It is not that big of a surprise that the St. Louis Cardinals are near the top for best record in baseball at the halfway point. A force to be reckoned with over the past decade, the Cardinals have been in and out of the playoffs and on both the positive and negative side of the World Series trophy.
But the biggest question for the Cardinals, coming into last season was how they would replace not one but two future hall of famers after winning the club’s 11th world title in franchise history in 2011. With Albert Pujols taking his talents to west beach and Tony LaRussa retiring, the Cardinals were faced with big issues. So they thought.
With the signing and outstanding performance of Carlos Beltran, “what would the Cardinals do?” quickly turned to “Pujols who?”
But now that the Cardinals are past the Pujols saga and Beltran is still thriving, St. Louis has another question looming just ahead of the trade deadline this season. Is giving up top prospects worth bringing in an ace-caliber starter for the stretch run?
The Cardinal’s starting rotation has been the biggest stepping stone in getting the team to the top of the National League Central and was a big key in the Cardinals owning the best record in baseball for nearly the whole first half of 2013.
But with injuries rearing their ugly heads and rookies coming back to earth, St. Louis is a three-man staff with two fillers at best. Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn and rookie hurler Shelby Miller are set in stone and throwing very well, combining for a 31-14 record thus far.
But with Jaime Garcia on the shelf and Jake Westbrook on and off the disabled list, the Cardinals are in huge need of one or even two more starters.
But who is on the block? How much are the Cardinals willing to give up and what price with St. Louis pay?
With Pujols and his $200 million-plus contract in California, there is definitely some flex room for a big signing. Some big names that have been thrown around are the likes of Benton native Cliff Lee and Tampa Bay ace David Price.
Though the Phillies have already said numerous times that Lee is not for sale, Lee himself has not shyed away from the subject saying that he “wants to play for a winning team.” Philadelphia is currently 43-46 and 7.5 games out of first in the National League East.
Rumors have spread that Lee will be a Cardinal by the break, but people close to the situation on a personal level have debunked the idea of Lee heading to the Gateway City.
While the rumors continue to get shot down, the former Cy Young ace may bring the idea back up since St. Louis is one of just a couple of teams that Lee cannot block in a trade situation. Plus, it brings him closer to home and allows him to hunt a lot more, one of his favorite hobbies in the offseason.
But is $20 million-plus per season worth bringing the lefty to St. Louis? To me, a diehard fan, yes, but I am not writing the check. The Cardinals could give up talents like centerfielder Oscar Taveras and star minor league pitching prospect Michael Wacha, but that is highly unlikely considering the age of their current outfield.
Plus, Lee would want a multi-year deal, which is something the Cardinals might not want to put into writing for a 34-year-old veteran. The pros to the situation is that it keeps Lee in the NL so he can hit and he gets to play on a winning team with a good chance at a ring.
Now when it comes to young pitcher David Price, the muddy water becomes a little clearer. The 27-year-old Tennessee native and reigning Cy Young winner has a price tag that could be more in the ballpark for the Cardinals. At just over $10 million per year, Price’s cost is more feasible and comes with potentially more years for the Cardinals, as many as 10 even.
But the odds of Tampa letting go of the all star is slim to none. But never say never. The move would also get the ace much closer to his home state.
Needless to say, the Cardinals are still one of the top teams in the league but in need of some pitching help. With the deadline looming large, don’t be surprised if some big names are wearing the birds on the bat come August.