are in a dogfight for the NL Central
. Whether or not that ultimately translates into actual movement for the Cards on the trade market remains to be seen, but the conditions are certainly right.
It's been a fairly robust trade market so far this year, with plenty of players changing addresses and uniforms already. Ichiro Suzuki may be the most notable name to have moved, going from the only team he had known since coming from Japan, the Seattle Mariners, to the New York Yankees. (He may also represent the most inexplicable deal of the year so far; what exactly the Yankees wanted with him is kind of tough for me to figure out, unless Brian Cashman and Hank Steinbrenner honestly believe they have a responsibility to have every past-his-prime future Hall of Famer with an enormous, ill-conceived contract playing in the Bronx and nowhere else.) Another Mariner superstar, Felix Hernandez, is the biggest name still floating around out there, though Seattle doesn't seem particularly inclines to actually move him, only to allow speculation to run rampant.
Before I go on, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my condolences on losing Ichiro to the people of Seattle in general and to my former colleague here at the RFT Keegan Hamilton in particular. It can't be easy following a franchise like the Mariners sometimes, and Ichiro has been perhaps the ultimate ray of sunshine for the perpetually rainy fanbase in the Pacific Northwest.
Enough about the Mariners and the pain of their fans, though. We have more pressing matters, wiith more local concern attached, to deal with today. To wit, there have been a couple of notable deals made recently that directly affect what the Cardinals are going to be looking to do -- and able to do -- in the trade market.
I wrote not too long ago about the big pitching targets on the market this year
; at the time, it looked as if the Cards were focusing on trying to add to their own pitching staff. Zack Greinke
was the name most often brought up, and with good reason. He makes all the sense in the world for this franchise at this point in time. Still does, actually. He is a truly great pitcher, still smack dab in the middle of his prime years, and would immediately represent a rotation anchor for this team as they transition out of the Chris Carpenter
years and begin incorporating more farm system products over the next few years. However, the recent run of success from Jake Westbrook
, as well as continued excellence from Kyle Lohse
and very capable stopgap work from Joe Kelly
, has made the acquisition of pitching a somewhat less pressing concern for the Redbirds.
Off that list I put together a couple weeks ago, two of the four pitchers I thought the Cards could be focusing on are now off the trading block for one reason or another. First is Cole Hamels, the ultra-talented ace of the Philadelphia Phillies. He just signed an enormous new contract extension with the Phightins that makes him the second-highest paid pitcher in the history of the game, so he's not going anywhere. The other is Anibal Sanchez, formerly of the Marlins, who I thought made a slightly stealthy acquisition candidate as one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball over the last few seasons; he would have bolstered the middle of the Cards' rotation in a big, big way. He was dealt to the Detroit Tigers as they attempt to shore up their own troublesome rotation.
Of the four I focused on, that leaves Matt Garza and Greinke still on the market. Both are still fine targets, and both still make a lot of sense, but it doesn't seem particularly likely the Cards are going to end up with either one of them, either. Greinke is thought to almost certainly be gone, but the Cardinals are actually one of the very few teams not said to have any interest at the moment. Garza now appears to actually be staying put with the Cubs, at least for now, as Chicago hasn't been able to get the package they want in return for him. He'll likely be moved in the offseason, one would have to think, as the Cubs try to rebuild that train wreck.
John Mozeliak not too long ago said it was more likely the club would try to add something at second base than on the pitching market, but I'm not sure I see a whole lot of possibilities there either. Ryan Roberts of the Diamondbacks (usually known as, "that dude with all the tattoos"), probably represented the best fit for the club, but he was dealt already to Tampa Bay.
Yuniesky Betancourt and Marco Scutaro might be the two best names still available, and neither is in any way a really attractive option. Aside from those two, I just flat-out don't know what is really out there that would be intriguing to the Cardinals. It's a brutal year to be trying to find middle infield help.
As things stand now, I honestly don't see much else happening for the Redbirds. They'll probably make a move for relief help of some sort -- maybe bringing back Luke Gregerson or something similar -- but any move made there would likely be fairly low impact.
If you had asked me a few weeks back what the chances were of the Cardinals just standing pat at the deadline, I would have said there was almost no chance of that happening, that they would definitely make a move of some sort to try and shore up the team's weaknesses. Now, though, through a combination of targets dropping off the market, the Cards themselves playing a little better, and the simple realities of finding it difficult to come up with a good fit, I think there's a very good chance we're going to see exactly that. A marginal relief move, perhaps, but I just don't see the blockbuster deal out there right now for the Redbirds.
The trade deadline is just a few days off now, and the