The St. Louis Cardinals have been without Jack Flaherty for months but the imminent return of the team’s ace is impacting trade deadline plans.
The St. Louis Cardinals continue to explore rotation upgrades that would impact the roster not just in 2021, but in future seasons. But the internal belief is that the returns of Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas will count as trade additions for the second half of the season — and both are said to be progressing ahead of schedule in their recoveries.
In fact, Flaherty, who has been dealing with a significant left oblique strain, is making a rehab start for the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate on Tuesday night, the team announced, with Katie Woo of The Athletic adding that the team is targeting 40-45 pitches in the outing.
It’s an important step for Flaherty and could bring the Cardinals one step closer to once again competing in the National League Central. With Flaherty, they were atop the division, ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers who have emerged as one of baseball’s best teams. Without Flaherty, their rotation has cratered and it’s resulted in a collapse, with the team at one point falling to fourth place in the division.
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Even with Flaherty set to return soon, barring a setback, the Cardinals should pursue pitching that is signed beyond this season. The top options figure to include the Texas Rangers’ Kyle Gibson and Arizona Diamondbacks’ Merrill Kelly, though both come with high asking prices and question marks. With Gibson, it’s concerns that his stuff — and lack of strikeout ability — will not help a team in postseason contention while Kelly has battled a plethora of injuries in recent seasons.
There has been external support for Max Scherzer, who looks increasingly likely to be traded by the Washington Nationals, though there is little to no chance that he ends up in St. Louis. Even then, with Flaherty on the verge of returning, the Cardinals are about to get their ace back. But will it be too late, with the Brewers eight games ahead entering Tuesday, or will it be enough for them to come back?
We should find out sooner than later.