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Cards face big decisions entering 2nd half

MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Having already put the team on notice by making a rare in-season managerial change, the Cardinals appear to be approaching another crossroads.

They still see a pathway to the postseason, which is why principal owner Bill DeWitt Jr. settled on replacing manager Mike Matheny with Mike Shildt last weekend instead of waiting until after the season. But an honest evaluation of the roster reveals additional deficiencies and multiple holes. Injuries, inconsistency and underperformance have hampered momentum and forced the organization to re-evaluate just how committed it is to making a push for the postseason in 2018.

ST. LOUIS -- Having already put the team on notice by making a rare in-season managerial change, the Cardinals appear to be approaching another crossroads.

They still see a pathway to the postseason, which is why principal owner Bill DeWitt Jr. settled on replacing manager Mike Matheny with Mike Shildt last weekend instead of waiting until after the season. But an honest evaluation of the roster reveals additional deficiencies and multiple holes. Injuries, inconsistency and underperformance have hampered momentum and forced the organization to re-evaluate just how committed it is to making a push for the postseason in 2018.

As Cardinals management huddles to decide on the franchise's direction ahead of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, here's a more detailed look at how the club could approach the next few weeks:

Buyer or seller? 'TBD'
Those were literally the three letters offered by president of baseball operations John Mozeliak on Sunday when asked whether Matheny's dismissal foreshadowed other moves to come. Mozeliak has noted that it would be prudent to view potential deals through a long-term lens, though that's not to say the club is ready to punt on the season. In order to strike a balance between competing now and building for later, the Cardinals will likely pursue players who have multiple years of control remaining as well as deals that can help balance the roster.

What they are seeking?
Truly, anything is on the table. The club would be open to adding prospects who could fill future needs, but it will also entertain offers for Major League players who can help immediately. They are interested in restructuring their bullpen, and, specifically, could benefit from bringing in another left-handed arm. As far as possible additions on the position-player side, the Cardinals have expressed interest in swapping out a right-handed hitter for a left-handed one. Their search for an impact bat continues, too, though it's unlikely they fill that need with a move made this month.

What they have to offer
The Cardinals are in position to offer prospects or players on their Major League roster. The club has a wealth of pitching prospects that may interest other teams, and with Yadier Molina blocking prospects Carson Kelly and Andrew Knizner, the Cardinals could deal from that catching depth. Jose Martinez, who doesn't have an obvious defensive fit in St. Louis, would be a candidate to be flipped to an American League club. And if the Cardinals fall further out of contention, they may even entertain dealing closer Bud Norris, who will be a free agent after this season.

Video: CLE@STL: Jose Martinez crushes a 3-run homer to left

Possible scenario
The Cardinals could capitalize on Martinez's offensive value and improve their defense by sending the first baseman/outfielder to a team that could use Martinez as a designated hitter. As far as potential relief targets, San Diego closer Brad Hand would fit the team's desire to add a lefty reliever who could be a late-inning option for multiple seasons. Hand is under contract through 2020 after signing an extension earlier this year.

Video: Hand on trade chances, All-Star Game and McGwire

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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