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2009 Trade Deadline Preview: St. Louis Cardinals

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Buyers or sellers?

Buyers. The Cardinals have already traded for Mark DeRosa in an effort to maintain their lead in the N.L. Central, and they'll continue to try to do so before the deadline.

Short-term need

The Cards are far from a flawless team, but it's tricky to pin down where exactly their most pressing need is. Their third basemen have posted a miserable .616 OPS, with minor-league vet Joe Thurston leading the parade. Their leftfielders haven't been much better--Chris Duncan has been the primary player there, and the Cardinals haven't had a good replacement for him because Rick Ankiel has flopped as well. Third base has probably been the more pressing problem. Troy Glaus should return from the DL soon and could help substantially, but there's still the issue of whether his recovering shoulder can handle long throws.

Grabbing DeRosa, who can play both third and the outfield, should have helped a great deal, but he went down with a wrist injury almost immediately after being acquired. Top prospect Brett Wallace could also be an answer at third, but he's been hustled through the minors and could probably use a bit more time at Class AAA, especially since it's still unclear whether he can play third at the big league level. Dan Moore from Cardinals blog Viva El Birdos notes that Wallace has won praise for his defensive improvements since being drafted, but it wasn't long ago that he looked like a surefire future DH or first baseman.

Or St. Louis could leave Brendan Ryan at shortstop and install Khalil Greene at third when Greene returns from the DL. Of course, this is Greene's second turn on the DL with anxiety issues, and his return isn't necessarily something they can plan on. Moore writes, "He came back surprisingly early last time and hit three home runs in as many games, but after a bad series in New York the Cards would only say he'd 'relapsed.' Nobody's sure if he'll be back, but then, nobody was sure last time, either." 

The Cards are also rumored to be in the hunt for Roy Halladay, who would improve any rotation this side of the '93 Braves. (Actually, he'd even improve that one.) It's doubtful the Cardinals, who are unwilling to part with Colby Rasmus, have enough top prospects they can trade for Halladay, but stranger things have happened. If Halladay doesn't work out, they could also swing a deal for a lesser starter to clean up the Todd Wellemeyer / Brad Thompson mess at the bottom of the rotation, or to protect against the possibility that Kyle Lohse can't regain his 2008 form after missing a month with forearm problems.

Long-term need

It's hard to say. For the past several years, the Cardinals haven't depended heavily on their farm system for reinforcements, and their farm system now is neither particularly great nor particularly bad. There aren't any powerhouses in the making in the N.L. Central, so the Cards can probably do fairly well the next few years with Albert Pujols, a Dave Duncan-led starting pitching corps, and possible contributions from a trio of high-upside youngsters in Rasmus, Wallace and, if he signs, Shelby Miller. 

Big leaguers on the market

The Cards are much more likely to trade minor leaguers for immediate help than to trade current members of their 40-man roster, although Ryan Ludwick, Jason Motte, and Kyle McClellan have all been rumored to be sent to Oakland in a possible Matt Holliday deal. If Glaus can't handle third when he returns, there's a chance he could be shipped to a team that can use him at first or DH.

Minor league strength

The Cardinals are set for catching at the major league level, with Yadier Molina signed through 2011 with a club option for 2012, but they also have several catchers who are at least marginal prospects: Bryan Anderson has had a poor, injury-plagued year at Class AAA Memphis, but has posted strong numbers in the past. They also have a couple of fairly interesting backstops in the low minors in Charles Cutler and 2009 second-rounder Robert Stock (the latter of whom obviously can't be traded yet). The Redbirds could opt to trade pitching, but they already shipped off Chris Perez in the DeRosa deal, and the PTBNL in that trade could well turn out to be one of their better starting prospects, Jess Todd, who Moore notes is "sort of a cult hero" among hardcore Cardinals fans.

Take on short-term money to win?

St. Louis already took on money to acquire DeRosa. GM John Mozeliak is cagey about the possibility of taking on even more salary going forward, but he won't rule it out.

For more coverage of the Cardinals, head over to Viva El Birdos. Thanks to Dan Moore.