Cardinals trade deadline tactics puzzling

Posted by Scott Wuerz on September 1, 2013 

The Cardinals managed to win their Sunday match-up with the Pittsburgh Pirates to salvage a first place tie in the National League Central division standings.

So it's a whole new ballgame with one month to go in the 2013 campaign. And that makes me wonder if the Birds are going to be sorry that they essentially stood pat at the trade deadline while the Pirates added a starting right fielder in Marlon Byrd, a starting first baseman in Justin Morneau and a serviceable catcher in John Buck.

I can't really blame general manager John Mozeliak for not making a deal when I don't know what his colleagues were asking for in exchange for their veteran talent. The Cardinals were one of three teams said to be interested in Washington Nationals starter Dan Haren. But not only was Mozeliak unable to make a trade, the others couldn't pull off a deal, either. The price must have been pretty steep.

The thing that has me scratching my head is, if the Redbirds couldn't pull off a deal to fill an area of major need, why do anything at all?

St. Louis obviously needed a high end starting pitcher and a shortstop who could hit better than Pete Kozma and field better than Daniel Descalo. A righty bench bat wouldn't have been bad, either.

Instead, the Cardinals gave away an extremely talented young relief pitcher in order to land a seemingly past his prime John Axford. Why pay such a high price for a middle reliever when the St. Louis bullpen has actually been pretty solid -- especially now that expanded rosters will allow the club to put all hands on deck?

I don't have a problem with short term rentals. I thought it was super that the Redbirds were able to dump problem man-child Colby Rasmus for a starting pitcher, a couple of relievers and a reserve outfielder. But Axford isn't that sort of magic bullet acquisition. He's bordered between inconsistent and terrible for the past two years.

Meanwhile Blazek had the potential to be a major league closer for years to come. This season between Class AA and Class AAA he compiled a 1.97 ERA with 28 hits allowed in 45 2/3 innings of work. He struck out 52.

Sure, Blazek stumbled a little bit during his first taste of the major leagues. But isn't that to be expected? I was impressed with his stuff. He had a strong fastball and wicked breaking stuff that seemed to be a ticket to a long MLB career.

The move for Axford, who makes $5 million this year and who was going to be non-tendered by Milwaukee despite the fact that he is only a second year of arbitration player, reeks of making a move just for the sake of making a move.

If the price of trading at the deadline was too high, I wish the Cardinals would have just given the market a pass and kept their young talent. Even if Axford is excellent, I just don't know if a guy who pitches two or three innings a week is going to make that much difference in the pennant race -- or if the Cardinals have to match up Adam Wainwright, Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn against the starting pitching of the Atlanta Braves of Los Angeles Dodgers.

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