Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

What Price for Help?; Mozeliak Must Decide How Far Cardinals Would Go to Trade for More Pitching

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

What Price for Help?; Mozeliak Must Decide How Far Cardinals Would Go to Trade for More Pitching

Article excerpt

A month from now, the Cardinals' John Mozeliak and other baseball general managers will be staring at the trade deadline. They'll be reviewing their lists of strengths, weaknesses and most pressing needs. They'll be haggling over the price of potential trades.

Mozeliak isn't shy about making The Big Deal.

In 2009 Mozeliak traded reliever Chris Perez to Cleveland for infielder Mark De Rosa, and that was just a warm-up to the July 24 surprise that brought left fielder Matt Holliday from Oakland in exchange for Brett Wallace and other prospects. The 2009 Cardinals won the NL Central and returned to the postseason after a two-year absence.

Outfielder Ryan Ludwick went to San Diego in a three-team trade that delivered starting pitcher Jake Westbrook to St. Louis in 2010, but that didn't prevent a second-place finish to Cincinnati.

With the Cardinals gasping in late July 2011, Mozeliak put center fielder Colby Rasmus on the market to strengthen a weakening rotation and rebuild a battered bullpen. Rasmus headed to Toronto in an ambitious three-team, 11-player transaction that gave the Cardinals a desired starter (Edwin Jackson) and two valuable relievers (Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski). You know the rest of the story. The 11th World Series championship in franchise history never happens without Mozeliak's bold trade.

Will Mozeliak strike again between now and the end of July? As things stand now, the bullpen could use a second, more experienced lefthander and a dependable, strike-throwing righthanded reliever. If the bullpen can't protect leads, what's the point of going all in on a move for a starter?

Mozeliak will ponder three basic questions: First, how good is this rotation? Second, is he comfortable going forward with Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse, Lance Lynn, Westbrook and rookie Joe Kelly? Finally, what price are the Cardinals willing to pay for a rotation upgrade?

Answers are elusive. The rotation has performed well. The Cardinals' rotation ranks sixth in the majors with a 3.65 ERA. In the National League, only Philadelphia has received more innings from starters than St. Louis.

In the NL Central, the Cardinals' starters have the best ERA, the most quality starts, and have cranked out the highest number of innings. But their starting-pitching edge over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh is slight.

The rotation was beaten up in May, but we shouldn't be too hard on this group. Injured ace Chris Carpenter hasn't pitched. Jaime Garcia (shoulder) was sidelined after 11 starts. Wainwright needed a month to sharpen form after losing a season to elbow surgery.

Young-gun starter Lance Lynn (10-3, 3.23 ERA) has been exceptional. His emergence has softened the hit of losing Carpenter. But Lynn's last two starts have created a little anxiety. It's too soon for that. If Lynn overpowers Pittsburgh on Saturday, we'll exhale.

That said, Lynn could be a variable. He never pitched more than 164 innings in the minors. Carpenter's recent setback was discouraging; at this stage it's unwise to count on his return. Garcia is another rotation wild card; privately the Cardinals believe he'll be ready to return by mid-August.

Kelly was rushed to the majors to take Garcia's spot. After four starts, he has a 3.38 ERA and has given his team a chance to win each time out. …

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