For what certainly feels like the first time I can remember in my three-plus decades as a baseball fan, the St. Louis Cardinals will approach the trade deadline as sellers, rather than buyers, thanks to a disastrous first half that has the team coming out of this week's All-Star Break a whopping 14 games under .500 and 11.5 out in the NL Central.
Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak confirmed as much in an interview on Wednesday, saying, "we're going to trade people," - words rarely uttered in St. Louis and ones that give Jed Hoyer and the Cubs a golden opportunity to pounce at the deadline in a weak division.
As the second half kicks off on Friday, Chicago is 7 games out in the NL Central - but with a favorable stretch of games leading up to the trade deadline, they have the chance to get back within striking distance of the Reds and Brewers, the two teams they're looking up at in the standings.
With Cardinals out, the Cubs have no choice but to buy at the trade deadline
Both of those teams have very clear weaknesses (as do the Cubs) - and it seems unlikely either of them are suited to run away with a division crown. The lack of a clear-cut frontrunner and the Cardinals' decision to sell at the deadline should only push Chicago further toward buying, barring them completely falling on their face to start the second half.
The Cubs badly need reinforcements at both corner infield spots and in the bullpen; injecting a consistent run-producing presence in the middle of the order would go a long way toward helping this team return to the postseason for the first time since 2020 - and maybe even win a postseason series for the first time since 2017.
Of late, it's been all about who the Cubs could trade away as sellers, with Marcus Stroman, Cody Bellinger headlining that list. But with St. Louis seemingly waving the white flag in Adam Wainwright's final go-round and the Pirates fading fast late in the first half, it's now a three-horse race in the NL Central. Now's the time to make the moves to separate from the pack.