With a deadline approaching and this innings gap looming, the Cardinals’ goal of fortifying the rotation, acquiring a southpaw if possible and adding relievers to their bullpen has unfolded together in a familiar place, the one they rarely visit for trade.
The Cardinals finalized a deal late Monday night with Pittsburgh to trade left-hander Jose Quintana and reliever Chris Stratton. The Cardinals have sent right-handed reliever Johan Oviedo and minor league infielder Malcom Nunez to the Pirates, the club confirmed when the deal was announced.
It’s the Cardinals’ first divisional deal since 2015, their first player trade with the Pirates since 2000.
And they haven’t finished trying to add more.
The pace of this year’s market picked up quickly on Monday, on the eve of Tuesday’s trading deadline at 5 p.m. (St. Louis time). With the news that the New York Yankees had acquired Oakland starter Frankie Montas, teams chasing starters like the Cardinals have gained clarity and urgency. The Los Angeles Dodgers were making a bid for Marlins starter Pablo Lopez on Monday night, a source said, and Atlanta would have acquired right-hander and St. Louis-area native Jake Odorizzi.
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The Cardinals acquired a starter in Quintana without dealing with any of their top prospects, some of whom have been embroiled in the team’s ongoing dialogue with Washington over outfielder Juan Soto — the most talented hitter available for trade. At least one Cardinals executive met in person with the Nationals front office last weekend about the acquisition of Soto, who at 23 has two and a half years before he becomes a free agent.
The Cardinals announced their priority of adding at least one starter because, as president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said, they need “innings.”
Quintana, 33, is essentially a direct replacement for Cardinals left-hander Steven Matz. The Cardinals are prepared for the likelihood that Matz, who tore a ligament in his knee, won’t pitch again this season. Quintana sports a similar profile to Matz and will be a free agent at the end of the season.
Quintana, six years away from his All-Star turn with the White Sox, signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Pirates last offseason, and in 20 starts he has a record of 3 -5 with an ERA of 3.50. He threw five quality starts in those games and averaged just over five innings per appearance.
As the Cardinals have looked to increase their rotation’s strikeout rate, Quintana has a familiar profile to take advantage of the defense now behind him.
Quintana has walked less than 8% of the batters he’s faced, and he’s feeding the infielders behind him with a better-than-average rushing ball rate.
He started last Friday, so the Cardinals could slot him into this week’s series against the Cubs, one of his former teams. Quintana’s superb seasons on the south side of Chicago made him a trade target for the Cubs, and in four years with the rival Cardinals, he went 33-23 with a 4.24 ERA in 82 games. Since leaving the Cubs after the 2020 season, Quintana has pitched for the Angels, Giants, and then spent the first four months of this season with the Pirates.
Stratton, 31, is a former first-round pick who has spent the past three full seasons with the Pirates. post-shipment was the first to report its inclusion in the deal.
This year, in 40 appearances, 39 in relief, Stratton has a 5.09 ERA over 40⅔ innings. He struck out 37. The right-hander matches the metrics the Cardinals have been going with an elite spin on his fastball and breaking ball. This rotation allows his fastball to play from his average speed of 92.6 mph this season.
During the team’s recent trip, Oviedo flew from Cincinnati to Miami in a last-minute attempt to secure paperwork that would allow him to travel to Canada and join the Cardinals for the two-game series in Toronto. Oviedo managed to get the necessary certificate in place of a renewed passport, and he crossed the border from Detroit to Toronto to complete his journey and be available if needed outside the bullpen.
This season, the 24-year-old Oviedo has found his place in relief with a 3.20 ERA in 14 appearances. He was thrust into the starting role during the Cardinals’ shortened 2020 season and their June 2021 innings crisis.
Nunez, 21, won the Triple Crown when he made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League in 2018. At Class AA Springfield this season, Nunez hit a career-high 17 home runs with an average of .255, a hit percentage of .463 and an .823 OPS. Considered a strong and stable hitting prospect beyond his years, he had 71 strikeouts in 298 at-bats.
In addition to the trade, the Cardinals also designated receiver Austin Romine for assignment. This paves the way for Yadier Molina’s return to the active roster and begins Tuesday night with Adam Wainwright against the Cubs at Busch Stadium.
This will be their 317th start as a battery, placing them alone in second place in MLB history.
The Cardinals spent five hours at a runway outside Washington on Sunday night due to a mechanical issue with their charter flight. They ultimately used the Mets’ plane to fly home to St. Louis nearly six hours after they intended to land.
Time became the theme of the day. Mozeliak told reporters all weekend that the only thing they had on their side when it came to the trade deadline was time. It’s time to sort out the options. It’s time to continue to negotiate with several teams. It’s time to explore potentially one of the biggest deals of his tenure.
This deadline expires Tuesday evening.
London in sight
With the Cardinals’ only regular season international trip behind them, Major League Baseball’s official announcement is expected soon regarding their trip to London in 2023. The Cardinals are expected to host the Cubs in June, sources confirmed last spring. and logistical plans have been ongoing all season.
The next series will actually be a postponement of the two-game series between the rivals which was canceled in June 2020 due to the pandemic.
The Cardinals gave up two home games for the scheduled 2020 series.
The 2023 calendar will be the first to feature matches between all 30 clubs, ending the division-by-division interleague rotation. The Cardinals should play in Seattle and return to Boston, for example, according to the latest draft schedule. The Cardinals host the New York Yankees this week at Busch Stadium for the first time since Derek Jeter’s farewell tour in 2014. Their visits will become more frequent. The Yankees will return to Busch in 2023.
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