The trade winds are swirling in St. Louis as the July 31st deadline looms, and although the Cardinals have shocked the baseball world with their performance this season, there are some glaring weaknesses. No one is saying this team isn’t resilient, but they aren’t dominant either. Wins sometimes tend to seem more miraculous than deserved and the competition within the division has suddenly become much more fierce. The bullpen is in shambles, the rotation behind Lohse is a crap-shoot and the suddenly white hot bats will undoubtedly cool… leaving a gaping hole in the lineup. With this team in the hunt for October, they need to be buyers at the end of the month, but most importantly… they need to shop carefully. Here are some big name items available for purchase that have the STL rumor mill buzzing.
Matt Holliday OF, Colorado Rockies
Although the NL’s best player last season would be a tremendous addition to the offense, picking up Holliday would be an impulse buy. The protection he could provide for Albert Pujols would be unparalleled, but the Cardinals would be mortgaging their future and taking on considerable salary to get him. The Rockies would almost certainly demand Colby Rasmus, Jaime Garcia and Clayton Mortenson… or all 3. The Birds would also be absorbing Holliday’s $9.5 million salary and giving up several players who will make next to nothing for the next few seasons.
There is also the overcrowded outfield factor. Schumaker, Ankiel and Ludwick have been extremely productive this season. Holliday is obviously far superior to any of them, but the offense doesn’t get exponentially better when one of your top contributors has to sit (assuming they don’t teach Ankiel to play shortstop). The idea is so tempting, but it just isn’t worth it.
Jason Bay OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Here is a less enticing version of the Holliday situation. The Birds wouldn’t have to give up quite as much, but the Pirates would still ask for a substantial amount. If 1st year GM John Mozeliak can find a way to snow the Bucs (who are notorious for making bad deals) and not give up that much, then take it. But again, who do you sit in the outfield? Bay is having a bounce back year, but unless the Birds steal him away for peanuts it doesn’t make a lot of sense. How much more of an impact would he really make over the guys out there now?
Verdict: PASS ….Caveat: Unless the deal is too sweat to let get away
Brian Fuentes RP, Colorado Rockies
The Birds desperately need an effective lefty in the pen. Randy Flores has been awful and Ron Villone has been, well, awful. A former closer like Fuentes could be a big boost to baseball’s worst bullpen. He is nasty on lefties (which Tony loves) and he could step into the stopper role if (read: when) Ryan Franklin completely implodes. The downside is, several other teams are in the same situation as the Cardinals and will all be buying in on the Brian Fuentes sweepstakes. This will create one of two problems for the Redbirds: Either the price will go up and they’ll have to part with more than they want (or feel is fair) or they will drop out of the race entirely and find themselves right back where they started… with the worst bullpen in baseball.
Verdict: Get him while the gettin’s good
Goerge Sherrill C, Baltimore Orioles
The All Star lefty’s potential impact is similar to the Fuentes option. He is currently closing for the Orioles and could step into the role in St. Louis or be used as a set-up man/lefty specialist. Although, hopefully someone of his caliber wouldn’t be used for one out a game. The bottom line is he would help bolster a pen that desperately needs order, confidence and defined roles. The downside is he walks to many people. Twenty-four walks in 41 innings is the main reason he has a very un-closer-like WHIP of 1.416. He still gets the job done the majority of the time (5 BS), but St. Louis doesn’t need anyone reminding them of Jason Isringhausen.
Verdict: Take him if the price is right… or reasonable.
So, those are most of the prominent names mentioned lately in association with the Cards’ search for support. Fuentes and/or Sherrill could help out in the closer/LHR department, and the rotation should fix itself assuming Carpenter and Wainwright come back healthy and effective. The lineup leaves something to be desired, but is passable right now. Honestly, what this team truly needs is an offensive shortstop. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of those floating around at the moment.
This club has surprised all year and maybe that trend will continue, but more likely than not, unless they find a way to fill one or more of their holes, the dream of October baseball could disappear into the hot, muggy St. Louis air. Here’s hoping the Cards can find a way to pry Mike Young away from Texas. Hell, throw in Josh Hamilton too. Tony will find a place to put him.