Cardinals Inching Closer to Division Title
Leading up to the trade deadline on August 2nd, the Cardinals were in 2nd place in the NL Central, 3 games back the Milwaukee Brewers, and outside of the playoffs. The Cardinals were fresh off an 11-13 month of July, the Cardinals were in need of a jumpstart and make a splash at the trade deadline. For many weeks, they were considered one of the favorites to land Washington Nationals star OF Juan Soto. At one point, many people thought the Cardinals had landed him as John Mozeliak was seen with Mike Rizzo during the final game of the Cardinals visit to Washington, laughing, smiling, and shaking hands. Some of the names the Nationals were interested in were top prospects Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn, as well as current big leaguers Dylan Carlson & Nolan Gorman, which is a steep price to pay even though Soto has 2.5 years of control, still only 23 years old, and widely viewed as one of the best players in the game.
Then came deadline day and reports that the Cardinals were all but refusing to include Dylan Carlson in any Soto trade. Then, hours before the deadline, the Padres had acquired Juan Soto for a massive package. Many fans were both happy that we didn't give up that much but many were also appalled we couldn't give up unknown players for a proven player. Still, fans were wondering what the Cardinals would actually do. Many wanted pitching, while others wanted hitting.
Not long after the Soto trade, the Cardinals announced a trade of their own. They had acquired a pitcher they have faced numerous times during his bouts in the Central: Jose Quintana. Not only did they get some starting pitching depth, they also got some bullpen depth in Chris Stratton. They only had to give up Johan Oviedo & prospect Malcolm Nunez. Both pitchers have been a much welcomed addition to the pitching staff. Quintana has fit right in to the back of the rotation. Many scratched their heads at why the Cardinals acquired Stratton, but he has been extremely serviceable posting a 3.14 ERA, 2.56 FIP, & 10 K/9.
Then the stunner happened moments before the deadline. The Cardinals traded Harrison Bader away to the Yankees for LHP Jordan Montgomery. Most of Cardinals Nation, and Yankee fans were shocked by this deal, including Montgomery himself. New York media interviewed him after the news came out that he was traded, and he was visibly upset. However, this very well may have been the best trade of the deadline. Monty has put up a 1.47 ERA in 6 starts for the Cardinals which includes a complete game, 1-hit shutout against the Cubs. He has given the Cardinals the much needed rotation boost they have needed.
Entering August 2, there were serious questions about the Cardinals rotation not for the playoffs, but for the rest of the season. Jack Flaherty had already been placed back on the 60-day DL, Dakota Hudson had been extremely inconsistant, Steven Matz was also dealing with injuries of his own. These trades, along with the trade of Edmundo Sosa for JoJo Romero have been the jumpstart the Cardinals were looking for. Since the acquisitions, the Cardinals are 23-7, surging to 1st place in the Central, 7.5 games ahead of the Brewers. Think about this, the Cardinals have made up 10.5 games since the deadline.
This jumpstart has affected the clubhouse, in a positive way, as the Cardinals have seen solid play from across the board. Nolan Arenado was the NL Player of the Month in August, Tyler O'Neill is showing his 2021 self again, Lars Nootbaar has emerged as a consistent every day player, and Paul Goldschmidt is competing for a Triple Crown. Oh, and then there's some guy named Albert Pujols who is now 2 home runs away from tying Alex Rodriguez for 4th all time on the home run list and 6 away from becoming the 4th player to ever hit 700 home runs.
The Cardinals are rejuvenated and are eyeing their first division crown since 2019. They are the hottest team in baseball. They are also getting Jack Flaherty back on Monday and should provide another boost for the rotation. If Flaherty can prove to stay healthy and pitches like the ace has has in the past, he will give the Cardinals a strong rotation entering the playoffs.
This last month of baseball should be an exciting one for fans. We are witnessing history with Goldy trying to become the first NL player to hit for the Triple Crown since Joe Medwick did it as a Cardinal in 1937, Pujols going for 700 and retiring after the season, Yadier Molina will pass Carlson Fisk for 2nd most starts at catcher this week and is also retiring upon the end of the season, and the battery of Adam Wainwright & Molina likely breaks the record for most starts as battery mates. Questions still remain whether Waino will return in 2023, but I'm not worried about that right now. I'm very excited to see what the rest of the season and potential postseason holds in store for the Cardinals.