The St. Louis Cardinals were definitely quiet at the trade deadline, but making transactions both internally and externally (through the free-agent market) has allowed the team to upgrade for their stretch run.
On Tuesday night, both of those types of moves were seen in full force. That night against the Dodgers, Chris Carpenter made his second start of the season for the Cardinals, pitching five scoreless, efficient innings. But no, he isn't a trade acquisition. Carpenter happened to come off the DL the same week as the trade deadline.
And on that same night, the Cardinals got a stronger cog for their surprisingly well-oiled machine. The club added Felipe Lopez, a former All-Star, to the middle of their infield, sending Brendan Ryan back to the farm system.
Lopez has had a rough year for the Washington Nationals, hitting only .234 with two HR for one of the worst teams in baseball, but the talent in Lopez is undeniable. He had a spectacular season in 2005, especially for a second basemen's standards, hitting .291 with 23 HR and 85 RBI for the Cincinnati Reds.
Lopez definitely needs to find his stroke and confidence, but the bottom line is that he cannot be any worse then Caesar Izturis or Brendan Ryan. Izturis has been a total bust for the Cards this year, hitting terribly and being disappointing on defense, while Ryan has seen his average fall over 60 points in the last month and a half.
I'm not predicting a future All-Star nomination, but I think that a playoff race and intelligent manager will inspire Lopez. Look for him to put up decent numbers and give the club dependable, if not spectacular, play up the middle, a la Ronnie Belliard a couple years ago.
Lopez has always defended very well and hit for a respectable average. I can see him getting the majority of starts at 2B for the rest of the year, with Aaron Miles getting time at SS. If he can become a decent threat from the bottom of the batting order, the Cardinals might have helped themselves more than they know.
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