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Cardinals Acquire Ryan Theriot

As seen here, yesterday, as written by yours truly, regarding the Juan Uribe acquisition:

If the move is simply to replace [Ryan] Theriot with Uribe, it is a mistake.

If I’m one to stick by my words, then I have to call this deal a mistake, seeing as the Dodgers just traded Ryan Theriot to the Cardinals in exchange for Blake Hawksworth. While I will under most circumstances stick to arguments I make, even if I believe them less and less, I did omit one detail about the Dodgers’ infield situation. They still have Jamey Carroll under contract for 2011. Carroll has been a passable utility man for the past three seasons, and has had only a handful of truly poor seasons in his career. He will play the part for which I had Theriot pinned, and for less money.

Forgive me, guys?

Before examining what the Dodgers received in exchange for Theriot, let’s see how the man helps his new team. The Cardinals do have infield problems once they get to the right of Albert Pujols. Skip Schumaker has played second for the past few seasons, but last season he ranked last in WAR among second basemen with 450 or more PA. He could certainly rebound from his .299 wOBA, but it will be much tougher to recover on defense, where he’s been a perpetual liability.

At shortstop, Brendan Ryan tanked in 2010. His defense was good — perhaps better than any other season of his career. But he produced a mere .256 wOBA, which amounted to the worst batting runs above average among shortstops not named Cesar Izturis. His defense helped him produce one lonely WAR. Again, he could rebound with the bat a bit in 2011, but now the Cardinals are banking on two bounce backs.

When he was healthy David Freese provided the Cardinals with some offense at the hot corner. He didn’t hit for much power — just a .108 ISO — but he did hit for average and get on base. He also got hurt plenty and was limited to just 270 PA. While he’ll get a chance to redeem himself in 2011, he joins his fellow infields in need of a bounce back. It’s tough for the Cardinals to count on all that happening. That’s why Theriot makes a degree of sense.

Then again, they’re also banking on Theriot himself bouncing back. On defense he’ll keep plenty of balls on the infield. Unfortunately, even if he does rebound he’ll do much of the same on offense. The best case scenario, I’d think, is that his OBP reaches his .348 career mark and he provides some relief at one of the three infield positions. But, again, that’s contingent upon his recovery from a poor 2011. The Cardinals are doing a lot of hoping in the infield.

(As a result, I suspect, this is just one of many moves, and that ideally they consider Theriot a utility guy rather than a starter at any of the three positions. I thought they might prefer his glove to Schumaker’s at second. Ken Rosenthal says the Cards prefer Theriot at short.)

In return for a player they may well have non-tendered on Thursday evening, the Dodgers received Blake Hawksworth, a former top prospect in the Cardinals system. After the 2009 season, in which he pitched 40 innings in the majors, Baseball America ranked him the team’s No. 8 farm hand. Yet that wasn’t his first appearance on the Cardinals’ top 10. He was actually the team’s No.1 prospect in 2004, but various injuries held him back for the next five seasons.

He had been a starter throughout his minor league career, but in 2009 the Cardinals used him out of the bullpen. Then did the same in 2010, though he did get eight starts. His numbers were quite a bit better in relief, and I imagine that’s where the Dodgers plan to use him in 2011. Though, considering my wrongness on Theriot’s role with the Dodgers, and even the Cardinals, I’m not sure I’d trust my guess right there.

This trade won’t have major implications for the 2011 Dodgers and Cardinals, but it was a sensible one for both sides. The Cardinals added a player who might help them shore up an infield that has considerable issues. The Dodgers got another component for their bullpen. It’s always nice to see two teams match up in small deals like this and make their teams better, even on a reduced scale.