The cards are approaching the trade deadline with a few glaring areas of need.
As has been roundly discussed, the biggest factor is just getting what we have healthy.
Yesterday, colby rasmus showed up apparently in shape. Ludwick is allegedly close to ready (though in a heartening start, allen craig played RF for him last night). Freese - recovering from an injury that put a big fermata in the middle of a stunning rookie season - is supposedly still on the mend with predictions of seeing him at the end of the month.
Things are more dire in the rotation. Neither penny nor lohse have a timetable for return. Two out of every five days remains a bit of a baseball roller coaster. Hawksworth has shown some good signs of being the least bad of many options. Suppan has shown mostly why the brewers released him.
I will confess to being a bit disappointed that the cards did not make an internal move over the break. If ever there was a good chance to stretch boggs (who was capable if uninspiring last year) or kyle mclellan (who was the designee in spring training) out to start, the break was the chance to do it. The rise of salas and sanchez left us with the bullpen depth to try one of them out. Either boggs or k-mac would be better than suppan in the rotation.
in addition to needs in the rotation, there is a somewhat less keen need for assistance in the middle infield. my suspicion is that boog and skip will regress to their somewhat more productive norms.
the trade market is interesting but not really set for the cards' needs or assets. the cardinals have a tough spot - limited trade currency, minimal salary flexibility beyond this year (assuming signing pujols is on the club's agenda).
those limitations likely rule out a big splash trade for an expensive pitcher like oswalt or haren (or, before he was traded, lee). a second-tier acquisition, especially an expensive pitcher in his last year of a contract would make a lot of sense - think sheets, brett myers (as much as I dislike myers). ted lilly would be an attractive option, though I doubt the cubs would do anything to help us. i continue to like ricky nolasco, and we could have an outside shot at him.
sheets has shown signs of serious regression (or injury) with a reduced K rate (6.55 k/9) and increased BB rate (3.28 bb/9). the net effect is that he looks like a fairly pedestrian pitcher (FIP 4.71, xFIP 4.42). now, a pedestrian pitcher would be a nice addition to the cards' rotation - it just means we'd have to get some kind of discount on his big salary or get him for a non-prospect. there's not much sign that he's likely to regress to his ordinary self soon - the only sign of seriously bad luck is a slightly elevated HR/FB rate - odd, in a pitcher's park like oakland. still, he is an okay pitcher now, and was a stellar pitcher before. he may rediscover his form later in the season.
brett myers is having a great year, with a great FIP - 3.79. his peripherals are actually not much different from sheets - k rate around 6, a better bb rate - 2.82 bb/9, etc. the big difference between the two this year has been the HR rate. myers is pushing an 8.9% HR/FB, which is low, but not preposterously low. in his last few years on the mound it has been terrible - last year he had a 23% HR/FB rate and has been over 14% since 2004. much of that may be citizens bank park, but his away splits have been bad for his whole career. his away HR/FB splits have been 12.9%, 28.2%, 17.2%, 3.1%, 13.9%, 14.8%, 13.9%, 14.3%, going in reverse chronological order. with the exception of one outlier year, he serves up homers, and there's no particular reason to think he's stopped this year for any reason other than luck. despite about a point difference in ERA, i'm not sure he's better than sheets.
ricky nolasco seems like a guy who's just been dead unlucky for a long time. with fine peripherals (1.79 bb/9!), he keeps running up third-tier ERAs. as long as that doesn't indicate a problem not captured by peripherals, his ERA anomalies will just make him a cheaper recruit. he would remain under team control through 2012. he seems like someone the marlins would not mind letting go, as he will get more expensive soon. i would like to see mo make the phones ring pretty hard down in florida.
some of the unsigned names that continue to pop up are unrealistic - washburn, pedro, smoltz, looper (blech!) are simply too long off the field to realistically come back to the mound. unless one of them comes forward to say that they've been secretly throwing in the basement, they will need a long workout to get ready.
in the middle infield, big names like stephen drew or even dan uggla don't seem like good candidates for the cards, much like oswalt wouldn't be. those names would take too much to land. kelly johnson could be interesting to watch, as a mark derosa type for a mid-summer acquisition. there's a fair amount of demand, but also some nice names out there.
the appeal to other teams in a trade with the cardinals would likely be in shedding salary, rather than getting a mother lode of prospects. the list of fungible items likely to be available on the cardinals club with some value to other clubs is short -- boggs, sanchez, salas, craig, anderson, maybe tyler greene or jon jay. i can't imagine that big-name players like shelby miller or most of the players on the major league club are actually available. most of the other prospects will not bring a major-league talent, though other players could be added to sweeten a pot.