Despite getting swept by the Braves this weekend, the Cardinals still retain the best record in the National League. The team doesn't have many holes outside of shortstop and middle relief. The NL Central is a strong division this year and the Pirates and Reds are right on the Redbirds heels. Many games remain against these two teams and the Cardinals will need to play well in those games to win the division. The Cardinals possess many top prospects for a potential trade and have been linked to several players. At this time of year, it's hard to tell how much stock to put in these rumors.
John Mozeliak said recently that he doesn't expect to make any major moves at the deadline. Mozeliak usually does his work under the radar, though. Last year's trade for Edward Mujica is a good example of that. Mozeliak has also stated that he doesn't want to trade Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong, Carlos Martinez, or Michael Wacha. The team has several other prospects it could trade, but teams are going to inquire about those four players in any trade talks.
It was rumored that the Cardinals inquired the White Sox about shortstop Alexei Ramirez. Ramirez has a solid glove and is batting .282 with 21 steals this year. He would be an upgrade over Pete Kozma and bring some much needed speed to the team. Ramirez is 31 years old and has another year on his contract. However, it was rumored that the White Sox turned down a deal involving Martinez. I find that highly unlikely, though. It's hard to believe the Sox GM would not want an electric young pitcher like Martinez. It's also hard to believe that Mozeliak would offer Martinez for Ramirez.
The Cardinals have also been rumored to be in the starting pitching market. Cliff Lee, Jake Peavy, Ervin Santana, and Bud Norris are names that have been mentioned. Norris wouldn't be much of an upgrade, although he is a Cardinal killer. The Royals are asking a lot for Santana, who's a free agent at the season's end. The Sox are asking a lot for Peavy, who's having an off-year with a 4.28 ERA. Lee might be available with the Phillies struggles, but is he worth the price? Lee is due $25 million a year for the next two years, and his contract includes a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016 if he reaches innings incentives.
The Phillies don't want to eat his contract and will want a big haul of prospects for Lee. Lee is 7-3 with a 2.52 ERA in the postseason. A rotation of Adam Wainwright, Lee, Lance Lynn, and Shelby Miller would be formidable in October. Still, it doesn't guarantee a World Series championship. Lee's 2011 Phillies had him, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, and fell short to the Cardinals in the Division Series. The 2009 Phillies and 2010 Rangers fell short in the World Series after acquiring Lee mid-season. Any trade will likely have to include a player or two on Mozeliak's no trade list of Taveras, Wong, Wacha, and Martinez. Mozeliak's past indicates that he isn't likely to risk the future at the deadline.
If the Cardinals do make a move, it will most likely be for a reliever. The Padres Luke Gregerson could be a target after the Padres indicated they are shopping their relievers. Gregerson was once a Cardinals farmhand who was traded away for Khalil Greene. Mozeliak has also indicated he could stand pat. Mujica, Trevor Rosenthal, Seth Maness, and Kevin Siegrist have been solid this year. The Cardinals still have plenty of arms in the minors. I'm not sure if the Cardinals feel good about Fernando Salas or Marc Rzepcynski. The Cardinals could also make a move for a right handed bat off the bench. Mozeliak doesn't have the reputation for big trades like his predecessor Walt Jocketty, but he has made some big moves at the deadline. Here's a look back at some of his deals.
The Cardinals finished a respectable 86-76 in 2008, but that was only good for a fourth place finish. Mozeliak decided that the team wasn't good enough in 2008 and decided to hold on to his top prospects, much to the chagrin of then-manager Tony La Russa. The Cubs added Rich Harden and the Brewers added CC Sabathia at the deadline. The Cardinals had several weak spots on the club in 2008 and Mozeliak ultimately held on to Colby Rasmus, Allen Craig, Chris Perez, Jason Motte, and other top prospects of that time.
Chris Carpenter pitched his first healthy season since 2006 in the 2009 season. Carpenter and Adam Wainwright finished 2-3 in the Cy Young voting in 2009. Albert Pujols was off to his 3rd MVP season, but needed some help offensively. Besides Yadier Molina and Ryan Ludwick, Pujols didn't have much protection in the lineup. In June, the Cardinals acquired Mark De Rosa from the Indians for Perez and Jess Todd. Todd never panned out, but Perez turned into an All Star closer with Cleveland. De Rosa took over at third, which had been in flux because of Troy Glaus' injury. De Rosa injured his wrist soon after joining the Cardinals and wasn't productive during his Cardinals tenure. He left as a free agent after the season.
A week before the trading deadline, the Cardinals made a major move, one of the biggest trades in Mozeliak's tenure. They inquired the Rockies about Matt Holliday the prior offseason, but Holliday ended up getting traded to Oakland. He was a free agent at the season's end and the Cardinals were worried he might be a rental. They went ahead and traded 2008 top draft pick Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen, and Shane Peterson to the A's for Holliday. Holliday hit .353 with 13 home runs after getting traded to the Cards and helped take them to the postseason. It was a brief stay and Holliday made a critical error in the NLDS.
Holliday ended up staying in St. Louis, signing a club record 7 year, $120 million contract. Holliday has been a 3-time All Star with the Redbirds and has batted .302 with 103 home runs and 382 RBIs with the club. Holliday does take some criticism for his contract, defensive struggles, lack of clutch hitting, and knack for hitting into double plays. Still, this was a good deal for St. Louis. Wallace has yet to do much in his 4 seasons with the Astros and neither Mortensen or Peterson has panned out.
Big things were expected from the Cardinals in 2010, but this club faded down the stretch and missed the playoffs. Brad Penny was signed as a reclamation project for Dave Duncan, but didn't pitch after June. Kyle Lohse was also injured during parts of this season. Lefty Jaime Garcia finished 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting in 2010, but was limited down the stretch. Mozeliak felt that the team needed more pitching depth after Carpenter and Wainwright. Jon Jay was hitting nearly .400 after his callup mid-season 2010 as a fourth outfielder. Mozeliak had decided that Ludwick was expendable and traded him in a three way deal involving the Indians and Padres. Ludwick was sent to the Padres and the Indians sent Jake Westbrook to the Cardinals. Westbrook was billed as an innings-eating sinkerballer. He has had moderate success in St. Louis, but wore down the stretch in both 2011 and 2012. Ludwick struggled for the next year and a half, but had a good season with the Reds in 2012. This year, Ludwick has been hurt all season.
Colby Rasmus was billed as a five tool player when he was drafted in the first round in 2005. Rasmus was ranked the number 3 prospect in all of MLB prior to his 2009 rookie campaign. He had a up and down rookie season, finishing 8th in NL Rookie of the Year voting. Rasmus was one of the few Cardinals that hit during the 2009 NLDS, going 4 for 9 with two walks. In 2010, Rasmus hit .276, had a .361 OBP, 23 homers, 66 RBI's, and 12 steals. Big things were expected in 2011 and Rasmus played well the first two months. He then fell into a deep slump in June and his relationship with La Russa hit an all time low. Mozeliak was still hesistant to trade Rasmus, turning down a deal prior to the season involving Rasmus to Boston for Jacoby Ellsbury.
Tony La Russa would manage his final season in 2011 and Albert Pujols would leave as a free agent after the season. That was not known in July 2011. The Cardinals were 10 games behind the Brewers and needed some pitching help. They traded Rasmus to the Blue Jays along with Brian Tallet, Trever Miller, and PJ Walters for Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Scrabble, and Corey Patterson. I hated the trade at the time and thought it was a mistake to trade Rasmus for rentals(I especially questioned the Patterson acquisition. Dotel and Jackson both left at the end of the season, but along with Scrabble helped the Cardinals out in their miracle turnaround and eventual World Series title. Rasmus has had some struggles, but is showing glimpses of his potential in Toronto. He has played very good defense and is batting .272 with 17 home runs and 52 RBI's this year. He still strikes out too much and hasn't developed into a base stealer as predicted. Still, the Jays seem to be happy about their part of the deal considering that none of those players could of gotten the weaker Jays over the hump.
The trade of Rasmus also eliminated the La Russa/Rasmus feud from the clubhouse. Mozeliak decided to go the route he did in early 2008 when he traded Scott Rolen to Toronto for Troy Glaus. Rolen had feuded with La Russa over playing time and his injuries. The Rasmus trade wasn't the only big move in 2011, though. The most important move was acquiring Rafael Furcal for minor leaguer Alex Castellanos. Ryan Theriot had been the starting shortstop and had very little range. Theriot was brought in the improve the offense over weak hitting, good glove Brendan Ryan. Furcal greatly improved the Cardinals defense. I'm not sure if the Cardinals would of made the playoffs if they kept Theriot at short that year, considering they didn't get in until the season's final day.
The move to get Edward Mujica made very little headlines last year. Mozeliak traded 2010 top draft pick Zack Cox to the Marlins to get Mujica. Mujica had moderate success in parts of 7 seasons with the Indians, Padres, and Marlins. With the Cardinals, he took it to another level. In 71 innings, Mujica has a 1.65 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP. Nicknamed the Chief, Mujica took over as the Cardinals closer early in the season after Jason Motte's season ending surgery and Mitchell Boggs' struggles. He has saved 30 games and made the All Star team this year. Cox is in Double A in the Marlins organization. Cox may be a Brett Wallace type player who doesn't pan out.