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Monday, June 23, 2014
Cardinals injuries could lead to Price deal

By David Schoenfield

The St. Louis Cardinals suffered a double dosage of bad news on Sunday as the team placed starters Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia on the disabled list, Wacha with a stress reaction in his pitching shoulder and Garcia with soreness in his shoulder.

There is no timetable for either pitcher. Wacha's injury doesn't require surgery but the Cardinals will certainly proceed with caution. "This last start he missed, we did it just to give him some rest because as we said all along we're trying to bank some innings so come September and October, he'd be available, being a young pitcher," GM John Mozeliak said. "It's disappointing to learn of this, but obviously he is too young and too valuable to take risks with."

Garcia, coming back after shoulder surgery last season, had pitched well in seven starts with a 4.12 ERA and 39/7 strikeout/walk ratio but was unable to complete a bullpen session on Saturday.

Without knowing the length of time the Cardinals will miss the two starters, one obvious ramification is this would have to heighten the Cardinals' interest in Tampa Bay left-hander David Price, the Cy Young winner everybody expects to be traded before the July 31 trade deadline.

Right now, the Cardinals will stick with Carlos Martinez in the rotation. The young right-hander certainly has potential but hasn't shown an ability to consistently get out left-handed batters, who are hitting .284/.393/.473 against him with more walks (14) than strikeouts (10). The Cardinals will have to use a spot starter for Garcia on Wednesday. Eventually, Joe Kelly, who begins his rehab assignment on Friday after missing two months with a hamstring strain, would fill the fifth slot.

So the Cardinals aren't necessary desperate, as they still have Adam Wainwright (who returned Sunday after missing a start and pitched well), Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller. While Lynn has pitched better than last year, Miller has struggled at times and ranks 93rd among 96 qualified starters in strikeout/walk ratio as his strikeouts have dropped and his walks increased from his rookie season. That leaves a rotation suddenly shaky in three of the five spots.

Price has more value to a team trying to win a division title than a wild card -- general managers will be reluctant to give up too much for Price just to increase the odds of reaching a one-game playoff -- so that's one reason the Cardinals should have interest. While they're 5.5 games behind the Brewers, there's no reason they can't make a race of it. (Right now, FanGraphs projects the Brewers with a 50 percent chance of winning the division, the Cardinals at 37 percent.)

Plus, the Cardinals have some depth to trade from. While they would undoubtedly like to keep Oscar Taveras, outfielder Stephen Piscotty is hitting .312/.371/.438 at Triple-A. If the Rays are looking for more power, maybe something like a Matt Adams/Kelly duo is the centerpiece of a trade. Martinez could also be bait, especially if the Cardinals don't believe in him long-term as a starter.

Remember, Price has one more year under contract, so he's not just a rental. With so many pre-arbitration players on the roster, the Cardinals could afford to keep Price for 2015 and there's no denying a Wainwright-Price-Wacha trio in a potential playoff series looks nice.

A final thought: With three of their core offensive players (Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Jhonny Peralta) in their 30s, and Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter 29 and 28), the Cardinals are built to go for it now. A play for Price makes sense and won't gut the future.