Ruben Tejada's availability could test Cardinals' faith in available options

JUPITER, Fla. -- The plan, the St. Louis Cardinals said, was to find out whether Aledmys Diaz, Jedd Gyorko or Greg Garcia could prove an adequate replacement while Jhonny Peralta is out. If the answer proved to be, “no,” then Plan B would be to venture outside the organization.

Now they might need to flip the equation around. They might need to decide whether they need outside help in the next few days.

According to ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin, the New York Mets have put Ruben Tejada on waivers, meaning the Cardinals could acquire him without having to part with any players from their system via trade. They would simply have to pick up his $3 million salary, provided, of course, another team doesn’t claim him first and 14 others will have access before the Cardinals do.

If they do claim Tejada, it will tell us that they don’t think Diaz is ready after a few weeks at Triple-A and that they don’t think Gyorko or Garcia is a major league-caliber shortstop. That’s not the same thing as saying they don’t have plans for those players. Tejada is the known commodity, whereas Gyorko could be a defensive liability and the other two could prove to be holes in a Cardinals’ lineup that isn’t particularly deep on paper.

If the Cardinals gamble on one of their three players in camp and it doesn't work out, they could find the outside solution isn't available to them in the weeks following Opening Day. By the time other teams would be willing to entertain trades, the Cardinals could find themselves in a hole in a hyper-competitive NL Central.

To put it another way, it will mean the Cardinals don’t consider any of their in-house alternatives to be replacement level, because Tejada is only marginally better than that. The defensive metrics weren’t good last season, but they have generally shown him to be an above-average shortstop. His .688 OPS was better than all but 13 major-league shortstops last season.

He can hit a little. He can get to routine ground balls and make the plays you would expect an average shortstop to make. Given their circumstances, that scouting report might make him the best solution at hand.

Last week, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said he hadn’t made one call about finding a replacement for Peralta, who tore a thumb ligament two weekends ago. Other GMs, on the other hand, had already called Mozeliak, the Mets’ Sandy Alderson no doubt among them. Mozeliak referred to such calls as "ambulance chasing."

The Mets now are hoping Tejada clears waivers so they can release him and save about $2.5 million of his salary. Even if that happens, the Cardinals could still make a run at Tejada. He would then become a free agent.