I spent what was probably an annoying amount of time during the All Star break talking about how important the Cardinals’ series against San Diego and Philadelphia were because of the ensuing 11-game trip to Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Sure enough, after a 5-1 homestand, the Cardinals struggled on the road in Atlanta. The Braves pitched with a level of desperation because of the loss of Tim Hudson, and that was a big asset over the weekend. But desperation can only carry you so far. Ultimately, it’s big-time talent that makes a postseason team. Kris Medlen and Mike Minor are talented guys, but we don’t know about Julio Teheran, and Paul Maholm is an average back-of-the-rotation guy. Brandon Beachy will come back to the Braves against Colorado, but we don’t know what he’ll be as he returns from Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals probably got the best Atlanta will be able to offer the rest of the season.
Because of their success at home, the Cardinals didn’t need to have a 9-2 excursion, but it would behoove them to win at least five games on the road. That’s doable in eight games against the Pirates and Reds. There’s certainly no reason to panic after a less-than-stellar weekend in Atlanta.
I’m happy to know that Cards GM John Mozeliak won’t make a trade for a mediocre pitcher; that if he’s going to make a deal, it’ll be for a substantial upgrade. There’s been lots of talk about Jake Peavy of the White Sox, but he’s delivered 200 innings once since 2007, and in those six seasons, aside from the 219-inning performance of last year, his best has been 173 innings in 2008. Not only that, but Peavy used to be a big-time strikeout guy. In his third, fourth, fifth and sixth seasons, he averaged more than a strikeout an inning. Since then, the only time he averaged more than a strikeout an inning was when he struck out 110 in 101 innings in 2009. Peavy isn’t durable any more, and isn’t a pitcher who fits the profile of a successful postseason power guy. I’d rather have a rotation of Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook in the postseason than take my chances on Peavy being there.
The other potential names being bandied about among starting pitchers are Ervin Santana of the Royals and Bud Norris of the Astros. Santana is having a good year, but his history isn’t one of being a front-of-the-rotation guy. Lynn’s career and individual season numbers across the board are better.
Cardinal fans are enamored of Norris because of his former success against the Redbirds. But against everyone else, he’s been less than pedestrian. He’s another guy who wouldn’t be an upgrade over what the Cardinals have available at Memphis, let alone what’s already on the major league roster.
My thought is that the Cardinals having the best record in baseball isn’t a fluke, and having the best organization in baseball isn’t a fluke. They have more good players than everybody else.
I would hate for the Cardinals to trade one of their young pitchers and have him step up like Chris Archer has for the Rays after being acquired in the Matt Garza trade from the Cubs.
Unless they can get a front-of-the-rotation guy whose price tag allows them to keep Carlos Beltran next year (which means someone who is not Cliff Lee) or a substantial upgrade at shortstop who they know is durable (which rules out Troy Tulowitzki), I don’t think they should make a major trade. If they can replicate the Edward Mujica deal of last year and come up with a veteran who can handle the seventh inning, they’ll be fine. Otherwise – and I don’t say this much – I think they should stand pat at this week’s trading deadline.