The Indians are listening to trade offers for All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera this winter. The Cardinals lack an immediate replacement for veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal, whose torn elbow ligament makes him a major 2013 question mark.
So as Post-Dispatch scribe Joe Strauss noted in his live chat, the Cardinals should be one of many teams exploring the Cabrera option this winter. As luck would have it, John Mozeliak has some attractive assets stacking up on his depth chart.
Both sides are positioned and motivated to deal.
Cabrera has two years left on his current deal, so Cleveland can demand plenty for him in a trade. He is not merely a rental.
He will make an affordable $6.5 million in 2013 and a still-reasonable $10 million in 2014, so general manager Chris Antonetti doesn’t have to move him to make budget.
On the other hand, newcomer Mike Aviles could fill in at shortstop while the Indians wait for Juan Diaz, Tony Wolters, Ronny Rodriguez or Francisco Lindor to develop into the long-term answer. Aviles played shortstop for the Red Sox much of last season and is a credible option.
The Indians have no chance to contend next season, so this would be an optimal time to move some near-term assets for longer-range prospects.
The Cardinals have players Cleveland could use. The Indians are OK at shortstop for the near term, but they have plenty of needs elsewhere.
Here are a few possible chips Mozeliak could play without flinching:
Seth Blair, SP: He sits behind power pitchers Trevor Rosenthal, Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha in the Cardinals pecking order. But he still offers more promise than many of the current Indians starting pitching prospects. Blair’s Arizona Fall League performance should send his stock soaring. In five starts, he is 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings. He was the 40th overall pick in the 2010 draft out of Arizona State, so he would come with a strong pedigree.
Matt Adams, 1B/DH: He drove in 13 runs during his first 86 big league at bats last season. The Slippery Rock slugger rose quickly through the minors. His demolished the Texas League in 2011 (.300, 31 homers, 102 RBIs, .923 OPS) and continued that production this season (.986 OPS at Memphis). After surgery to remove a bone chip from his elbow, he should be ready for regular MLB duty last season. But Allen Craig seems entrenched at first base for the Cardinals, especially with blue-chip outfield prospect Oscar Taveras ready to bid for big league work.
Matt Carpenter, Utility: Manager Mike Matheny loves his lively bat, strong work ethic and defensive versatility. He wants to get Carpenter plenty of 2013 at bats. To do that, he will give him a look at second base in the spring. But what if Furcal ends up playing some second base after the Cardinals add a shortstop? And what if second base prospect Kolten Wong (currently hitting .329 in the AFL) has a great spring? Carpenter is a corner infielder by trade and the Cardinals have starters entrenched in those spots.
Eduardo Sanchez, RP: Back in 2011 he played a critical role in the team’s playoff push, going 3-1 with five saves, a 1.80 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 30 innings. Shoulder soreness cut short his '11 campaign and poor command derailed him last season. Sanchez, 23, remains a commodity. But three Cardinals appear set at the back of the bullpen next season with Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs and Edward Mujica.
Jorge Rondon, RP: The Cardinals recently added this hard thrower to their 40-man roster. He remains unpolished, but solid stints at both Springfield (3.44 ERA) and Memphis (3.60 ERA) last season suggest he is finally progressing. Several power pitchers block his path to the majors, however, so he could become a trade chip.
Cleveland could hold out for one of the big three Cardinals pitching prospects (Rosenthal, Miller and Kelly). The Indians could even demand Lance Lynn while driving up the bidding for Cabrera among multiple suitors.
Our standard position in this corner of cyberspace is to oppose any trade that swaps quality pitching for position help, given the industry-wide shortage of quality pitching.
Would Mozeliak heed that advice if the right opportunity came along? Or would he be willing to deal from his long-term team strength to fill his major lineup need?
Other teams will come calling, so Mozeliak should be a popular man at the GM meetings and beyond.