The Cardinals haven’t been as frequently mentioned on the rumor circuit as some of their NL Central counterparts, but that doesn’t mean they’ve been sitting idly by. In an appearance on Dan McLaughlin’s podcast (audio link), president of baseball operations John Mozeliak made clear that in an ideal world, he’d add at least one reliever — likely a southpaw — to his current bullpen blend.
“We’re pretty comfortable with [the bullpen],” said Mozeliak, “but as we enter the trading deadline, I think we would look to see if there’s an upgrade on the left side of the bullpen to complement [Andrew] Miller. It’s not something that we feel like if we don’t do, we have failed, it’s just something we’re exploring.”
While that isn’t exactly a declaration of aggressive buying, left-handed relief does indeed look to be an area of need in St. Louis, where Miller is the only stable option the Cards have had for much of season. Beyond Miller, who has rebounded from a slow start to the season, the only other southpaws to log innings in the Cardinals’ bullpen have been Tyler Webb, Genesis Cabrera and Chasen Shreve, who was designated for assignment earlier today.
There are plenty of lefties whose names have been bandied about the market, including Will Smith, Tony Watson, Jake Diekman and Roenis Elias. What’s not clear, though, is whether the Cardinals will be after that group. Beyond the fact that the surging Giants are no longer locks to sell off their rental assets, Mozeliak expressed an interest in perhaps pursuing some less-obvious trade candidates who offer greater flexibility over a longer term.
“…I think the key thing for us, when you’re looking at bullpen help right now, would be to try to acquire people also with options so you have some flexibility,” Mozeliak said. “We are getting to a point now where our hands are a bit tied in some areas, so to try to create a little flexibility would make sense.”
Those types aren’t generally headline-grabbers, but most rebuilding clubs have at least one reliever who could fit the bill. Speculatively speaking, Baltimore’s Paul Fry, Miami’s Jarlin Garcia and Toronto’s Tim Mayza are a few such arms who could be looked at more as flexible depth options than late-inning staples. That might sound uninspiring to onlookers, but it’s also true that with the elimination of this year’s August trade waiver period, having additional depth on hand is more important than ever. Clubs can no longer turn to the waiver market next month in order to add help as injuries arise, so having a stock of optionable arms in the upper minors is paramount.
It’s certainly not out of the question that the Cards could add a high-profile arm while still deepening the fringes of their 40-man roster with some optionable ’pen pieces. The Cards could also trim from the edges of their own 40-man — say, by dealing impending free agent Michael Wacha to a team in need of a fifth starter — either adding a bullpen piece in that kind of deal or using the newly vacated spot to add someone who, unlike Wacha, can be shuttled back and forth between Memphis and St. Louis.