Cardinals looking for upgrade over Brendan Ryan at shortstop

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Brendan Ryan is one of the elite defensive shortstops in baseball, but he followed up a solid 2009 season at the plate by hitting just .223 with a lowly .573 OPS this year and general manager John Mozeliak told Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that the Cardinals will look to upgrade the position this offseason.

Mozeliak indicated that they may also look to upgrade over Skip Schumaker at second base, but shortstop is a higher priority because there’s more optimism about Schumaker bouncing back from his poor 2010:

The basic agenda is how can we get more offense out of those positions or both. There is a school of thought that Skip will produce more than he did last year. There’s a comfort level of that being probable. In Brendan’s case you would hope there would be some improvement, too. But if there were a way to address one of those positions in a positive way, we would pursue it. We probably have more of an emphasis on short than second at this point.

Buster Olney of ESPN.com reported yesterday that the Cardinals “will likely be aggressive in pursuit of Juan Uribe” and Strauss has written previously that manager Tony La Russa would like to bring in Miguel Tejada.” Uribe and and especially Tejada would be a clear downgrade from Ryan defensively, but based on Mozeliak’s comments the Cardinals are focused on improving the offense even if it means sacrificing some glove work.

Yankees acquire James Paxton from Mariners

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The Yankees announced that the club has acquired starter James Paxton from the Mariners in exchange for three prospects: pitcher Justus Sheffield, outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams, and pitcher Erik Swanson.

Paxton, 30, has been among the game’s better starters over the past few years. In 2018, he went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA and a 208/42 K/BB ratio in 160 1/3 innings. The lefty has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining after earning $4.9 million this past season.

Sheffield, 22, is the headliner in the Mariners’ return. He made his major league debut in September for the Yankees, pitching 2 2/3 innings across three appearances. Two of those appearances were scoreless; in the third, he gave up a three-run home run to J.D. Martinez, certainly not an uncommon result among pitchers. MLB Pipeline rates Sheffield as the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect and No. 31 overall in baseball.

Thompson-Williams, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. This past season, between Single-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, he hit .299/.363/.546 with 22 home runs, 74 RBI, 63 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in 415 plate appearances. He was not among the Yankees’ top-30 prospects, per MLB Pipeline.

Swanson, 25, was selected by the Yankees in the eighth round of the 2014 draft. He spent most of his 2018 campaign between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Overall, he posted a 2.66 ERA with a 139/29 K/BB ratio in 121 2/3 innings. MLB Pipeline rated him No. 22 in the Yankees’ system.

This trade comes as no surprise as the Yankees clearly wanted to upgrade the starting rotation and the Mariners seemed motivated to trade Paxton this offseason. To the Mariners’ credit, they got a solid return for Paxton, as Sheffield likely becomes the organization’s No. 1 prospect. The only worries about this trade for the Yankees is how Paxton will fare in the more hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium compared to the spacious Safeco Field, and Paxton’s durability. Paxton has made more than 20 starts in a season just twice in his career — the last two years (24 and 28). The Yankees are likely not done adding, however. Expect even more new faces before the start of spring training.