Trading Matt Carpenter is one of five moves General Manager John Mozeliak should make to shake up the Cardinals. (Bill Greenblatt/UPI)

By Rob Rains

The good news for the Cardinals as the calendar flips to June is that their mediocre play to this point in the season has done nothing but leave them in the middle of a very mundane National League Central division.

The bad news is that there doesn’t seem to be any reason to expect this team – as it is presently constructed – to be the one that breaks from the pack and emerge as the one to beat in this very average, winnable division.

That’s the challenge that sits squarely on the middle of General Manager John Mozeliak’s desk. He has the ability to make changes which could inject some life into the lineup and perhaps spark the Cardinals to the top of the division race.

These changes likely won’t cure all of the defensive woes, or baserunning issues, or lack of timely hitting, or the inability of the relievers to quash late-inning rallies – all of which have added up to a 3-10 record in their last 13 games and a 24-25 record after May 30, the first time they have been under .500 after games on that day since 2007.

What making these changes would do, however, is at least provide an acknowledgement that somebody is paying attention to all of the things that have gone wrong so far this season.

The first move was made earlier this week when Randal Grichuk was optioned all the way down to Class A Palm Beach, a major wakeup call for a player who really is no different now than he was two or three years ago, when the explanation for his poor play was “he’s young, he’s still learning.”

That window may have closed. Grichuk is now 25. He either figures it out this time, how not to chase sliders in the dirt and be able to only swing at strikes, or he should be out of chances, at least with the Cardinals.

That’s not the only move Mozeliak needs to make, however, if he truly wants to shake up the Cardinals. Here are five more suggested moves the GM should strongly consider in the coming weeks:

1. Trade Matt Carpenter.


This idea might come as a shock, but it is not unlike the deal that Mozeliak made at the trade deadline in 2014 sending Allen Craig to the Red Sox. Despite his low batting average, Carpenter has value and is signed for the next two seasons, plus an option, which should increase the kind of return the Cardinals could receive if they were to deal Carpenter, especially to a team looking for a leadoff hitter.

The reality is moving Carpenter to the third spot in the batting order because of the signing of Dexter Fowler has not worked. He is still drawing walks, but he is not getting hits or driving in runs, which is supposed to be the role for a team’s three-hole hitter. Carpenter’s only two RBIS in the last 12 games prior to Wednesday night’s game against the Dodgers came on a two-run homer. He has nine homers and 27 RBIs to go with a .226 average – one of the worst in the league for a third-place hitter – but only 10 of those RBIs have come when Carpenter did not hit a home run, covering a span of 150 at-bats. Carpenter has a meager .172 average (5-of-29) with runners in scoring position, the lowest on the team among everyday players.

Carpenter also is below-average defensively, no matter where he plays. Among regular first basemen in the NL this season, his five errors are more than all but Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals.

It also should be mentioned that Carpenter was expected to assume more of a leadership role on the Cardinals this year with the departure of Matt Holliday, but that hasn’t happened. It did not go unnoticed in the clubhouse when he was not around to speak to the media after his base-running gaffe cost the team a chance to win a game against the Giants a couple of weeks ago. Then, a couple of days later, he told the Post-Dispatch he did not consider it a bad play.

OK, so if the Cardinals decide to trade Carpenter, who could they expect to obtain in return? One target could be the Royals’ Eric Hosmer, a three-time Gold Glove winner, a .300 hitter, and a free agent after this season. The Royals also happen to have a combined .168 average out of the leadoff spot, the second worst (behind Oakland) in the majors.

Or they could try to trade for a third baseman, somebody such as Toronto’s Josh Donaldson, which no doubt would have to be a bigger deal. In that scenario Jedd Gyorko could move from third and play an adequate if not great first base.

2. Replace third base coach Chris Maloney.

Maloney got the job last year when Jose Oquendo had to leave the team to have knee replacement surgery and had a horrendous season. It was a surprise he was brought back for this year based on how bad last season went, but the baserunning problems have continued, as illustrated by him sending Paul DeJong to an easy out on Monday against the Dodgers. If the players need to be held accountable, so too do the coaches.

The Cardinals have two possible replacements already on the major-league staff who could simply change roles with Maloney if the organization does not want to actually fire him. Mike Shildt, the quality control coach, and Oliver Marmol, now coaching first, both have coached third for years while they were managing in the minors.

3. Release Jhonny Peralta.

The Cardinals might be able to trade Peralta, especially if they are willing to eat most of the money still owed him, but do not expect much in return. Releasing Peralta would free the Cardinals to keep a player who should help them win more games, such as keeping Paul DeJong on the roster when Kolten Wong returns from the disabled list. The Cardinals got two good seasons out of Peralta before injuries, and age, took their toll. Thank him for his service, pay him off for the rest of the season, and move on.

4. Release Jonathan Broxton.

Broxton is in a similar position as Peralta, although without the two good years with the team. He is taking up a roster spot in a bullpen which needs all the help it can get. The two runs he allowed Tuesday night raised his ERA to 6.89. Luke Weaver has had a very good start to his season in Memphis and could be a more valuable option for manager Mike Matheny, especially with his ability to throw multiple innings because of his starting background.

5. Trade Lance Lynn.


Lynn has done nothing wrong and has actually pitched great since returning from Tommy John surgery. But that becomes the issue. Lynn has pitched so well he is likely pricing himself out of St. Louis when he hits free agency after this season. With so many top-end pitching prospects on the horizon, the Cardinals do not appear to be in position to sign Lynn to a four or five-year contract, which is probably what it will take, at close to $100 million.

Trading Lynn to a team which thinks it needs another starter to make a strong post-season run – such as the Astros – would make sense, as it could bring the Cardinals at least one if not two quality prospects instead of only getting an extra draft pick if he stays all year and then signs elsewhere as a free agent.

The fact that Adam Wainwright and Mike Leake have pitched as well as they have also makes trading Lynn more of a possibility. Either Tyler Lyons, Weaver or Marco Gonzales could take his place in the rotation for the rest of the season, with Alex Reyes waiting to move into that spot next year.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains