Now, before everyone attacks me about this being a rebuilding year and the Cards shouldn’t be giving up propects for rentals, don’t sell the farm, they’re in this position because Walt Jocketty mortgaged the future for now, etc., please listen.
It doesn’t have to be a big move. I’m not talking about shipping out Colby Rasmus anywhere.
What concerns me though, is that I sense a palpable difference in the way the Milwaukee Brewers have approached these last two games, and the way the Cards have played. When the Brewers were down early in both games, they never seemed to sweat it, they seemed confident that if they played their games, they would win. Ultimately, that’s exactly what happened. As evidenced by the CC Sabathia and Ray Durham moves (hell, they even signed Jay Gibbons) and even in the words of Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin, the Brewers are playing to win, and win now. The Cardinals on the other hand, had their current mindset summed up in Kyle Lohse’s performance last night. Lohse seemed to have enough left in the tank when he trotted back out to pitch the eighth, but it was probably a situation best left to a lights-out setup/closer combo. Problem is, Tony doesn’t trust his bullpen. The Cards are now playing not to lose.
Sure, LaRussa went on a tirade post-game about how the bullpen didn’t lose the game, the offense has sputtered, they can’t expect to win while scoring only three runs – and while he may be right about the offense needing more pop (how about some hits beyond the third inning, fellas?) – he couldn’t be more wrong about the bullpen. Of course, he can’t say it, because their already fragile mental states don’t need to be run down by their manager too, but the bullpen cost them the last two games. This one in more grandiose style than Monday’s. Not only did Kyle McClellan physically blow the game, but you could reasonably blame the bullpen for losing the game based on LaRussa not being confident in using them in the eighth inning.
So the Brewers have made some moves that have loosened up their clubhouse, and improved their team. The Cubs have made a move to improve their team – but they are the Cubs, so have managed to turtle up and lose four out of five since the All-Star Break. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are waiting for Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright to return – which would be a huge boost in and of itself – but I don’t think it’s the complete answer.
It seems as if the trade market so far this season is a bit weak – teams asking for a lot in return, settling for what is ultimately the best deal available. In those terms, it shouldn’t be hard to get someone who can make a difference for this team down the stretch.
Now, I do think Cards management and fans should give up on the Matt Holliday’s, Brian Fuentes’, and Jason Bay’s. The capital investment to get any of those guys is going to be just too high. But there are plenty of “Tier 2″ guys available that can help this team, and now.
The Pirates are supposedly high on Chris Duncan and Anthony Reyes. This should be John Mozeliak’s wildest dream come true. Sure, you’re probably still selling low – but why not package Duncan, Reyes, and say, Brendan Ryan for either Damaso Marte or John Grabow and Jack Wilson? Bullpen help and upgrade the middle infield for three guys who are ultimately replaceable parts in the long-term organizational plans.
The Cardinals have recently made well-known their interest in George Sherrill. I saw Sherrill pitch earlier this season, and I have to say he impressed me. He has nasty stuff, and could close to boot. This is another situation where I wonder if the Cards have the capital (that they’re willing to trade) to make a deal here. According to Ken Rosenthal, the Cards had scouts watching the O’s Tuesday night, but Baltimore is looking for a close to ML-ready shortstop or outfielder for Sherrill. The Cards aren’t going to deal Rasmus for him, Duncan is likely not on the O’s radar, and if the Cardinals had a close to ML-ready shortstop, he’d already be in St Louis. Would someone like Jon Jay be enough to get it done? Joe Mather? Maybe Shane Robinson-plus? Sherrill might fall under that “too pricey” tag, but I’d sure be excited to see him in a Cards uni.
You’ll notice I’m focusing on bullpen help, and primarily left-handers at that. I still think that a big arm or two in the bullpen would be enough to keep this team in contention. That’s why I think the Cards are sitting in a great position to make a deal – you don’t have to give up a lot (in theory) to massively improve your team here. Carpenter and/or Wainwright’s return(s) will have an impact as well. We could see any one of Braden Looper, Todd Wellemeyer, or Joel Pineiro back in the bullpen this season. Looper has history as a closer, and could well be the answer there. Any of them moving back to the bullpen would allow optioning Kelvin Jimenez who, despite a couple decent performances, still doesn’t strike me as a Major League reliever. Mitchell Boggs could go back for more seasoning. Ron Villone could go back to LOOGY work, instead of having to go multiple innings. They could reduce some of the massive innings that McClellan has pitched in his rookie season.
Get Carp and Waino healthy (health is really the key there, PLEASE do not rush them back if they are not ready), allowing a bullpen reinforcement from your own rotation. Get yourself a solid left-handed option in the bullpen to complement Villone and get Randy Flores out of the picture. You might even be able to shore up the middle infield in the process. Whatever it is, just do something. Make this team believe that they can win in late innings. Make them believe that you’re not sacrificing them for next year’s team. But don’t give up the farm.
Sound easy enough? Make it so, Mo.