Rarely does a spring training pass without at least one or two key players going down with a significant injury, and this year has been no different.
After entering the offseason without any glaring needs on their roster, the St. Louis Cardinals now find themselves in need of shortstop after Rafael Furcal was lost for the year.
Furcal played his final game last season on August 30, as an elbow injury sidelined him the remainder of the regular season and throughout the postseason.
The 35-year-old opted for rest and rehab this offseason instead of surgery, but on March 7 the team announced that he would undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery (h/t ESPN).
Pete Kozma would appear to be first in line among in-house options to replace Furcal, while Ronny Cedeno is an option as well.
Kozma hit .333/.383/.569 with 14 RBI in 26 games after replacing the injured Furcal last season, but it remains to be seen if he can maintain that level of production in extended action.
Though the 24-year-old was a first-round pick back in 2007, he's hit just .236/.308/.344 in six minor league seasons and has put up consistently mediocre numbers every step of the way.
Cedeno, though more experienced, is far from an attractive option either.
He is entering his ninth big league season and has a .247/.290/.357 triple slash line. That was enough to earn him a one-year, $1.15 million contract this offseason, but that was with the intention of him serving as a utility infielder.
Prospect Ryan Jackson, who went 2-for-17 in a late-season call-up last year, is also a dark horse option. He hit .272/.334/.396 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI in Triple-A last season.
The other option would be to explore the trade market, and there is no doubt that Andrus is the most attractive option who could potentially be available.
Andrus' name was kicked around off and on throughout the offseason, as the presence of top prospect Jurickson Profar leaves the Rangers with a potential surplus of middle infielders.
While the 20-year-old Profar has gone just 8-for-36 (.222) this spring, there is no denying his upside after he put up terrific numbers in Double-A last year before receiving a late-season call-up. He should be able to at least hold his own as the everyday shortstop.
An Andrus for Justin Upton trade was kicked around in the offseason (h/t USA Today), but the sides were never able to come to terms. However, that should give an idea of the type of return the Rangers would expect for Andrus.
Andrus has been a 4-WAR player the past two years, as his offensive game has continued to evolve alongside his terrific defense and top-flight speed.
He is also signed for just $11.275 million over the next two years, adding to his value. By comparison, Furcal holds a $7 million salary for 2013.
Outfield prospect Oscar Taveras is likely untouchable, but the Cardinals could still put together a deep package of young talent for the Rangers.
Slugging first base prospect Matt Adams (18 HR, .986 OPS in Triple-A) is essentially expendable with Allen Craig taking over as the everyday first baseman.
Beyond that, shipping either Trevor Rosenthal or Joe Kelly to Texas in the deal would help the Rangers fill a major need.
Prospect Martin Perez was expected to fill the No. 5 starter spot in Texas, but a fractured ulna will sideline him to open the season.
In the wake of that injury, the team has been left scrambling with Robbie Ross, Justin Grimm and Derek Lowe competing for a rotation spot.
Adding in another high-upside prospect like Carlos Martinez and throwing in Kozma to give the Rangers a replacement for Andrus could push the deal over the top for Texas.
On the other side, it would still leave the Cardinals with their top two prospects in Taveras and Shelby Miller.
So to recap the potential deal:
SS Elvis Andrus
SP Carlos Martinez
SP Trevor Rosenthal or Joe Kelly
1B Matt Adams
SS Pete Kozma
The deal would help both sides, not only in the short term with the Cardinals filling their shortstop void and the Rangers filling their rotation void, but in the long term as well (provided that the Cardinals can lock up Andrus and Martinez pans out and fulfills his potential).
It would help bridge the expected gap between the Reds and Cardinals in the NL Central, and could help the Rangers get off to a better start in the AL West while they wait for both Perez and Colby Lewis to return to the pitching staff.
It remains to be seen if the Rangers have any interest in moving Andrus, but if they do, a deal with the Cardinals before the season starts may be their best move.
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