Looking back on the St. Louis Cardinals’ decision to trade Luke Voit

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 17: Luke Voit #59 of the New York Yankees celebrates hitting a home run against the Boston Red Sox in the second inning during game two of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium on August 17, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 17: Luke Voit #59 of the New York Yankees celebrates hitting a home run against the Boston Red Sox in the second inning during game two of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium on August 17, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals have traded away promising players to fill holes on the major league roster. How have they fared on other rosters?

Every team loves cheap, young talent, with a classic thumper at first base always being desirable.  And if the kid is local, which enhances his marketability, all the better.

A college draftee by the Redbirds, Luke Voit entered professional baseball in 2013 at 22 years old.  He played first base, and he grew up in the St. Louis suburbs, so he checked those boxes.  But beyond that, he didn’t seem to be anything special early on.  Moving up essentially a level per year, he hit adequately if not impressively in the lower rungs of the minor leagues.

However, Voit’s 2016 season in Double-A featured a .297 batting average, 19 home runs, and an .849 OPS over 134 games.  He followed up the next year with a .327 average, 13 homers and an impressive .972 OPS, though over a shorter 74-game stretch.  Those big numbers in the high minors certainly got the Cardinals‘ front office and prospect followers more interested.

Voit reached the big leagues at age 26, and in 62 games and 124 plate appearances with St. Louis in 2017, he hit .246/.306/.430 with four homers.  Aside from a brief 13 plate appearances in the majors, he spent the first half of the 2018 campaign back in the minors awaiting another opportunity in The Show.

Given Jose Martinez’s presence on the Cardinals’ roster, a solid hitter without a true position who was being given some run at first base (and in right field), they decided the best use of Voit’s talents was in trade.  As a result, he was sent – along with international bonus slot money – to the New York Yankees in exchange for relievers Giovanny Gallegos and Chasen Shreve.

Shreve’s time with St. Louis was brief and uneventful.  He pitched a total of 16.2 innings, struck out 18, walked 10, and posted a 3.78 ERA. He spent the 2020 and ’21 seasons with the Mets and Pirates, respectively, continuing a run of unexciting but useful bullpen campaigns.

Gallegos’ tenure with the Cardinals has been much more memorable.  He dipped his toes in the water in 2018 with two appearances totaling 1.1 innings.  Next came his impressive 66-game, 74-inning 2019 season, when Gallegos allowed only 44 hits and 16 walks, struck out 93, and recorded a tiny 2.31 ERA.  In the shortened 2020 season, he pitched just 15 innings, surrendering nine hits and four walks, struck out 21, and posted a 3.60 ERA.

In MLB’s return to a 162-game campaign in 2021, Gallegos kept his foot on the gas.  Over 80.1 frames, he gave up just 51 hits and 20 walks, punched out 95 batters, and put up a 3.02 ERA.  And when erstwhile closer Alex Reyes fell from grace in late August, Gallegos stepped into the void, picking up 12 saves and a win over his final 15 appearances.

Continued success by Gallegos, who is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, would go a long way toward making this a strong trade by the St. Louis front office.  To see what the competition is for determining the winner of this deal, let’s examine Voit’s performance in pinstripes.

Following his move to the Bronx, Voit put on quite a show, hitting .333/.405/.689 (good for a 1.095 OPS and 193 OPS+) with 14 homers in just 39 games in 2018.  The 2019 season was more solid that spectacular, as he batted .263/.378/.464 with 21 long balls in a career-high 118 games.  Abdominal issues certainly were a factor, as he spent a total of 43 days on the injured list before and after being diagnosed with a sports hernia on July 31.

Healthy again the next year, Voit’s power was very much on display in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 campaign, as he led the majors with a career-best 22 homers in just 56 games, part of his .277/.338/.610 line that earned him a ninth-place finish in MVP voting.

Knee and oblique injuries hampered Voit’s 2021 season, limiting him to 68 games, during which he hit just .239/.328/.437 with 11 home runs.  When he was healthy toward season’s end, he saw his playing time limited by the Yankees’ acquisition of fellow first baseman Anthony Rizzo from the Cubs.

With Rizzo now a free agent, Voit currently has the inside track to playing time at first base for New York in 2022, though a new pick-up by New York could change that.  (After all, Freddie Freeman is still available.)  With an estimated arbitration salary around $5.5M, Voit could be appealing to several teams looking for an upgrade at first base if New York were to deem him expendable.  For now, though, Voit remains a Yankee.

When evaluating the outcome of the Cardinals’ decision to trade Voit – whether it’s a win, loss, or draw – more time will be needed to make a definitive call.  New York acquired a solid power hitter who needs to stay consistent, both in terms of on-field performance and by simply being available.  St. Louis picked up a strong reliever who may be their current and future closer.

Next. Cardinals: “Good chance” Nolan Arenado doesn’t opt-out after 2022 season. dark

Neither team regrets the deal, while neither is popping open champagne bottles to celebrate a clear fleecing of their trade partner.  Unless and until things change, that’s evidence of a good trade for both sides.