Don’t look now. But the St. Louis Cardinals are making things interesting in the National League playoff race.
By sweeping the Royals in Kansas City, the Redbirds reached and passed the previously elusive .500 mark and are starting to make some progress in running down the Chicago Cubs for the National League Central Division lead.
I wonder if the Birds will regret not making a move at the trade deadline if they continue to draw closer. The Cubs added much-needed assistance in their rotation, the bullpen and behind the plate. But St. Louis couldn’t decide if it was a buyer or a seller as the deadline neared, so Vice President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak decided to do nothing.
While they’re playing better lately — especially with their hitting in the clutch — that doesn’t change the fact that the Cardinals still lack legitimate third and fourth-place type hitters. So do they try to make a post-deadline deal or stick to their plan of holding course this season and looking forward to big changes over the winter?
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Personally, I wonder if the New York Mets would be willing to trade away seven weeks of Jay Bruce’s services in exchange for deposed St. Louis right fielder Stephen Piscotty.
Bruce is a bona fide middle of the order slugger with 29 homers to go with a .260 batting average this season. He also has a very nice arm in right field. The Mets aren’t going anywhere this year, so they’re not really losing anything. And the cost-controlled outfielder Piscotty might be attractive to a team that has financial restrictions in the wake of its ownership being caught up in the Bernie Madoff financial scandal.
The Birds can afford to part with Piscotty, who was awarded a $33.5-million contract earlier this season, because the team is overloaded with talented outfielders from the major leagues all the way down to Class AA Springfield. In the middle of a nightmarish season, Piscotty doesn’t seem likely to help St. Louis this year.
Even if he was right, Piscotty is an average fielder who profiles as a .280 hitter with mediocre power. He’s a decent complimentary piece. But he’s not ever going to be the fearsome middle of the order slugger St. Louis so desperately needs.
I wouldn’t be willing to give up a top prospect like Carson Kelly or Harrison Bader to get Bruce. But, if the Mets would accept Piscotty, the Birds could keep their talent pipeline intact while improving in the short term. Plus, the Cardinals would rid themselves of their financial commitment to Piscotty, freeing up money to potentially find a slugger this off-season either through trade or through a free agent signing.
There are a limited number of things the Cardinals can do after the trade deadline to get better. Short of the Marlins exposing Giancarlo Stanton to waivers and St. Louis claiming him, this might be the best opportunity to shore up the team. You never know, maybe a brief audition would prove that Bruce is a guy the Redbirds ought to sign to a reasonable contract extension. If St. Louis added him and maybe one of the Kansas City corner infielders, Mike Moustakas or Eric Hosmer, it would make a formidable 1-2 combination in the 3-4 holes in the batting order. Add a recovered Alex Reyes to the mix and this team might be back in business for the long haul.