Extra Wild Card puts Cards in tough position as trade deadline nears

The years of having a healthy Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright pitching together and leading the Cards to the postseason may have passed.  Carpenter is going to undergo thoracic outlet syndrome surgery on July 19th by Dr. Gregory Pearl in Dallas.  The surgery involves removing a rib and breaking fibrous bands to relieve symptoms of pain in the neck and shoulder as well as numbness and tingling of the fingers.  Carpenter plans on coming back in 2013 to pitch, but I’m not holding my breath he’ll be effective if he even makes it through ST after something this invasive at age 38.

Jaime Garcia is going to try and pitch through a torn labrum and slight tear of the rotator cuff, but I’m not optimistic about his return either.  I just don’t see Garcia pitching again before he has surgery.  Let me rephrase that, I don’t see Garcia pitching effectively before surgery.  Joe Kelly has done a nice job filling in for Garcia, but I still think the Cards might look for a front of the rotation starter and move Kelly to the bullpen, where he would slide in nicely and make it more of a strength for the stretch run.

Barret Browning made his 4th scoreless appearance last night.  You can see why he’s been in the minors for 7 years.  His stuff isn’t electric, as his fastball tops out at 87-88 MPH.  What Browning does do well (so far) is hit his spots and keep hitters off balance with a sharp slider.  Browning credits his recent turnaround in the minors to adding two pitches, the 2 seam fastball and the slider.  Browning is definitely an upgrade over Sam Freeman, and so far the Cards have a dependable lefty that was badly needed.

The problem with the Cards making a deal is going to be the overwhelming amount of buyers in this new market.  The extra WC, at this point, leaves only 7 teams in MLB more than 6.5 games out of a playoff spot.  That list includes the Phillies, who are 8.5 games out and have the ability to turn it around with many of their key players coming off the DL.  If you put the Phillies on the sellers list that means 23 teams that are buyers and 7 sellers.

I imagine the conversations with the Cards GM John Mozeliak and other GM’s start with Oscar Tavares, Kolten Wong, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal and Matt Adams.  4 of those players were recently in Baseball America’s top 50 prospects, and Rosenthal and Adams aren’t far behind.  The Cards have some other solid players that Mo would part with, but I think at least 5 of those names mentioned are untouchable, with Adams being the exception.  The only reason Adams may be the exception is because of Allen Craig’s future at 1B.  Craig could play RF after Carlos Beltran’s contract is up at the end of 2013 to make room for Adams, but Tavares will be ready by then to man RF.

If you take the Cubs out of the equation of doing business with the Cards, that leaves 6 teams.  In the AL, Seattle would ask for our top 4 prospects for Felix Hernandez and Minnesota doesn’t have anyone except Scott Diamond who is a young pitcher and similar to Kelly.  In the NL, Colorado has no one of interest except for maybe Jeremy Guthrie, who is a 4/5 starter at best.  Mo would probably be hesitant to deal with San Diego because pitching stats are going to be misleading in that pitchers park.  Cole Hamels might be on the block, but the Cards can’t afford to pay a SP $20 million a year for 5-6 years, which is what Hamels will get in the offseason as a free agent.  That leaves Houston, which may make the most sense, and SP Wandy Rodriguez seems to fit what the Cards need the most.  Rodriguez is a dependable #3 starter and is a lefty.

If the Cards are going to deal with Houston, they have to beware of Jeff Luhnow, who probably knows the Cards minor league system better than anyone, as he’s the one who had been responsible for drafting most of them before becoming the Astros GM this past offseason.  Houston is moving to the AL in 2013, which should lessen the hesitation in dealing with the Cards.  Brett Myers might be another potential target from Houston, as he would slide into the Cards 7th or 8th inning guy, and has the ability to close, as he’s been doing this year after spending most of his career as a starter.

If Mo doesn’t get a deal done, it’s understandable.  The future for the Cards is about good, young, cost-controlled talent surrounded with key veterans.  If Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook and Kelly get it done in July, the Cards could stand pat and see what happens without mortgaging the future.  If the BP can keep this mini streak going of getting it done, 2012 still has the chance to be special.

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