Those things all have a huge impact on what the Cardinals might be shopping for at the trade deadline, so I had to call a bit of an audible when looking at potential trade candidates. I think the Kottaras move was a good one, regardless of how many times I misspell his last name, mainly because he knows the division and the Cardinal pitchers as well as any non-Cardinal would and also provides some left handed pop off the bench that this team was sorely lacking with Matt Adams in the lineup every day.
If Wong continues to play at this high level, there really isn't much need to upgrade in the middle infield -- at least not for the everyday player that many of us thought we might need of the stretch run just a couple of weeks ago. If I'm Mozeliak, my inclination at this point is to stand pat, pray that Mike Matheny puts the best lineup out there each day, and keep my ears open for players who might be able to marginally upgrade a utility role. Which, considering who the utility players are on this team, should not be too difficult.
Here are a couple of players that the Cardinals might be looking at:
Martin Prado, 2B/3B/C-OF, Arizona
Word is Prado is on the block, which is strange just a couple of seasons after being the centerpiece of 7 player deal that sent Justin Upton to the Braves. If he is truly out there, though, the Cardinals have to be kicking the tires, because he can do all the things that Daniel Descalso can do (including standing uselessly at SS) but actually be above replacement level while doing them.
The problem? He's owed $22M in the two seasons after this one, and that's far more than you would want to pay for a part time player. Arizona would probably like to unload that contract if they could, and that's what makes Prado so attractive as a target -- he might come cheap.
Currently, he's hitting .272/.320/.370, leading the NL in GIDP, and on pace for one of the worst seasons of his career. That likely diminishes his value a bit, but he's only 30 and can play multiple positions with above average ability. The question is what to offer that Arizona doesn't turn down, but doesn't really give up a lot of value for the Cardinals in the future.
I'd dangle James Ramsey in front of them, as he's a hard worker and profiles as the type of player they have been interested in acquiring in other trades since Towers has been their GM. He also likely has as much value right now as he's ever going to have as a prospect. Fill out the trade with a C+ prospect of their choice and take on the whole contract, or toss in a low minors arm and make Arizona kick some money in. Either way, Prado makes for a nice addition -- the question is whether you want to pay your utility guy that much money.
Daniel Murphy, 2B/OF, Mets
The real issue here is whether the Mets are going to be buyers or sellers at the deadline, and since nobody can seem to run away and hide in the NL East, that deadline keeps getting extended toward the end of July. Supposedly, the Mets are looking at extending Murphy as well as looking for possible trade partners. He's cost controlled through the end of next season and will make somewhere in the neighborhood of $8M next year if he continues to have a career year at the plate: He's hit .297/.345/.417 in the first half with massively improved defense at second base to boot.
His parent club doesn't line up so well with the Cardinals in trade, as the Mets have plenty of homegrown pitching on the way up. They do lack outfield prospects, though, so any deal with them is probably going to involve one of the high minors outfielders the Cardinals currently have.
I wouldn't give up Piscotty in any deal for a second rate player, but I think I'd make just about everyone else available if I thought that Murphy could be a bit better in the Mark Ellis role than Mark Ellis has been to this point.
Thing is, if Wong is playing well, Murphy doesn't really help this club much as he won't be able to get on the field. He'd be injury insurance, and with a pretty expensive premium attached to him. Not as high as someone like Prado does, but given that we'd likely be sending more in trade for fewer seasons of control I'm not sure that Murphy makes as much sense now as he did a couple of weeks ago when Ellis was starting every day at second base.
Again, I think the move might just be to stand pat at this point. There really isn't anyone out there on the lower end of the market that moves the needle at all for the Cardinals and there's plenty of upside for this team offensively if some of the key guys can overcome their first half struggles. The Pirates and Reds have been dealt some serious injury blows and the Brewers have avoided injury all year with a team of injury prone and veteran guys.
Given that, I still like the Cardinals chances of winning the division.