General manager John Mozeliak has evaluated the options and considered the cost. Now, with less than four days remaining until the non-waiver Trade Deadline (3 p.m. CT on Thursday), he'll have to decide soon whether to change the complexion of his Major League club.
Mozeliak's only move so far this month was to sign free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who gives the Cardinals added catching depth, as they prepare to play into September without veteran Yadier Molina.
If the Cards are to make a true impact move, though, it is still expected to come on the pitching end. Mozeliak acknowledged a few days ago that the team's improved offensive production in July leaves no obvious area for upgrade, unless the club wants to enhance its bench options.
The focus remains on pitching.
"We definitely feel we can continue to look at ways to improve," Mozeliak told MLB.com last week. "It's different than other years. Some years, we knew exactly what we needed to go do. In this particular case, it's something where if we can find some pitching help, we'd consider it. But as you can imagine, it's not the best market to be shopping for."
Mozeliak added that the organization is still more likely to seek a starter who can deepen the rotation than one who will step alongside ace Adam Wainwright to anchor it. If the Cardinals did seek the latter, the Rays' David Price would be the appealing option. But the price in talent or prospects for Price is exceptionally high, and there is no guarantee that Tampa Bay will even part with him -- given the team's recent surge back into the American League's postseason race.
Finding a pitcher who could help stabilize a rotation sans Michael Wacha would be easier to find. Such an acquisition could also allow the Cards to minimize their talent loss.
The club had been rumored to be talking to Boston about acquiring right-hander Jake Peavy, but Peavy has since been dealt to San Francisco.
The Cardinals remain in the middle of a crowded National League Central race that the organization knows could be substantially impacted by what the four contending teams decide to do -- or not do -- within the next few days. So far, none of the four has made the first move.
Mozeliak, who has been the architect of three straight playoff teams, has handled this time of year differently in each of those seasons. In 2011, the Cards were involved in an 11-player deal that brought Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel to St. Louis. A separate deal also added shortstop Rafael Furcal. The club ended that year as World Series champions.
The GM hasn't gone as big with his moves the past two seasons. He added a middle reliever (Edward Mujica) in 2012, before standing pat at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last season. The Cardinals later acquired reliever John Axford in August.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB.