The Cardinals enter the last two series before the All-Star Break one-half of a game ahead of the Pirates with an MLB-best record of 53-34. The Cardinals start a two game series with the Astros at Busch tonight, and then the team travels to Chicago to take on the lowly Cubs for a four game set. With the Pirates facing off against the AL West-leading Athletics for two more games and then having to face Matt Harvey and the Mets, look for the Cardinals to extend their lead in the Central before the break.
Thus, if you are Cardinals General Manager, John Mozeliak, are you really that interested in making a trade at this time? The team is playing some of its best baseball in years, and the future is extremely bright with the stockpile of prospects (both pitchers and position players) down on the farm. Would you be willing to part with some young talent in order to fill a present need with what may end up being just a “rental” player?
Well, at the Matt Holliday Celebrity Golf Classic yesterday, Mozeliak was quoted in saying, “Hopefully, if we can find something that makes us better, we’ll pursue it.” Thus, he left the door open to possible moves which I will discuss next.
Possible Areas to be Explored by Mozeliak
Joe Kelly is filling in right now, and he is doing a decent job. However, is he really the answer for the stretch run? Will John Gast be able to return this season? Will the team call up Carlos Martinez to fill the void? These are all valid questions that have left fans beckoning for Mozeliak to pull off a deal for another starter. After all, the national media keeps bringing up big names that may be on the trade block–Cliff Lee, Matt Garza, Bud Norris, Jake Peavy (if healthy), etc.
Well, in my opinion, I do not think Mozeliak should make a deal for a starter. Why? Because of Chris Carpenter and his recent progress. Just the other day, he pitched an extended bullpen in which he threw 106 pitches. When asked about the session, Matheny said it was the best he has seen Carpenter look all season. If all goes as planned, a rehab session will follow, and then he will be set to return to the Cardinals sometime in August. Thus, why deal one of your coveted prospects for an expensive pitcher like Lee when there is a chance you can get one of the best pitchers in team history back in the rotation?
Pete Kozma is in the midst of yet another hitting slump–0 for his last 19 at-bats. He is hitting just .234 on the season. Both his on-base percentage and slugging percentage are below .300 which is also less than desirable. However, he is hitting over .300 with runners in scoring position–allowing him to compile 27 RBI this season. He may not be getting it done at the plate, but he is flat-out getting the job done in the field. In 685 innings played this year, he has just four errors. Also, for the sabermetrics folks, he has a 5.9 UZR which basically quantifies how many runs a player saves with his fielding.
Thus, Kozma is not wowing anybody with his overall performance this year, but he is doing his job in the field, and any offensive production he can provide is a bonus. Shortstops that may be available would include Jimmy Rollins and Alexei Ramirez. To be honest, at this point in their careers, I do not know if they would provide much more than a Kozma/Daniel Descalso platoon at short. Also, one cannot forget that the bat of Ryan Jackson also awaits in Triple-A Memphis if necessary.
Jon Jay has had his struggles this year–both at the plate and in the field. However, he may be starting to turn it around at the plate, as shown by his current 5-game hitting streak. Also, the All-Star break may prove to be just what he needed considering he has played in 85 of the team’s 87 games this season. Thus, considering he is a career .289 hitter, I can only think that his bat will get hot during the second half. If not, then more innings can be shared with Shane Robinson or the Cardinals can explore other options like Tommy Pham from Memphis or even Oscar Taveras if he can ever get healthy. Either way, center field is not a big enough need for the Cardinals to get desperate and deal a young prospect just to get one. The organization has faith that Jay will turn it around, and if he does not, they have internal options they can explore instead.
Despite its struggles earlier in the season, this has actually been a strong point for St. Louis. Rookie Seth Maness has been a double play machine in the seventh inning. Left-handed rookie, Kevin Siegrist, has proven to be a strikeout machine and just refuses to give up an earned run. Flame-throwing righty, Trevor Rosenthal, has been rock solid in the set-up man role all season. Lastly, Edward Mujica has been nearly perfect as the closer (23/24 on saves). If the team feels like a change needs to be made later in the year or in the playoffs, Rosenthal would be the guy to take over in that spot. Thus, sorry Ken Rosenthal, but the Cardinals do not need Jonathan Papelbon.
There are the four spots that Mozeliak may explore when looking at possible deals before the deadline. However, after reading this article, I hope that you now understand the point I was trying to get across–the Cardinals do not need to make a deadline deal. The team is playing incredible baseball right now, and the future is even brighter with the prospects it has developing in the minors. Thus, as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Until next time…