Bench tinkering or more? – Seabol for Luna swap

Brian Walton ponders what Saturday's transactions could signal for the present and future.

In a move that is mildly surprising as a stand-alone event, on Saturday, the Cardinals will send down infielder Scott Seabol to Triple-A Memphis and recall infielder Hector Luna.

Many observers, myself included, thought that the departure of Roger Cedeno signaled that Seabol would get to stay up. He had hit a respectable .254 with a home run and eight RBI in 59 at-bats, playing second, third, left field and right field on defense.

Tony La Russa's stated reason stated for the move is to take advantage of Luna's versatility. While certainly Luna looks less lost trying to master the outfield than Seabol, both he and Seabol play second and third. However, Luna has the edge because of his ability to play shortstop, as well. Still, Abraham Nunez and John Mabry remain on the team and between them, can back up all four infield positions.

But, with Roger Cedeno on his way out and So Taguchi becoming a part-time regular, John Mabry needs help backing up the outfielders. Luna has the speed to play center, even if he doesn't have the experience.

The bottom line seems to be that while Seabol is versatile, Luna is more so.

Compared to the others mentioned, Luna represents the future. After being on the 25-man roster the entire 2004 season because of his Rule 5 selection from the Cleveland Indians, Luna did make the Cardinals out of spring training. However, he was sent down to Memphis to get his game into shape shortly thereafter. Luna played in just five games in St. Louis in April prior to his demotion.

Looking at Luna's results in Memphis, it is difficult to see what he did to earn a promotion. He hit just .229 in 214 at-bats and managed a .295 on-base percentage.

Still, if something happened to Mark Grudzielanek, or should I say, based on past history, when something happens to Mark Grudzielanek, Luna would be the one to again be given a chance.

The Dominincan is just 25 years old, so clearly his best ball remains ahead of him. In fact, another theory as to why he is being recalled has to do with his value.

With the aforementioned fragility of Grudz, getting another first-hand view now as to whether or not Luna can handle second base on a regular basis in 2006 and beyond makes a lot of sense.

Getting way out into speculation land, consider this. With few valuable trade chits, could the Cards be showcasing Luna for possible inclusion in a deal for an outfielder? Certainly, Luna potentially sulking and hitting in the .220's in Triple-A will not add to his trade appeal. Maybe coming back up will spark improved play on his part, whether the Cards or a potential trade partner are the beneficiaries.

Now, we'll get a chance to see…

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.


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