The St. Louis Cardinals have fulfilled their long-held desire to downgrade an already-critical middle infield situation, trading outstanding defensive shortstop and post-game interview Brendan Ryan to the Seattle Mariners for Maikel Cleto, a token hard-throwing low-minors pitcher. (The good news about Cleto is that he is at least the first Google suggestion for people named Maikel. That is the extent of his renown.)â†µ
Ryan is not a worldbeater at shortstop, and his offensive contributions in 2011 are questionable at best; he might not be more than a utility infielder. But Skip Schumaker is clearly worse, and Ryan Theriot is not clearly better; by making this move the Cardinals have gone far out of their way to make the team worse, and less interesting, and less compelling, in favor of a kind of sub-six-foot replacement level homogeneity in the infield.
Tony La Russa as a manager requires a certain kind of team; that much has been clear since he joined the Cardinals. But this kind of clubhouse engineering can't go on unless the team has options in place that are not such a clear downgrade. Scott Rolen for Troy Glaus, or Ray Lankford for Woody Williams, or even J.D. Drew for Jason Marquis, Adam Wainwright, and Ray King—those are all moves that can be judged without bringing character or personality into the equation.â†µ
Trading Brendan Ryan for a 22-year-old pitcher who got bombed in the California League is, as Bernie Miklasz tweeted, impossible to view in a performance context. It's trading Brendan Ryan because the manager doesn't like him, consequences be damned, and it makes this team worse. Tony La Russa should be embarrassed he let this happen.