If the Cardinals are shopping, what are they buying?
The Cardinals find themselves bunched in the middle of the National League Central and still waiting for an underachieving club to start playing up to potential. The defending NL champs have plenty of room for improvement, yet they don’t necessarily have clarity in how to identify those needs.
The club has thus far been anchored by its rotation, though recent injuries to Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha thinned that depth. Joe Kelly is poised to come off the disabled list later this week, and the Cardinals remain optimistic that Wacha will return next month. (Garcia is done for the year.) An MRI taken on Wacha’s shoulder on Monday revealed healing, but not enough for the righty to resume throwing. The Cardinals will reevaluate in two weeks.
Asked how Wacha’s status could affect the team’s Trade Deadline strategy, general manager John Mozeliak said: “It really doesn’t affect it one way or the other.”
He then elaborated.
“Well, we expect to get Kelly back at some point and feel pretty confident that those five can be successful,” Mozeliak said. “There are probably very few pitchers we could go out and acquire without having to give up one of those to begin with. I think that would just make it problematic, so for us we feel pretty good where we’re at from a pitching standpoint.”
Seeking to upgrade offensively would make a lot of sense for the Cardinals, who are at or near the bottom of the NL in runs scored, home runs and slugging percentage. But then the question becomes where to find the fit? Not only do the Cardinals have to find a seller who is not asking for a gaggle of prospects, but Mozeliak has to figure out where another bat would go.
The club is already struggling to find playing time for all its outfielders now that Oscar Taveras has been recalled. Across the infield, the only obvious opening would be to add someone at second or third and have Matt Carpenter play the other of those two positions. The Cardinals do not, though, want to block Kolten Wong for the long-term, so that, too could be troublesome.
“Certainly when you look at the sort of teams that are willing to trade players, there’s just not too many of them right now,” Mozeliak said. “Look, we’ll stay active on it, but as you guys know, that’s not something I report on, our day-to-day strategy, or who we’re talking to. If we’re able to do something to help the club we’re certainly going to try.
“I think you could say we could worry about a lot of things. The right strategy is if we think there’s an opportunity to improve, we’ll try. We’re not going to make a bad decision just in a panic situation.”
Perhaps a little more time will provide a bit more clarity.
— Jenifer Langosch