With the trade deadline less than two weeks away, the Cardinals find themselves just a half game ahead of the Cincinnati Reds for the NL Central lead. However, the Reds have the easiest remaining schedule in the majors based on their opponents winning percentage. This may not bode well for the Redbirds if they do not make some sort of move before the deadline, especially considering that there are five teams separated by just two games competing for the wild-card lead.
The Cardinals pitching staff has been phenomenal all season long posting a 3.33 ERA, which is second best among all teams. Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter have combined for 24 wins so far and with the emergence of rookie standout Jamie Garcia, the Cards pitching seems to be in great shape for a strong finish.
Hitting, on the other hand, is a different story with catcher Yadier Molina and second baseman Skip Schumaker struggling. As crazy as it sounds, the Cardinals are not inside the top ten in home runs, RBI’s, batting average, or hits. There are several intriguing possibilities out there that could help St. Louis win the division and make a deep run in the playoffs.
First, the Cards could go after proven veterans such Ty Wigginton, Miguel Tejada, Mike Lowell, or even free agent slugger Jermaine Dye. Wigginton and Tejada are guys who will get on base a lot and bring consistency to the club, which is one of the most important assets in baseball. Mike Lowell would bring plenty of leadership and playoff experience to the table with three World Series rings as a member of the Marlins and Red Sox. Jermaine Dye is certainly somewhat of a risk considering he hasn’t played a game this year, but his solid hitting and fundamentals could pay off in the end.
Jayson Werth, who is in the final year of his contract with the Phillies, is also an interesting option if the Cardinals are willing to give up a considerable amount in return. Werth would be another power bat in the lineup behind Pujols and Holliday. Finally, some young developing players could be made available including catcher Matt Wieters and outfielder Cody Ross. Although they may not have the immediate impact that the other players would, the upside and long term potential of these two guys is incredibly valuable.
After winning the World Series in 2006, the Cardinals have failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs in the past three seasons. With the National League as good as it has been in quite some time, they cannot afford to settle for what they currently have. The addition of one more big bat that can consistently contribute to the offense could be the difference between missing the playoffs or winning the division for the Cards.