Cards Trade For Shortstop

The Deal
San Diego began its offseason reconstruction Thursday, trading 29-year-old shortstop Khalil Greene to the Cardinals for Triple-A righthanded reliever Mark Worrell and a player to be named. The Padres reportedly will have their pick of three candidates, two of them pitchers. We’ll cover the mystery player when he’s announced, but general manager Kevin Towers indicated that the player will be higher-profile than Worrell.

UPDATE: The Cardinals sent Luke Gregerson, another righthanded reliever, to the Padres to complete the deal. A 28th-round pick from St. Xavier (Ill.) in 2006, he served as closer for Double-A Springfield in 2008 until Fernando Salas’ emergence pushed him into a set-up role. (March 23, 2009)

The Young Players
That Worrell was traded to the Padres came as no surprise to anyone who closely follows the Cardinals’ system. Frustrated by a perceived lack of respect, the 25-year-old righthander has not been shy about publicly airing his grievances. Worrell comes to the Padres on the heels of a three-year run in the high minors in which he struck out 221 and issued 76 walks in 187 innings. With Triple-A Memphis last season, he went 3-3, 2.15 with 80 strikeouts, 31 walks and two home runs allowed in 58 2/3 innings.

But Worrell, a 12th-round pick from Florida International, was a member of the Cardinals’ infamous 2004 draft that saw just two picks reach St. Louis—the other was ninth-rounder Mike Parisi. (First-rounder Chris Lambert reached the majors in 2008 with Detroit.) No relation to Tim or Todd Worrell, Mark employs one of the most unorthodox deliveries in baseball. He stands pigeon toed out of the stretch, and when he delivers he swings his left lead foot all the way toward first base. Still, his fastball sits in the low-90s. The Cardinals never tried to tweak his mechanics, but it apparently was not popular among those on the major league coaching staff. Worrell has a sweeping slider suitable for being a righthanded specialist, and he limited Triple-A righties to .215/.323/.319 averages.

Even though he didn’t allow a run in 13 of his final 15 appearances at Memphis, Worrell was not recalled to St. Louis in September. He struck out four and walked four in 5 2/3 innings in a four-appearance stint with St. Louis in June.

At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Gregerson is your standard-issue sinker/slider reliever, complete with firm strikeout and groundball rates. He went 7-6, 3.35 in 57 apperances for Springfield last season, striking out 78 and walking 26 in 75 1/3 innings. Gregerson dominates righthanded batters, striking out 58 of the 217 he faced in Double-A, but his control wavers versus lefty batters, who also hit him for more power than do righties (.415 vs. .278 slugging). The 24-year-old capped his season with an impressive turn in the Venezuelan League, where he fanned 18, walked eight and allowed only one home run in 22 innings for Margarita.

Quick Take
The only unqualified success in San Diego’s decade-long run of unfortunate first-round picks, Greene is coming off his worst season as Padre. He batted just .213/.260/.339 with 10 home runs and 35 RBIs, and he notoriously fractured his left hand in July when he struck a storage chest in frustration. The injury knocked him out for the remainder of the season. What made Greene’s struggles more puzzling was that he exploded for 27 homers and 44 doubles in 2007. Assuming he picks up the pace offensively, he’s a quality shortstop defender who represents an upgrade on Cardinals’ incumbent Cesar Izturis. It’s just that in an offseason in which they intend to slash payroll, the Padres deemed Greene’s $6.5 million salary too rich.

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