It wasn’t a flashy move and it certainly wasn’t David Price, but the St. Louis Cardinals significantly improved the team’s chances of a deep postseason run with the acquisition of John Lackey from the Boston Red Sox before Thursday’s deadline.
The Cardinals had already added Justin Masterson in a trade with the Cleveland Indians, a deal that could prove extremely beneficial for St. Louis in the future. Masterson has all the potential in the world; he’s simply fallen off his game in 2014. A new location with one of the National League’s best teams could help solve some of his issues. But adding Lackey was, arguably, an even bigger addition for the Cards, as the team now has the necessary depth to make a run deep into October. Again, it wasn’t a flashy move that was applauded by the entire baseball world, but it was and will be effective; and that’s all that matters.
Lackey has posted a respectable 3.60 ERA to go along with a 1.23 WHIP thus far in 2014, but he has the capability to produce much better numbers. And, amidst all of the discussion of the rotations of the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers, St. Louis has quietly built an extremely solid starting group with the edition of Lackey. Lackey will presumably slot in as the No. 3 starter behind Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn, making Masterson the fourth starter. Joe Kelly was dealt to the Red Sox, so he is now out of the equation for St. Louis, but assuming Michael Wacha can make a return sometime in September, the Cards will have a starting rotation that is a force to be reckoned with. Additionally, if Shelby Miller can start to pitch anywhere near the level he has shown he is capable of in the past, which seems unlikely at this point, St. Louis would undoubtedly be able to catch the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.
The Cardinals already claimed the ninth-best team ERA in all of baseball (3.46) and the 12th-most wins (56), but the additions of Lackey and Masterson will push St. Louis towards the top five in both categories. Even with a disappointing performance from the Cardinals’ offense so far in 2014, don’t be surprised to see St. Louis charge past Milwaukee and into the Central lead in the coming weeks on the strength of the team’s pitching.
With so many big names being traded Thursday, a large majority of the baseball world seems to have forgotten about the Cardinals. Thanks to the newfound depth of the team’s starting rotation, however, the league will soon be reminded just how relevant the Cards can be come playoff time.