2015 was a historically bad year for injuries to the St. Louis Cardinals roster. To prepare for such a situation in 2016, the front office had alleged it would flex its “payroll muscle” to build the depth of this year’s team.
On the position player side, John Mozeliak ultimately didn’t do much with the supposed extra cash in the budget—Jedd Gyorko was a sensible addition, but he arrived via trade, not free agent spending. Brayan Pena was the only position player signed to a major league deal this winter.
The decision not to do more to upgrade an offense that lost arguably its best contributor (Jason Heyward) to the rival Cubs is one now open for criticism due to a significant injury to the starting lineup.
Shortstop Johnny Peralta is likely to miss 2-3 months with a torn ligament in his left thumb. He’s heading to St. Louis for further evaluation, but Cardinals brass aren’t even trying to feign a positive outlook on the severity of his injury. Mozeliak described the injury as the same one Yadier Molina sustained late last season.
In a spring game Saturday, Peralta ranged to his right to field a grounder. As he lowered his glove, his wrist twisted awkwardly against the ground, his thumb bearing the brunt of the force.
Video of the injury didn’t look good; it’s not difficult to see what happened here. Check it out for yourself:
For the Cardinals, this is obviously a significant blow for so early in the 2016 proceedings. From a glass-half-full perspective, the injury happened more than three weeks prior to Opening Day. This gives Mozeliak time to evaluate his roster before games start counting. All indications, however, point to Peralta not being part of the puzzle for quite some time.
“I would speculate you’re looking at some time in the middle of June, end of June, when you could expect him to return,” Mozeliak said to Dan McLaughlin during the Fox Sports Midwest broadcast of Cardinals vs. Mets on Monday.
With a proven major league middle-infielder in Ian Desmond signing a contract with the Rangers in recent days, the Cardinals narrowly missed out on what would likely have been a perfect fit in Peralta’s absence.
The Cardinals may still make an acquisition of a shortstop, but it won’t be an impact piece like Desmond would have been. Mozeliak will either sign/trade for a light-hitting, defense-first shortstop, or he’ll stand pat and let Gyorko, Greg Garcia and Aledmys Diaz hold down the fort at short.
Neither solution sounds particularly appetizing, and it makes you wonder if the Cardinals’ off-season reticence will come back to bite them.