The St. Louis Cardinals are the best overall organization in the majors right now, headlined by gobs of pitching talent loaded with equal measures of proximity and high impact potential. And they have depth almost everywhere, but if there's one weakness it's absolutely in the middle infield. They looked at the shortstop market this winter, with an eye towards making a move some time in the near future, but for now they settled on incumbent veteran Rafael Furcal.
Well, now Furcal's elbow is injured, and it could mean Tommy John surgery; he's on his way to Dr. James Andrews. Pete Kozma and Ronny Cedeno are currently their backup options, but with so much depth everywhere else in their system, it would be silly not to use it to fill in this obvious weakness. I want to sell them on Jose Iglesias.
Apart from a 0.4% deficit to the Braves in 2010, Cardinals pitchers have led the majors in groundball percentage four years running. Offensively, they scored the second most runs in the NL last year, having led the league in 2011. Their formula for success there has been power and average on the corners, quarterbacked by a future-HOF catcher. St. Louis might be the best fit possible for Iglesias. His defense is the elite of the elite, Brendan Ryan-caliber. His offense has been slow in developing, but the Cardinals have the production elsewhere to carry him.
Whom do I most covet among St. Louie's stable? OK, besides Oscar Taveras? Yeah, and besides those young studs in St. Louis' near-term plans, Miller, Rosenthal, and Kelly? The one that got away, pitcher Carlos Martinez. As a seventeen-year-old Dominican amateur, he and the Red Sox agreed to terms at less than $200,000 in the summer of 2009. He was then known as Carlos Matias because his uncle took him in when his mother died shortly after childbirth. Uncle Matias, however, did not fill out the paperwork properly. There was no purposeful misrepresentation, and his birth date and age were all in order. But the last name wasn't right, the deal with the Red Sox was nullified, the kid was suspended, and former Red Sox VP of international scouting Craig Shipley allowed the experience to sour his interests in the Dominican.
A year later, after his suspension, Martinez had added velocity into the upper nineties and was one of the top pitchers among international amateurs. The Cardinals signed him for a $1.5M bonus, and he reached Double-A last summer before his twenty-first birthday. Though his projected durability has been questioned, he's widely considered one of the best pitching prospects in the game, well regarded especially for his fastball. His current overall rankings: Baseball America 38, Keith Law 39, Baseball Prospectus 43, Jonathan Mayo 33. Sickels grades him at A- (borderline B+), along with fellow righties the Mets' Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard; he seems to be the highest on Martinez.
Clearly the value is not equal with Iglesias, and Boston would have to give up more. That's tough given how well-stocked St. Louis is in general--and how disinterested in acquisitions they've been this offseason--but a solution could be found. Even if that's not possible (Martinez has been considered untouchable, at least at one point two years ago), there still could be interest in Iglesias, and the Red Sox could get back value in return.