The Cardinals entered the month of July with one of the best young pitching staffs in baseball and an offense limping along near the bottom of the league. At that time, it looked like the best possible move for the John Mozeliak would be to acquire a big bat for the stretch run; someone that could assist the Cardinal offense in run creation and allow some of these young starters a bit of breathing room by putting some crooked numbers up on the scoreboard.
Fast forward a month later: The Cardinals make two deadline deals for pitchers, trading away a pair of clubhouse favorites having rough years and one diminutive former first round pick, and do essentially nothing to upgrade the offense other than sending out a struggling Allen Craig and making way for a struggling, but talented, Oscar Taveras.
So -- why didn't John Mozeliak get some help on offense?
Answer: There simply wasn't any impact help available to get.
Here's a list of a few players that were traded in July and possibly could have been acquired by the Cardinals:
Notice: There's not one single bat on that list that's hitting for even a league average wRC+. Valencia and Jackson are close, but neither has a lot of PA's in 2014 (Valencia is basically a backup player) and look at the players that were given up to acquire those guys: It's hard to see Detroit parting with Jackson for anyone other than Jon Lester or David Price and Toronto gave up strikeout machine Liam Hendricks to acquire Valencia, who probably is a platoon player for them on the infield. I actually think Hendricks might help the Royals more down the stretch than Valencia will help the Blue Jays if he's able to help shore up the KC bullpen behind Holland and Davis.
There are a number of intriguing players here, but nobody really moves the needle for the Cardinals offensively:
Would have been a nice acquisition just to keep him out of the hands of the Brewers, who gave up their version of James Ramsey (Mitch Haniger) and young lefty Anthony Banda for acquire him. Basically, he's Peter Bourjos, though, so that really doesn't help the Cardinals.
The D-Backs got Peter O'Brien back in the deal for Prado, which makes this deal look a bit like a salary dump (it kinda was), but O'Brien has 34 homers this year across A+ and AA for the Yankees who have depth in the minors at catcher and were willing to take on Prado's contract, which has 2 more years at $10M remaining.
I don't see how he helps the Cardinals much at all really: His best days defensively at 2B are behind him, and his bat doesn't really give the club much of an upgrade at 2B either. If you wanted a bit better hitting but more expensive version of Mark Ellis then he's probably your guy. Thing is: Would you have given up Rowan Wick for him? He's about the best comp to Brien in the Cardinals system currently. That would be a tough lift for a guy who's basically just replacing Daniel Descalso and Mark Ellis, two guys that haven't played much at all the last month or so.
The Nationals gave up Zach Walters, a 24 year old middle infielder with good power repeating AAA this year, for 2 months of Cabrera. Similar player for the Cardinals would have been Randal Grichuk, who's two years younger and in AAA as well. I think that's too high a cost for a rental, and especially one that, again, isn't much of an upgrade if you do start him over Kolten Wong.
This is really the one guy that would have made a lot of sense of the Cardinals: He can play damn near anywhere, is a good switch hitter with speed, and can fill a lot of different holes around the diamond as a utility player. The Cubs sent Bonifacio and James Russell to the Braves for what amounts to a younger, less polished, high upside version of Bonifacio in Victor Caratini. I don't know whether the Cubs would have been interested in someone like Bryan or Tilson or Juan Herrera in exchange for Bonifacio, but that's essentially the talent level they got in return for him.
There just wasn't a big bat to be had at the deadline this year, it's really just that simple. All the guys traded are filling in the margins for the acquiring teams, and nobody got that big game changing stick to put in the middle of their lineup this year.
Also, you can spare me the pleas for Yoenis Cespedes: The A's were never trading him for anything less than the ace that they got in return and he's not nearly as good as you think he is when you start looking inside the numbers. Couple that with having no place to play him (he can't play CF folks) and it's hard to see how he really helps this team the last two months of the season.
Upgrading the pitching staff was the way to go for this year to add marginal wins, and the hope is that the offense starts to churn out some runs with more PA's for Taveras, Holliday's annual second half surge, and the rest of the team playing up to the level we've seen them play to before.