This trade helped the club in 2022 but could frustrate fans this season
Over the course of their storied franchise history, the St. Louis Cardinals have been known to be one of the smarter trade partners in the league. If you need proof, look at the Adam Wainwright trade with the Braves back in 2003 and the absolute fleece job of a deal made with the Rockies to land Nolan Arenado.
At the 2022 trade deadline, the team may have made a rare misstep in a trade. Right at the deadline, the Cardinals sent right-hander Johan Oviedo and corner infield prospect Malcom Nuñez to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for José Quintana and Chris Stratton, two solid arms that would help carry them to the postseason.
On the surface, the deal was a great one to start off. Stratton, 32, is a middle relief option with closing experience who actually did very well upon his acquisition. In 20 appearances and 22+ innings, he posted a 5-0 record with a 2.78 ERA and 140 ERA+. During that time, he did not surrender a single home run.
Quintana, 34, was a sell-high candidate from the rebuilding Pirates and looked great before and after the deal. In a Cardinals uniform, he posted a 2.01 ERA in 12 starts, allowing just one home run in 62+ innings and being the proud owner of a 2.60 FIP and 191 ERA+.
So, how in the world could this be a trade that hurts the Cardinals?
One of the biggest reasons is the fact that Quintana left via free agency and is now a member of the New York Mets. He just recently went down with an injury that will keep him down for three months, but he still did so well with the Cardinals last year, and will be a huge loss. His 12 starts helped last year, but his career in St. Louis was too short-lived.
Then there's Stratton, who has looked so-so in Spring Training so far. His 3.00 is deceptive as he has been allowing alarmingly high amounts of hard contact and has surrendered more hits (seven) than innings pitched (six).
What will make this trade hurt the most, however, is the emergence of Oviedo and Nuñez in the Pirates organization.
Oviedo, 25, looked excellent after the trade for Pittsburgh. He made seven starts and posted an ERA of 3.23 and ERA+ of 130. He is expected to be a part of the Pirates rotation this year and for the foreseeable future. He was a big piece to lose for this Cardinals club and will be primed to show it in the coming season.
Nuñez, 22, has light tower power and put it on full display last year with both of his clubs. In 119 games split between two organizations and three minor league affiliates, he hit 23 home runs and drove in 88 runs while drawing 69 walks and striking out just 103 times. His eye at the plate has been steadily improving as he ages and he is certainly going to give the Pirates their best power-hitting first baseman in years. Entering the season, he is ranked as the No. 16 prospect in the Pirates system per MLB.com's latest rankings.