One of the hottest debates going on right now among St. Louis Cardinals fan circles is whether or not the team is ready to compete for a championship with its current lineup, or if adjustments need to be made. I am in the latter camp.
This team does not have the speed to make up for the Cardinals’ lack of one-swing game-changers. With a lineup heavily dependent upon doubles, walks, and success with RISP, speed is a necessity — but the team’s two fastest players, CF Peter Bourjos and 2B Kolten Wong, are not getting on enough to make much of a difference.
The Cardinals get bogged down frequently, deploying an arsenal that requires three singles to score a run. And while the power of Matt Adams may materialize, it is doubtful that he can ever be both a power and high-average hitter. Notable as well is the start from the Milwaukee Brewers, resembling their 2011 team, also led by Ryan Braun. This means the Cardinals are chasing a team with heavier artillery and a decent lead in the standings.
So assuming the club makes a trade, who are some top candidates to pursue? First is Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres. A 3B by trade, he has posted previously a 31-homer campaign and would allow 3B Matt Carpenter to move back to 2B, replacing a struggling Wong. More exciting by size of name would be the Toronto Blue Jays‘ Jose Bautista, he of 54-homer season fame. Yet, he is aging and his power is on a downward trend, so the club could not risk much.
Another potential short-term solution would be Cardinal killer Jonny Gomes of the Boston Red Sox, an OF with prodigious right-handed power. It is apparent the Red Sox are aging and are highly unlikely to be contenders to repeat, so it is entirely possible he would be shopped, especially in a free agent walk year.
Finally, I think Arizona Diamondback OF Mark Trumbo is a strong possibility. Still young enough to be a long-term piece, and with 40 home run power, GM Kevin Towers would likely be glad to part with him for a package of high-end talent. While Trumbo is not, nor will likely ever be a high-average hitter, he fits almost to a tee the production profile of former Cardinals player Troy Glaus, a 30-40 home run hitter with about a .250 average most seasons, and would come cheap enough for GM John Mozeliak‘s liking.