Why a Descalso/Greene Middle Infield Makes Sense (In Other Words, Trust Mo On This One)
In today’s Post Dispatch, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak rattled some cages with his suggestion that he is strongly considering Daniel Descalso at second base and former TLR whipping boy Tyler Greene at shortstop. Fans reacted with confusion and anger, as many of them want to see a splashy, big-name star finally inherit positions that the team has undervalued for years.
But trust Mo on this one. He’s playing chess instead of checkers.
While it might be nice to see a triple threat like Jose Reyes manning shortstop or someone like Orlando Cabrera or Craig Counsell at second, these would be costly additions (particularly Reyes) to a team struggling to make financial room for a contract on living legend Albert Pujols. It makes little sense to heavily invest in superstars at these two positions when the Cardinals have won the Series two times in five years while acting like our middle infield is the equivalent of HUD housing.
I have long championed Greene getting a solid chance to prove himself. Under TLR, Greene would’ve played shortstop only if God showed up and threatened to kill a puppy unless Greene played. Now that TLR is gone (HALLELUIAH!), Greene might actually be able to breathe and play up to his capabilities. Thus far, Greene has been a bit of an enigma; game-changing speed, good-to-spectacular defense, and frustrating plate discipline. Could a manager like Mike Matheny be able to coax Greene out of his shell? I’m betting he will.
Descalso is the more curious choice at second. He rarely played the position in 2011, with just 18 games there and no errors in 58 chances. I’m not too worried about Descalso’s glove, though; he’s a solid defensive player regardless of where he plays. I’m more concerned with his bat. I actually liked TLR’s suggestion to make Allen Craig the second baseman, thereby getting his electric bat into the lineup. Descalso had some nice clutch at bats throughout the season, but he’s basically a bottom-of-the-order guy who was constantly over-exposed by TLR. Still, this is a position where you can get defense and not worry as much about offense.
But Mozeliak is looking deeper into the problem than simply filling positions with stars for 2012. By choosing Descalso and Greene, Mozeliak would be placing cheap, effective, and cost-controlled players in positions in order to bridge the gap into the exciting 2013/2014 influx of young, star-caliber talent coming up from the minors.
Instead of having a Reyes making $20 million a year on a long-termed contract (while spending 60% of that time on the DL), Cardinal fans will see star-in-the-making rookie Ryan Jackson playing shortstop at league minimum for several years. And instead of paying Cabrera $10 million a year at second base, fans will fall in love with super-hitting rookie Kolten Wong holding it down instead.
Again, Cardinal fans need to trust Mozeliak a little more. He’s an intelligent and thoughtful GM who looks at the larger picture. He’s not in this to make big, splashy moves and generate headlines. He has a careful eye on the pocketbook. And, best of all, he wants to develop young talent that can compete for years to come.