Even though they were once seen as the front-runners to land Astros ace Roy Oswalt, the St. Louis Cardinals seem to be turning away from the idea of adding a front-of-the-rotation pitcher. Or, for that matter, any pitcher.
While St. Louis' pitching staff has been rock-solid this season, its offense has been suspect at times. Adding an All-Star-caliber middle infielder could solve this issue.
The Cardinals' second baseman, Skip Schumaker, and slick-fielding shortstop, Brendan Ryan, have failed to produce at the plate. Ryan has hit below the Mendoza line for most of the season, and Schumaker has failed to recreate his last two seasons, when he batted over .300 and had an on-base percentage around .400. If St. Louis wants to compete for the pennant, they need to add a middle infielder.
Several second basemen and shortstops have been made available. Among the options are Stephen Drew, Dan Uggla, Kelly Johnson, and Jhonny Peralta. The Cardinals would be wise to pick up one, or even two, of these players.
At shortstop, the Cardinals have had a revolving door ever since David Eckstein left via free agency. Adding a player such as Drew, who has above-average power for a shortstop, and is also locked up for the next two years, could solve this problem. The Cardinals are all too familiar with Drew's bat. In 2008, he hit for the third cycle in Arizona Diamondbacks history against St. Louis.
Another option for the middle infield is Florida Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla. The Marlins have never exactly shopped Uggla around, but they've been listening to offers for him over the past two seasons.
Uggla is the polar opposite of Schumaker. He hits for incredible power as a second baseman, and he holds the record for the fastest second baseman to hit 100 home runs, doing so in 505 games. Although his glove is suspect at times, the Kentucky native's rare power at the second base position would be much appreciated in the Cardinals' lineup. Unlike Drew, Uggla's contract expires at the end of this year.
Another name that has been circulated is Kelly Johnson. Johnson is having a career year, already tying his personal high for home runs with 16. Rumors have circulated about a Johnson-Ryan Ludwick swap, but I don't see this trade happening. The Diamondbacks already have good, young outfielders, and they are in a rebuilding process. I can't see them taking on Ludwick's contract.
Whatever decision the Cardinals make, it will be much clearer come August 1st how the NL Central race will unfold.