The Cardinals' trade deadline dealing brought mixed reviews from the national pundits.
Yahoo's Jeff Passan panned the deal that sent Ryan Ludwick to San Diego for Cleveland's Jake Westbrook:
For a team that ranks in the bottom half of baseball in runs scored, the Cardinals certainly had no problems letting go of Ludwick, their fourth-best hitter. Because … rookie Jon Jay (and his .446 batting average on balls in play) is hitting well? As nice a pitcher as Jake Westbrook can be – and he suits the Cardinals and their groundball-gobbling tendencies – it’s curious that St. Louis focused on a starter when Kyle Lohse's return is imminent and Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia form the core of the Cardinals’ success. Should St. Louis maintain its lead on Cincinnati – which sat by idly at the deadline – Westbrook will be nothing more than a long man come playoff time, while the hole Ludwick leaves will remain unfilled.
I too was surprised the Birds didn't try to find a leadoff type who could play in the middle of the infield. But St. Louis GM John Mozeliak made an intersting point before the Cardinals played Pittsburgh Saturday night. He said he thinks the offense will stop pressing and perform better now that the pitching problems have been addressed. Things like that sometimes happen. But it doesn't explain why the offense struggled to score even BEFORE Brad Penny and Kyle Lohse were hurt.
The argument that Westbrook would be the fourth starter in the playoffs is moot. The Cardinals can't assume they are going to make the playoffs. They face a real threat from the Reds for the division title. Without more consistent starting pitching in August and September, chances are iffy they'll need a first, second or third starter in the playoffs. Besides, I wonder if the Cardinals would really start a rookie like Jaime Garcia in a post season game over a veteran like Westbrook...
USA Today's Bob Nightengale ranked the Redbirds' deals a push:
The Cardinals have scored three runs or fewer in 40 of 102 games, and they have scored one run or less in 22 games. So what do they do? Trade outfielder Ryan Ludwick and acquire Cleveland starting pitcher Jake Westbrook. Westbrook could be a stud in the NL, and Ludwick had been underperforming. Bold moves by GM John Mozeliak.
I find it tough to believe the Cardinals are better without Ludwick. But the case can be made that the offense is more successful without him. Since the All-Star break the Cardinals are 8-2 without Ludwick and 3-3 with him in the lineup.
Fox Sport's Jon Paul Morosi likes the Cardinals dealing:
This has been a two-team race for some time now, and the needs of each team involved seemed pretty clear.The Cardinals needed a starter. They got one.
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The Reds needed a setup man. They didn’t.
Jake Westbrook should benefit greatly from the change in leagues, much like new teammate Brad Penny did last year. And he should become the latest star pupil of St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan. Cincinnati, meanwhile, will need to find relief help internally, with semi-retired types (Russ Springer or Jason Isringhausen) or super-prospect Aroldis Chapman.
Morosi believes the trade for Westbrook will put the Redbirds over the top for the NL Central crow. And that's a good thing because it doesn't look like the wildcard is going to be in play for the Cardinals or Reds.