Cardinals prepared to trade young starting pitching this winter for a shortstop upgrade

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Cardinals GM John Mozeliak is not being shy about his primary offseason strategy:

There are a couple of shortstop options on the free agent market in Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew, but the Cardinals would rather use their surplus of starting pitching to get a longer-term, more-reliable upgrade.

Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggested earlier this month that Lance Lynn or Shelby Miller, both in the pre-arbitration stage, could be dangled in the search for Pete Kozma’s replacement. Kozma is a 25-year-old former first-round pick who fits part of Mo’s desired shortstop profile — young and controllable — but he had a brutal .652 OPS in the minors and owns a .608 OPS in 185 big league games.

The Cards have a ton of money coming off the books this winter between Carlos Beltran, Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook and Rafael Furcal, so a big contract won’t necessarily be a roadblock. That’s why we’ve seen St. Louis involved in speculation for the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki and the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus.

The 2013 National League champs currently carry eight legitimate MLB starters in Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Joe Kelly, Jaime Garcia, Trevor Rosenthal, Miller and Lynn.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.