Does the Cardinals’ infield need an upgrade?

A lot has been made of the Cardinals’ outfield situation by the Cardsblog team, and that is no accident. It is true that outfield defense and speed was the number one priority for Mozeliak this offseason, and it appears as though his mission was accomplished with the signing of Dexter Fowler. However, This Cardinals team is still far from perfect, and one of the areas where they need significant help is the infield. Many are concerned about Jhonny Peralta’s return, and for good reason. Though John discussed keeping Jhonny Peralta earlier this week, I take a look at the other option, trading him away for another third baseman, Todd Frazier.

The state of the infield

The outfield defense has been maligned, but the infield defense is not much better. Right now the infield is set up with Carpenter at first, Wong at second, Diaz at shortstop, Peralta at third and Gyorko off the bench as a utility infielder. Of these five players, Wong is the only one that grades out as a plus defender, and barely at that. The Cardinals will be counting on a lot of offensive production to offset these defensive weaknesses.  If Peralta regresses enough, his defense may become a huge liability. The Cardinals’ defense was abysmal last year, costing them 33 runs over the course of the season. Inserting an aging Peralta at third base is likely to harm them more than help.

Why Frazier?

This is purely a case study, as there are no rumors connecting Frazier and the Cardinals as of now,  but there are a lot of pros to going after Frazier. For one, we know he’s available. The White Sox are officially in complete rebuild mode after trading away Sale and Eaton. Frazier is a free agent in 2017 and there’s no reason for the White Sox to keep a 30 year old third baseman for a rebuild. Plus, the White Sox already shopped him to the Dodgers until they signed Justin Turner.

In case you forgot his time on the Reds, Todd Brian Frazier can hit. He’s averaged .250/.317/.464 with 30 HR over the course of his career. That’s a lot of power coming out of a third baseman, and Frazier is already familiar with the NL central. It’s true he had a down year in Chicago hitting .225/.302/.464 but he still manage to hit 40 bombs.

The main draw from Frazier is his defense. Frazier’s defense isn’t gold glove worthy, but it is on the plus side and consistent. Again, he had a down year in 2016, but that was the only year in his career where he’s posted negative defense numbers. Other than that, he’s been consistently positive, which is more than what we can say for the other Cardinal infielders. A steady defensive presence at third would be serve to solidify a pretty weak infield.

Why not Frazier?

There are a couple of problems of going after Frazier. For one his offensive strengths don’t exactly line up with what the Cardinals need. A .317 OBP is worrisome, especially for a team that already has a below average OBP. The dingers are nice, but the Cardinals already hit plenty of those last season, and adding 40 with not much else doesn’t seem like a huge benefit.

On the defensive side, Frazier’s strength is also part of his weakness. He may be consistent, but he’s just consistently average. If the Cardinals really want to upgrade on defense, they should be looking for gold glove or near gold glove caliber defense to justify the prospects they’ll be giving up. Plus, it looks as though Frazier’s defense may be in the decline, and if that’s the case Frazier provides almost no benefit on the offensive and defensive side.

It’s true that the White Sox are shopping Sale, but since he is a free agent in 2017 he’ll mostly likely end up being a rental player. As such the Cardinals have to really look at the package they’ll be giving up for just one year of Todd Frazier.

The Verdict

Frazier is undoubtedly a good player, and he could provide a lot of value to some major league teams, but he’s just not a good fit with the Cardinals. Its hard to justify giving up a lot for one year of a player who looks to be declining both offensively and defensively. His offense may be potent, but the Cardinals don’t need power, they need speed and defense. The infield situation isn’t as dire as the outfield, so the Cardinals would be much better off if they let the season play out and see how Peralta does. Todd Frazier may not even be a huge upgrade over Peralta, so I don’t see a reason for the Cardinals to give up any prospects for the slugging third baseman.

Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports