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Bowden: Cardinals in on Jon Lester

Things are getting interesting for St. Louis Cardinals fans. 

First the Redbirds made a major trade for right fielder Jason Heyward and set up man Jordan Walden with the Atlanta Braves.

That deal hasn't even sunk in yet and ESPN's Jim Bowden said St. Louis has jumped into the free agent starting pitching market. Surprisingly, Bowden said the Cardinals are not after St. Louis native Max Scherzer but former Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester.

Why Lester instead of Scherzer? 

Well, the Cardinals might believe Lester could be had more cheaply. It could be that, as a mid-season trade subject, Lester wouldn't require the Birds to give up a draft pick as compensation for his signing. Or, maybe, St. Louis is just trying to drive up the price of Lester's services for another suitor, the Chicago Cubs.

But I hope the Cardinals are serious. 

With Adam Wainwright coming off of surgery, Michael Wacha battling back from a shoulder injury and John Lackey getting a bit long in the tooth, the Redbirds are not, contrary to popular opinion, deep in front end of the rotation pitchers. One or two of those pitchers could go down and it wouldn't surprise me. Could they be replaced by Marco Gonzales or Carlos Martinez? Sure. But the quality will suffer.

Besides, ever since Chris Carpenter went down to injury, the Birds have had an ace -- Wainwright -- and four guys who were really third or fourth starter material. Even with the emergence of Lance Lynn, the team could still use another co-ace sort who can match up with other elite second starters of potential playoff foes Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Because the Cardinals have so many young players doing their job more cheaply than the going MLB rate -- and the fact that Mark Ellis and Jason Motte came off the books this off season and Jaime Garcia will come off next year -- the team has the financial flexibility to add another key player without being forced to make another subtraction elsewhere.