LONDON — There are still five weeks before the trade deadline arrives and with it a referendum on where the Cardinals’ view themselves, let alone where the standings see them.
The front office, according to president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, continues to see several routes they could go, from strategic seller to a roster refresh, but, sitting in a temporary dugout in the United Kingdom he planted his feet on familiar ground with permanence.
“The message to the fanbase is, ‘We are not looking to blow up this team,’” Mozeliak said ahead of the Cardinals hosting the Cubs in the first game of the London Series. “But we are looking for ways to improve this team.”
The Cardinals will leave the United Kingdom as they arrived and as they’ve spent so much of this season — in last place in the National League Central. They’re off to their worst start in more than a generation, and that has put the current leadership in a spot it’s not been before. In Mozeliak’s time leading baseball operations, first as general manager and later as president, the Cardinals have not been a seller at the deadline, and he can argue that during nearly 30 years in the front office, the Cardinals have not auctioned off talent at the deadline.
With potential free agent pitchers Jordan Montgomery, Jordan Hicks and Jack Flaherty unsigned for the coming season, the Cardinals have players to move if they turn toward 2024. Dealing in the pending free-agent market would not constitute a “blow up.” They could turn those shorter-term deals into help for longer-range needs.
The Cardinals will also explore the market for relievers who are under control for multiple years, such as All-Star right-hander Ryan Helsley and lefty Genesis Cabrera, because the trade deadline is a time when relief help commands a strong return.
It would have been quite a thunderclap for Mozeliak to go abroad, all the way to London, and drop a dramatic change to how St. Louis approaches baseball’s midseason swap meet — and he did not. The front office is discussing several directions to take. Breaking apart the roster for a yard sale is not one of them. They do not have an appetite for exploring what a cornerstone like Paul Goldschmidt, who has a no-trade clause, could draw on the trade market. What does have an appeal for the Cardinals is seeking out available pitching in the coming month that could also help them fill the holes in the rotation for 2024.
They would look to jump ahead of the market — addressing an obvious need for next year and if it helps this year, a bonus.
At London Stadium, Mozeliak repeated that he does not think the Cardinals can “tank,” can pull out the parachute of a season and find a safe landing in future prospects.
“I would hope that Cardinals are not allowed to rebuild,” he said. “Amazing fan base. We know we’re not where we want to be. We know we have to make some changes. We’ll try.”
Flaherty scratched from London start
The return of hip stiffness that limits his ability to drive off the pitching mound forced Flaherty and the Cardinals to cancel his scheduled appearance Sunday as the Cardinals’ starter in the London Series finale. Rookie Matthew Liberatore will start in his place.
Flaherty experienced stiffness in his right hip this past week, responded well to treatment, and then had the discomfort return during workouts Thursday in London.
“The idea of coming here and traveling and pitching and throwing on Sunday and pitching in London was awesome,” Flaherty said. “But sometimes you’ve got to be cautious and probably the smarter decision isn’t the one you want. …
“Would it be better to take a couple of extra days and make sure it’s all the way gone?”
Flaherty had a similar issue in spring training delaying an exhibition start and he returned after a few days of rest. The Cardinals had not ruled out the possibility of Flaherty going on the injured list if a roster spot is necessary.
Goldschmidt sets a ‘worldly’ record
With his start Saturday at first base in the United Kingdom, Paul Goldschmidt set a record by playing a regular-season Major League Baseball game in a fifth country. Goldschmidt had been tied with 16 other big leaguers, and Adam Wainwright joined that group with his start.
Goldschmidt made his debut in 2011 in the United States, opened the season with Arizona in Australia in 2015, and visited Canada for the first time in 2016 during an interleague series with the Diamondbacks. Goldschmidt played for the Cardinals in 2019 when they faced the Reds in Monterrey, Mexico. The UK makes five.
According to research by the Cardinals and Elias Sports, Goldschmidt matches the five-country feat achieved by 15 NHL players and four NBA players.
Cardinals, Cubs donate for UK ball field
At an event Friday attended by Cardinals great Albert Pujols and St. Louis-area native Ryan Howard, Cardinals ownership upped the donation going to a London-area school to build a blacktop baseball field for the kids to learn the game. Commissioner Rob Manfred announced a $25,000 donation as part of the First Pitch program with Ranelagh Primary School. The Cubs added a $5,000 promise and, on the spot at the event, Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. matched the Cubs to bring the total funding to $35,000.
The First Pitch program is designed to introduce baseball and softball to schoolchildren, and Manfred reiterated Friday that youth participation in the game of baseball is essential to expanding the business and brand of baseball to new markets, like the UK.
“When young players interact with our game,” Manfred said. “Like other sports, we need to invest in the youth, make sure that young players are playing it.”
Hicks ill, 27th man, etc.
Hicks, who had three saves in three days earlier on the road trip, was not available Saturday night due to an illness that has crept its way through the Cardinals’ traveling party. Hicks was experiencing cold-like symptoms that became worse overnight Friday. … Nolan Gorman missed Friday’s workout with an illness similar to Hicks and other teammates have had on the road trip. Gorman was available Saturday. … Catcher Ivan Herrera was added to the roster as the Cardinals’ 27th man for the international series.
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