ST. LOUIS -- In adding two veteran relievers to help an overworked back end of the bullpen and a left-handed power hitting outfielder/first baseman, general manager John Mozeliak swung three trades in the week leading up to Friday's Trade Deadline to address specific needs, even if none were necessarily the big splash that some yearned for.
That's not how Mozeliak has operated at this time of the year in recent seasons and was, in his eyes, unnecessary again for a team that enters Friday with a Major-League best 65-37 record.
"I don't think we were overly active in terms of trying to fish for something that we felt was just going to make big headlines," Mozeliak said after Friday's 3 p.m. CT deadline passed. "It wasn't as if it was overly intense because I think people looked at our club and realized we weren't trying to break up the big [league] club. And we have certain assets and prospects at the minor league level that we likely weren't going to part with."
A week after acquiring Steve Cishek from Miami and a day after landing Brandon Moss from the Indians, Mozeliak wrapped up his July work by dealing Minor League outfielder Malik Collymore to the Brewers for veteran reliever Jonathan Broxton. The Brewers also sent over cash to help offset the Cardinals' cost of taking on Broxton's $9 million salary this season and the $2 million buyout he'll be due if a $9 million mutual option for 2016 is declined.
In total, the Cardinals assumed about $7.5 million of salary with the three acquisitions. Taking on salary helped them avoid parting with as much talent, though they did lose top left-handed hitting prospect Rob Kaminsky, along with Collymore and Kyle Barraclough.
Despite already fortifying their bullpen with Cishek, Mozeliak sought another late-inning option to keep manager Mike Matheny from continuing to lean so heavily on set-up men Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness. Broxton, a 31-year-old former closer, is 1-2 with a 5.89 ERA in 40 games this year. He reported to Spring Training as the frontrunner to be Milwaukee's closer, but slipped into a setup role when the club re-signed Francisco Rodriguez. Broxton has since slipped further, into lower-leverage appearances.
It's been better for him lately, though, as Broxton has been scored upon in just one of his last 10 appearances.
"I think when you look at the last six to eight weeks of how he has been throwing," Mozeliak said, "we felt confident he was trending in a very strong direction.
Broxton, who is not expected to be in uniform until the weekend, will join a Cardinals bullpen that enters Friday with the lowest team ERA (2.33) of any team in the National League. But Siegrist tops the NL with 53 appearances, and Maness is right behind him at 51.
The Cardinals hoped to get a boost with Jordan Walden coming off the disabled list, where he has been since April 30 due to right biceps inflammation. But Walden's progress has slowed, and Mozeliak acknowledged on Friday that the club is now uncertain when the right-hander might return.
"Candidly, we've been waiting and waiting and at some point, you're going to have to do something," Mozeliak said. "Going into the July 31 deadline, it's just easier to react before that than after. … We are going to have to take our time and allow him to gain his strength back. I think his preparation leading up to this rehab assignment has been focusing on more mechanical and shoulder strength. But there is the whole body component that I think he realized is going to take a little more time to get there."
Walden may still pitch in inning, as scheduled, in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Memphis on Friday, but Mozeliak noted that the team is considering relocating his rehab work to the team's Florida complex in Jupiter.
Mozeliak said that the Broxton deal began to crystallize on Thursday night, though the club had little traction for another deal in the 24 hours leading up to the non-waiver deadline. Instead of adding another bat, the Cardinals preferred to give top prospect Stephen Piscotty regular at-bats, Mozeliak said.
Trades can still occur after Friday, though the process becomes more complicated. Players who pass through revocable waivers can be freely traded. But once a player is claimed, that player's current team can only work out a trade with the claiming club. The team also has the option of pulling back the player or simply dumping the player on the one that put in the claim.