CHICAGO -- While general manager John Mozeliak has not ruled out the possibility of making an impact trade before Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Cardinals appear positioned for a late-season run even if trade activity is minimal or non-existent over the next five days.
Previous concerns about the rotation's ability to carry this club to the postseason have been placated as July has progressed. The Cardinals entered Friday having received at least six innings from their starter in every game this month. The rotation's ERA in July sat at 2.35 entering this weekend's series in Chicago. On the season, the starters' ERA of 3.49 ranks third in the National League.
There is also the impending return of Jaime Garcia to consider. Knowing that the lefty should be ready to return from the disabled list in mid-August may be cushion enough for the Cardinals to forgo losing prospects for a short-term starting pitching rental.
"Our starters have been great," Mozeliak said last week. "I think clearly it takes a little pressure off, in terms of feeling like we have to do something. If you were to go after a starter, who are you really bouncing out? And how are you improving? That's why I don't think the urgency is quite there for rotational help as maybe it was, say, three or four weeks ago."
With the Cardinals continuing to lead the league in batting average and runs scored, it does not appear that there is much the club could do to upgrade that unit. That's why the club has been prioritizing pitching to this point.
Even the bullpen, which has had its share of struggles this season, seems to have settled recently -- perhaps lessening the urgency to consider it necessary to add a reliever before the end of the month.
The bullpen has posted a July ERA of 2.15, which is much improved compared to its overall 4.16 mark. Mitchell Boggs has taken the reins on the setup role. Fernando Salas and Marc Rzepczynski have seemingly regained traction. And Barret Browning has been a nice recent surprise. The club also just inserted Brian Fuentes into the mix, which gives it a lefty specialist.
There remains, though, room for improvement, which is why nothing can be ruled out with several days remaining before the Trade Deadline. And if the Cardinals are going to be active in the trade market, it is most likely that they will be so in order to land bullpen help.
Any moves Mozeliak may make will be done from St. Louis, as he did not accompany the Cardinals on their road trip.