Currently, Luis Sardinas is the clear front-runner to start for the Padres at shortstop in 2017. GM A.J. Preller has repeatedly said he is looking for someone to compete with Sardinas for that role during spring training. Whether he will find someone to do so is unknown at this time. What can be said definitively is that Rule-5 selection Allen Cordoba will not be one to challenge Sardinas.
The Allen Cordoba selection was obviously made with eyes toward the future. A.J. Preller saw a talent in Cordoba that was simply too good to pass up, especially for a franchise that is so starved for talent at the shortstop position. Keeping him in the organization, though, is going to be really difficult.
As everyone knows, Rule-5 selections cost $100k and have to stay on the big league team for the entire season, or they will be offered back to their former team for $50k. Keeping Cordoba, a 21-year-old (whose highest level is the Appalachian League) in the Major Leagues is obviously going to be really difficult. If Cordoba somehow breaks camp with the Padres and makes the team, the idea would be to place him in a “protected” utility man role for 2017. This means that he will likely start every once in a while. Think of the situation that the Padres placed Perdomo in to start last year. For the first few months, he pitched in blowout games only. This same scenario could happen with Cordoba, in which he is only placed in blowout games or extra inning affairs.
This actually sounds good at the forefront, right? However, it is a whole lot easier to “protect” a pitcher than it is a position player with the way that MLB 25-man rosters are constructed. You cannot hide a position player from the game, no matter how hard you try. Eventually, he’s going to have to play.
Allen Cordoba will have to prove in camp that he has close to Major League-ready talent, something that will be extremely difficult. The game speeds up tremendously through each professional level. Going from A-ball to MLB is like giving your kid a Ferrari and making him drive on the freeway during his first driving lesson. It likely is not going to go very well.
Cardinals GM John Mozeliak confirmed this notion, saying, “I think it’s very challenging to keep someone who has been on a short-season club on a Major League roster.” “But a team that had the space and might not be trying to contend this year can roll the dice. But I still think there’s a pretty good chance we get him back.”
Then, you have the development problem. In order to improve, young position players like Cordoba need to play every day. Keeping the 21-year-old in a platoon role would logically stunt his development. Sure, he would gain major league knowledge between games, but there is nothing like playing in actual live games to progress your talent. Cordoba’s development would be stunted if he stayed on the roster the entire year, and that has a chance to really hurt him as a player. This is bad for all parties involved. If Cordoba cannot show that he is ready for The Show, he is going to be offered back to the Cardinals.
There is a chance that, if Allen Cordoba is unable to stick, the Padres work out a trade with the Cardinals to retain him. However, the odds of this happening are really quite slim. Teams just don’t trade a young player who hits .362 with a .427 OBP, and who walks more than he strikes out for nothing. He would cost a good amount, and the Padres paying that amount is not out of the question, both Padres G.M. A.J. Preller and Cardinals G.M. John Mozeliak have made comments that lead one to believe a trade is not going to happen if Cordoba fails to make the Padres’ roster.
From the Padres’ perspective, pretty much everything is going against Cordoba. No player taken out of rookie ball has ever stuck via the Rule-5 draft. At only 21 and his highest level being the Appalachian League, it seems really unlikely that he breaks camp with the San Diego Padres.
Then again, crazier things have happened. Maybe Cordoba will stick and become a slash hitter to some success. Maybe his speed will allow him to be a useful MLB-caliber player this year and the Padres will keep him on the team for all 162. It is clear that he has legit MLB-caliber skills and, before being selected, was being looked at as a legitimate prospect for the first time in his career. For a player to go from rookie ball to the bigs, though, is really unprecedented and has never happened before. There is a reason for that.
When it all comes down to it, A.J. Preller and the Padres’ front office took a $100k risk on a talented player with a lot of upside. If he shows he is not ready during spring training, that is fine. He will be offered to the Cardinals and taken back. If somehow he impresses and breaks camp as a Padre, then A.J. Preller has struck gold from the Cardinals for the second year in a row.
Although the chances of him succeeding as a Padre are slim, the risk is well worth the price.
For a team seeking young talent wherever they can find it, the answer of why they decided to select Allen Cordoba is simple:
Baseball is fun. College sophomore that is aspiring to work someday in the sports industry. Follow me on twitter @Friar_Faithful. Go Pads!