Trade degrees: Cardinals get much-needed rotation help in trade for Jose Quintana

Trade: The St. Louis Cardinals acquire LHP Jose Quintana and RHP Chris Stratton of Pittsburgh Pirates for RHP Johan Oviedo and IF Malcom Nunez.

After the best players in the commercial market of the year moved up to two contenders in recent days, another team has pivoted to looking to upgrade the playing field to the next level. In snatching Jose Quintana from the Pittsburgh opponent, St. Louis adds a wanted arm. But does this trade really move the needle for cardinals?

Let’s start this with a comparison.

Jug A: 9.1K/9; 3.2 W/9 1.2 HR/9; 4.02 FIP; 96 ERA +
Jug B: 7.8K/9; 2.7 W / 9; 0.6 HR/9; 3.24 FIP; 119 Era +

Surprise! Both jugs are from Quintana. The first line reflects Quintana’s total numbers from 2017 through the end of last season. The second line reflects what Quintana has done for the Buccaneers this season. The main question the Cardinals will be asking will be which one is more indicative of what Quintana will do for the rest of this season.

Honestly, it could go either way. Looking at his advanced numbers, Quintana’s .307 BABIP this season fits right in with his career standards. He could improve in St. Louis, where he will play against what I consider the best team defense in baseball. His strike rate has dropped, and Quintana has led to more nice contact this season. He is not an extreme volleyball player but has benefited from the sharp drop in volleyball rate. That was really the driver of his success this season.

Some of that may have to do with the dead baseball game, but with no obvious changes to his arsenal on the field, it seems that this newfound ability to keep the ball in the park correlates with Kontana better positioning his pitches. According to StatCast, he has 7% “meatballs” in his career. (The MLB average this season is 7.2%.) Quintana this season is at 4.7%. He stayed out of the middle of the board.

Busch Stadium and PNC Park play similarly in terms of park factors but if anything, St. Louis would be a slightly more relaxed setting for Quintana. Another point in his favour.

Now another comparison.

Jug A: 7.4K/9; 2.3 W/9 0.8 HR/9; 3.47 FIP, 118 ERA +
Jug B: 7.8K/9; 2.7 W / 9; 0.6 HR/9; 3.24 FIP; 119 Era +

Quintana all over again. I’ve seen this second line before – it’s the line the Cardinals hope for. And he looks a lot like what he did on aggregate for the White Sox during his best seasons from 2012 to 2016.

So, you have a pitcher having a great season with no glaring indications to bounce and move to a better support system (defense and corner) than the one who leaves. The one who will be a free agent after the season and now will take an audition to select potential suitors while helping advance the St. Louis game. And all he’s trying to do is continue playing the pitcher he was before, before losing his way for a while.

Sure, even this version of the Quintana would be at best a marginal upgrade to the Cardinals cycle that still characterizes Stephen Matz. But Matz, who has had a knee injury, is not there and, according to recent updates, will be hard-pressed to get back in time to play an important role in the knockout race. And Quintana, if it continues to do what it was doing for Pittsburgh, is more than a marginal upgrade from other interior options in St. Louis.

With that said, he’ll need Bullpen’s support. He’s only been 3-5 in his 20 games with Pittsburgh, with a low victory a product of not only the quality of the Pirates but the fact that he barely made five runs at each start. Over 20 starts, the Buccaneers limited Quintana to only 72 hitters she faced after her first two times through the rankings. Of the 34 bowlers with at least 20 bowlers starting through Monday, this is the fewest hitters faced at the time. However, Quintana’s results in those spots were good, allowing his 607 OPS that this is actually better than during his first two times facing a hitter.

Thus, it is possible that the Cardinal could coax more of Quintana’s workload than the pirates were willing to attempt to extract it. But he will need help, and some will come from Stratton, who is deepening the Cardinals’ base that needed more depth. The Stratton era swelled with a crash against Atlanta in June, but a hit with the Buccaneers, he’s struggled in the past few weeks.

Stratton has been hit hard this season without a doubt. But he still has high turnover rates, and if the Cardinals can help him with some driving issues, he’s a veteran arm with a long track record and able to operate in positions of great influence. Oviedo was progressing fairly well late in the St. Louis game, but it was mainly used on low leverage positions.

This move does not make the cardinal a winner by the deadline per se. The team that never seemed to make it this season hasn’t. Perhaps the big move is yet to come, or there will be a series of smaller upgrades. Or maybe this is.

Quintana is solid but not an ace. Those options were Luis Castillo and Frankie Montas, who could prove very costly for St. Louis if a comeback takes them out of the race for a star player. (Yes, we’re talking about Juan Soto.)

Whatever happens, the Quintana is a solid upgrade and Stratton lengthens the bull coop. But if that’s for the cardinals on the deadline, it’s not enough. In a vacuum, the grade included in this step begins to erode.

St. Louis Score: B

Pretty simple stuff, really, for the rebuild team. You are venturing into a struggling veteran at a good deal for one year. You help him fix what’s hurting him. And if you haven’t jumped into the competition, you trade that player and gain a talent that may help you when the competition window opens.

We don’t know when that window will open for pirates, but there is a storm of talent in their system. Some of those first drops have already fallen – Oneil Cruz, Ke’Bryan Hayes. Quintana likely wasn’t around when the wins started pouring in, but Oviedo and Nunez might help them when they do.

With deals like this, the question for the rebuilding club is always whether they can get more. But let’s face it, while I love Quintana’s place in his game now, two months of it would have done a lot. Stratton is moved at a low point.

With that in mind, this seems like a decent return for Pittsburgh. Oviedo, 24, is a big right-hand man with a mid-90s pace on four tailors with average turnovers and sub-par results, but he has the raw stuff that pirates can work with. The metrics on his slider are even better, and this season, he’s become more of a two-thrower while working more in a relief role. It will be interesting to see what role pirates, who are known for their ability to make the most of shooters, think of Oviedo after they get a chance to work with him.

Prior to the season, Nunez was ranked as the 10th best prospect for the Cardinals by Kiley McDaniel with a 40+ FV. McDaniel wrote, “He can hit and has superhuman strength, but his swing plane doesn’t make use of all his raw power, and his pitch selection is fine. He might be a better fit on first base, so it’s a bit more geared toward a corner platoon/utility player than the player is.” daily at the moment.

Since then, Nunez has gained more strength while still young due to his level in Double-A with strong strike zone indicators showing. The Cardinals’ system is deep in intruders, so it was expendable for them. But he gives the pirate another talented racket to add to his potential pool.

Grade Pittsburgh: B-

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