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St. Louis Cardinals trade rumors: Redbirds hone in on starting pitching

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With a week to go, the Cardinals are prioritizing an upgrade to the rotation.

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Brian Blanco

For Cardinals fans, Ye Olde Trade Rumour began grinding away a few weeks ago when rumors swirled that the organization was closing in on a trade that would bring Jake Peavy to St. Louis. The next day, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the Cards were prioritizing an offensive upgrade over pitching. As I noted at the time, prioritizing offense and upgrading the rotation are not mutually exclusive goals. And, with a week to go before MLB's non-waiver trade deadline, the Cardinals reportedly are once again targeting pitching.

So what changed?

The Cardinals have a better idea about Michael Wacha's prognosis. The young righty's shoulder is healing, which is good news. The bad news is that Wacha is not yet able to pick up a baseball and throw it, let alone from a mound. So the absolute soonest that Wacha might possibly return is early September—a fact that is of little comfort as the pennant race heats up.

General manager John Mozeliak was a guest on Jim Bowden's "The GM's Office" on Thursday. Mozeliak indicated that the performances of Carlos Martinez and Shelby Miller were worrisome. Neither pitcher has grabbed a rotation spot by the horns, tamed it, and made it his own. Consequently, it appears the Redbirds are uncomfortable heading down the home stretch of the NL Central race with one of them in the rotation (or, if another injury strikes the starting staff, both).

According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX, the Redbirds are casting a wide net as they fish for an upgrade to the rotation:

While talking with Bowden on Thursday, Mozeliak indicated that the club was indeed targeting the rotation for an upgrade as the trade deadline nears. This leads us back to some familiar faces.

Upper-End: David Price

There's been a good deal of smoky gossip regarding the Cardinals and Price. Some of which was generated when Price and friends attended the final few innings of the Cardinals' Sunday night game against the Dodgers, which received its own article in USA Today by Bob Nightengale that, in addition to Price declaring that St. Louis are incredible "nice," included this bit of insanity:

The Cardinals would prefer to take their chances right now. They've got the prized pieces to at least entice the Rays. You want prized outfielder Oscar Taveras? You got him. Starting pitcher Shelby Miller? Done. More prospects? Go ahead and name them.

That's not to say that the Cardinals aren't doing their research on Price.

According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, a portion of the Cardinals' leg work on Price apparently involves exploring whether he would be willing negotiate an extension before he becomes a free agent after the 2015 season.

But, according to ESPN's Jayson Stark, the Rays haven't yet made up their minds about whether or not to trade Price. The determining factor will likely be what the Rays can get in return:

It comes down to this, said a rival executive: "If they get the right offer, I'm convinced they'll move him. They've really built their team by making these kinds of deals. But if the return they can get now is something they think they can get this winter, they'll hold him."

So what are the odds of that? What are the chances the offers for Price won't change appreciably between now and December? Hmmm. Almost zero, you would think.

When the Rays hung on to Price last winter and took him into this season, they clearly believed he'd have just as much value this July as he did last winter, if they were in a mode to move him, because he could still have an impact on two pennant races. But by next offseason, you know that would be no longer true, if you're subtracting along at home.

So one exec we surveyed estimated his trade value this winter will be "30 to 40 percent" less than it would be right now. And when you really think this through, that's a major hit -- in either quantity, or quality, or both.

On the other hand ...

This is also a team that believes it can win next year, especially if it could trot Price out there 33 times. And remember, history has shown us the Rays don't trade everybody in this situation.

They didn't trade Carl Crawford. They didn't trade Carlos Pena. They like winning, too. And this is their window. So they are making it clear to every team they've talked to:

They don't have to trade their ace. Not now. Not even in December. And they will walk away from any deal if they don't get what they need to make it worth their while. You might not believe that, but other teams do. Those teams have told us repeatedly: They do not think Friedman is bluffing when he says that.

Which means the Dodgers, Mariners, Cardinals, Giants and the rest of the Price shoppers need to be ready. If the Rays open for business next week, this is going to have to happen fast. And it's going to be expensive.

Stark rates the Cardinals third in the Price sweepstakes, behind the Dodgers and Mariners.

Back-End: Jake Peavy

It's the rumor that won't die. ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted that the Cardinals and Sox were unable to reach a deal for Peavy because St. Louis just wanted to pay the remainder of the righty's salary while Boston wanted a prospect in return. What type of prospect? Peter Gammons gives us a clue:

Goold elaborated:

Lucky for us, Wick is in Peoria now so the Red Sox are shit out of luck. In all seriousness, though, the 21-year-old outfielder hit .378/.475/.815/1.290 for State College with 15 homers in 36 games before the organization promoted him to the Chiefs. The Red Sox can ask for whatever they please in exchange for Peavy, but it's good that the Cards appear unwilling to give up a power-hitting prospect like Wick in exchange for Peavy and his 4.72 ERA (117 ERA-) and 4.81 FIP (120 FIP-), no matter how many innings he might absorb in August and September.

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There are a lot of balls in the air right now for Mozeliak and his minions in what the GM has accurately described as a seller's market. It will be interesting to see whether Mozeliak fines a deal that is satisfactory to him in terms of the prospect price he must pay. Sitting three games behind the Brewers in the standings, the Cardinals could use a shot in the arm.