COMMENTARY | On Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after they watched the St. Louis Cardinals take a half game lead in the National League Central division, the Pittsburgh Pirates made a move to bolster a team that has shown hints of decline by bringing in veterans Marlon Byrd and John Buck in a trade with the New York Mets.
Byrd figures to see playing time immediately as a replacement for Starling Marte and Buck should be a very capable backup behind Russell Martin. The Pirates got better on Tuesday, in preparation for what likely will be an outstanding three-team race in the NL Central with the Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds.
So now that the Pirates have pushed in most of their chips for the stretch run, will the Cardinals counter with a move of their own?
The simple and safe answer is, likely not. John Mozeliak has been adamant that any strengthening to the ballclub will come from internal options, as we saw when the organization summoned prospect Carlos Martinez from Triple-A for the third time this season to add depth to a bullpen that continues to be taxed because of a treacherous schedule and a starting rotation that is incapable of going deep into games on a consistent basis.
But should Mozeliak try and fix the source of the problem? Should he counter the Pirates move by bringing in his own reinforcements and bolster the Cardinals starting rotation by acquiring Dan Haren from the Washington Nationals, a pitcher that has been rumored to be available and has cleared waivers?
On the surface, the answer is no. Why give up high-profile prospects for a one-year rental?
But the Cardinals should look at the Nationals team from last year as an example. The Nats shut down Stephen Strasburg even though they were in the playoffs for the first time since moving to Washington, expecting to repeat that very success in 2013. Now, the Nationals are looking up at the Atlanta Braves and barring an epic collapse by any of the three NL Central teams, will be on the outside looking in this October.
The point is, this Cardinals team is in a position to once again make some noise and while the organization always seems to position itself for a playoff run, being in playoff contention with a chance to win a World Series should not be taken for granted. For most organizations, it simply just does not happen every year.
Mozeliak should seriously consider countering the Pirates move by further exploring a trade for Dan Haren.
Haren has been really good during the second half of the season for the Nationals after a disastrous first half. Since the All-star break, Haren is 4-1, with a save oddly enough, and a 2.74 ERA in 46 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting just .199 off the tall right-handed hurler during that stretch and he has struck out 40 hitters while limiting his walks to just seven in seven starts.
Of course, the Nationals are rumored to want a haul of prospects in any trade for Haren, contending that he will fetch them a first-round draft pick if they make him a qualifying offer this off-season and the veteran walks for a more lucrative, longer-term contract.
But the Nationals are unlikely to get any takers for their high demands and Mozeliak should be able to take advantage without mortgaging the future and giving up too many prospects.
Haren will cost something, but is the opportunity to bolster a stop-gap rotation with a quality, experience veteran worth the risk?
After watching Matt Harvey go down for the rest of the season with a partially torn UCL, shouldn't the Cardinals try and find a solution to the rotation woes rather than use prospects and push these youngsters possibly to the brink, further than the team originally intended to?
The Pirates have gone all in, as they should, while not giving up much in the process. Its a smart move by the Pirates, a move they must make, considering how long it has been since the organization has won anything.
The Cardinals should be willing to do the same, even though the team seems to be in this position every season. Mozeliak should not have to give up a Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Oscar Taveras, Matt Adams or Kolten Wong to acquire Haren.
The Cardinals should make this move, or one like it for another reliable, veteran starter, especially if it positions the team to win in September while not pushing the organization's star prospects too hard in the process.
Doing so would not be a knee-jerk reaction to the Pirates, but instead, a prudent move that would improve the club's chances of winning the NL Central in 2013.
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