After a disappointing two game set against the surging Tampa Bay Rays, the Cardinals begin a stretch of games where six of the next nine series are against teams near or under .500. With the inconsistency of this team, however, a soft schedule doesn’t necessarily mean a winning record over the next 29 games.
If the Cardinals are able to put together a few winning series they may be in first place by the end of this stretch, which ends August 31st and could lead to an exciting September division race. Currently, the Cardinals lie in a second place tie with the Pittsburgh Pirates, three games behind the Brewers, but are only a half game back in the wild card standings.
To this point the Cardinals offense ranks 29th in the MLB in runs and 26th in slugging percentage. There’s been constant turnover in the Cards lineup, but with little to show. There’s only so much Matheny can do with an offense struggling to produce, and Oscar Taveras and Allen Craig have done little to impress in their platoon roles. Taveras has compiled just 19 total bases since his May 31st homerun and Craig is batting just .225 with homerun during that time.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals saving grace this season, the starting pitching, has taken a hit as of late thanks to injuries to Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha, as well as a decline in performance from Shelby Miller. Even with the activation of Joe Kelly, who returned to form in his last start, the Cardinals could use an extra arm and more consistent starter as insurance for a rotation that has been decimated of late.
With the trade deadline looming, the Cardinals may be major players in the market. There have been rumors that the Cardinals are in talks to acquire major players, but with the recent Rays series, it seems David Price may no longer be available. At this point, the Cardinals may be willing to move the struggling Oscar Taveras if they’re able to get a star player. Cardinals fans have heard rumblings of possible deals including Giancarlo Stanton or Troy Tulowitzki, although the Tulo rumors began before he suffered yet another injury. Other players being mentioned in trade talks with the Cardinals have included Kurt Suzuki, who would be a substantial fill-in for the injured Yadier Molina, Adrian Beltre, Cliff Lee, Jon Lester, Ben Zobrist, and Jake Peavy.
If the Cardinals are able to make a trade, no matter the perceived size of the deal, it should bring energy to the club and perhaps provide the spark that the lackluster offense and injury riddled pitching may need. As John Mozeliak has proven in the past, with deals for formerly unknowns such as Edwards Mujica, sometimes a smaller move can change a season. If the right deal is done the Cardinals should be expected to finish near the top of the standings and contend for a playoff birth as they seem to do every season.