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Gordon: Arms supply helps Mozeliak make upgrade

Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Tim Cooney pitches during a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves on Friday, July 24, 2015, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Photo by Chris Lee,

The Cardinals have enjoyed an excellent summer of pitcher development. Most of their key prospects are on or ahead of schedule.

Pleasant surprises have offset the disappointments, such as the inability of pitchers Seth Blair and Jordan Swagerty to get their injury-marred careers back on track.

So general manager John Mozeliak was well-positioned to add a corner outfielder/first baseman to overcome the loss of outfielder Matt Holliday.

He was able to move Rob Kaminsky, a 2013 first-round pick, to the Cleveland Indians for Brandon Moss. As expected, Mozeliak shopped the second tier of available hitters and made a sensible addition.

Moss is a solid 25- to 30-homer player. He has one year of arbitration left, which allows the Cardinals to control him through next season. He hits from the left side and plays first base and outfield.

Spending Kaminsky for a second-tier hitter was tough, but what Mozeliak didn't want to do is trade top pitching prospect Alex Reyes, who is quickly moving toward the Carlos Martinez/Michael Wacha heights.

Reyes has top-of-the-rotation potential and he figures prominently in the team's long-term plans, particularly after the sacrificing of Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins in the Jason Heyward/Jordan Walden trade.

Beyond Reyes, the Cardinals have plenty of pitchers of interest to other organizations.

Normally Kaminsky, would be deemed off-limits. His fast rise (he is 6-5, 2.09 ERA in 17 Palm Beach starts at age 20) would normally land him in the "untouchable" zone.

But the Cardinals are stacking up lefthanded pitchers. After earning a 3-2 victory Wednesday night, Tyler Lyons is 7-5 with a 3.27 ERA at Memphis. He could help teams as a No. 5 starter or middle reliever right now.

Then there is Tim Cooney, who posted a 3.16 ERA in six big league starts before a bout with appendicitis sidelined him. He can help a good team -- like the Cardinals -- right now as a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Then there is Marco Gonzales, another first-round pick in 2013. Like Cooney, he has contributed at the major league level. His last start at Memphis wasn't great, but he is finally getting back to full strength.

So those four lefthanders created an interesting pool to deal from. Also helpful is the development of pitchers like Futures Game participant Luis Perdomo, late-round finds Trey Nielsen (9-6, 2.60 ERA at Palm Beach) and Arturo Reyes (6-6, 2.77 ERA at Springfield), Corey Littrell (acquired from Boston with John Lackey) and 2014 first-round pick Luke Weaver.

Oh, and the Cardinals have built up a reliever surplus with Mitch Harris and Sam Tuivailala biding their time at Memphis after successful big league stints this season.

So Mozeliak had some chips to play on the table. Here are some other thoughts on the scenario:

• This team's stated goal is to contend every year. Mozeliak keeps that in mind as he sifts through trade possibilities. He doesn't have to add offense. He went into the market with urgency, not desperation. He is not running the Minnesota Twins. Barring a total collapse, the Cardinals will return to postseason play again this season.

• General managers who believe they must make every possible addition to win right now are often GMs whose teams go five or 10 years without seeing postseason play due to depleted assets and poor organizational depth.

• Thanks to their young pitching, the Cardinals' competitive window should remain open for years to come. This is not 2011, when Albert Pujols was headed toward free agency and Tony La Russa was preparing to retire. This is 2015, after a World Championship and three more NLCS trips on their record. Martinez, Wacha, Kolten Wong, Randal Grichuk, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist and Stephen Piscotty appear capable to forming an impressive long-range nucleus.

• History tells us Mozeliak is more than willing to make changes. Ask Colby Rasmus about that. The record also notes that Mozeliak seldom makes a stupid, asset-wasting trade cover his backside. In other words, he won't spend $100 on a rancid ham sandwich just because he missed a meal. Only an idiot would do that.

• The trade market has shifted, putting lots some high-end hitters into play. That lowered the price on the second-tier guys and made it easier for Mozeliak to find something helpful.

• At this time of year players often look to management to wave a magic wand and resolve the team's shortcoming. But trades won't help the Cardinals much unless the hitters performing under their career norms get going. And sometimes the players clamoring for trades end up departing in those trades. Careful what you wish for!

• Unless Mozeliak makes a second trade, Piscotty will play regularly and test himself against big league pitching. His small work sample has been good, but what is he really? Grichuk's development becomes more important, as does the Jason Heyward's swing renovation and Jon Jay's on-again, off-again comeback from wrist surgery. Oh, and it would be nice if Matt Carpenter started hitting like Matt Carpenter again. A late-season offensive turnaround would be most helpful under the circumstances.

• The Cardinals are flush with cash. There is no dead long-term money on the payroll. This franchise has the resources to comfortably support a payroll of $140 million to $150 million. So Mozeliak could spend appropriately to keep John Lackey and/or Jaime Garcia beyond this year -- thus making it easier to sacrifice young pitching to help the offense.

So, yes, the Cardinals are equipped to handle this crisis just as the franchise handled their many previous crises while contending year after year.

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Jeff Gordon is an online sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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