In a surprise move to me, the St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have unconditionally released shortstop Ronny Cedeno. The move leaves Pete Kozma uncontested as the primary shortstop entering the season and opens up a spot on the bench which is expected to be filled by slugging first baseman Matt Adams.
Cedeno, 30, was signed by the Cardinals less than two months ago to a 1 year, $1.15 million contract. He was brought onboard as insurance in the event that Rafael Furcal would be unable to be the team’s regular shortstop and that Pete Kozma’s September was just a lightning strike. Furcal headed for the surgeon’s table, but Kozma was struck twice as he is hitting .318 so far this spring.
On the other hand, Cedeno struggled early but has come on as of late, hitting .290 with a double and a home run. Defensively he has committed 2 errors in his 45 innings at shortstop. The same number as Kozma has in twice as many innings at the position.
Because he was released within two weeks of the beginning of the season, he will be owed 45 days worth of pay under the contract, which should be just less than $300,000.
That leaves the Cardinals will Daniel Descalso entering the season as the team’s primary backup at shortstop and really puts all the eggs in Kozma’s basket. While I’ve been a proponent of Descalso playing shortstop, I think he needs regular playing time there to really be a solid player. He was brutal last year at short, committing 8 errors in under 197 innings, a record setting pace.
The backup plan for those two will be Ryan Jackson and Greg Garcia. Jackson, a 5th round pick out of the University of Miami, has been viewed as the organization’s heir apparent at shortstop for the last couple years but hasn’t gotten a shot either last season or in spring training this season. Garcia, a 7th round pick out of Hawaii, has been Kolten Wong‘s double play partner since college has yet to play above AA ball and there are questions about whether his defense can stick at shortstop in the majors.
The position will be Kozma’s to lose now, but can we honestly expect him to hold onto it? What changed last September that will turn him from the career .236 hitting, .949 fielding minor leaguer into the majors’ best shortstop of the month last September.
Unless Mozeliak has a big trade up his sleeve the move doesn’t make much sense to me.