The Post-Trade Deadline Rise Of The St. Louis Cardinals

Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

The Post-Trade Deadline Rise Of The St. Louis Cardinals

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The Post-Trade Deadline Rise Of The St. Louis Cardinals

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Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

A little over a week ago, the general feeling around the MLB was that the St. Louis Cardinals were headed down the wrong path; the path of mediocrity.

The Cardinals had gone 4-4 over their eight game stretch after the All-Star break. During this stretch they saw offensive inconsistencies, but their biggest problem, their lack of quality starting pitching, was further shed to light.

Leading up to the trade deadline on August 2nd, the Redbirds were in a race with the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers to acquire Washington Nationals Superstar Juan Soto. A move for Soto would’ve given the Cardinals the best offensive trio in the MLB by pairing him with NL MVP frontrunner Paul Goldschmidt and All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado in the heart of their order.

However, the thought of having three superstars in the heart of the order didn’t outweigh the asking price from the Washington Nationals for Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak, who was asked to give up several to prospects and young players to acquire Soto’s services. 

The decision the Cardinals made to pass on a trade for Soto and retain their assets was heavily criticized and was perceived as a typical, conservative move by the organization. Soto, a generational talent who is 23-years-old and is under contract for the next two seasons, was seen as the type of player who can maximize a teams chances of winning a World Series in the present while also being a cornerstone moving forward as a result of his age. 

Striking out on Soto was the headline of the Cardinals trade deadline, but the news surrounding that specific negotiation took several eyes off of the moves St. Louis made in order to help turn their weaknesses into potential strengths. 

In a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cardinals acquired LHP Jose Quintana and RHP Chris Stratton in exchange for RHP Johan Oviedo and third base prospect Malvom Nunez, who ranked 10th in MLB.com’s rankings of the Cardinals farm system. Although the Cardinals gave up two young players in order to acquire Quintana, who projects to be a rental and is 33 years old, this gave them a quality starting pitcher that they were in desperate need of. Quintana, a low strikeout pitcher who pitches to contact, will now be supported by one of the five best defenses in baseball which will cater to his strengths.

In addition, the Cardinals acquired LHP Jordan Montgomery in exchange for OF Harrison Bader and a player to be named later for cash considerations. Although Bader was a fan favorite in St. Louis and was a stellar defensive center fielder, the move for Montgomery gives St. Louis a player in a bigger area of need and a player who can make a more immediate impact on the roster. An average starter, Montgomery gives the Redbirds another groundball specialist who doesn’t walk a lot of batters, which will add quality depth to what was previously a weak starting pitching rotation.

The Cards have committed to Dylan Carlson becoming their full time center fielder of the future and have filled their corner outfield spots with Tyler O’Neill and Lars Nootbaar. With Bader inactive as a result of his plantar fasciitis, it was imperative for St. Louis to maximize his value by acquiring a player they needed from a team that valued Bader’s skill set despite the injury risk he posed. That team was the New York Yankees, who became much stronger defensively with a healthy Harrison Bader and having Bader in the outfield gives them the flexibility of playing Giancarlo Stanton primarily at designated hitter.

Fast forward a week after the trade deadline, and the tune around the Cardinals is completely different. Since the acquisitions of Quintana, Montgomery, and Stratton, the Cardinals have gone 6-1 and have taken the NL Central division lead over the Milwaukee Brewers. This stretch included back-to-back series sweeps against the Chicago Cubs and the American League best New York Yankees. The impact of Quintana, Montgomery, and Stratton was felt in dominating fashion as they were driving forces as to why the Redbirds were able to win these games and contain Chicago and New York’s (AL) offenses.

Everything is going right for the Cardinals right now. Their roster is getting healthier, they made moves at the deadline to address their weaknesses, and they have the second easiest remaining schedule in the MLB with a .457 rSOS in their remaining 53 games.

It’s safe to say that the St. Louis Cardinals best baseball this season is likely just ahead of them.

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