Jerry Crasnick ESPN Senior Writer Close ESPN.com senior writer Author of "License to Deal" Former Denver Post national baseball writer Follow on Twitter Two things can happen to the St. Louis Cardinals between now and July 31 to give general manager John Mozeliak a sense of clarity and a mandate entering the trade deadline: • The Chicago Cubs (or Milwaukee Brewers) could go on a roll, assume control in the National League Central and render the Cardinals irrelevant, prompting Mozeliak to take a hard look at his roster and sell off short-term assets to help with a big-picture revamp; • In an alternate, better-case scenario, the Cardinals will find that missing spark, start playing better ball
When a team has more success than maybe the front office was expecting to begin a season, at what point does the switch turn from being smack in the middle of a full-fledged rebuild to becoming buyers at the trade deadline? The Brewers came into the season likely expecting to be in a position where they were selling off assets at the trade deadline come July. Ryan Braun would have drawn a great deal of trade interest and Milwaukee could have gotten a handful of pieces with an eye towards the future for him. Instead, the Brewers came out of the gates hot in an NL Central division that saw no one grab the bull by the horns, and as of now, Milwaukee leads the defending world champion Cubs by a half-game.
The National League Central has proven to be far below the expectations of the 2017 season. The Chicago Cubs won 103 games and let’s not forget the World Series a season ago. This year the Cubs have yet to show what its obvious talent can do. The Pirates and Cardinals have no offense. The NL Central is sitting there for the taking. Milwaukee is not respected by anyone in the media and for good reason. This is a small market club that hasn’t been to the postseason since 2011 and has been in a rebuild mode for the last two seasons. However, now that the division has taken a step back the Brewers have a real shot to shock a lot of so called experts. Milwaukee must take advantage of the lackluster