We are only three days away from the Major League Baseball trade deadline. Teams are already dealing but a few clubs have yet to reveal if they will be buyers or sellers. The St. Louis Cardinals are among those teams straddling the line.
After last night's win over the Cleveland Indians - who are another team still in decide mode - St. Louis sits 8 games behind the Bewers for the division lead and 7 games behind the Padres for the second Wild Card spot. The Padres have already bolstered their lineup and look to do more, even if it means exceeding the luxury tax threshold. The Cardinals' best chance at a playoff spot is through the Brewers, who they face head to head 13 more times this season.
On paper, the Brewers are the stronger team, particularly on the mound. They boast one of the best top-of-the-rotations in baseball with Woodruff, Burns, and Peralta. The latter two may struggle as they are setting career highs in innings pitched, but they are a tough matchup regardless. To compete with the Brewers pitching staff, the Cardinals need their ace back.
He is getting close.
Jack Flaherty pitched two scoreless innings during a triple-A rehab assignment last night. He will likely need to complete two more outings before making it back to the mound, however, which is well past the deadline. Even so, the positive news allows St. Louis to formulate clearer deadline plans. Oblique injuries are temperamental though. Just ask the Royals, who have missed Mondesi, their star shortstop, nearly the entire season after injuring his obliques multiple times.
Assuming the oblique holds up, Flaherty provides St. Louis with a much-needed ace. Depth is still a concern - enter Mikolas. Miles Mikolas has also begun a rehab assignment. He is set to make his second start tomorrow. Like Flaherty, he should return to the rotation in mid-August. He only lasted four innings in his lone start this year so the Cardinals have managed the entire season without him. The addition of each pitcher will be a big boost to the team.
But will it be enough?
St. Louis may be waiting to see what the Brewers do. The Brewers are rumored to be targeting Trevor Story. That type of acquisition may cause the Cardinals to become sellers. On the flip side, the Cardinals could make a big splash first, trading for one of the big arms on the market, such as Scherzer (a rental) or Berrios (controlled through 2022). One factor to consider is St. Louis doesn't possess good trade chips that would interest current sellers. Most of their expiring contracts are dead weight that no one would be interested in trading for (Carpenter and Martinez).
Given the situation, I expect the Cardinals to hold, neither making a big splash as a buyer or seller. They can still make the playoffs given the schedule, but if they want to compete with the NL West teams for an NL pennant, they need to make a big starting pitcher acquisition.