With a record of 44-44, the Cardinals are suspended on the buy/sell bubble ahead of the July 31 Trade Deadline.
St. Louis trails the first-place Cubs by only two games in the National League Central -- close enough that adding rental players may be prudent for a proud franchise that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2015.
One possible acquisition on the Cardinals’ radar: Giants left-hander Will Smith.
The Cardinals and Giants engaged in serious discussions about a trade involving Smith during the offseason, sources say, and St. Louis is poised to pursue the reliever again -- as long as the Cardinals remain solidly in contention at the end of the month.
Smith, a free agent after this season, will be one of the most sought-after trade candidates in baseball as the Deadline approaches. He saved 23 games in the first half, tied for third most in the Majors, and is nearly certain to be dealt by the last-place Giants.
The Dodgers, Braves, Brewers and Rangers are among the other teams believed to have interest in Smith.
Carlos Martinez has a 1.38 ERA and three saves since becoming the Cardinals’ closer at the beginning of June, reducing the team’s need for a dedicated ninth-inning arm. However, St. Louis has a shortage of left-handed pitching at the Major League level. Reliever Andrew Miller, who had a 3.81 ERA in the first half, is the lone lefty on the active roster.
Left-handed pitching will be a precious commodity for National League clubs in this month’s trade market, given the high percentage of left-handed hitters among NL contenders.
The Dodgers and Brewers, who met in last year’s NLCS, each have five left-handed batters who have already surpassed 200 plate appearances this year: Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Alex Verdugo of the Dodgers; and Ben Gamel, Mike Moustakas, Travis Shaw, Eric Thames and reigning NL MVP Award winner Christian Yelich of the Brewers.
Within the NL Central, the Cardinals also are scheduled to play three series each against the Cubs and Reds in the second half, both of whom rely heavily on left-handed production.