The trade deadline is just a week away and teams are scrambling to buy and sell. For the Cardinals, this probably means finding one small missing piece to spruce up an already impressive roster.
As Bernie Miklasz wrote Thursday, general manager John Mozeliak seems "unlikely to make (a) big trade." In fact, Mozeliak is cited as saying:
I really like our future We have a lot of bright, young talented players. And I like the team we have now. We believe we have a very good team.
If we can find help, we will. But it has to be the right person, at the right price. We’re not going to do a deal just to do a deal.
However, some of these prospects are blocked in the majors—prospects like Kolten Wong at second base—indicating potential trade chips should Mozeliak change his mind.
So, what is the one deal the Cardinals have to make?
Below, I take a look at each of the three biggest needs for the Cards and select which move is the best move based on the talent already on the roster and factors like statistics and innings pitched.
Shortstop: Not Crucial
It's no secret that Pete Kozma has been struggling through the middle portion of the season. In the past month, he's hitting just .191 with four RBI. That being said, he had a good start and his overall average in 2013 is a respectable .241.
There aren't many premier shortstops on the market this deadline. But there have been some conflicting accounts of a failed trade for shortstop Alexei Ramirez. According to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, the White Sox turned down a deal involving Ramirez and the Cards' No. 3 prospect, pitcher Carlos Martinez. However, Jon Heyman claimed that this was false.
Regardless of what actually happened, a deal for Ramirez, in my opinion, wouldn't be in the Cardinals' best interest. He's barely an upgrade over Kozma, hitting .280 this season.
I just don't see a trade involving a shortstop that will be worth any of the Cardinals' top prospects.
Starting Pitcher: Not Crucial
The rotation that once was the story of the majors has since fizzled a bit. Lance Lynn is struggling and may need to revisit the bullpen, and Shelby Miller is pitching more innings than he ever has in a season. With Chris Carpenter's potential comeback looking more and more unlikely, a new starting pitcher could bring some depth back.
Peavy would be a solid veteran and could be a game-changer if the price is right. My reservations lie in the fact that he is injury-prone and that the Cards do have guys like Joe Kelly and prospect Tyler Lyons to step up if need be.
The biggest decision for the Cardinals is whether to go after a starter or a reliever, and I'm tempted to say the latter since they would have to give up a lot less. Not to mention, the power of the offense can help to back up any questionable starts.
Relief Pitcher: The Missing Piece
The Cardinals bullpen has taken a few hits this season, first with closer Jason Motte's season-ending surgery and then with Mitchell Boggs' implosion. A lot of younger arms, like Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist, have stepped up, but a veteran in the bullpen may be just what the Cards are looking for.
ESPN's Jim Bowden reports (Insider access required) that the team has been keeping an eye on both the White Sox's Jesse Crain and the Twins' Glen Perkins. Crain has been on the DL, but he had an impressive 0.74 ERA in 38 games prior to his injury. And Perkins has posted a great 1.85 ERA thus far.
Last year, Edward Mujica proved to be the difference-maker for the Cards, and I could see this year being similar. A dominant reliever would take some of the pressure off of the younger talent and even the now-closer Mujica. Additionally, the price of a reliever might be more Mozeliak's speed.
I'm betting that a move for a reliever is what would benefit the Cardinals the most.