(Baseball StL) -- Cardinal fans want the head of Fox Sports broadcaster Ken Rosenthal on a pike after he speculated on national TV that third baseman David Freese could be trade bait.
Rosenthal’s point was that with the wealth of the Cards minor league talent, and the fact that Freese could be due a substantial raise, he was a candidate to be shipped out to move Matt Carpenter to third and bring up Kolton Wong.
Two things; 1). It’s a viable scenario although not likely. 2). Get used to it.
The Birds have perhaps the most talent in their minor league system of any organization in baseball. Certainly more pitching. But the following is also true:
1). There are only 9 spots on the field and room for about a dozen pitchers. Ergo, not everyone who deserves to can make the big club.
2). The Cardinals can’t pay everyone what they will command once they reach arbitration-eligible status.
3). Too much talent is a curse because bona fide starters who languish on the bench or in the minors create a poisonous atmosphere. (The Cubs just suspended Ian Stewart, a former starting third baseman, for Tweeting out his frustration at being trapped in the minors with little hope of advancing.)
Clubs are already inquiring whether Matt Adams is available since he appears to be blocked at first base by Allen Craig. Rumors will swirl. Scenarios will be explored. Fans will sound off and options will be weighed.
It is the nature of the beast. But before all that, let’s look at a few realities.
Teams trade for one of two reasons; 1). To get something they need. 2). To get rid of something they don’t need or, don’t want.
Sometimes number two is more compelling than number one. Brendan Ryan is perhaps the best fielding shortstop in baseball. But he was a flake who did not mesh with the Cardinals’ laser-like focus. Colby Rasmus thought he was still in Little League and listened to his Dad, not his coaches.
Marc Rzepcynski has been molding away in AAA after he failed to demonstrate the proper attitude and if he didn’t get his mind right, he may be one who would fit that category.
But sometimes a team trades away a player even though it likes and respects him because the organization has too much talent at that position and (see reason one), it can get something that will help the club.
What do the Cardinals – a team 20 games over .500 – need? The most common first response is usually a better shortstop.
And that is dead wrong.
Pete Kozma is a former #1 draft pick who is still developing. His fielding percentage is third in baseball behind Troy Tulotwitzski and Stephen Drew. He has the most hits batting 8th in baseball. His stats are almost identical to the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus and better than Drew.
The only things the Birds could use is a thumper who could jack 35-40 a year (where would he play?) or a little more stability in the bullpen (yet another pitcher?).
Here’s why the Freese-for-somebody trade wouldn’t seem to be imminent. Every team needs a core of veterans to build around. A team full of rookies is like herding cats. Only 9 players remain from the 2011 World Series (only 7 of which are playing) in which Freese was NLCS and World Series MVP. His recent 20-game hitting streak shows he can still produce at a high level and he has the respect of his teammates, at least as far as we know. Plenty of money will be available next year with expiring contracts to pay Freese.
Wong may be ready for a debut but that doesn’t necessarily translate into instant production and reliability for a championship team. It would be a disservice to him and the rest of the Cardinals to thrust him into the role of the guy who took David Freese’s spot and expect him to handle the pressure and expectations. That’s how promising prospects become neurotic wash-outs.
There’s also the issue of chemistry, that intangible element that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts. The Cards have it and any tinkering, no matter how well intentioned, can destroy it.