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It’s time for Cardinals to call up top prospects Flaherty and Hudson

The St. Louis Cardinals did nothing to improve themselves at the nonwaiver trade deadline, then they let potential targets in Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Verlander pass through waivers when they had a chance to claim them.

The Redbirds didn’t want to take on veteran players with megacontracts, no matter how desperately they need help. But if they’re not going to go outside the organization for assistance, why aren’t they at least bringing up some of these minor-league pitchers they’ve been clinging to so tightly?

Jack Flaherty is 6-2 with a 2.69 ERA after earning a mid-season promotion from Class AA Springfield to Class AAA Memphis. He’s struck out 82 in 80 1/3 innings at the highest level of the minors — 144 overall — and opponents are hitting .216 against him. But the Cardinals instead bring up Mike Mayers when Adam Wainwright and Trevor Rosenthal go down with injuries?

This isn’t a knock against Mayers, who has an ERA in the mid-3s. But he’s given up more hits than innings pitched while facing minor-league competition. He seems more like a back-of-the-rotation starter or middle reliever sort when the Cardinals are lacking a guy who was supposed to be a front-end starter and a lights-out closer.

When Mayers was bombed in the big leagues, St. Louis sent him back to Memphis in exchange for Josh Lucas, owner of 14 saves and a 65:9 strikeouts to walks ratio. But again, he’s a guy who has given up slightly more hits than innings pitched to minor-league batters. He’s someone who could be a useful reliever in the majors. But is he a game-changer right now? It’s doubtful.

Maybe Flaherty could be the guy that Rosenthal or Michael Wacha were when they made their big-league splash at a tender, young age — a dynamic hurler that the opposition didn’t have a book or film on. That’s the sort of guy who might make an impact instead of serving as cannon fodder for a few innings a week, filling a hole.

Dakota Hudson has taken a little longer than Flaherty to develop. But he’s another one of the guys the Birds have been bragging about, a guy we heard about in spring training as a player who could make his debut in St. Louis in 2017.

Maybe these guys aren’t the saviors of the current squad. It’s entirely possible that St. Louis needs more pieces than the club can produce from within. But at least we would have an idea of what the team is working with for 2018.

Are these kids going to be intimidated by facing big-league hitters? Will their stuff play at baseball’s highest level? Or should the front office more strongly consider making a move to bolster the staff for next season?

In many ways, the Cardinals starting rotation has been the team’s best strength this season. But the club is kind of in a jam.

Longtime ace Wainwright has struggled with ineffectiveness and elbow troubles all season — in fact, dating back to last season — and he’s not getting any younger as he comes into the last year of his contract.

Mike Leake seemed as if he was putting a subpar Cardinals debut behind him at the beginning of the season. But in year two of a five-year, $85-million contract, Leake has fallen apart in the second half and fans are calling for him to be demoted to the bullpen. That’s one expensive mopup man.

There are two question marks before you get out of the gate.

Beyond that, Michael Wacha seems to have regained his healthy after recurring shoulder troubles. But the nature of his injury is such that it could recur at any time.

Then there is Alex Reyes, the team’s highest-rated prospect who missed all of this year following Tommy John surgery. Sometimes guys recovering from that surgery need a year to get back to where they were before the injury. Sometimes they never come back at all. One thing is for sure: The Cardinals aren’t going to be able to count on Reyes to throw 220 innings his first season back. They’re going to have to take it easy with him to avoid future injury problems.

The Birds pride themselves on developing players from within. But they’ve fallen short in that area lately. They need to prove they know what they’re doing when they choose and groom youngsters as future impact players. Stephen Piscotty and Aledmys Diaz were supposed to be difference-makers. But three years down the road, they’re both struggling to even stay on the big-league roster.

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