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Give the Cardinals credit for innovative thinking. Often we see teams turn defensively sluggish second basemen into outfielders, but rarely do we see outfielders turning into second basemen. In fact, the only outfield-to-second transition I could come up with is Jeff Baker, who played third base, the outfield, and first base before spending 49 games at second this year. His defense actually got worse if you rely on that one data point.

In case you hadn’t heard yet, there’s a possibility of former part-time college shortstop Skip Schumaker moving to second base. The odds of this occurring are rising given Adam Kennedy’s release. Schumaker will have competition from players familiar with the middle infield, like Joe Thurston and Brendan Ryan, but for a team stacked with outfielders the Cardinals are at least trying to put their best eight on the field.

Unfortunately, it may not work out.

Moving from the corner outfield to second gives Schumaker roughly 10 more runs in value – or a win – considering he would earn -7.5 runs in either corner and 2.5 at second. CHONE projects his bas to be worth 0.2 runs while Marcels says 0.9 runs. Let’s be generous and assume Schumaker’s 2008 offense would repeat, 6 runs above average. Schumaker’s outfield defense has yet to rate as anything but average. That raises the question, how poor defensively can he stand to be at second base and still hold value?

Over the last five years, the worst defensive second basemen with at least 500 innings have been Jeff Kent (-11.5), Dan Uggla (-13), Jose Vidro (-14.2), Robinson Cano (-18.4), and Vidro again (-13.5). That’s an average of -14 runs. If we assume Schumaker is at least -14 and at worst -20 runs at second base we come up with the following:

OFF: 6
POS: 2.5
REP: 20
DEF: -14

14.5 runs/1.45 wins.

OFF: 6
POS: 2.5
REP: 20
DEF: -20

8.5 runs/0.85 wins.

The first scenario isn’t too bad, but Adam Kennedy was worth 1.7 wins last year. If the Cardinals are looking for an upgrade they need Schumaker to improve on an all ready generous offensive estimate or be better than hideous at second base. The Fans Scouting Report does suggest that Schumarker has a good first step, speed, and an arm that would seemingly play up at second base. In fact, his most similar fielders include two second basemen, Howie Kendrick and Robert Andino. Both of those are above average fielding second basemen.

Schumaker’s conversion will be one of the more interesting stories in spring training. If this works out, the Cardinals will successfully reallocate assets on the diamond without taking on excess salary or baggage.

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Dave Cameron

As the guy who thinks that defense at second base is far easier to find than MLB teams may think, I’m quite excited to see this play out.