ST. LOUIS -- It wasn't but a few weeks ago that Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak prioritized starting pitching as he looked for potential impact acquisitions to be made before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Now, that need is no longer so clearly at the top of the list.
While Mozeliak continues to scour the market for ways to improve his club, he does not do so feeling as if there is a necessity to add an outside piece to the rotation. Recent results, as well as the impending return of Jaime Garcia, dictate such a stance.
"Our starters have been great," Mozeliak said. "I think clearly it takes a little pressure off in terms of feeling like we have to do something. If you were to go after a starter, who are you really bouncing out? And how are you improving? That's why I don't think the urgency is quite there for rotational help as maybe it was, say, three or four weeks ago."
Since the start of July, the Cardinals' rotation has been strong. Starters have gone at least six innings in all 15 games entering Saturday, and the group has allowed more than two earned runs in a game only three times. Their cumulative July ERA is 2.49 entering Saturday, and hitters have batted .241 against the rotation of five.
Over the full season, the rotation has posted a 3.59 ERA, a mark ranked fourth best in the National League.
"They've given us no reason not to believe in it," manager Mike Matheny said. "I've been very impressed. Where we are right now, it would be hard not to be happy with what we've got."
The thought all along, though, has been that adding a starter would provide the Cardinals with needed flexibility. The club is currently relying upon two rookie starters, including Lance Lynn, whose workload will have to be closely monitored late in the season. And then there's Adam Wainwright, who, in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, could also tire late.
But perhaps these concerns can actually be satisfied internally.
Garcia's continued progress in his rehab program has the Cardinals confident that he will rejoin the club within three to four weeks. Inserting him back into the rotation would give St. Louis the option of moving one of its current starters to the bullpen. It could otherwise allow the club to consider having certain starters skip periodic starts to keep them fresh.
While Mozeliak would not specifically address rumors of the club's interest in acquiring Cubs starter Ryan Dempster, Mozeliak did note that he would be hesitant to give up an elite-type prospect to a team within the division. At the moment, Chicago is asking for such in return for Dempster or fellow starter Matt Garza.
It's unlikely much will be done to boost the offense, which currently leads the NL in batting average and runs scored. Offensive production at second base hasn't been terrific, but the Cardinals also don't want to acquire a player who would block middle-infield prospect Kolten Wong from joining the big league team, perhaps as early as 2013.
"I don't know where you'd find better," Mozeliak said, speaking generally about his offense. "Now perhaps we can look at the bench and see if we can improve that. But again, I don't think that's really going to change the look of our team."
Given the greater saturation of relievers available on the market, and the Cardinals' need to stabilize the bullpen, adding a reliever could end up being the easiest and most impactful route to go.
The Cardinals' Trade Deadline pursuits will not be bound by financial constraints, as the club has ample payroll flexibility to add this year and also take on a contract that extends beyond 2012.
But if the Cardinals do not pull the trigger on any significant trade, the organization believes it has a playoff team already assembled.
"Our biggest problem all year was getting healthy, and we're finally healthy," Mozeliak said. "Now, if there is something that we can do that presents itself over the next 10 days, we certainly want to be prepared to act on it. But as I stand in front of you now, I'm not anticipating anything at the moment.
"But I do think that market will sort of evolve -- as teams ask for certain things, maybe they'll realize that they have to take lesser prospects as we get closer to the 31st. I do see that coming."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.