Up until July 11, a lot of baseball fans in general and Cardinals fans in particular assumed that the Birds were a major player for trading for Tampa Bay's David Price. Short of that, some people have mentioned Ben Zobrist as an infield bat that might inject life into an anemic lineup, though Cards fans know the problem starts with the outfield and, above all, the decline of Allen Craig.
But, that was before July 11.
That's when the Cardinals took a body blow with Yadier Molina going on the shelf, likely for the rest of the season, with his thumb injury surgery. I'm going to assume that, if his loss for the year is worth a price of four wins, and with Ryan Braun back in the Brewers lineup after a brief hiatus, that no Brewer slump will likely be big enough or long enough to catch them for the division title.
As a corollary, I also assume that means Cards GM John Mozeliak is not rushing Michael Wacha's return. In fact, if we hear nothing further by the All-Star break, I'm assuming he's shelved for the season. Add in that Shelby Miller continues to struggle, and, outside of info from the Cone of Silence at Busch Stadium, presumably still has a balky back, and, the Cards contending for the title in the NL Central seems iffy.
That likely means Mo's not trading for anybody. With the change in the wild-card rules, adding another WC in each league but making them go into a one-game play-in, it might be more fun for fans, but the WC itself is worth much less from a postseason point of view. So, why risk Wacha for just a wild card? And why trade prospects for just a wild card?
Certainly, I hope he's not making a major trade, or rushing Wacha back, just for a wild card game.
(And, yes, I'm aware that, just after having written this, the Cards took the first two games in a series against the Brewers and are now tied for the NL Central lead. I'll stand by what I said.)
Beyond that, the Rays might not be sellers, anyway.
Masahiro Tanaka is now on the disabled list with what's been diagnosed as a partial ulnar collateral ligament tear. No Tommy John surgery planned yet, but if non-surgical methods don't work, it will be the knife. And, the Rays may know that by July 31; if not, they can probably at least assume they won't be seeing the Tanaka of his first dozen starts. Between that and CC Sabathia likely not coming back this year, stressing the back end of the rotation to where it will blow up, the Yankees are due to sink, no matter the skippering genius of Joe Girardi.
And, in Toronto, Adam Lind, for 2 months, is hitting the DL, joining Edwin Encarncion, though his injury is much less severe.
So, Rays GM Andrew Friedman might be thinking, "All I have to do now is hope we don't have injuries and maybe we can catch the Orioles, too and win the division."
Might the Cards become sellers, though?
If so, of whom?
Not Adam Wainwright. Yes, he'd bring a lot, but he's too valuable.
I have a couple of players in mind.
Former closer Jason Motte, with the exception of one bad outing last week, seems to be recovered fully from his Tommy John. The Tigers, Giants and other contenders looking for a rent-a-closer might pay something for him.
A second might be the aforementioned Mr. Craig. He still has a "friendly" contract, and if he could hit a bit of a hot streak before the deadline, could be tempting.
A third would be a bit of a gamble, on hoping the one "positive" OF this year draws decent interest — and I'm talking about Jon Jay.
The fourth would be more controversial yet.
That's Matt Holliday. First, the Cards would have to get him to waive his no-trade clause. Second, he's a fan favorite.
That said, while his continued loss of defensive range might be acceptable, when combined with this year's power drop, it's not. A number of AL teams might take him as a DH, or combo OF/DH. And, because he hasn't slipped too far yet, he could get a good return.
In exchange, moving any of the three outfielders would open the last two months of the year to a fuller look yet not only at Oscar Taveras, but also Randal Grichuk and even Stephen Piscotty.
This season is very "fluid," yes. I'm not writing the Cards off. I am saying they should be prepared to look at all options. I'll venture Mo is, and so fans should brace themselves for seeming "surprise" moves.
In any case, due to all the things I mentioned above, moves by the Cards, or major moves by any team, are unlikely before the last week before the deadline.
As for Cards' needs, if Mo is a seller, while Tony Cruz has surely studied well at Yadi's need, a prospect catcher for the future would be a great pick-up.