|A pair of offseason trades set the stage for the Cardinals-Mariners deal that landed shortstop Brendan Ryan in Seattle and high Class A flamethrower Maikel Cleto in the St. Louis organization.
At the end of November, the Cardinals acquired middle infielder Ryan Theriot from the Dodgers and anointed him the club’s starting shortstop. This displaced Ryan, who last season led all National League shortstops in assists (430) and total chances (644). Playing through a wrist injury in 2010, he batted just .223/.279/.294 and took the majority of his at-bats from the No. 9 position in the lineup, behind the Cardinals pitcher.
Two days after St. Louis welcomed aboard Theriot, the Mariners dealt from their infield surplus by trading third baseman Jose Lopez to the Rockies. Now, Ryan effectively takes Lopez’s place in the mix, and Seattle now has the luxury of being able to move Chone Figgins back to third base and install Ryan at second base to serve as Jack Wilson’s double-play partner. Alternately, if top prospect Dustin Ackley wins the second-base job, then Ryan could challenge Wilson for the role of starting shortstop.
|Maikel Cleto, rhp
Born: May 1, 1989 in Punta Villa Mella, Dominican Republic.
Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 235. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Mets, Aug. 10, 2006 … Traded by Mets with RHP Aaron Heilman, OFs Endy Chavez and Ezequiel Carrera, 1B Mike Carp and LHP Jason Vargas to Mariners for RHPs J.J. Putz and Sean Green and OF Jeremy Reed as part of three-team deal in which Mets sent RHP Joe Smith to Indians; Mariners sent 2B Luis Valbuena to Indians; and Indians sent OF Franklin Gutierrez to Mariners, Dec. 11, 2008
Cleto has a power arm but below-average control stands in the way of him getting the most of his stuff. His explosive fastball sits in the 94-98 mph range and touches 100. He can blow the ball by hitters, but he needs to realize he can be just as effective if he focuses on throwing quality strikes. Overthrowing causes him to fall off the mound toward first base and, consequently, he tends to miss to his glove side. Cleto’s curveball and a changeup are both below-average but show flashes of being average in the future. His curveball has tight downward action, almost like a slider, when it’s right. He’s still young, but even if he improves his control, his future role is likely two-pitch power reliever.
|Brendan Ryan, ss
Age: 28. Bats: R. Remaining Commitment: Arbitration-eligible for 2011-13 seasons ($425,000 salary in ’10).
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.