With July in Major League Baseball always comes a particular sense of uncertainty.
Not only are most teams uncertain of their fate in regards to their annual pennant races, but many players are unsure of where they will be playing the next month, the next week or even the next day.
With the trade deadline looming on July 31, that date is even more important this year with Commissioner Rob Manfred’s elimination of post-deadline trades players that have cleared waivers.
If your favorite team hasn’t already acquired the players they believe will make the difference in their playoff push by the end of the month, they aren’t going to.
Despite a horrific June offensively, the St. Louis Cardinals entered July with a 41-41 record, three games back of the Chicago Cubs.
At an average of 3.5 runs per game, the Cardinals managed to break even in the month of June with a 13-13 record.
However, the offense provided the St. Louis pitching staff with some of the worst run support in all of baseball during that time frame.
In the month of June, the Cardinals were tied with the Cincinnati Reds for 28th in all of baseball in runs scored with 92. Of the 30 teams in the league, only the dismal Detroit Tigers scored fewer.
The Cardinals also rated 29th in hits for the month of June, 26th in home runs and dead last in doubles.
Thus, if the Cardinals are going to improve their chances at the trade deadline, President John Mozeliak and General Manager Mike Girsch will likely be targeting players who can make a bigger offensive impact.
The problem with that is, where would the Cardinals play any of these new additions?
If fans had their druthers, the answer might still be right field. But with Dexter Fowler in just the third year of a five year, $85 million contract, and possessing a no-trade clause, an upgrade there continues to seem unlikely.
Adding a right fielder would mean either paying that amount of money for Fowler to sit on the bench while also likely adding another hefty contract for his replacement.
Marcell Ozuna mans the other corner outfield position in left field and is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season. While that makes him a potential trade candidate, subtracting him from the lineup would not be likely to create an offensive renaissance.
Ozuna ended June first on the team in home runs (20) and runs batted in (62) and tied for second in hits (76).
Rather than bringing in an immediate improvement, if Ozuna were to be dealt it would likely mean the Cardinals were falling out of the playoff race and trying to acquire prospects.
At first base, Paul Goldschmidt just signed a big extension with the club before the start of the season and is firmly entrenched in his position.
At shortstop, Paul DeJong has earned the right to represent the Cardinals in this year’s All-Star game and barring another St. Louis player selected as a replacement for a player unable to play, DeJong will be the only Cardinal traveling to Cleveland next week. DeJong is also the team’s leader in hits and third in home runs behind Ozuna and Goldschmidt.
Of course, no job is safer in the Cardinals clubhouse than that of catcher Yadier Molina behind the plate.
That just leaves three places for the Cardinals to try to improve offensively — third base, second base and center field.
With Harrison Bader and Kolten Wong being such highly renowned defenders up the middle and being younger players with more team-friendly contracts, that might make third baseman Matt Carpenter the odd man out.
Once a vibrant presence at the top of the lineup, Carpenter is batting just .216 this season and this time the numbers can’t be blamed entirely on just a slow start.
Carpenter batted just .208 in June with just four doubles, two home runs and nine RBIs.
For the better part of the last seven seasons, Carpenter’s name in St. Louis has been spoken with more reverence than anybody’s apart from Molina and Adam Wainwright.
Based on the numbers, if the Cardinals are going to trade for a big bat, it would likely be for a third baseman.
So where does that leave Carpenter? With Goldschmidt now taking up a permanent residence at first base, the option to move Carpenter back across the diamond is gone.
Ideally, the Cardinals would be able to retain his services as a key pinch hitter and role player off the bench if a move ultimately has to be made. However, Carpenter could potentially be a part of the deal that would bring in his replacement.
Perhaps things will shake out for the Cardinals offense in July to make such a deal unnecessary.
Maybe Carpenter’s bat will become scorching once again, as it has in summers’ past, or maybe adjusting the lineup will allow Manager Mike Schildt to find a new way to align the offensive pieces and rejuvenate the Cardinals’ bats.
It would indeed be a sad day in St. Louis to see No. 13 traded away.
That’s the type of trade deadline deal Cardinals fans have not had to endure very often in the past couple of decades.
But if the Cardinals want to pull out all the stops to try to hoist another banner above Busch Stadium this season, a change may be coming soon and it might well be at the hot corner.