2) OF Harrison Bader for SP Jordan Montgomery (2022)
Bader was a fan favorite here in St. Louis. Bader was well known as a streaky hitter with otherworldly defense. He was a gold glover in 2021, though he probably should have won several more of those awards. What really won him over with legions of fans was his exciting style of play and, of course, his hair. What's more exciting than watching a player fly around the bases, running so fast that his own helmet falls off?
How about a starting pitcher who makes a full season's worth of starts and pitches to a 3.31 ERA? Because that's what the Cardinals traded Bader for at the 2022 deadline. Initially, a lot of fans were disappointed and puzzled. Bader had, at times, teased incredible upside. Montgomery was, at times, viewed as a sixth option with the Yankees. He ended up functioning as St. Louis' ace. Montgomery was excellent down the stretch and nearly better in 2023. Though the Cardinals struggled, he was his reliable self this season.
While Montgomery excelled in St. Louis, Bader was mostly disappointed in New York. He was terrible at the end of 2022 (though he was awesome in the playoffs) and he's currently having his worst full season since 2019. His .668 OPS is well below league average, and his defensive value has been lowered by his inability to stay on the field. Bader missed most of 2022 and has already hit the IL for an extended period in 2023.
With the Cardinals selling at the deadline, Montgomery, along with reliever Chris Stratton, was traded to Texas, where he has been unreal. In four starts, he has a 1.73 ERA. Montgomery may get the opportunity to pitch deep into October, and he no longer has the potential to be extended a Qualifying Offer, a move that teams make to artificially lower a player's value on the free agent market. He's raising his own value, and significantly.
For a true top-of-the-rotation talent like Montgomery, the Cardinals were going to get back a haul. And that's exactly what they did. They received reliever John King along with two exciting prospects: Thomas Saggese and Tekoah Roby. Both have been covered extensively since joining the organization. Saggese has been incredibly productive and may reach AAA this season, while Roby's debut on August 26th is sure to draw plenty of attention.
Mozeliak and the Cardinals' front office turned 1.5 seasons injury-riddled seasons of Harrison Bader into a full season of Montgomery and six years of control for Tekoah Roby (who ranks within FanGraphs' top 100 prospects) and Thomas Saggese. The Cardinals clearly came out on top here.