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Lance Berkman nears return, allows Cardinals trade flexibility

While the news about Chris Carpenter is expected to be bad when the Cardinals speak about his situation later today, the Birds at least got some good news from Lance Berkman.

Back with the team Monday night after completing his re-hab in Houston, Berkman is running and otherwise resuming baseball activities with plans to be back in the line-up in about 10 days.

The return of The Big Puma should not be underestimated. Yeah, Allen Craig is doing a great job at first base and, yeah, the Cardinals need pitching more than offense right now. But Berkman and Carpenter are the true leaders of the Redbirds and the club will rally around its veteran slugger. Also, Berkman will provide the Cardinals with some depth to both give its other players some valuable rest while also strengthening the bench tremendously.

Berkman's return also could have the added benefit of allowing the Cardinals the flexibility to trade for pitching.

It seems fairly obvious that there isn't room for both Craig and Adams at first base in Busch Stadium. So maybe the Redbirds could trade Adams to a team starved for power for some major league ready pitching.

Houston, with the former head of Cardinals scouting as its general manager, is an obvious landing spot. The Astros have been trying to divest themselves of Carlos Lee and his expiring mega contract. Whether or not Lee accepts a trade, his time in Houston is running out. So Adams could be a centerpiece of the south Texas rebuilding project.

What's that you say? The Astros have former top Cardinals prospect Brett Wallace as a potential first baseman? Let's not forget that Houston will (sadly) become an American League city in 2013. So the designated hitter will be in play.

Wandy Rodriguez isn't Cole Hamels. But he's a solid major league starter who could fill the double role of improving the St. Louis rotation while bumping a current starter into the bullepen. The Cardinals could ask for Brandon Lyon or Wilton Lopez as a throw in. Lyon is 0-2 with a 2.73 ERA this season with 30 hits allowed in 29 2/3 innings. He's struck out 30 hitters while walking eight. Lopez is 3-0 with a 2.51 ERA and 27 hits allowed in 32 1/3 innings. He's struck out 26 and walked four.

Maybe the Redbirds could get BOTH relievers if they threw in one of their engimatic young relievers as a project. I hate to give up Eduardo Sanchez because his stuff is ridiculously good. But he's got problems between the ears -- whether it's a lack of confidence or stubbornness, I don't know. But it leaves him grasping for control of his pitches. And the Cardinals can't afford right now to let him try to work it out in the majors.

Another possible trade target for the Cardinals is Francisco Rodriguez, the former closer of the Mets and Angels who currently is a set-up man for the Brewers.

The Brew Crew has apparently decided to cut costs at the deadline after a team meeting. But I wonder if they would be willing to deal him to their bitter rivals in St. Louis. I also wonder if the Cardinals want to watch Adams fill the Brewers first base hole created when Prince Fielder left as a free agent.

If a deal was struck, would Rodriguez be the set-up man in St. Louis or would he get his wish to resume to closing duties? It could potentially be disruptive to pull the rug out from under current closer Jason Motte. I would be in favor of a healthy competition. But sometimes players see things differently.

K-Rod is 1-4 with a disappointing 4.00 ERA this season and he has allowed 38 hits in 36 innings of work. He's struck out 32 and walked 15.

While his velocity is up this season, Rodriguez has a 1.472 walks and hits per inning average, which is the second-highest rate in his career.