By Adam Kaufman, from Cardsblog.com
When John Mozeliak dealt Jon Jay to the Padres in exchange for Jedd Gyorko, the original intent was simply to use him in a "super utility" role. The Cardinals' second baseman of the present and future was supposedly already on the roster in the form of Kolten Wong. As we all know, one thing led to another, and the Cardinals demoted Wong to AAA, opening up significant playing time for Gyorko at second.
Since making his major league debut in 2013, Gyorko has consistently brought the lumber, but hasn't always backed it up with his defense. He's making big strides in both areas this year, but it's prudent to treat any sort of unexpected production with a certain level of skepticism.
The Power of Gyorko
Gyorko's 25 home runs are already a career high in early September, but that lofty number is propped up by a 26.6% HR/FB rate (previous career high of 15.9%, MLB average of 10%). Furthermore, ESPN's Home Run Tracker shows that nine of his homers have had "just enough" distance to clear the wall. Long story short, Gyorko's power production this season might be more smoke and mirrors than actual growth.
On the flip side, while Gyorko has consistently rated poorly in almost every defensive metric all around the infield, his defensive work in 2016 has been well above average. After registering a -3.2 UZR at 2nd from 2014-2015, he currently has a 3.5 UZR in a fraction of the innings. While he isn't quite versatile enough to cut it as a major league shortstop, he can also hold his own at the hot corner.
Gyorko is under contract for $28 million through 2019 with a $13 club option in 2020. At an average annual value of just over $9 million per year, any level of production that nears that of this year would be a steal for that price. When you take into account that the Padres also sent over approximately $7 million to even out the deal last winter, Gyorko's contract looks even more appealing.
The St. Louis Cardinals entered the 2016 season with a hopeful attitude. They had their ace Adam Wainwright back, an improved and healthy offense, and a dominant pitcher at the back end of their bullpen. While this season certainly has not been normal in any way, no one ever thought we would be dealing with a closer conflict.
Why Deal Gyorko?
With all that being said, why would the Cards deal such a supposedly valuable asset in a time where the ball club looks primed to compete for years to come? First off, if the front office has any fear of significant regression, they would be wise to cash in on Gyorko's career year. Secondly, and perhaps most pertinently, St. Louis has a wealth of options with which to replace Gyorko if he is dealt. Matt Carpenter, Aledmys Diaz, Jhonny Peralta, and of course Kolton Wong can each play at various positions around the infield. Wong's development at the big league level is seemingly stunted by a lack of consistent playing time, and possible NL Rookie of the Year candidate Aledmys Diaz's return will only add to the infield logjam.
Now having established Gyorko as an expendable, yet still valuable right-handed power bat, it's worth taking a look at where the Cardinals could use an upgrade, and which teams might be in the market for a second basemen.
Trade Gyorko to the Royals
The Royals temporarily filled their second base hole down the stretch in 2015 by acquiring Ben Zobrist from the Athletics, but his free agency ended with him on the North side of Chicago. Cheslor Cuthbert has been a mediocre stop-gap at best, and Raul Mondesi's struggles in his short time in the majors might cause the Royals to look for an upgrade at middle infield. While Gyorko doesn't exactly fit Kansas City's style of play, the Royals do have quite a few excellent bullpen pieces that the Cards could use to supplement Seung-Hwan Oh in the back of the pen.
Trade Gyorko to the Dodgers
The 1942 team included a rookie Stan Musial, Hall-of-Famer Enos Slaughter, and season MVP, Mort Cooper (who went 22-7 with a 1.78 ERA).
While the Dodgers have benefited from a renaissance season of sorts from Chase Utley, at age 37, he can't be counted on for that sort of production in the future. Since Utley is a free agent at the end of the season, the Dodgers could choose to go in a different direction and look at Gyorko. The Dodgers' most talked about trade piece has been Yasiel Puig, and while he comes with quite a bit of baggage, the talent is unquestionable. It wouldn't be Mozeliak's style, but Matt Holiday's impending free agency could open up a spot in the outfield that Puig could fill.
Trade Gyorko to the Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are going to need to find a way to either hold on to their two big free agents next year in Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, or come up with some sort of replacement for the huge power numbers they consistently put up. Devon Travis has failed to get the job done at second this year, and Gyorko adds another right-handed power bat to pair with Troy Tulowitzki in the feared Jays lineup.
Of course, the flip side of all of this is that having this sort of depth is never a bad thing. Injuries and underperformance is part of the game of baseball, and preparation for those situations has always been a strength of the Cardinals organization. That being said, if a power-hungry team comes along and puts together a reasonable offer for Jedd Gyorko, St. Louis shouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger.
After the Cardinals 2014 season ended, many questions faced a successful team that just could not beat the Giants on an even year. The organization had to deal with some of their darkest hours after the death of Oscar Taveras, mourning the loss of a bright young star who had the world ahead of him and wondering how their beloved Cardinals would recover.