Buyers or Sellers
They’re buyers. The Cardinals are one of three teams in the NL Central, along with the Pirates and Reds, who have the three best records in the National League. Each seems assured of a playoff spot.
However, only one of them is assured of a playoff series, and that’s the division winner. The other two will be subjected to the wild card playoff game, which could result in a quick ending to a promising season. So the Cardinals have plenty of incentive to figure out a way to separate themselves from that pack.
What They Need
Almost all of the Cardinals rumors indicate they're looking for starting pitching or bullpen help. It’s not totally clear why – their team ERA is 3.33, which is good for 3rd overall in MLB. And starting pitcher (and former Cy Young award winner) Chris Carpenter is supposed to be back at the end of the month. That might be the starting pitching they need to acquire.
They could be interested in a left-handed reliever. They have 37-year-old Randy Choate, but he’s almost the penultimate LOOGY (Lefty One Out Guy). In fact, he just set a record for the most consecutive appearances without pitching a full inning. It’s conceivable the Cardinals might want someone with a little more flexibility. They seem set at closer with Edward Mujica doing the job now and Trevor Rosenthal waiting in the wings if Mujica leaves as a free agent this offseason.
Finally, the Cardinals have had some problems at third base, but 30-year-old David Freese seems to have recovered from a sore thumb and is back to hitting. He’s still only at a .273 BA and a 736 OPS, but he’s trending in the right direction. Jon Jay in center field has cooled quite a bit, but the Twins don’t have a right-handed center fielder to offer in a platoon, other than Hicks.
What Might Work
General Manager John Mozeliak says he’s not going to trade away any top prospects like outfielder Oscar Taveras or pitcher Michael Wacha and really, why would he? His team doesn’t have a glaring weakness. The best bet is something strategic, like Brian Duensing for a lower level prospect.
The good news is that in Keith Law’s most recent farm system rankings, the Cardinals were #1 overall – the only organization above the Twins. But there are also some non-prospects that are interesting.
Seth Maness –RHP – MLB – 24 years old
Maness wasn’t a top 10 prospect, but was always recognized for his impeccable control; he walked 9 and struck out 83 last year in AA over 123.2 innings. He started this year in their AAA rotation but has been working out of their bullpen since. He won’t blow anyone away – 13K and 4BB in 27.7 IP, but has a career ERA in the minors of 2.80. He could be a solid back of the rotation innings eater.
Tyrell Jenkins – RHP – High A – 20 years old
If you’re more a fan of future potential and willing to accept some risk, Jenkins might be more your speed. The former football player has a 93-96 mph fastball but hasn’t shown he knows how to control it or how to develop an offspeed pitch. He’s a project, but a project with upside.
Pete Kozma/Daniel Descalso – SS – MLB – 25/26 years old
I’ll take whichever one they’re tired of. Kozma surprised late last year, but is hitting just .236 this year. Descalso may be stealing his job, but he’s just a year removed from hitting .227. Kozma will be a great defender, Descalso a great utility player. Neither will hit much, but I’ll take a flyer on either.
Matt Adams – 1B – MLB –24 years old
If the Cardinals can’t find room for him at first base, the Twins sure can. Adams is blocked by Allen Craig, who is having a heck of a year - .324/.370/.491. But Adams has put up a 30+ home run year just two years ago in the minors, blistered AAA last year and is hitting .319 with a 953 OPS this year. I don’t know just what the Twins would need to do to pry him away, but he’d be a great addition, even if he does bat left-handed.