MLB Trade Deadline: What direction will the Cardinals go?

St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, middle, during a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco, Tuesday, July 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

ST. LOUIS- The Major League Baseball trade deadline is less than 48 hours away–3 pm Central on Friday to be exact–and while anything’s still possible, there’s little sign that the Cardinals will be making huge waves.

At 51-51 after Wednesday’s 7-2 loss at Cleveland, the Cardinals are 7.5 games out of the Wild Card race and 8.5 behind Milwaukee for the NL Central lead. August and September provide 13 games against the Brewers, but the question remains if St. Louis will be positioned for those games to truly matter when the time comes.

In a Bally Sports interview, President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak told Jim Hayes earlier this week that he was “looking for innings….anything we can upgrade to take us deeper into a game.”

That in itself is not new. The Cardinals have been searching for innings most of the season, as injuries and inconsistency hit the starting rotation hard. Carlos Martinez is likely done for the season. Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas are making rehab starts and could be back near mid-August. Adam Wainwright continues doing Adam Wainwright things to hold down the fort, and after going six innings in his two previous starts, KK Kim was knocked out after 2.2 innings Wednesday against Cleveland.

In this space almost two months ago we offered up six potential suggestions for pitchers who could potentially eat up some innings. None of them have been dealt yet to other clubs. One of them, Jose Berrios, is scheduled to pitch against the Cardinals Friday night unless he’s traded before then. Another, Chesterfield native Max Scherzer, could be heading to the NL west, making the Wild Card route even tougher for the Cardinals.

Mozeliak has instead gone with “the panning for gold” approach, aquiring Wade LeBlanc, TJ McFarland, Justin Miller and others in an effort to help the bullpen and LeBlanc’s case, a few turns through the rotation.

After a June swoon, the lineup has started to generate the kind of offense the team had hoped, with a healthy outfield of Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader and Dylan Carlson now rewarding the faith the front office had promised coming into the year.

Depth is still an issue. While Edmundo Sosa performed admirably in place of Paul DeJong while DeJong was on the injured list, as a pinch hitting option of the bench, he is not feared. The same could be said for Matt Carpenter, Lane Thomas and Jose Rendon.

In May, when the outfield puzzle was hazy due to injury, we offered up some suggestions that could provide some depth and heft at the plate. Unfortunately, that shopping cart appears to be picked over.

  • Adam Frazier, who would look great at second base in place of Tommy Edman, who is strong defensively, but has cooled since May, was dealt from Pittsburgh to San Diego.
  • Mitch Hanniger, the Seattle outfielder, is part of a Mariner club now only a game out of the Wild Card race.
  • Nelson Cruz, the mashing Minnesota DH, was traded to Tampa Bay. He would have been a defensive liability in the field, but he would have been a powerful pinch-hitting weapon here.
  • Joey Gallo, the versatile infielder-outfielder for the Rangers, was thought to be in the mix for San Diego but now appears headed for the Yankees.

Something to keep in mind as the next few days unfold. The Cardinals will need to clear room on the 40-man roster to bring back Flaherty and Mikolas within the next few weeks, so it’s a fair question to ask if a trade may accomplish more in the way of roster management instead of adding immediate help.

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