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Emergence of rookies, return of vets changes Cards' trade market

The Cardinals have been supposed for weeks to be a major player on the trade market thanks to two injured starting pitchers and a head scratching offense.

But, with a week and a half until we reach the non-waiver trade deadline, the Redbirds have lost the look of desperation as they've finally started to click with the bats. Meanwhile, several of their injured players are on the verge of getting back into the fight. Suddenly, the once too thin Cardinals seem to have too many players for too few jobs.

Should the Cardinals, at this point, risk upsetting the apple cart by making a trade at all?

Slugger Ryan Ludwick, who has missed a month with a calf injury, has been sent to Class AAA Memphis on a rehab assignment and could be back in right field by the end of the week when the Cardinals take on the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Meanwhile, Kyle Lohse, thought to possibly be out for the season thanks to forearm surgery has thrown off a mound twice this week and could head out for his own rehab assignment in the next several days. If those two could come back and play the way they're capable of playing, the Redbirds would be in excellent shape for a run at the post season.

And there is always the chance that Brad Penny could make it back before the end of the season.

The Cardinals' kids have more than adequately filled in for Ludwick. And, while the club could use more pitching depth, getting a starter may no longer be a necessity. I'd hate to see the club part with one of its precious few prospects for a fourth or fifth man in the rotation.

Allen Craig, finally getting a chance to play regularly at the major league level, is proving he can hit big league pitching. He's got six RBIs in his last four games and is hitting .367 in his latest -- albeit brief -- call up from Class AAA Memphis. Jon Jay is batting .372 over 78 major league at bats. He's got nine doubles and three homers and has at least two hits in five of his last 10 games. He's also drawing walks with a .417 on base percentage.

Jay could be the top of the order table setter that the Cardinals have craved since the days of Tony Womack and Fernando Vina.

On one hand, the youngsters have hiked their trade value at just the right time by proving they can play on the major league stage. But the fact of the matter is that, while the young outfielders are something that resembles spare parts right now, that might not be the case in the very near future.

Ludwick will be eligible for arbitration for the last time this winter. He's currently making $5.45 million but stands to make $8 million or more in 2011 and can be a free agent after that. If the Birds are planning to keep Albert Pujols around, they're going to have to save some money in other areas.

If the Birds deal away Craig and or Jay, they might regret it in a major way next season when they're trying to fill right field with the sliver of a budget left following the signing of Albert Pujols to a contract extension.

I'm not saying anyone is untouchable. It's certainly to stand pat while the teams around you are trying to make deals to get better. If the Cardinals were able to make a major deal with Arizona to land Dan Haren and shortstop Stephen Drew or second baseman Kelly Johnson, that's one thing. But let's not give up the farm for a band aid when the young stars are shining so brightly.