The Cardinals need a quality lefty like the Phils' Antonio Bastardo.
Last night against the Miami Marlins the Cardinals came back to win a game in which they trailed in the eighth inning for the first time this season. They were 0-26 in those situations until Monday night.
However, the Redbirds' bullpen tried their best to punt the game to the Marlins in the seventh as Fernando Salas got just one out while allowing runners to reach second and third. Scatter-armed Eduardo Sanchez followed and walked three men in a row—the first intentionally with the other two coming Rick Ankiel-style.
The Cardinal relievers walked eight batters on the night in 10 innings.
Fortunately for St. Louis, Heath Bell and the Marlins' bullpen have had continuing struggles of their own and blew a four-run lead in the ninth (but at least they forced the Cards to, you know—hit the ball).
Jason Motte was fortunate that Jose Reyes' scorching liner to center was right at outfielder Shane Robinson to end a strange night of baseball.
While we give manager Mike Matheny and GM John Mozeliak a moment to wipe their brows, let's look at five trades that would immediately help the Cardinals' stressed bullpen.
It takes a certain mentality to excel as a hurler in Colorado and Belisle has done just that since 2010 posting good ERAs of 2.93 in 2010, 3.25 in 2011 and a tidy 2.03 so far in 2012. His peripherals have been excellent with a 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio and has allowed just one home run in 40 innings this year.
Belisle's salary of $3.775 million also makes him an attractive trade option for the Rockies, who have worked hard to keep payroll under control while locking in their core stars like Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki.
Acquiring Belisle would be a perfect solution to address the Cards' season-ending loss of Scott Linebrink.
In hindsight, it certainly seems the Cardinals should have re-signed Octavio Dotel after he helped the them win it all in 2011, but at only 32 years of age Belisle has more productive years left than Dotel and could be a valuable swingman for the Cards for several years.
In sweeping the Royals in their most recent interleague series, the Cardinals were kind enough to give Royals closer Jonathan Broxton a three-day vacation.
The Royals held the lead this past weekend for exactly zero innings.
But as the Cardinals' closer, Broxton would find himself in save situations regularly while enabling Mike Matheny to move Jason Motte back into a setup role—a move that would reduce pressure on the young hurler and also stoke his competitive fire as he learns to hone his 99-mph fastball and improve his cutter, which he must do.
Granted, the Royals have been as competitive this year as they have been in recent memory and have a nucleus of young players who could all be All-Stars at some point in their careers eventually, but Kansas City has a strong farm system for a reason—by trading excelling veterans like Broxton for multiple prospects, which they will in all likelihood do again.
Broxton has an attractive salary ($4 million) for a veteran closer and is still just 28. After faltering in Los Angeles prior to his season-ending surgery in 2011, Broxton looks rejuvenated in 2012 posting a 1.57 ERA with 18 saves.
This would be a clear case of a trade that would be a win for both clubs.
Speaking of win-win scenarios, the Cardinals are leading the National League in runs scored with 374 while the Mariners are batting .237 as a team and haven't scored 700 runs as team in five long years.
The Cards have more offensive talent in their minor league pipeline than positions to play them and the Mariners—along with the Rays—always seem to have pitching to spare.
All we need is Monty Hall walking through parted curtains to say, "Let's make a deal!"
The Cards need to shore up their lefty relief situation immediately. Marc "Scrabble" Rzepczynski has declined so far that he is struggling to even retire left-handers. Rookie Sam Freeman who was called up from Triple-A Memphis on June 1 has a very live arm but is still learning his control and can't be used in high-pressure situations.
Enter 6'5" lefty Charlie Furbush of the Mariners.
After an uneven rookie year split between Detroit and Seattle as a part-time starter, Furbush has been a revelation as a strict reliever in 2012. Cardinal fans can only drool at these numbers: 31.1 innings pitched, 13 hits allowed, 39 Ks against just five walks.
It's remarkable his ERA is even 2.01.
Furbush could be a classic late-bloomer as he is already 26 years old and as he is not established at the major league level. That could allow Mozeliak to make a reasonable deal for a Memphis bat like Zach Cox, who really doesn't have a position in St. Louis, and finally give the Cardinals stability from the left side of the mound.
Like the Royals, the San Diego Padres never shy away from flipping a quality veteran for prospects to maintain their deep minor league system.
Also like the Royals, the Padres are still a long way from really competing for a playoff berth. As such, the Cardinals should talk to San Diego GM Josh Byrnes about acquiring closer Huston Street.
While it seems like Street has been around forever, he is still only 28 and has been lights-out for the Padres in 2012. He is 11-for-11 in save opportunities with only eight hits allowed in 18 innings including 23 strikeouts.
As an elite closer, Street carries an elite price tag of $7.5 million as well which is all the more reason for Byrnes to move the righty for an MLB-ready player or two.
It would be the third home address in three years for Street but after stints with cut-rate organizations like Oakland and San Diego, the odds would be good he would be a Cardinal for a long time.
No one in Philadelphia will admit the Phillies are in "rebuilding mode," but they are going to have a difficult time making the playoffs in a division with the rock-solid Nationals, steady Braves, and the truly rebuilding and suddenly-tough Mets.
While the Phillies are just five games under .500, they appear to be in desperate need of an infusion of youth and energy in the everyday lineup. When Carlos Ruiz is your best hitter, it's clear your team is going to struggle and the Phils have done just that.
Antonio Bastardo would address the Cardinals' lefty need as well as provide a veteran presence in the pen—admittedly a young veteran at 26.
Bastardo knows what it means to pitch for a contender, in the postseason and in high-pressure situations. He also may come at discount as he has struggled this year with a 3.75 ERA despite only allowing a .222 batting average to opposing batters.
Apparently the Cardinals like to gamble that the NL Central is winnable late in the year and that appears to be the case again as the Reds are not running away with the division as Milwaukee did last season.
However, John Mozeliak must fix the Cards' ship before the club drifts away from the pack due to a leaky bullpen.