Cardinals eyeing Indians Jake Westbrook to fill pitching need

The Cardinals missed out on Roy Oswalt and Dan Haren, the two biggest pitchers available this July, but St. Louis is still searching. Jake Westbrook is now their No. 1 priority with less than 24 hours until the trade deadline. The Indians pitcher is one of the best left, but he has an injury history that would make any team balk at a deal.

Westbrook only made five starts in 2008 before a sore right elbow in late May ended his season. The right-hander needed Tommy John surgery and went on to miss the rest of the season and all of 2009. The risk is there.

I don’t think Westbrook is worth the risk. He is 32 years old and hasn’t shown much improvement over a mediocre career. He is 6-7 with a 4.65 ERA this season. Hardly impressive. Certainly not Roy Oswalt or Dan Haren. And his contract is a road block. He is owed $4 million for the rest of this season and would get a $2 million bonus if he is traded. To top it off, the Indians haven’t offered to help pay his salary. The Phillies were able to break the Astros to pay $11 million of Oswalt’s deal, making it a steal. The Cards should force a similar deal or move on. Westbrook isn’t an impact guy. The Cardinals can get by without him.

Fausto Carmona is my ideal addition, but it appears he either isn’t available or he isn’t on the Cards radar.

(Find out who I think the Cards should be focusing on in the 11th hour after the jump) [...]

If the right pitcher isn’t out there, the Cards shouldn’t make a move for the sake of making a move. Instead, St. Louis should address another need. The middle infield has been a weak spot for the Cardinals this year. Brendan Ryan is not getting the job done. Stephen Drew would be perfect. I feel like a broken record on this issue so I’ll throw in another voice. Joe Sheehan of SI.com thinks Drew to St. Louis is one of five trades that teams should make before the nonwaiver deadline.

Diamondbacks trade SS Stephen Drew to Cardinals for OF Jon Jay and RHP Adam Ottavino.

Having dealt away Dan Haren, the Diamondbacks seem ready to punt on the next few seasons. Drew is the one player of their core who is not signed to a long-term deal, and as a guy with four-plus years of service time who is heading into arbitration, will be in line for a healthy raise. Drew has stagnated since his breakout 2008 campaign, settling in as a .260 hitter without enough walks, power or speed to make him a star. He is the spitting image of a good, but not great player who becomes a bit too expensive for a bad team to retain through arbitration.

The Cardinals are trying to hang on in the NL Central with arguably the worst shortstop of any contending team in Brendan Ryan. Ryan’s glove simply doesn’t carry his empty .190 batting average. Adding Drew would be worth two wins to the Cards down the stretch, and he is the one player on the market who does that for them, adding offense, lineup balance — the Cards can list to the right a bit — and some speed. This is the way to leverage Jay’s impressive debut; he’s a fourth outfielder who has hit the ground running in his rookie season, and he could help the Diamondbacks as an upgrade over Gerardo Parra in left field. Ottavino, a former first-round pick who projects as an innings guy, has stagnated a bit and is a better fit for a rebuilding team than a veteran-oriented contender like the Cards.

This hypothetical deal would be a no-brainer for St. Louis. Stephen Drew is going to be a great defensive shortstop for the next five years. He could be a great player for the Cardinals during that time — a window that includes Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, David Freese, Colby Rasmus, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Jaime Garcia all in their prime. Drew would add to that core as a stabilizing force at short and make the Cards an instant rival for the Phillies and favorite in the NL.

If Westbrook is the best St. Louis can do, go get Stephen Drew and fight through the lack of pitching. Drew would be a key piece for the present and future. Westbrook would be a question mark at all times. The Cards can address pitching depth in the offseason. Drew may not be there in January.

And good shortstops are hard to come by.

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Tags: Brendan Ryan Fausto Carmona Jake Westbrook Roy Oswalt St Louis Cardinals Stephen Drew Trade Deadline

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