(Baseball StL) -- What does a team with the second-best batting average and the best pitching ERA in the majors (after Monday’s games) need? You wouldn’t think much.
At this point, the Cardinals can change little that would be based on need. With the success of the club’s early season schedule, most transactions would be designed to combat an expected decline in production or possible injury rather than a specific issue.
That being said, if you can afford it, why not prepare? The Cards do have some areas that could be bolstered, and were I the man with the reins, I would target a right handed bench guy with some pop. Currently the Cardinals have Descalso, Adams, Robinson and Wigginton.
Adams and Descalso are both lefties, and Wigginton has been flat-out bad. Robinson is really nothing more than a defensive fill-in (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and Tony Cruz’s 29 at bats make him a non-factor.
At some point it would be nice to have a big right-handed stick in the chamber for pinch hit and backup situations. Adams hasn’t been terrible against southpaws, but overall lefty-vs-lefty stats would indicate the Cardinals might want to have an option on the other side of the plate who can park a ball.
The struggle would be finding a suitable candidate that won’t cost an arm and a leg. With the Astros, Marlins, Mariners and Cubs all building on young talent, there could be some bargain bin deals on aging bats (though dealing within the division is not really the best idea). Ideally, the Cards could make a move for someone like Jason Bay- a veteran who can hit a ball hard, but doesn’t command multiple years or big money in compensation (thanks Mets).
His power numbers are enough to warrant a look, and his $1 million contract this season is even more attractive. He was hurt most of 2012 and still hit 8 homers in 215 plate appearances with 19 walks and 20 RBIs. He already has 8 homers and 17 RBI in 2013 (even with a hamstring injury that sidelined him for most of June) and sliding to a support roll would protect him from injury.
As the Mariners already have Raul Ibanez, an elder statesman of the batter’s box himself, they probably don’t need Bay as well.
More than likely there are far better options out there that exist in combinations I could never conceive of, which is why I’m glad I ultimately don’t have the reins. But still, if there’s an area to look at fixing up, this might be it.
The next two weeks will determine a lot. Those initial “hey, let’s touch base” conversations between general managers are happening right now, but the results of these talks are weeks away. That’s perfect for the Cardinals.
I have been concerned with how this starting rotation will hold up. The loss of Jaime Garcia wasn’t initially felt, but the carousel of rookie success has slowed down and left the Cardinals with a growing concern.
The difference between a rookie and a veteran pitcher is experience. While the talent level is comparable, the ability to adjust within a game (or an at-bat) is something that can’t be taught through words.
Just ask Tyler Lyons.
Lyons was great...in his first two starts. It’s no surprise that the quick 2-0 record with a 1.29 ERA in those two starts became a 0-3 record with an 8.68 ERA in his final four starts. The failures of his last four starts will let him go far in his career—just not this season with the Cardinals.
Michael Wacha and John Gast also fit into that “rookie vs. veteran” category.
The club has used all of its options from Memphis. John Mozeliak didn’t want to use this many rookie pitchers this early in this season. The injuries, including to Gast, left him no choice.
While Gast is currently residing on the 15-day disabled list, there is another pitcher to be worried about.
The 35-year-old righty has already visited the DL for elbow inflammation. The elbow still isn’t 100 percent and he knows that. For the time being, he can only monitor the discomfort level which makes him a variable in the rotation. Through it all, he is still managing to pitch extremely well considering the factors against him.
The final starting rotation concern would be for Shelby Miller.
He is pitching well. He will be a contender for the Rookie of the Year, but will he last until the end of the season?
Miller threw 150.1 total innings last season for Memphis and St. Louis. He is currently at 92.
Speaking of the number 92, that can be the expected temperature this time of year in St. Louis. The 22-year-old righty has already left one start because of a cramping issue in his leg. It’s already impossible to breathe in this town with the high humidity, which will make his first summer in St. Louis a learning experience of its own.
Do the Cardinals need a pitcher like Cliff Lee? No, but I am almost crazy enough to propose a 6-man rotation to give everyone a break (and Joe Kelly a chance).
What do you get someone who has everything?
That is the issue facing the St. Louis Cardinals at the moment. How can they make a good team better without sacrificing one of the pieces or disturbing the chemistry?
Teams out of contention are beginning to shed spare parts and will likely continue to do that if they can’t get anything for them by the trading deadline.
The Cubs dumped Carlos Marmol and very unhappy Twitter-freak Ian Stewart. Others will follow.
None dumped this early are likely to be of much value to the Birds but closer to the trade deadline, someone who could prove useful and who has an expiring contract might be available for a low minors prospect.
So what type of player and what should his contribution be? Well does this sound familiar? Late in the game, Mike Matheny pinch-hits Matt Adams for the pitcher with two on and two out. Time out. Opposing manager brings in a left-hander.
Matheny’s options; let a now-diminished Adams hit or bring in the sub-Mendoza Ty Wigginton.
So, how about some right-handed pop off the bench; an aging veteran looking for one last hurrah on a title team, not an underachiever looking to restart his career.
Ty Wigginton, as already noted, is a moderately expensive flop so a right-handed veteran who knows how to fit into a club already on a roll would be useful.
Teams have taken a chance on knuckleheads like Manny Ramirez to no good end. Let’s look for a decent human being who players might actually like. Trouble is, there are not many in that category.
The issue for Birds is that they put a good line-up on the field every night but no one is absolutely great. There is a lot to be said for having a Pujols (the old Albert, not the lame one), or a Votto or a Goldschmidt. The Cards have a lot of good hitters and a rally can start anywhere in the line-up. But they don’t have that one guy who you count how many players must get on before we can get to him. That’s what they lack, in my view. THAT guy. The guy no one wants to face when it counts.
Cardinal pitchers are excellent, position players are solid and besides, no team is going to trade a player who can help what is already the best team in baseball.
So get us a thumper off the bench.
And then just live with what we have.