“You can never have enough pitching.”
That is the old baseball adage that the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals might put to the test as the trade deadline approaches at the end of July. The Cardinals sit atop of the standings but their starting pitching has left much to be desired over the past month. The team was touted for its young pitching and depth coming into the season, and taking into account the injuries that the staff has absorbed, that depth has come to fruition. However, considering the inexperience of the pitching talent in reserve, the Cardinals may want to add a veteran arm as they look to make a run at another championship.
In each of the past two years, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak has made a midseason trade that brought in pitching help, and both trades have been a success. In 2011 he made an off-the-wall trade that brought in starter Edwin Jackson and relievers Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel for talented but enigmatic outfielder Colby Rasmus. The deal was questioned at the time, but the Cardinals would not have won the 2011 World Series without the bullpen help. Last year Mozeliak made an under-the-radar deal trading former first round pick Zack Cox for middle reliever Edward Mujica. Mujica was solid last season, but he has been the Cardinals savior this year since Jason Motte went down with a season-ending injury. So Mozeliak has shown a propensity for acquiring pitching help during the season.
With the strong performance from set-up man Trevor Rosenthal and Mujica at closer, along with the potential emergence of rookies Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist, it is hard to make the argument that the Cards should part with one of their promising young prospects just for a little more bullpen help. But that proved to be the right move to help get the Cards over the hump in 2011, and sometimes a diamond in the rough can be found like Mujica. Fernando Salas has recently been called up to the majors again, and Rzepczynski has also been trying to figure things out in the minors. If either of those veterans can return to form, that would give the Cardinals a midseason boost in the bullpen. If Mozeliak decides to add bullpen help, do not expect it to be a blockbuster deal.
The more likely deal would be one that added to the Cardinal starting rotation. With questions about Shelby Miller’s endurance and Joe Kelly’s sustainability, the case can certainly be made that the club needs another reliable starter, perhaps a left-handed one, which they do not have right now. But there does not appear to be many valuable starters on the trading block at this time.
The best starting pitcher known to be on the trading block is the Cubs’ Matt Garza. There are many suitors for Garza and it seems unlikely that the division rival Cubs and the Cardinals would reach an agreeable deal. The Phillies might possibly consider trading ace lefty pitcher Cliff Lee if they have a rough couple of weeks and do not like their chances for the rest of this season, but Lee has a hefty contract that would make the deal sticky. The Cardinals will not being willing to give up multiple blue chip prospects for a pitcher about to turn 35 who is owed over $40 million over the next two seasons. Lee might not be available anyway. It does not appear that any veteran pitchers are available who are worth trading future prospects just for a one year rental.
If Chris Carpenter can make another incredible comeback, he might be the best possible addition to this starting rotation. The problem is the earliest Carpenter could be ready to return to big league form would be after the trade deadline, and even then it is not a given that the 38-year-old Carpenter will be completely his old self.
There has been some talk of the Cardinals also being in the market for some offensive help. There were rumors of the club being interested in Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, but such a trade seems unlikely now since Mozeliak has given a vote of confidence to Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso. Some have said the Cards need a right-handed hitter off the bench, but that seems like a minor deal for which it is unworthy of parting with valuable resources.
The Cardinals might be looking to add some pitching help, particularly a starter, but the possibilities appear scarce. Mozeliak has earned a reputation for working quietly, so he may surprise Cardinal Nation as the deadline approaches, especially with so many trading chips at his disposal. But Mozeliak has also shown that he will not break the bank if the right deal is not there. This team is in first place already and has a number of players who seem ready to step up. Sometimes the best move is no move at all.