You couldn't have asked for much better of a weekend of baseball, really. A sweep of the San Diego Padres, back to within two games of the Chicago Cubs, and still holding on to the wild card lead over the red hot Brewers. To top it all off, a walk off grand slam from perhaps the least likely possible source, Aaron Miles. Not too bad, huh?
Still, lost in all the excitement of the walk-off yesterday and the four-game sweep was yet another poor showing by the Cardinal bullpen. After the dramatic eighth inning homer by Troy Glaus that put the Cards up 5-3, in came Jason Isringhausen and handed the game right back to the Padres.
Brad Thompson managed to escape with the game tied, but not before he allowed a double nearly to the center field wall. Putting aside the question of whether or not it's wise for Izzy to be in the game in that situation, or pretty much any situation outside of mop-up duty, it just wasn't a banner day for the bullpen, once again.
Yesterday's game, and, in fact, the rest of the series, only served to underscore the Cards' most pressing need. We've known it for awhile, of course, but it keeps getting thrown in our faces, game after game, series after series. Of all the moves John Mozeliak will be looking to make between now and July 31 trade deadline, none is more pressing than finding some relief help, preferably of the left-handed variety.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some potential Cardinals relier pitchers:
1. Brian Fuentes, LHP, Colorado Rockies Fuentes is one of the hottest names on the market this trade season. It's thought that both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are interested in the left-handers' services.
Pros: Left-handed. Very tough on lefties, with a deceptive delivery and solid stuff to go with it. Relatively young. Clean injury history.
Cons: Signed only for this year, and will likely be expensive to retain beyond. Lots of competition for his services, and Rockies aren't entirely out of the race (no one is in the awful National League West, except for pitiful San Diego), so they'll be asking for a king's ransom. Has been inconsistent at times in his career.
I think Fuentes will end up being much too expensive, in terms of talent, for the Cardinals to acquire. Or maybe I just hope he will be.
2. Ron Mahay, LHP, Kansas City Royals You may not be particularly familiar with Mahay. We did see him earlier this year when the Cardinals played the Royals, and he was nasty.
Pros: He's a lefty. He's signed through next season, so he wouldn't be strictly a one year rental. KC is pretty much out of the race, so they might be a bit more willing to deal with the Cards.
Cons: Mahay is 37 years old. Outside of just a couple of seasons, he's rarely been more than marginal relief pitcher. Will cost $4 million next season.
Mahay may be one of the better choices on the market for the Cards this season. Even though he's not even close to young, he would make a nice pick up for both the stretch run this year and to help out in the 'pen next season. I think this could be the guy.
3. Huston Street, RHP, Oakland Athletics You want to shoot a bit higher than a simple specialist? Street is probably the biggest impact move the any team could make for a reliever. One of the strongest young closers in the game, Street would most likely step right into the closer role in St. Louis.
Pros: Isn't even yet 25 years old. Would still be under club control for two more years. Has been dominant at times.
Cons: Would cost an arm and a leg. Has had some health questions in his career, and isn't pitching as well this year as he has in the past. With the A's probably out of playoff contention, but in no big hurry to move Street.
Street's name has been tossed around a bit lately, as it seems that the Athletics are always willing to move players to improve their talent base, and Street would immediately help to shore up the back end of just about anyone's bullpen. Unfortunately, acquiring him would cost a lot of money, and I just don't think the Cards will have what it would take to bring him in. It's a nice pipe dream, though, as you could set up a bullpen with Street closing and Chris Perez setting him up for years to come, giving the Cards a dominating one two punch.
4. George Sherrill, LHP, Baltimore Orioles The former indy league wunderkind, Sherrill has emerged as a solid closer for the Orioles after they acquired him from Seattle this past off season.
Pros: Lefthanded. Has only a little over two years of service time, so would remain under club control for several more years. He is making less than $1 million this year, so even a fairly substantial raise would keep him relatively affordable.
Cons: Even though the Orioles are out of contention, they're in no hurry to trade Sherrill. Also, his pitching mechanics are a little questionable, as he throws across his body; so durability could be an issue down the line.
Sherrill is just flat-out going to cost too much. The Orioles aren't in a race, but unless they get paid well for Sherrill, they don't have a whole lot of reason to move him. He's cheap, young and good. It would be great to be able to pick a guy like this up, but I just don't see it happening.
5. Arthur Rhodes, LHP, Seattle Mariners The former starter-turned-reliever has been solid for the M's as a LOOGY ((L)eft-handed (O)ne (O)ut (G)u(Y)) this season, after signing as a minor league free agent in the off season. He's putting up a 2.89 ERA this year.
Pros: Lefty. Wouldn't cost anything monetarily, as his contract is only for $1 million this year. Has been fairly durable in his long career. Seattle is way, way out of the race.
Cons: 38 years old. Isn't signed beyond this season, so would be basically a rental.
Rhodes would probably be a fantastic choice to shore up the lefty corps for the rest of the season. As far out of the race as the Mariners are, they should be looking to deal pretty much anything that isn't nailed down. Obviously, he would mostly be a rental for this season, but would probably be easily signable next year if the Cards wanted to bring him back.
6. Jon Rauch, RHP, Washington Nationals A big, hard throwing right-hander, Rauch has largely served as Washington's closer this season following the loss of Chad Cordero for the year.
Pros: Still fairly young at 29. Signed through 2009 season, with an option for 2010. Affordable and durable, having made more than 80 appearances each of the past two seasons and on pace to do so again this year.
Cons: Right-handed. Given favorable contract status and solid performance, would be very costly.
The Nationals, being out of the NL East race, would probably be willing to deal Rauch. Unfortunately, he's locked up for a couple of years at a very nice rate, so I doubt he would be available for anything resembling decently cheap. I'm not a big fan of Rauch, and would prefer the Cards to just stay away.
There are plenty more on the market, but those are some of the names being tossed around that make a fair bit of sense.
I think the two that make the most sense for the Cardinals currently are Mahay and Rhodes, the lefties.
Both should be available for a modest haul of talent, and the Cards need help from the left side more than from the right. If they were looking to try and deal away some depth to set up the back end of the 'pen they could always make a run at Huston Street, but I think a deal like that will end up being too rich for the Cardinals' blood.