The Cardinals have been linked to stars many times over the past decade, whether at the deadline or during the off-season. Aside from 2023, they're almost always in contention at the trade deadline, and can thus be classified as buyers. They're generally looking for talent from less competitive teams to bolster their odds of making it to October, and perhaps of winning a World Series.
We've seen the Cardinals make a number of excellent acquisitions at the deadline. In recent years, they've gone out and acquired starters such as Jose Quintana, Jordan Montgomery, Jon Lester, and others. Upon closer examination, a clear pattern emerges. The Cardinals like to target low-cost (and therefore low-risk) players at the trade deadline. These low-risk deals have, for the most part, worked out well for the Cardinals.
Take J.A. Happ, for example. The Cardinals traded Evan Sisk and John Gant to the Twins for J.A. Happ and cash considerations in 2021. Gant was a serviceable reliever who was enduring a rough final year of club control. Sisk, meanwhile, was a minor league reliever, who at the age of 24, was still pitching with Peoria, the Cardinals A+ affiliate. The cost was minimal. J.A. Happ, for his part, was exactly what the Cardinals needed him to be. He pitched to a 4.00 ERA over 11 starts and 54 innings. He was a perfectly league-average pitcher across this stretch, and his pitch-to-contact profile played well with what was an excellent defensive infield. The team won in seven of his eleven starts.
Even if Happ had been awful, the Cardinals likely wouldn't have spent too much time regretting the deal. Gant finished 2021 poorly and is now pitching in Japan. Sisk has spent the 2023 season with Kansas City's AAA affiliate. The Happ trade is just one example of a low-profile deal that has helped the Cardinals. At times, the Cardinals have been linked to higher-profile players with much larger asking prices.
Often, these higher-profile deals come with significantly more risk. Today, we'll be discussing several of these potential deals that we're glad the Cardinals didn't make. Afterward, we'll go through a few deals we wish the Cardinals had pulled the trigger on.