Jul. 1—The St. Louis Cardinals have been a huge disappointment in the first half of the season.
After starting off with a 25-18 record, the Cardinals have fallen on hard times. There have been injuries and several underachieving players in the rotation and in the lineup, and St. Louis enters July 1 below .500.
With a minus-42 run differential, it could be argued that St. Louis is fortunate to even be around the .500 mark right now because let’s face it: the Cardinals don’t excel in many areas this season.
“It’s multi-dimensional, right?” St. Louis President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak recently told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The days you hit, you don’t pitch. The days you pitch, you don’t hit. Then some flawed defense. Where we are — the health question isn’t going away any time soon, unfortunately.”
With the MLB trade deadline swiftly approaching, are the Cardinals better off as buyers or sellers?
I believe it’s a tad premature to answer that question.
While there is increased pressure to win this season with Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright back and the addition of Nolan Arenado, the Cardinals still have a few more weeks to turn this thing around.
For a silver living, St. Louis has proven to be more of a second half team under manager Mike Shildt’s tenure thus far.
“If, at some point, we look for something outside the organization, we certainly will, but we’re not at a point where we’re only going to define ourselves by 2021,” Mozeliak said. “We’re not feeling that pressure if we don’t win this year that we’re all in trouble. We must understand that we can all do things better. We also understand what we thought we’re going to have — because of injuries — hasn’t yet worked out.”
Some may feel bitterness with that take, but no one will admit to a win-or-bust mentality. At the same time, there should be a heightened level of urgency because Arenado can also opt out of his contract after the season, and while it may be hard for him to walk away from six years and $179-million, Arenado wants to win now.
If the Cardinals can’t win over the next few weeks, then it may be time to explore options for 2022.
Molina, Wainwright, Matt Carpenter, Andrew Miller, Kwang Hyun Kim and the rest of Dexter Fowler’s salary will be off the books. It’s hard to imagine Carlos Martinez’s $17-million club option getting picked up.
Like I said, there’s still time left for the Cardinals to make up ground in the NL Central. Center fielder Harrison Bader (ribs) started a rehab assignment a week ago at Triple-A Memphis and appears to be on the mend.
Miles Mikolas (forearm) is expected to start throwing bullpens by the All-Star break, according to reports. and Jack Flaherty (oblique) has resumed playing light catch, so some major pieces are returning sooner rather than later.
I could also see the Cardinals both buy and sell at the deadline, taking on a higher-salaried player with control beyond 2021 and fitting him into their plans long-term.