The St. Louis Cardinals showed promise to begin the season, but to be a contender, they’ll need John Mozeliak to add at the trade deadline.
Paul Goldschmidt has put together a banner first half and is the current front runner for the NL MVP. However, there are still clear areas of need this team will need to target if they have hopes of competing for the franchise’s 12th World Series. St. Louis has the easiest schedule remaining in MLB, and they should take advantage of that by making key additions to their roster ahead of August 2.
Below, let’s outline where the Redbirds could look to improve their roster ahead of the trade deadline while considering potential targets to trade for.
1) Help in the Rotation
The Cards have the ninth-best team ERA in MLB at 3.75, but there’s no doubt the most significant thing that plagued them before the All-Star break was their inconsistencies inside their starting rotation. Adam Wainwright has continued to best Father Time with a 3.00 ERA, while Miles Mikolas was named to the All-Star Game for the second time in his career after boasting a 2.54 ERA to lead the rotation. Besides Mikolas and Wainwright, the Cardinals haven’t had any certainty with the rest of their rotation, which has seen bright spots from the other members and plenty of ugly ones. Dakota Hudson has been fine with a 4.10 ERA, but with injuries to Steven Matz and Jack Flaherty for much of the first half, it’s clear there’s a need here that Cardinals management will need to address.
Whether the Cardinals want team control or a rental, multiple names should be available that can make a difference in the top half of the team’s rotation. Madison Bumgarner has a 3.83 ERA and likely won’t cost a lot. Bumgarner or Martin Perez could be considered good lefty trade targets. If the team is looking for more control, Merrill Kelly of the Arizona Diamondbacks makes sense, who has a team option in 2025, meaning the team could bridge some of their young starters into the rotation with him.
Potential Targets: LHP Madison Bumgarner (Diamondbacks), RHP Luis Castillo (Reds), RHP Merrill Kelly (Diamondbacks), RHP Frankie Montas (Athletics), LHP Martin Perez (Rangers), LHP Jose Quintana (Pirates)2) Late Inning Bullpen Arms
You can argue that this is as pressing of a need as more quality arms in the rotation, but some dominant bullpen arms have made it less of a scary situation. The issue is that the signings they made in the offseason haven’t worked out, specifically Drew VerHagen, Nick Wittgren, and T.J. McFarland, putting a lot of stress on some of their higher leverage bullpen options. The Cards’ bullpen currently has a 3.51 ERA, the 21st highest in MLB and an area that needs to be upgraded. Ryan Helsley was an All-Star this season with a sparkling 0.69 ERA, while Genesis Cabrera has also been excellent. Jordan Hicks should bolster the bullpen depth, but there’s still a need for a high-end bullpen threat in the seventh or eighth inning, which is something Mozeliak and Company will undoubtedly be looking for ahead of the trade deadline.
Much like starting pitching, it depends on which avenue the Cardinals management decides to take. Do they want rentals for this stretch run, or would they prefer team control and potentially have to give up more? If they choose the latter option, Scott Barlow of the Kansas City Royals could be an option, and Alex Colome is someone that brings the heat in the late innings, while Steve Cishek has experience pitching for the Cards in 2015.
Potential Targets: RHP Scott Barlow (Royals), RHP Alex Colome (Rockies), RHP Steve Cishek (Nationals), RHP Jorge Lopez (Orioles), RHP Josh Staumont (Royals), RHP David Robertson (Cubs), LHP Amir Garrett (Royals)3) Catching Depth
It’s no secret around the baseball world that Yadier Molina’s status is in question. He’s expected to make a return sometime in August, but there’s no certainty he will stay healthy. Andrew Knizner has proven he’s not ready for the responsibility, while the club doesn’t feel comfortable giving highly touted prospect Ivan Herrera the reigns yet.
It’s hard to expect the Chicago Cubs to deal their star catcher to their biggest rivals in the St. Louis Cardinals, but there’s no doubt he’d be a perfect fit there. Besides Willson Contreras, Sean Murphy of the Oakland Athletics feels like a fit that would make a lot of sense for St. Louis.
Potential Targets: Willson Contreras (Cubs), Sean Murphy (Athletics)