Reports: Cardinals finalizing a deal for Pirates’ lefty Jose Quintana

Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jose Quintana delivers during the first inning of a...
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jose Quintana delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Pittsburgh, Friday, July 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)(Gene J. Puskar | AP)
Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 9:14 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - There’s been no secret in recent days about the Cardinals’ pursuit of pitching help leading up to the MLB trade deadline.

Monday night, less than 24 hours before the trading period’s ending at 5 p.m. Central on August 2, the Cardinals are reportedly working to finalize a deal for a starting pitcher from an NL Central rival.

According to multiple reports, the Cardinals are finalizing a deal for Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander Jose Quintana. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the Cardinals are also on the verge of acquiring right-hander Chris Stratton in the trade.

Though the trade has not been officially announced and no return has been finalized, reporter Francys Romero tweeted that the package heading from St. Louis to Pittsburgh in the deal is expected to include pitcher Johan Oviedo and minor-league infielder Malcom Nunez.

Quintana owns a 3.50 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 103 innings for the Pirates this season. The 11-year MLB veteran has previously pitched with the White Sox and Cubs and boasts a lifetime ERA of 3.81. A capable innings-eater, Quintana fills a need for a Cardinals’ pitching staff that has seen Steven Matz and Jack Flaherty miss significant time to injury this season.

The 33-year-old Quintana will be a free agent following the conclusion of the 2022 season, but for the stretch run this summer he provides the Cardinals a left-hander for their starting rotation following an MCL injury for Matz. Though it has not been confirmed that Matz will require surgery, the attitude of the team in its public comments surrounding his status seems to imply that Matz will miss the remainder of the season.

Stratton has appeared in 40 games this season for Pittsburgh with a 5.09 ERA but a 3.61 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) that suggests moving to pitch in front of the sturdy Cardinals defense could assist his overall numbers in improving. He figures to take Oviedo’s spot in the St. Louis bullpen provided the reports on his involvement in the trade package to Pittsburgh are proven accurate.

Johan Oviedo debuted with the Cardinals under trying circumstances during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, posting a 5.47 ERA in five starts without earning a win. His winless stretch continued in 2021 when he started 13 games and logged a 4.91 ERA while going 0-5. In a switch to a bullpen role this season, Oviedo seemed to find a fit for St. Louis, earning his long-awaited first MLB victory and putting together a 3.20 ERA in 25.1 innings.

For the Cardinals moving forward, a role in the bullpen seemed to be the glass ceiling that Oviedo would have trouble shattering. It should be interesting to see whether the Pirates give him an opportunity to harness his tremendous arm talent with a starting rotation spot.

Malcom Nunez is a 21-year-old power-hitting infielder that ranks as the No. 10 prospect in the Cardinals farm system according to MLB Pipeline. Nunez began his career as a primary third baseman, but with the glut of talent at that position in the St. Louis organization in recent years⁠—Nolan Arenado, Nolan Gorman, Jordan Walker⁠—he seemed to be blocked at that spot and has shifted primarily to first base this season with Double-A Springfield.

Nunez has knocked 17 home runs with a .823 OPS for Springfield this season. While losing his offensive upside from the organization does sting, Nunez did not have an obvious path to the big leagues within the organization. He also would have become Rule 5-eligible this winter if not added to the St. Louis 40-man roster.

That the price for a mere two months of a veteran starting pitcher meant the Cardinals losing a contributor from their bullpen, plus a top-10 prospect within the organization is a somewhat eyebrow-raising truth. But it was likely a necessary move for a Cardinals team so sorely lacking the starting depth that it needed to remain competitive in the National League postseason picture.