The Big Picture
The defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals are currently 47-45, 4.5 games behind both the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates. They are also 4.5 games behind those two teams in the Wild Card race, but just three games back of the Atlanta Braves and 1.5 games behind the Dodgers for the second Wild Card. The team traditionally is not afraid to make a splash at the trade deadline. Last year, it was a deadline deal that is often credited for propelling the team to the playoffs late in the season. They won’t be afraid to pull the trigger on another deal this July.
Carlos Beltran is playing like an MVP. Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman continue to rake. David Freese became a household name in the playoffs last year and has broken out for real this season. This is a good, deep team that frankly, should not be outside of the current playoff picture looking in.
Why They Will Trade With the Twins The Cardinals are blessed with one of baseball’s best offenses. Their pitching is pretty middle-of-the-pack, and their bullpen could use some proven, quality arms. The Red Birds are 12th in baseball with a 3.89 ERA, 15th in WHIP at 1.31, and 22nd in opponent batting average, at .260. Their starters have generally been just find, providing the team with 55 Quality Starts, which ranks sixth in the game. Adam Wainright (7-10, 4.42, 1.29), Kyle Lohse (9-2, 2.80, 1.10), Lance Lynn (11-4, 3.27, 1.21), and Jake Westbrook (7-8, 3.82, 1.33) make up four-fifths of the starting rotation. Jaime Garcia is most likely out until at least mid-August. He had an elbow injury in May and is now out with a shoulder injury. Just last week, ace Chris Carpenter had shoulder surgery and is out for the year. Joe Kelly has stepped in and is 1-2 with a 2.75 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP, but I am certain that the Cardinals would be on the lookout for an impact starter. In fact, they are rumored to be kicking the tires on Mariners LHP Jason Vargas.
Considering that several of the other big name pitchers who are likely on the trade block are from the NL Central (Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza of the Cubs, and Zach Greinke and Shawn Marcum of the Brewers), it certainly helps make a case for the Cardinals and Twins having some in-depth conversations surrounding lefty Francisco Liriano. Liriano has been pitching as well as anyone in baseball of late. He could also balance out their rotation a little bit by giving them a left-handed starting pitcher.
The Cardinals bullpen after Jason Motte and righty Mitchell Boggs is kind of a mess. If the Twins are willing to deal the likes of Glen Perkins or Jared Burton, they could get back quite a haul at this time. That said, someone like Casey Fien, who has come up recently as a minor league veteran and pitched very well and shown a lot of life on his pitches, might be someone of interest in a much more minor deal.
Why They Won't Trade With the Twins
Tom Brunansky for Tommy Herr.
OK, that deal was horrible, but it was made 24 years ago, so I think we should be able to move past it by now.
The Cardinals offense is very strong. They rank 2nd in MLB in batting average (.274), 2nd in on-base percentage (.340), 7th in slugging percentage (.478) and 5th in runs scored. With Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran playing the corner outfield spots, and John Joy posting an OBP around .360, they are one team that doesn't need to go after an outfielder. The only players among their regulars that are currently posting sub-.700 OPS are 2B Daniel Descalso and All Star SS Rafael Furcal (.699). Frankly, the Twins don't have a better option for them at that position.
The Cardinals are used to being in the playoffs and the teams they are chasing may not have better teams on paper. This team may just need to infuse one piece to go on a run. They may also see the Joey Votto injury and think that now is the time to go for it. They will never say it, but I'm sure that Mike Matheny and his ball players would love to get back to the playoffs and show that they can do it without manager Tony LaRussa or all-time great Albert Pujols.
And it turns out that the Cardinals have a few high-ceiling pitching prospects that, so sad, aren't quite ready to take a spot in the rotation. If you want to get a little excited about the return that Liriano could fetch from the Cardinals, stop by Twins Daily where Seth lists some pretty exciting pitching talent the Twins might be able to acquire from the Cardinals.