The Cards flew under the radar this trade deadline, simply acquiring RHP Edward Mujica to bolster the bullpen and dumping underperforming infielder Tyler Greene for a PTBNL from the Astros. Mujica has been great so far and rarely walks hitters, but he has demonstrated a pension for giving up the long ball in the past and can be expected to simply be a serviceable upgrade over most of the Cards ‘pen not named Mitchell Boggs or Jason Motte.
The Cards current infield situation provides for a little more interesting analysis. Zack Cox (video here) was a first round pick just two years ago and base hit his way up to Triple-A in the blink of an eye. A plus hit tool is often enough to get a guy to the majors, but Cox’s low walk rates and lack of projectable power diminish some of his offensive value and he projects to never be better than adequate defensively. With David Freese the third basemen of the future in St. Louis, Matt Carpenter providing a very similar skill set to Cox’s plus the ability to walk, and Cox’s limited range projecting very poorly for a move to second base or the outfield, there simply is nowhere to put Cox. Not to mention his 254/.294/.421 line at Triple-A shows his raw hitting ability still requires some fine tuning at the higher levels.
Removing Cox from the mix did not answer all of the Cards’ infield questions, however, as they dealt struggling infielder Tyler Greene on Thursday morning to the Astros. The team doesn’t lack infield depth with Skip Schumaker, Daniel Descalso, and Carpenter, but they added SS Ryan Jackson (video here) to the mix Thursday, bringing him up from Memphis to replace Greene.
Second base has been a question mark all season long, with neither Schumaker, Descalso, nor Greene proving worthy of winning the job outright. The original hope was that some platoon combination of Descalso/Schumaker vs. righties and Greene against lefties could be productive. Since returning from an early season oblique injury Schumaker has held up his end of the bargain at the plate, posting a .366 wOBA against righties. Defensive metrics suggest Schumaker is pretty terrible defensively in the infield, however, (from what I’ve seen I wouldn’t disagree) and he has more value as a utility man who can also play the outfield than as an every day second basemen.
Descalso has passed the eye test for being a plus defender at second and has defied all logic and his 2011 numbers by providing a reverse platoon split, hitting .323 in limited time against lefties and .210 against righties. While this suggests a Descalso/Schumaker platoon might be a solid solution, it is unlikely that Descalso’s success against lefties will continue and such a platoon would require Schumaker to log significant innings defensively at second.
Tyler Greene was supposed to be the answer to this conundrum, but his .218/.272/.358 line wasn’t helping anyone. Making a two run error and running his mouth to the press about the fans on Wednesday night was the straw that broke the camel’s back and sent him packing for Houston.
Enter Ryan Jackson. Jackson is meant to be a plus defender at shortstop and will have to adjust to the other side of the bag. At the plate he has been ok in Memphis with a .269/.331/.729 line. He shows the platoon split the Cards are looking for, however, punishing lefties to the tune of a .853 OPS in 142 at bats, while hitting just .249 against righties. At some point Jackson may transition into the shortstop of the future (Rafael Furcal’s contract runs out after 2013…his health may run out sooner), but for now he could provide a solid platoon candidate at second base with a combination of Descalso and Schumaker against righties. Let’s just hope he’s not the next Tyler Greene.