The Cardinals come into the All-Star Break just a game out of first place in the NL Central, but they’ve managed to back into it; while the Red traded on improbable comebacks all through May and June the Cardinals trod water and dealt with a number of injuries that have dragged on past their original expiration dates in a fashion that is nothing if not Troy Glaussian. Strong hitting from Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday has provided a little room for optimism after the Cardinals hit rock bottom after two improbable bullpen explosions in Colorado, but it hasn’t hurt that the Reds have struggled, themselves.
Cardinals GM John Mozeliak has recently admitted to an interest in the trade market, but what specifics he’s inadvertently offered have been clarified back into vagueness as soon as he realizes it. But the holes the Cardinals have to fill are, by now, pretty clear.
Brad Penny and Kyle Lohse, the back of the Cardinals’ rotation, are currently on the disabled list; neither’s pitched since May. Lohse’s comeback is especially tenuous—he underwent surgery in late May for a condition, extreme compartmentalization syndrome, that normally affects European motocross riders. In their place the Cardinals have started Blake Hawksworth, a top prospect circa 2003 who’s been surprisingly competent, and Jeff Suppan, who hasn’t surprised anybody at all.
So the Cardinals need a starter, and preferably a cheap one. They don’t have many prospects to give—SP Lance Lynn is a future innings eater, and OF/3B Allen Craig is a AAA slugger in need of a position and 400 AB, but I can’t imagine them parting with any player dearer than that—and they don’t have a lot of money to spend, because Matt Holliday and the upcoming Albert Pujols deal will define their payroll for the rest of this decade.
At Viva El Birdos we’re still collectively traumatized by the Mark Mulder deal, which has caused an odd dynamic. We all want Dan Haren back, but none of us wants the Cardinals to overpay for a veteran starting pitcher—there’s an understandable reluctance to trade the next Dan Haren for the last one. A player like Jake Westbrook is the ideal Cardinals trade target: relatively cheap, no commitment, and a lot of groundball outs.
But the Cardinals have always been more than willing to dig players out from the scrap heap if the only other option is to overpay; if the Orioles end up dumping Kevin Millwood directly from the disabled list onto waivers he’s just as likely to be the next Cardinals pitcher as any more successful trade-bait.
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