I”m a little late to the party, but the Cardinals did indeed unload Brendan Ryan over the weekend, to the Seattle Mariners for minor-league right-hander Maikel Cleto. Although the Cardinals had made it pretty clear, following the Ryan Theriot signing, they intended to off-load Ryan I was still mildly surprised they followed through. Ryan had a tough 2010 at the plate but still graded out as one of the best (if not the best) defensive shortstop in the NL (UZR/150, Dewan +/- being the metrics of choice here).
Some teams seem to value defense higher than others. The Boston Red Sox seem to, the San Diego Padres are moving in that direction, and the Mariners definitely do. It’s not surprising at all Ryan would end up in the Pacific Northwest based solely on his glove. Dave Cameron of USS Mariner thinks his offensive dip last season is explainable and not indicative of his true talent level (to be fair, he thinks Ryan’s 2009 season is above what should be expected from the shortstop on a year-to-year basis).
There are two things that bother me about this trade. The first is this comment from another USS Mariner author regarding Cleto:
In return, we say farewell to Maikel Cleto, the piece of the J.J. Putz trade that offered the most upside when the deal went down. Cleto came to the organization as a fireballer who did not have a good idea of how to harness his power arsenal, and two years later, that’s still pretty much all he is. He has struggled with visa issues, command, secondary stuff, and elbow soreness in his two years in the system, and he is a pretty solid bet to end up in the ‘pen.
Cleto sounds like a project, and a pretty big one at that. I’m certainly no expert on the minor league system, and have no idea at all on the relative strengths between the Mariner pitching development staffs and the Cardinals one, but consider this. Cleto throws hard but is now joining his third organization in the last 4 years. Neither of the two previous teams he played for were able to sculpt his approach and advance him out of A-ball. Is it reasonable to expect the Cardinals to have more success than these clubs?
The other is the implication that Ryan was a problem in the clubhouse. If true – and there’s no reason for me to challenge the veracity of Joe Strauss’ reporting – that’s the third player on the 2010 roster we’ve heard this about. Felipe Lopez was dismissed from the team before the season ended and Colby Rasmus popped up as someone on the trade block, with both moves filed under the ‘clubhouse chemistry’ tag. Not to mention the Lance Berkman acquisition was hailed as one which would help the clubhouse culture.
There are some pretty senior and successful players on this roster – Chris Carpenter, Albert Pujols, and Yadier Molina to name a couple. Then there’s the longest-tenured manager in the game today running the show and setting the tone. How is it possible these individuals would let the clubhouse atmosphere get that poisonous? What’s really been going on inside the locker room?