The St. Louis Cardinals, who finished the first half on a high note with six wins in their last eight games, will contend, but they are unlikely to be a playoff team unless they fix the front half of their bullpen.
Right-handers Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte have been excellent at the back end, but the sixth and seventh innings have been an adventure.
The club surely is looking for one or two veterans, preferably one from each side.
With the return of two pitchers, left-hander Jaime Garcia (shoulder strain) and right-handed reliever Kyle McClellan (elbow strain), unlikely before mid-August, general manager John Mozeliak also might be on the outlook for a starting pitcher. However, right-handed rookie Joe Kelly has handled himself well in six starts.
The offense, statistically the best in the league, will get a second-half boost from first baseman Lance Berkman, who has been out virtually all season with hamstring and knee injuries, the second of which required surgery that has sidelined him for nearly two months.
Right-hander Chris Carpenter, out with shoulder weakness from spring training on, had been counted on for a second-half lift, but surgery will sideline him for the remainder of the season.
The rotation should be all right, though, if right-hander Adam Wainwright continues to improve following Tommy John elbow surgery that put him out all last season.
If the Cardinals do attempt to trade for pitching help, they do not have much other teams want. One exception would be prized prospect Shelby Miller, a 21-year-old right-hander who is having a terrible time with Class AAA Memphis. Another is burly first baseman Matt Adams, who acquitted himself well in a month-long call-up, although he was sidelined with a bad right elbow at Memphis after having a string of good games.