Written by Andrew Shapiro
Going into their Saturday matchup with the Miami Marlins, the St. Louis Cardinals are 1-½ games out of the 2nd NL wildcard spot and 2-½ games back of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central. St. Louis should be buyers at the trade deadline simply because the inclusion of an extra wildcard spot increases their playoff chances, especially with their wildcard deficit being so small. The Cardinals should also be buyers because, as they proved last year when clinching a postseason birth on the season’s last day, no lead is insurmountable in baseball.
The more pressing question for the Cardinals is what they should be looking for at the deadline. St. Louis is top 5 in the NL in runs, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, homeruns, and total bases, making its offense a strength not a need, even without the injured Lance Berkman. The Cardinals’ run differential is +68, the best in the National League, suggesting that they excel at blowing teams out but struggle in close games. This reveals their need for bullpen help. Last season the Cardinals solidified the ‘pen by acquiring Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski, with Rzepczynski especially thriving as a lefty specialist. This season, relievers Rzepczynski, Victor Marte, and Fernando Salas have all struggled in posting a collective ERA of 5.07. Veteran set-up men like Oakland’s Grant Balfour, Milwaukee’s Francisco Rodriguez, or Houston’s Brett Myers will all be available and should help the Cardinals improve on their poor 8-14 record in one-run games.