Makeover and Attitude Adjustment for the Cardinals
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Three moves late in July should provide a much needed boost to the St. Louis Cardinals.All three moves benefit pitching in one way or another and there is no substitute for quality pitching if you want to see October baseball.
Move one was the signing of catcher A.J. Pierzynski. I’ve liked this guy since his early years with the Twins and Giants. First and foremost, he is a competitor. Good things seem to happen around him. I'm not sure that the '05 White Sox win Chicago's only World Series Championship since the end of World War I without him. Pierzynski seems to have a knack for getting important hits. As is the case with Yadier Molina, he’s good at getting the best out of pitchers in challenging situations. Pierzynski is an excellent stop-gap measure until Molina is ready to play again. Cardinal pitching gets an indirect boost here.
Move two was the trade for Justin Masterson. He isn’t going to dominate opponents, but he will eat up innings and give the Cards a chance to win. Nothing flashy. Just a solid #4 or #5 starter.
Move three was the trade for John Lackey. The deal came to my attention in three phases. I first heard that Lackey was on the way from the Red Sox, I was very pleased. As we saw in the World Series, Lackey is the sort who seems to thrive in big situations. He’s a top of the rotation pitcher for any team. A quick mental rundown of a possible post season rotation of Wainwright, Lackey, Lynn and whoever sounded great. My hope at that point was that Oscar Tavares, Shelby Miller or Kolten Wong were not headed east.
Then, word arrived that Allen Craig and Joe Kelly were going to Boston. Reaction at that point was that the Cards had overpaid for a 35 year old starter. Then it came to my attention that minor league left hander Corey Littrell was headed to the Cardinal organization. Littrell is a solid prospect who was sent to high A ball in West Palm, With all the parts in place, the immediate verdict for me was that this is a good trade for the Cardinals and for the Red Sox.
Boston is reloading. Kelly has a very good chance to land a spot in the rotation for the long term. That was going to be a problem in St. Louis. Wainwright, Wacha, Miller and Lynn are a very good start toward a 2015 rotation. There will be a lot of competition for that last slot and I'm sure the Cardinals would prefer to have a lefty in one of those starter slots.
I didn’t mind seeing Allen Craig move on. When healthy, he can hit. However, the numbers game was starting to catch up with him. As the recent move by Boston to put him on the disabled list confirms, Craig’s foot still isn’t healthy after an umpire wound up getting in his way 11 months ago. Since then, Matt Adams has taken firm control of the first base job. Oscar Tavares has done all he can in AAA and it is time for him to get a chance in the major leagues. Age is a factor here too. Tavares turned 22 several weeks ago. Craig is 30. Gotta go with the younger guy. Matt Holliday remains a fixture in the other outfield spot where Craig is capable of contributing.