McNeal: Cards are quiet at trade deadline, and wisely so

BY foxsports • July 31, 2013

ST. LOUIS -- So the Cardinals didn't make a significant trade before the deadline for the first time since 2008.

I say good for them.

As sharp as Cliff Lee would look wearing the Birds on the Bat, the Cardinals never were close to a deal, according to a Phillies source.

If the Cardinals weren't going to mortgage a big chunk of their future on Lee, no other available pitchers -- or players, for that matter -- came even close to being worth the price of a Carlos Martinez and/or whoever else they might have sought. Not Jake Peavy, not Matt Garza, and certainly not Bud Norris.

Based on a lack of activity and what the front-office folks are saying, the non-waiver trade season sounded like shopping at a store where even the stuff that's not all that appealing is overpriced.

Given the developments of the past 24 hours, the Cardinals could have overreacted and made a deal for the sake of shaking things up. Not surprisingly, they didn't. They didn't lose sight of their future.

They still have their multitude of prospects, they still have plenty of financial wherewithal and, despite the six-game losing streak, they remain a shoo-in to reach the postseason. Don't forget, they were a wild card last year -- the second wild card, at that -- and came within one victory of reaching the World Series. Trailing the Pirates by all of 1 1/2 games, it's not like they're out of the NL Central race, either.  

Since the departure of Albert Pujols and the rise of their farm system, the Cardinals have been operating from as strong a position as any team in the majors. Including the 40,000-plus they're virtually guaranteed every time they open the gates at Busch Stadium, they have more than enough resources to absorb a mega-salaried player such as Lee, who is owed roughly $70 million through 2015.

GM John Mozeliak will pull off a major deal sooner or later. When he does, the club will lose much of their flexibility. When you already own an 8 1/2-game cushion in the wild-card standings, the time isn't right to cash in that flexibility.

Even with the loss of Yadier Molina for who knows how long, the Cardinals did not cave in to the Cubs and overpay for Dioner Navarro.

Interestingly, the Pirates and Reds also stood pat. The Reds, however, should be getting a big-time roster upgrade in the coming weeks as their injured players return. Ryan Ludwick, the right-handed bat they've been lacking since he dislocated his shoulder on Opening Day, is on rehab assignment and should be back soon. Opening-day starter Johnny Cueto, catcher Ryan Hanigan and relievers Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall also are on the mend.

The most glaring need among the three NL Central leaders is in Pittsburgh, where the Pirates could use a right-handed bat for the Pirates to bolster their 11th-ranked offense. But their GM, Neal Huntington, told Pittsburgh reporters that the market for hitters was sparse. When there's not much on the market, prices tend to rise beyond reason.

"We were willing to do something stupid," Huntington told Pittsburgh reporters. "We just didn't want to do anything insane."

The Cardinals didn't cave in to the market, either, a decision they will not regret.

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at