Is Ronny Cedeno an upgrade?

Over the weekend there have been a couple reports out of Venezuela saying that shortstop Ronny Cedeno has signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. When given an opportunity to comment on it this weekend, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said that the team wasn’t going to make any baseball related announcements this weekend out of respect for Stan Musial and his family. In other words, a subliminal “yes.”

But is Ronny Cedeno an upgrade over what we already have in house? Bernie Miklasz doesn’t think so and offers up ZiPS projections for Cedeno, Pete Kozma, and Ryan Jackson. So what do we have in house?

In 104 major league plate appearances, Pete Kozma has a batting slash line of .303/.373/.506. However, those numbers are a far cry from his career minor league numbers which has a slash line of .236/.308/.344. Safe to say that Kozma’s numbers will drop greatly at the plate this coming season.

Ryan Jackson, viewed by most as the organization’s best internal candidate, has a career minor league line of .267/.335/.370. That’s better than Kozma but not a huge improvement over him. Whether it was bad timing or something that turned Mike Matheny off of him last September, he only got 17 at bats and was able to muster just two hits as he didn’t even amass a full inning of playing time at his primary position, not even fielding a ball there in the majors.

Meanwhile Cedeno’s major league hitting numbers aren’t impressive either. He’s played parts of 8 seasons in the major leagues with the Cubs, Pirates, Mets, and Mariners. His career slash line is .247/.290/.357. Not impressive at all.

But I think that the team’s desire to pick up a shortstop goes well beyond the offensive. Kozma is a career .948 fielder at shortstop in the minors, a .966 in just over 200 major league innings there. Jackson’s career number is .964 in the minor leagues. Cedeno’s is a proven .970 in the major leagues in over 4500 innings. Over the last two years’, Cedeno’s glove has a .976 fielding percentage, that’s better than any season Rafael Furcal has put up since he left Atlanta.

Yes, fielding percentage isn’t all telling and there are more advanced metrics. But the facts are that the more advanced metrics aren’t really there for minor league performance and I think we will all agree that Kozma played out of his mind last September. History over the last couple years has shown that the Cardinals need a steady glove at shortstop. Cedeno is that, and he’s proven to be that in the majors. His bat isn’t impressive and may be less than what you can get out of Kozma or Jackson, but he has the experience that they lack so that errors don’t pile up.

If he has in fact signed with the Cardinals for 2013, it’s the final piece in a solid offseason for the Cardinals, who checked off everything they needed this offseason. Left handed reliever? Check (Randy Choate). Right handed utility bat off the bench with power? Check (Ty Wigginton). Backup shortstop with solid defense? Could be a check. Not flashy, but it should get the job done.

Edit: The Cardinals have confirmed the signing of Ronny Cedeno to a one-year deal. Worth $1.15 million according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and potentially up to $2 million if he meets all the incentive clauses. To make room on the 40 man, the Cardinals have removed Barret Browning.