With the MLB trade deadline looming in August, will St. Louis look to add pitching?

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If you’re planning to make an important purchase, it’s to your benefit to find a variety of options available from a number of sellers that might all meet your needs.

The more specialized and narrow your options, the bigger challenge you’ll have coming away with a deal that feels like a good value.

Major League Baseball’s trade deadline functions in much the same way. In just about six weeks, on Tuesday, Aug. 2, trades will stop at 5 p.m. central, and the opportunities to acquire outside help for a playoff run will be substantially limited.

The St. Louis Cardinals are unlikely to find themselves in a position where their additions will be particularly pricey. Injuries, of course, remain the ultimate variable; in 2013, an injury to Yadier Molina just before the deadline sent the club scrambling for a replacement, and ultimately they declined to pay the Chicago Cubs the ransom they requested for Dioner Navarro.

Barring similarly strange circumstances, the Cardinals can focus their attentions on the one area of the roster which has vexed them thus far this season — middle relief, in the form of so-called “chase relievers.” Someone, after all, has to pitch the middle innings with the team trailing but still close without allowing those leads to blossom out of control.

TJ McFarland, Drew VerHagen and Nick Wittgren have all sputtered in that role in the early going, and as the Cardinals seek to discover whether young arms Johan Oviedo and and Zack Thompson can fill that void, they’re undoubtedly turning their attention outside of the organization to evaluate righties around the game who can perform the seemingly simple task of getting outs.

St. Louis Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak and the organization may look to acquire middle relief help at Major League Baseball’s trade deadline, which is 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2.
St. Louis Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak and the organization may look to acquire middle relief help at Major League Baseball’s trade deadline, which is 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2.

Bard, Alex Colomé possible options

Arguably the best available option will be Daniel Bard, the current closer of the Colorado Rockies who overcame a case of the yips to return to the majors in 2020 after a seven-year absence. Bard formerly trained near his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, at a facility owned by ex-Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, and was a long-time favorite of the former skipper.

Indeed, Bard made even more sense as a trade target in 2021, but the rudderless Rockies declined to make moves as a seller even as they drifted out of contention. Star shortstop Trevor Story walked away in free agency; Bard, under club control through this season, bounced back with improved numbers.

Alex Colomé, also in Colorado, is also almost certain to be moved this summer. Colomé was a target of the Cardinals in the middle of the last decade when he was flourishing as the closer of the Tampa Bay Rays. Now 33 years old and pitching on a one-year deal, he and Bard could represent an opportunity for the Redbirds and Rockies to negotiate on parallel tracks, increasing the likelihood at least one deal gets done.

What the Washington Nationals will be unable to offer in quality they will instead be able to offer in quantity, and with the Cardinals set to visit DC just before the deadline, they could pick up some pitchers to take back with them on the team plane.

Arms possibly on the radar

Steve Cishek, Carl Edwards, Jr. and Erasmo Ramírez are all right handed and will all be available for a very reasonable cost; Cishek has already had one stint in St. Louis, and Edwards Jr.’s experience with the Cubs and familiarity with the division could be either to his credit or his detriment. The Nationals and Cardinals also did similar business at least year’s deadline, swapping Lane Thomas for an innings band-aid in the form of Jon Lester.

There are others throughout the game who fit this mold, and more still who aren’t yet easy to identify. Teams that fall further out will be more inclined to kickstart their respective sell offs, though the expanded playoffs will keep more teams in contention deeper into the season. Whether that has a true chilling effect on the trade market remains to be seen.

Scarcely any of the pitchers the Cardinals are likely to consider will move the needle for many fans, but that reality speaks to the depth of the current roster. Any starter acquired, for instance, would need to be sufficiently talented to move Dakota Hudson to the bullpen, without even considering whether Steven Matz returns and contributes.

Adding catcher risky for Cardinals

Adding a catcher would be similarly fraught; setting aside the blow to the clubhouse that would accompany effectively icing Molina in his final season, the best available at the deadline is certain to be Willson Contreras of the Cubs; tanking or not, the Baby Bears are unlikely to be eager to ship talent down I-55, and the Cardinals don’t relish the thought of facing traded prospects for many years to come.

Indeed, after many years of all but sitting out the deadline, John Mozeliak’s Cardinals are now perfectly set up to largely follow that path in 2022. Nipping and tucking in the middle innings is scarcely too much to ask for a team that fancies itself a championship contender, and with one last fall of baseball for some franchise legends, the price to go all in has seemingly never been lower.

Jeff Jones
Jeff Jones