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Last week, I focused on the need for Carlos Martinez to return to the starting rotation.

This week, I’m taking things a step further. The Cardinals must reshape their entire starting rotation if they want to seriously compete in 2019.

Coming into the season, anyone who cared to think about it knew the starting pitching could become an issue. Very few, it seems, thought it would become the mess it is today.

While it seems like there still may be hope for Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas to turn things around, it seems unlikely that either will take the mantle of staff ace. The Cardinals will almost certainly have to look outside the organization if they want to fill that role.

Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants is the most well-known and coveted name on the list of potentially available pitchers, but there are others.

The Diamondbacks would love for someone to take the rest of Zack Greinke’s ridiculous contract off their hands. The Blue Jays would like to gets a king’s ransom for Marcus Stroman. The Rangers would prefer to sell high on veteran Mike Minor.

There are others, but those are four of the most likely trade candidates. The Cardinals have the goods and the money to acquire any one of them.

One idea Cardinals fans need to move away from is the idea of signing Dallas Keuchel. The lefty is still sitting in free agency, and it’s become too late in the season to think he could make an impact before the All-Star break. Pitchers coming into the season at that point don’t have a strong track record.

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The bigger issue than finding an ace is probably the makeup of the rest of the rotation.

Let’s not split hairs. Michael Wacha looks done. It’s so weird to say that after his strong first half of 2018. He was one of the league’s best, most underrated pitchers before getting hurt. Now, he’s consistently terrible. He can’t throw enough strikes, and when he does, he’s getting hit hard.

Dakota Hudson still looks to be in over his head. I was supportive of Hudson winning the fifth rotation spot over John Gant, but it simply hasn’t worked out. Of course, Gant’s been a stud in the bullpen, and if the Cardinals were to move him into the rotation, they’d be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Adam Wainwright has been about as good as could be reasonably expected. If he were acting as the fifth-best pitcher on the team, that would be great. Instead, he’s been as good as about anyone else, and that’s not a good thing.

Returning Martinez to the rotation would help, but that’s far from a sure thing. He could stay in the bullpen, and even if he returns to the rotation, he’s no lock to perform at the highest level.

The Cardinals could look to minor leaguers Austin Gomber or Daniel Poncedeleon, but neither is anything near a guaranteed success.

To improve the rotation, the Cardinals need to dedicate themselves to an overhaul. The status quo, or any semblance of it, won’t cut it.

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JEFF WILSON can be reached at jeffreyewilson5@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwilson83.

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