There’s a lot of speculation these days about what the St. Louis Cardinals are going to do before the trade deadline.
One school of thought is that the Redbirds have too many problems to fix over the course of a couple of weeks — so they might as well not do anything at all in favor of waiting until the offseason for an overhaul.
I don’t buy that.
The National League Central Division doesn’t have any flawless teams. Only one of them, the Milwaukee Brewers, was at the .500 mark by the All-Star break. The Redbirds don’t have to turn into the 1927 New York Yankees to make the playoffs.
What the Cardinals need is one aspect of their club to be dominant — something the team can build on — to make the difference. I don’t care if it’s having the best starting pitching, the best clutch hitting or the best ability to manufacture runs. They need something.
Right now, the team has an average bullpen. It has a decent, but not dominant or consistent starting rotation. And it has an offense that is prone to streaks of scoring a lot of runs punctuated by strings of games when it barely scores at all.
If the Redbirds landed one dominant starting pitcher, not only would the team have two great pitchers at the top of the rotation, and three solid ones from a group that currently includes Mike Leake, Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha, but the odd man out of the rotation could be bumped to the bullpen to help make it better.
If the Cardinals landed a slugger for the middle of the lineup, he’ll make all the hitters around him better like Albert Pujols did when he was here, like Jack Clark did in the 1980s and like Orlando Cepeda did in the late 1960s. That would take pressure off the pitching staff.
Another plus about adding a significant player or two is that it could create some roster competition.
There is no way to help clean up the sloppy baserunning, lousy defense and inconsistent pitching other than to impress upon the players that they better get their act together or else they might lose their starting job.
All of that being said, I don’t want to see the Cardinals squander assets on rental players. They don’t need to take one shot at a World Series. They need to add pillar players who will lead the solid supporting cast already in place for the next several years. They need the next Pujols, Scott Rolen or Jim Edmonds.
But the Cardinals can’t afford to stand pat, either.
This team has a roster logjam in the outfield, and it needs to convert some of those prospects into players who can help at other positions before it starts to lose them. St. Louis has Dexter Fowler, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Tommy Pham under control for the long haul in St. Louis. Then Harrison Bader, Magneuris Sierra, Oscar Mercado, Jose Adolis Garcia and others are awaiting a chance in the minor leagues.
Really, if the Cardinals dealt from their outfield surplus, they’d be playing with house money because they simply can’t use all the talented outfielders they possess.
It wasn’t all that long ago that the Redbirds seemed as if they had their future set with Oscar Taveras and Allen Craig in the outfield corners, Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha in the rotation and Trevor Rosenthal in the bullpen. Now only two of those players remain, and they both have questionable futures with the Cardinals.