As the main piece the M’s are getting for Heilman, I know a lot of you are going to look at his major league numbers and see a .252/.289/.350 major league performance and feel like we’re not getting much back. But there’s a lot more to Ronny Cedeno than his major league totals.
Coming up through the minors from 2001 to 2005, Cedeno was one of the better shortstop prospects in baseball. The Cubs promoted him aggressively, getting him to Double-A at age 21 (in 2004), where he responded with a solid .279/.321/.401 mark, showing gap power as well as flashing a good glove. In 2005, he thrashed Triple-A pitching at age 22, hitting .355/.403/.518, significantly improving his contact ability while maintaining good power for a middle infielder and still showing off with the leather. He got his first taste of the big leagues that summer and held his own, hitting .300/.356/.375 in 80 at-bats.
The Cubs gave him an everyday job in 2006, and it didn’t go well. 572 plate appearances, a .259 wOBA, and average defense at shortstop were not what the Cubs had in mind. It was a bad rookie season, no doubt, and it sent him on a journey back to Triple-A for 2007. He picked up where he left off in 2005, again torching Triple-A pitching for a .359/.422/.537 mark that earned him a ticket back to the majors, where he struggled again, albeit in just 74 at-bats.
In 2008, he was used as a utility infielder and showed some of his prior offensive promise, posting a .305 wOBA in 236 PA. It was definitely a step forward, albeit one that still made him just a useful back-up and not the everyday player the Cubs were hoping he’d turn into.
So, Cedeno’s got a history of offensive potential that hasn’t been realized in the majors through his first 1,000 plate appearances spread out over four years. Heading into his age 26 season, he’s at put-up or shut-up time, where he either realizes some of his potential or ends up as a backup infielder for the rest of his career.
Given the M’s issues up the middle and their overall lack of depth at the SS/2B positions in the high minors, Cedeno is a good acquisition. There’s real upside here – his glove is good enough to make him a league average middle infielder if he can post a .315 to .320 wOBA, and this team could really use a league average middle infielder. In a lot of ways, he replaces Luis Valbuena, who we shipped off in the J.J. Putz deal. He’s the guy we’re looking at now for a little bit of offense and good defense who can push Lopez/Betancourt and give us real depth up the middle.
Cedeno, like Gutierrez and Branyan and Aardsma and Walker and Shelton before him, is the acquisition of a talented guy who needs a shot to see if he can live up to his potential. He’s exactly the kind of player the M’s should be acquiring, and given their relative excess of arms and shortage of infielders, swapping Heilman for Cedeno makes a lot of sense. That they were able to get a pitching prospect as well just makes this another good move for Zduriencik.
He’s still batting 1.000 as the M’s GM.