I don't know how good Aledmys Diaz is. It's not easy to find and translate stats from the Cuban National Series, and video of him was hard to come by. He could be the next Yasiel Puig; he could be the next Leslie Anderson. If the White Sox or Twins or Reds or Giants had signed Diaz, I'd still have a wait-and-see attitude toward him.
But it was the Cardinals that gave the middle infielder a four-year, major-league deal. Now I'm assuming that Diaz is outstanding and will destroy us all. Of course Diaz is good. Of course he's going to start, and possibly soon. The Cardinals got him. They outbid other teams for him, which means they really wanted him. If they really wanted him, they must have thought he was rather talented. If the Cardinals think he's talented, he's almost certainly talented.
The Cardinals, man.
This brings us to the thesis statement: The Cardinals are the most trustworthy team in baseball. There isn't another organization that I'll give more benefit of the doubt. Whatever move they make, even if I don't agree with it, I'll assume that they're just much, much smarter than I am, and I'll force myself to reevaluate the move.
The Cardinals won the National League pennant last year with a flawed team. They had done all sorts of things right to get there — rolling power hitters off their assembly line like they held the patent, turning young arms into quality starters — but they were flawed in easily identifiable ways. Pete Kozma hit like a player with a .223/.286/.324 career line in almost 1,000 plate appearances in the Pacific Coast League, which is exactly what he was. Jon Jay was a left fielder in center, and he stuck out in a league where teams are increasingly thinking defense-first up the middle.
It's hard to consider an offseason brilliant when the to-do list is two bullet points long, but the Cardinals nailed it. They paid many millions (but no draft pick) to get Jhonny Peralta, who was a league leader last year in advanced stats like NBPK*, and who should make the Cardinals much better in 2014. The presence of Kolten Wong allowed them to trade David Freese, shift Matt Carpenter to third, and make their defense better at two positions, second base and center field. They still have Jon Jay, who's a dandy fourth outfielder.
*Not being Pete Kozma
I'm not sure if there was another team in baseball who nailed every one of their offseason goals quite like the Cardinals did. This circles back to Diaz, who was signed as depth in case Peralta breaks or Wong stalls. Somehow, this will all work out for them. If A fails, B and C will succeed. If B fails, A and C will succeed. It's almost algebraic. If you're looking for evidence that everything's going to work out for the Cardinals in their infield, all you need to do is point to the Cardinals' logo and smirk obnoxiously.
Let's look at the competition for the most trustworthy team in baseball and see if there's anyone who can compete.
The A's and Rays have proven that they're incredibly effective on a severely limited budget, winning consistently with a teensy payroll. But those payroll constraints also eliminate them from consideration, as they'll make moves that aren't necessarily brilliant, but pragmatic. The Rays aren't exactly guaranteeing that Ryan Hanigan will be a valuable addition; they're hoping he will be because that's what they could afford. When the A's and Rays make a move, the reaction isn't "Oh, of course that's going to work." It's more "Hey, that's a smart move, considering." It's a different kind of respect.
The Braves are lurching closer to A's and Rays territory, considering their television deal, but they're not there yet, and they're using their resources to lock up their young core. They're close to the Cardinals when it comes to benefit of the doubt, but there are two caveats: First, they sure seem to have a lot of exploding elbows. Second, they sure have a lot of low-OBP, strikeout-prone folks in and around the lineup. Neither one has to be indicative of an organizational flaw — could be bad luck on a few counts — but those are enough to vault the Cardinals ahead in trustworthiness.
The Dodgers are rich, so damned rich, but they're also a smart organization, at least when it comes to their minor-league development. Logan White is a smart feller, and the Dodgers will start spitting out cheap, pre-arbitration players they don't need. But even Dodger homers would admit they don't trust Ned Colletti. The man is from the Brian Sabean school, a diploma mill that's still unaccredited. He still might apply his curious ideas to the major-league roster.
The Red Sox had a year, alright, but it took an awful year to get there. While the Red Sox were mired in last, the Cardinals were deep in the playoffs again. Even though they extricated themselves brilliantly from that mess, I'll need more evidence to give them the same there-they-go-again status the Cardinals enjoy.
The Rangers are probably the stiffest competition. When the Rangers make a move that might seem counterintuitive — like, say, committing to Prince Fielder for a long, long time — my first instinct is to give them the same kind of benefit of the doubt. They have enough of a track record of winning and development to merit serious consideration. Except I still don't get Mitch Moreland, and they're trending in the wrong direction, both in terms of wins and postseason results.
No, it's the Cardinals. When they make a move, it's a smart move because the Cardinals did it. They're baseball's tautology, a team that's always good because they're always good. They get the benefit of the doubt more than any other team in years. Of course Aledmys Diaz is going to be a good player. The Cardinals think so. And they're the most trustworthy team in baseball.
Kind of want to punch them right in the beak, really.