’t even break camp with the team. It took an injury on Opening Day to grant Diaz a spot on the big-league roster, and, once he was given the opportunity (and more importantly, a chance to start at shortstop over Jedd Gyorko and Greg Garcia), he didn’t look back.

Diaz drove in runs and hit for average and power well enough to dazzle many; however, his superb offense was what refrained us from becoming frustrated with his subpar defense, which had sent him to the minors after the Cardinals wrapped up spring training, although he never got a chance to work on it since he was promoted prior to the beginning of the minor league season, and such was evident.

Diaz committed sixteen errors in his 910 innings of fieldwork, but the majority of those miscues were made in the earlier months of the season, as we saw Diaz really mature at the position as the season rolled along. And as this team plans to improve from a defensive standpoint over the winter, allowing Diaz to play short daily is essential to allow him to continue growing at the position and contribute to the team on both sides of the ball. With the current roster, however, Diaz playing at short every game is a scenario that may be tough to execute.

The shortstop position since 2014 has had Jhonny Peralta’s name attached to it, and for good reason. As we approach the fourth and final year of Peralta’s deal with the Cardinals, it can probably be stated without much thought that he will go down as one of John Mozeliak’s top free-agent acquisitions. After he returned from the first thumb injury, we saw Peralta get some work at third base to accommodate Diaz, a move that shifted Matt Carpenter over to second base and Kolten Wong to the bench. Overall, midseason positional changes didn’t defensively help the team, and this team needs all the help it can get as it enters 2017.

With all of that said, do you believe there is any chance the Cardinals would trade Peralta this winter?

Tom Knuppel:

Trading Peralta opens up many new ideas. Carp at third, Diaz at short, Wong at second, and the chance to look for a new first baseman. Gyorko is our everyday sub in three positions. Peralta has been a very decent acquisition, but it’s time to move on.

Bill Ivie:

I think Peralta and Adams are the two position players most likely to be dealt this offseason. Maybe that should be phrased that they are most likely to be shopped.

Peralta has shown worth and comes at a decent price. He should be attractive to a team that is looking for a stopgap in 2017 at short or third. Adams has a fair amount of team control and may be attractive to an American League team that could see him on the field or as a DH.

One of these two are likely to not be Cardinals in 2017. Whichever one that is will ultimately decide the others fate.

But wait, there’s more…

I could see the Cards moving both of them one way or the other (trade, non-tender). Which would allow the team to play Carpenter at his natural position of third base, Diaz at short, Wong at second and bring in a fresh face for first (or just resign Holliday for the feel good moment of the winter).

I don’t honestly foresee both leaving, but I’d be shocked if they are both here on Opening Day.

Michael Miles:

I agree that Peralta and Adams are likely departures this off-season. Peralta definitely carries the most value but Adams could go in a package to the AL for an outfielder (think something like Adam Jones, etc.).  If Adams is gone, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a QO issued to Moss who might accept it.  I guess, then, in this type of scenario the real question is who is worth more on a roster: Adams or Moss? To me, despite not being stellar, Moss carries more value thanks to his ability to play 1B/OF.

Jon Doble: 

Diaz should definitely continue to improve at short. We saw that as he continued to settle in and become more comfortable, he became better. He now just needs to continue to improve his footwork so he can make better throws. That said, the Cardinals seem committed to him being shortstop, with or without Jhonny Peralta on the roster.

In my opinion, Mo’s biggest priority this winter has to be uncluttering the roster and Peralta is clutter right now. Question mark offensively and not a great glove anymore. I’m pretty much calling up teams to see who is willing to take him and I’m even willing to eat a chunk of his salary to move him.

The general assumption seems to be that Mozeliak designed the front loaded contract specifically to make him easier to trade later in the deal. And I do believe that he will get shopped.

I think Gyorko’s best role is power off the bench, and I believe they should make an effort to keep him there and keep him from being an everyday player. He may have hit 23 home runs in the second half this year, but that’s about all he brought to the table.

As far as Brandon Moss goes, if you can unload Jhonny Peralta and don’t bring back Matt Adams, I would definitely be interested in bringing him back next season. I too have thought that he’d warrant a qualifying offer, but his September really hurt his ability to ride a good year into being overpaid. But even looking at last winter, there isn’t much of a precedent to think that he can get even close to the nearly $17 million that this year’s qualifying offer is expected to be. Maybe you can work out something like a $20M/2 with an option for him.

Kevin Reynolds:

First, to address this directly, Diaz owns the shortstop position in St. Louis, now. It’s his to lose via catastrophe in spring training, but it’s his regardless. Peralta’s days at shortstop are over, and should have been over prior to last season too. He just doesn’t have the range anymore. Defensive positioning – and Oquendo – were his best friends. In fact, the only Diaz at SS questions still in play for me revolve around Wong’s future at second base and the young prospect Perez’s future (or Cordoba’s?) as either a trade chip or future core player.

That said, Peralta is going to get shopped. His contract was structured for it this season, and the arrival of Diaz this year was at least anticipated if not flat-out predicted. It would be foolish not to at least see what Mo could acquire in trade after setting things in motion nearly four years ago. The problem is finding a willing partner.

I’m not as sold on Peralta’s value as others seem to be. His days at shortstop are likely over, and that means he’s either going to play third base or second base. Second base is a position that only opens up for players with Peralta’s profile (size, reduced range, age, etc.) if they are elite hitters, especially power hitters. Peralta, injured hand/wrist area and all, is no longer expected to be that hitter. And if he is a viable third base option, why aren’t the Cardinals – who could use a good 3B/1B type – more interested in keeping him? In other words, if the Cardinals don’t value him enough to keep him, why should other teams/contenders drool over him?

That said, he does have value, but I won’t be surprised if he nets very little in return. Think of it as a roster-clearing, payroll loosening move for a bigger plan to follow (imagine what they could get if they add Holliday’s $17 million to Peralta’s salary).

Now, the best answer here is that the Cardinals should determine Peralta’s future in STL based on their own winter acquisitions and moves. If they acquire an outfielder and move Adams to do it, then Peralta has value right where he is for another season, especially with Gyorko giving him days off to stay fresh-ish. If, however, the Birds get a first baseman or a third baseman that qualifies as an impact player (Wil Myers?), then I would consider swapping Peralta for a bag of balls just to clear his payroll.

Ultimately, he’s a pretty fluid asset right now. His contract isn’t restrictive, and his production still warrants a roster spot in multiple capacities as long as his body is managed correctly. The Cardinals can afford to wait and see how other moves play out before deciding how to deploy Peralta…even if that means to the airport.

Mark Tomasik:

I think the Cardinals would trade Jhonny Peralta if they could find a team willing to offer a deal that provided a return that fit a need either at the major-league or prospect level. I don’t think they would give him away just to create a roster spot or salary savings.

Doug V.:

Here’s a devil’s advocate question: How likely is Diaz to match his production on offense?

Even superstars like Bryce Harper (assuming he isn’t playing injured) can regress. Plus, there’s the curious case of Yasiel Puig, who rocked his first two seasons before disappearing.

Diaz isn’t them, but considering he came out of nowhere, shouldn’t regression at least be considered a possibility, and if so, wouldn’t having Peralta around be a good idea? If Diaz regresses, who do we have? (Gyorko and his 30 homers also might be due for a regression, too, considering they came out of nowhere.) Moving Peralta puts more pressure on Diaz as well, and some people respond well to pressure, whereas some don’t.

Better safe than sorry.

STL CardGals:

Specifically, in regards to Peralta, and without exploring any hyper-specific stats, I still have to wonder if he’s not quite as much of an old-timer as people have lately been suggesting. Of course he’s a year older and spent a large chunk of the season on the DL, and his production will naturally slip after his prime, but I think sometimes baseball tends to move on too quickly from an “older” injured player before giving him a chance to make a decent splash again the following season.

This year, Jhonny essentially played about half as many games as he did last year. And the numbers pretty accurately reflect that: for example, 17 HRs in ’15, 8 in ’16; 26 2Bs in ’15, 17 in ’16, 50 BBs in ’15, 20 in ’16, etc. Anyway, yes, the infield is crowded and it wouldn’t surprise me if Mo did some snooping around the market to see if there is any interest in him (although I am ignorant as to the potential of a “no-trade clause” in his current contract).

But again, I think depending on how the payroll could shift with the final verdict over Holliday and Moss, there may be more wiggle room to handle Peralta’s salary. Now, whether that’s beneficial long-term for either party, is debatable. Johnny may need a fresh start possibly in the AL in order to nab a decent contract past the age of 35.

Tara Wellman:

I’ve been on the “Trade Peralta” bandwagon for a while now – not necessarily because I don’t think he holds any value for the Cardinals, but because I, too, think the roster needs more clarity and less clutter. Peralta’s tendency for injury, his lack of range defensively, and the simple fact that there are, in my mind, better ways to fill the infield positions make him a good candidate to shop around.

As several others have said, I see this is a multi-layer process – what is done with Moss directly impacts what is done with Adams, which likely influences what is done with Peralta (although, not necessarily in that order). Matt Carpenter can play at 1B or 3B just fine, Aledmys Diaz has done everything necessary to claim the job at SS, and Kolten Wong (as already discussed) needs to spend 2017 as the starting second baseman. Jedd Gyorko will be a terrific fill-in at any of those positions, so the choice really comes down to which guy(s) — Moss, Adams, or Peralta — adds the most to the mix? Moss has flexibility, Adams has cost control and age, and Peralta has a track record.

(Full disclosure…I’ve never really been particularly high on Peralta, anyway, so that certainly influences my choice in the matter.)

Considering the recent injury and lack of playing time in 2016, Peralta’s value may not be at an all-time high. But, Mo isn’t a big “trade a guy at his peak” type, anyway! Some reinforcements for the pitching staff, or as a package deal for a center fielder…I’m good with anything that simplifies and clarifies the jobs and expectations of the players who give the Birds the best chance on the infield. For me, that means Peralta is the odd man out.

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Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed sifting through our thoughts!

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