With the MLB first year player draft out of the way, the focus now shifts to the next big event, the July 31st (waiver-free) trade deadline. The Cardinals have been scuffling all year and could certainly use some help, but what exactly are their needs as the deadline approaches?
The top priority for John Mozeliak should be to find bullpen help.
The Cardinals bullpen has a 5-11 record with a 3.67 ERA. While the ERA is not too bad, as a team they are tied with the Cubs for 5th worst in the NL with 10 blown saves.
Their closer, Trevor Rosenthal, has struggled all year with his control (4.9 BB/9, over double his 2.4 mark from 2013). Top setup man, Carlos Martinez, has a 4.32 ERA and their best lefty, Kevin Siegrist, is on the DL, and, while 2012 closer Jason Motte has returned from Tommy John surgery, can Mike Matheny lean on him as heavily as he has the others?
The Cardinals have done an excellent job the last two years of acquiring struggling relievers from other teams and helping them turn things around for the stretch run.
In 2012, it was Edward Mujica, who the Cards acquired from Miami for prospect Zack Cox. Mujica had a 4.38 ERA with the Marlins prior to the trade and a 1.03 ERA with the Redbirds. He went on to serve as the Cardinals closer for much of the 2013 season, before tiring down the stretch.
In 2013, the Cardinals acquired John Axford from the Brewers for reliever Michael Blazek. Axford had a 4.45 ERA with the Brew Crew, but posted a 1.74 ERA with the Cards.
Its a little early to tell exactly who might be available, but someone like J.J. Putz of the Diamondbacks fits the profile. He has struggled this year with injuries (forearm) and ineffectiveness (4.91 ERA), so he could be had for cheap (if you don't count the prorated portion of his $7.0 million contract) and could provide the Cards pen with a boost.
A Big Splash
Perhaps what this team needs to wake from their doldrums is for Mozeliak to make a big splash at the trade deadline and land the big fish. Other than shoring up the bullpen, this is the only other move I think that the Cardinals could make to light a fire under this team.
Ken Rosenthal is just the latest writer to suggest that the Cardinals go after a big name pitcher, such as the Rays' David Price or the Royals' James Shields, because, well, pitching.
The Cardinals certainly have the minor league talent to land a big target. They could offer up one of their AAA outfielders (such as Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty), a young pitcher or two (Carlos Martinez, John Gast, Tyler Lyons, Marco Gonzales, etc) and perhaps even someone like Matt Adams.
It would take a lot to land one of the big fish, but it just may be the spark that this team needs.
Of course, one might say that its the offense that needs a boost, so why not go after a big hitter. Well, for one thing, where would you put him? The team is pretty much set at all their positions and its really the struggles of veterans like Allen Craig and Matt Holliday that have caused the offense to sputter, so should the team really use its resources to land another hitter and try to squeeze him into the lineup?
In any case, it will be interesting to see what Mo does to shake up this team. Will he make a big splash or will he just make a small tweak? Perhaps the team's performance over the next month will decide.