ST. LOUIS -- It’s only a month and four days from now but the non waiver trade deadline will be here before you know it. And if you know anything about sports and the way trades typically go down you would know the groundwork for those deals not only are happening right now, but they’ve been going on for weeks and/or months.
Yep. GM John Mozeliak is probably glued to his phone this very instant - or close to it - getting a sense of what it’s going to cost to bring a specific player to St. Louis to make this club better.
Now, there are many ways to improve a team. Lots of positions, lots of roles, lots of options. And it’s impossible to get a sense for what Mozeliak’s looking for because unless he has a name, a face and a concrete answer of what it’s going to cost, he can’t tell you if he’d do it.
But, having said that, we can still go through this club and determine what is worth sacrificing valuable resources to make better.
This is the easiest. Other than shortstop, there’s not only no opening, there’s an abundance of talent that Mike Matheny fights to get proper at-bats on a daily basis. So you can cross out any outfield spot, both corner infield spots as well as second base and catcher. Moving on.
Is it worth acquiring a shortstop? Pete Kozma has never really been revered as the future at the position and for good reason (despite a .338 average with runners in scoring position he has a .296 on-base percentage for the season as a whole). Defensively, Kozma makes the plays that need to be made - dropped pop fly notwithstanding - but rarely makes a play that shouldn’t.
The problem is, who out there is worth sacrificing prospects to bring in? Who’s such an upgrade that would dramatically improve this club midseason? Well, truth be told, I firmly believe the Cardinals are sick and tired of the turnstile that has become shortstop. Really, not since the days of David Eckstein have the Cards had a true long term solution at shortstop. And that wasn’t for more than a few seasons. The next upgrade or change the Redbirds make a shortstop should be the last one for a long time.
I don’t know if Mozeliak will be able to pull off a deal for someone such as Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki or Baltimore’s JJ Hardy at any point. But if he does it surely wouldn’t be midseason because both of their respective teams are still in the race.
Kozma may not be the ideal shortstop for the next five seasons in St. Louis. But he’s good enough to make you not HAVE to go out and find someone in an emergency. He plays solid defense and gives you good at-bats with runners in scoring position. That’s good enough until a more permanent solution comes around.
On the bench, Matt Adams provides the left-handed power while Daniel Descalso, Shane Robinson and Tony Cruz offer very specific roles that can’t be minimized. Descalso is the only guy on this team that can play shortstop. Robinson’s the same in center field. Cruz is obviously Yadier Molina’s backup. The only possible place to make an upgrade would be over Ty Wigginton, who was given five million dollars over two years to hit better than he has (.173 overall, 5-60 with 11 strikeouts as a pinch hitter). Are the Cardinals willing to walk away from a year and a half of that relatively small financial commitment so soon? I’m not sure.
While the apple of many a fans eye this time of the year is the Phillies Cliff Lee, I just don’t see the Cardinals going after him - or any starting pitcher for that matter. Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook have four spots locked down. Joe Kelly currently has the final spot. Kelly wants to be a starter and views himself as such. When he’s been given a chance this year to go extended innings, granted it hasn’t been often, he’s been terrific (5 IP, no runs allowed in relief of Tyler Lyons this past week; 5.2 IP, 2 R - but only one earned - in a spot start on June 5th).
Should a need arise later on in the year, elite prospects Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez are getting themselves ready down in AAA-Memphis. Then there is the ultimate wild card in Chris Carpenter. The Cards won’t publicly say they’re counting on him, which they shouldn’t. But he’s absolutely a factor.
Is it really worth it to give up valuable prospects for someone to do a job these kids are so much better at but may not be quite ready to do this second? Competition breeds success. Martinez, Wacha and Kelly know if given a chance to start they have to take advantage of it because there are other talented guys waiting for a chance as well. Between those four I mentioned, someone will come through as a legitimate 5th guy. If I’m the Cardinals I play the odds there.
Here’s where I go get some help. Save whatever bullets you’ve got for this area. All in all, Cards fans should feel good about the starting pitcher’s ability to give the team a chance to win and the offense’s ability to give that pitcher a lead. With a strong bullpen to close things out this club could and should contend for another World Series championship.
Several spots are set, no doubt. Edward Mujica and Trevor Rosenthal are stalwarts on the right side. Randy Choate is the lefty specialist this team coveted and has done well in that role. Even youngster Kevin Siegrist has shown an ability to get guys out in impressive fashion. After that all bets are off. We all admire the job Seth Maness has done in middle relief (2.92 ERA in 24.2 innings) but if Lance Lynn scuffles in the 6th inning of Game 4 of the NLCS against the Braves and needs someone to get a couple outs with runners on second and third, do you really want to trust Maness to come in at that spot?
I think not.
Michael Blazek and Keith Butler have done very well in non pressurized roles and will gain valuable experience for future seasons, but their time is not now either. Another Edward Mujica or Octavio Dotel would look very nice in this bullpen.
For me, that’s where Mozeliak needs to be focusing his energy. Spend any and all bullets that you have right there.