The time to deal is NOW!

There is no doubt that the Cardinals need a bat. Not only do they need a bat, but they need one now. If that means overpaying to get it, so be it.

The Cardinals fired Walt Jocketty with the idea of becoming a draft-and-develop organization. But everyone in the front office, from Bill DeWitt to John Mozeliak to Jeff Luhnow, has told me that the ideal way to build a major league team is to bring up kids every year, but to also have enough veterans to provide impact so that the youngsters fill in and grow around them.

Well, the Cardinals lost an impact veteran when Troy Glaus went down with his shoulder surgery in January, and they need another one. The Cardinals admit that, to be successful, there’s an occasional need to deal from their supply of youngsters to fill a need.

There is a need for a number of reasons. Let’s lay them out…

A) The team doesn’t have enough offensive punch. As colleague Bernie Miklasz laid out in today’s Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals month of May was an offensive disaster.

B) In the off-season before 2008, Tony LaRussa requested Barry Bonds, and was flatly denied. Last summer, LaRussa asked for an impact bat for the stretch run, saying his team had given all it had and deserved the reinforcement. Once again, denied. Last off-season, LaRussa asked for a veteran closer, and was denied. We all know how much Tony wants to win. How many times can he ask for the tools to compete and be denied before he gives up? I think the Cardinals are playing with fire, basically taunting the best manager in baseball…whose contract is up after this year.

C) LaRussa is right. These players have given their all to be threats in the division for two years. They deserve some help from the front office.

D) Finally, what was it that Albert Pujols said in spring training? “It’s about being in a place to win and being in a position to win. If the Cardinals are willing to do that and put a team together every year like they have, I’m going to try to work everything out to stay in this town.” Can Bill DeWitt and the Cardinal owners look Pujols in the eye and honestly say they’re doing everything they can to help him win this year? So not only are the Cardinals gambling on wasting Pujols’ career with just one World Championship, they’re taking a chance that he’ll bolt when his contract is up after 2011.

So, here are some friendly suggestions. As I mentioned last night on Sports Plus on NewsChannel 5, my first choice would be Miguel Tejada. There are rumblings in baseball that he could be had.

The Mariners have Adrian Beltre in the final year of his contract, but the media there seems to think it’s too early to bail out.

I like Melvin Mora, but there’s no buzz in Baltimore or in baseball about a possible move of that 100 RBI man.

Garrett Atkins was in town over the weekend with Colorado. Would you like him? He could apparently be had cheap, and would have an upside playing in this town for this manager.

And then there’s Mark DeRosa. The Indians put him on the market, but he may not be as available as he was two weeks ago.

LaRussa wants Matt Holliday, who would accept a trade but doesn’t seem to be on the block. While I wouldn’t be a fan of that move, I do think the organization needs to pacify The Skipper, so if I’m DeWitt, I’d try to do it for Tony.

This is a big test for Cardinal ownership. Were they serious when they said they wanted to compete every year? Mitchell Boggs, Clayton Mortenson, Adam Ottavino and Jess Todd may well be stars in the future. But do the Cardinals require them? With Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse, the Redbirds have their top three starters under contract for at least the next three years. They’re loaded with young righthanded relief with Jason Motte, Chris Perez and Kyle McLellan, among others.

There are plenty of kids. Save 2009. Now!