ST. LOUIS–One of the most frenzied periods leading up to a major league baseball trade deadline in recent memory has come to an end. All-Stars were traded. At least one future hall of famer was traded. The core of the Chicago Cubs team that broke the World Series curse was traded.
The St. Louis Cardinals obtained veteran starters J.A. Happ and Jon Lester Friday afternoon.
If the fanbase, or at least the parts of it on social media, seemed underwhelmed by the deadline haul, the team says it still has a shot at making a run for the playoffs.
“We’re still trying to fight for something,” Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said Friday afternoon in a Zoom meeting with reporters after the trade deadline dust had settled.
Happ and Lester give the team some depth in the rotation and veteran leadership in the clubhouse, Mozeliak said, adding that it allows Johan Oviedo, who has been up and down between the team’s alternate site and the majors in 2020, then aboard the Memphis shuttle in 2021, to remain in AAA for a bit to continue his development. Jake Woodford, the reliever who was stretched out into the rotation, may or may not stay there thanks in part to an off-day coming Monday.
Were they in the mix for other fish who could have made a bigger impact on the stretch drive? Mozeliak would only say he thought this morning they were going to end up with someone but that it didn’t come to pass. While he didn’t identify the player by name, he did say it was not a position player, which means earlier speculation that the Cardinals and Rockies could swing another deal, this time for Trevor Story, was unfounded.
The price tag for doing something more meaningful was too high, Mozeliak said, suggesting several times that rival clubs were asking for some of the organization’s top 5 prospects, which means pitchers Matthew Liberatore and Zack Thompson, infielder Nolan Gorman, catcher Ivan Herrera and shortstop-pitcher Masyn Winn.
“We still believe in this team,” Mozeliak said, but cautioned that they also believe in what they have assembled for 2022 and did not want to mortgage the future.
Asked to survey the landscape of the league post-deadline, where the Padres, Dodgers and Giants all made large splashes, landing players like Adam Frazier, Trea Turner, Max Scherzer and Kris Bryant, Mike Shildt wouldn’t directly answer if he thought the route to the playoffs was better achieved by winning the NL Central. Mozeliak for his part did mention the Central twice specifically in his remarks.
The Reds and Brewers both made additions to their bullpens at the deadline, while Milwaukee’s most impactful trade may have come weeks ago when it acquired shortstop Wille Adames in May. The Cardinals have 13 games left against the Brewers among the 60+ games left in 2021.
The Cardinals are two games closer in the Wild Card (7.5) hunt than they are in the division race (9.5), but it feels like the road to the postseason will run through Milwaukee.