The St. Louis Cardinals should -- and will -- attempt to be buyers between now and the Aug. 1 trade deadline. The reasons are fairly obvious. They are in the thick of the National League wild-card race, have traditionally played better after the All-Star break, and have only so much time left with their championship core of Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday.
They don’t think they need to make wholesale changes between now and the deadline, but intend to be active in discussions with other teams, they say. The front office sees the bullpen as the only area where they could make strategic upgrades, unless an impact position player with multiple years of team control falls into their lap. They like their group of hitters and think their healthy five-man starting rotation is "fine," in the words of general manager John Mozeliak.
Brandon Moss, the club’s most powerful left-handed hitter, should be back by the end of July, and starting infielders Jhonny Peralta and Matt Carpenter should be ready in August. Those additions could prove more meaningful than any move or series of moves the team makes before the deadline.
But let’s take a look at some potential relief targets:
The key figure, in a way, is a guy already on the roster: Trevor Rosenthal, who saved 48 games last year and makes $5.6 million. Rosenthal, though, has struggled this season, losing his closing spot and just went on the 15-day DL with right shoulder inflammation. The Cardinals have been hesitant to give up on him as their closer, but also feel like Seung Hwan Oh can pitch the ninth inning while Rosenthal gets healthy and works to regain his command.
For now, that means the Cardinals say they aren’t looking to acquire a proven closer.
If tests determine Rosenthal will be out the remainder of the season, the Cardinals will become more aggressive in pursuit of high-leverage relievers.
That sets the parameters of what they’re in the market for, roughly, as someone better than Matt Bowman or Seth Maness, but not as good as Andrew Miller. That leaves them plenty of room to operate in trade talks, and they line up as potential trade partners with selling teams who are looking to off-load overpaid relievers that can help contending teams in the short term.
Other rumored names of those who should be available include lefties Sean Doolittle of the Oakland A’s, Fernando Abad of the Minnesota Twins, Jake McGee of the Colorado Rockies and Will Smith of the Milwaukee Brewers. In terms of righties, Atlanta’s Arodys Vizcaino and Alexi Ogando, Minnesota’s Kevin Jepsen and Milwaukee’s Jeremy Jeffress could all be had.
Things can change in the coming weeks. If a key Cardinal is injured or one of the already injured Cardinals has a setback, Mozeliak could open up discussions to add offense. Prospect Alex Reyes likely would be the next man up if a Cardinals starter goes down, and he’s also in the mix to pitch in relief if they can’t swing a trade.
There has been speculation for years that the Cardinals would like to acquire Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, but a baseball source indicated the team isn’t as high on CarGo as rumors have suggested.
Because the Cardinals don’t feel they have to acquire a player for any one area of the team, they can be creative and remain open to acquiring a player who could help any aspect of the team. It’s a pretty straightforward formula of opportunity, cost and need.
They are excited about the potential of their top pitching prospect, Alex Reyes, and need to rebuild the upper tiers of their minor-league system, so they would be unlikely to move any elite talent for a short-term relief upgrade. Their Triple-A roster doesn’t have many intriguing trade targets anyway, and they want to hold on to top prospects such as Harrison Bader, Luke Weaver and Carson Kelly.