John Mozeliak cannot use his normal approach with the 2024 trade deadline

The old ways of doing business have not panned out over the last several seasons. It is time to be bold and take risks.
St Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers
St Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

The St. Louis Cardinals have climbed out of the National League basement and are making noise again. Even with a negative run differential, the team is sitting in second place in the National League Central and are in position for the third wild card spot. Prior to 2023, this is a normal position for the Cardinals to be in. But the Cardinals are not in a normal position. They started off ice cold with their hitting and were dangerously close to repeating the same catastrophic failure from the season prior. But with a strong month of May, the team seems to have life again. But how long is this sustainable?

Even with the veteran pitching panning out, the team only has four established starters. The fifth spot in the rotation has been a swinging door of internal options where Mozeliak is hoping for the best. We have seen Matthew Liberatore fail time and time again in that role and now we are seeing what comes from stretching out Andre Pallante and Zack Thompson. Yet again, Cardinals fans are seeing the front office slap a band-aid on the problem, hoping it can hold the team together. As a matter of fact, the franchise cannot withstand another inactive deadline using this approach.

If the Cardinals are truly serious about competing in 2024 for the postseason, they have to be buyers. Being a buyer does not include the likes of doing the bare minimum. The fans understand that you cannot act careless as a GM or else it can lead to long-term issues with the franchise. For instance, the Padres have made the biggest of splash moves with A.J. Preller. But the Padres are still average and have sacrificed much of their farm depth which would have led to a better long-term roster.

But Mozeliak has never rolled the dice with risk at the trade deadline. The biggest move we have seen in the last decade was trading Luke Voit for Chasen Shreve and Giovanni Gallegos in 2018. Trading a platoon depth piece first baseman for middle-grade relief pitching is not necessarily setting a team up for a postseason push. Gallegos became a success in the long term which makes this a great trade. What did 2019 offer? Some would say it's an absolute bust of a deadline. 2021 brought us a patch job of veteran arms Jon Lester and J.A Happ. The moves worked in covering needed innings but we did not see much else after getting bounced in the Wild Card game versus the Dodgers. 2022 was MO's best work in acquiring Jordan Montgomery who needed a scenery change and Jose Quintana who eventually became the team's ace. The end result was a quick 2-0 series loss to the Phillies which became the start of the downfall for the franchise.

Even if the moves shown above were successful moves, they were all considered low-risk moves at the deadline. Voit was replaced with Paul Goldschmidt, Lester and Happ were both out of baseball after their short stint in St. Louis, Montgomery was flipped the following year, and Quintana signed a free agent deal with the Mets after the 2022 season. None of the moves were long-term solutions to a roster that is in dire need to fix them. All were short-term bandage moves that led to nothing. Given the hot seat has never burned this bright, the Cardinals have to be bold this trade deadline if they wish to keep the fans interest in the team.

The old ways of the front office would trade for Eric Fedde to join the rotation. He is having a good season, but he has the quality of a 4th or 5th starter. The Cardinals have an ace in Sonny Gray, with the remaining staff being filled with pitchers with the same quality of Fedde. The front office is very aware that the long-term pitching staff is very bleak. Trading for a player like Jesus Luzardo who is very young and hasn't reached his prime years yet would be the ideal move. He provides several years of arbitration cost and is a left handed arm which the organization has failed to develop. The Marlins are also in dire need of fixing their offense.

Does the offense really need any upgrades? The old approach would say no given how young the team is and how they are projected to be one of the better lineups the game has to offer. But with how 2024 has gone for the offense, upgrades are welcomed. Dylan Carlson and Lars Nootbaar are playing well below their standards and veteran leaders in Matt Carpenter and Brandon Crawford are clogging the bench where the team can find talent to fill those roles. Getting a steady bat in the lineup while Willson Contreras is recovering would be ideal for this team to stay competitive. A move for J.D Martinez or Pete Alonso would provide more certainty with this offense. Or going after more valuable depth by getting an old friend in Tommy Pham from the White Sox.

The Cardinals have still yet to decide if they are true buyers or sellers at this years trade deadline. Two months have already passed, and it has been another roller coaster of a season to watch. But if the team wants to avoid another 2023 scenario, they need to be buyers. Not only buyers, but they need to set the tone of the trade deadline. This is not a normal scenario for the front office. They need to be the aggressors at the deadline. If not, the hot seat might not be hot anymore. It will lead to no seat at all.