The Pittsburgh Pirates traded a pair of veteran pitchers who provided leadership for the starting rotation and bullpen, sending left-handed starter Jose Quintana and right-handed reliever Chris Stratton to the NL Central rival St. Louis Cardinals late Monday night.
In return, the Pirates will receive right-handed pitcher Johan Oviedo and corner infielder Malcom Nunez, who was ranked the Cardinals’ No. 10 prospect by MLB Pipeline and No. 13 by Baseball America.
The Cardinals were searching for a starter to add to their four-man rotation after lefty Steven Matz injured his left knee fielding the ball Saturday night against Cincinnati, and Quintana fit the bill.
The 33-year-old was 3-5 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 103 innings over 20 starts this season, with 89 strikeouts and 31 walks. He pitched six or more innings five times, including a 1-0 win over the Miami Marlins on July 23 at PNC Park.
The Pirates signed Quintana to a one-year, $2 million contract with the promise that he could return to the starting rotation after being banished to the bullpen with the Los Angeles Angels and San Francisco Giants last season. An 11-year veteran, Quintana previously pitched for the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs and has a career record of 86-85 with a 3.81 ERA.
Before Quintana tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings in the 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night at PNC Park, Pirates manager Derek Shelton praised his leadership.
“Q came in advertised really good and he’s better than advertised,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “The thing that really stands out for me, is not even the conversations he has, it’s just the way he goes about it every day. You watch it, the focus, the intent to throw strikes, how he takes care of his body, how he prepares.
“When you have a young group of pitchers, sometimes almost watching by osmosis is as important as what they say. And I think what stands out with Q is, he prepares like a professional every day and I think that can wear off and I think we are starting to see that wear off on some of our young pitchers.”
The Pirates included Stratton, a right-hander who morphed from starter to multi-inning to high-leverage reliever over the past four seasons. Stratton has been inconsistent this season, going 5-4 with a 5.09 ERA and 1.55 WHIP and two saves in 40 2/3 innings over 40 appearances (one start) while striking out 37 and walking 13 for the Pirates.
Shelton suggested over the weekend that Stratton needed to change his pitch repertoire because of familiarity with him within the division.
“I think changing the repertoire of what you use against them – and that tends to happen once you spend three to four years in the same division,” Shelton said. “So you get guys that get a bunch of at bats against a guy. So the way that we attack that is just making sure maybe we change up the repertoire a little bit.”
A 2021 first-round pick by the San Francisco Giants, Stratton was 15-7 with a 3.98 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 163 games in four seasons with the Pirates. His best season was in 2021, when Stratton was 7-1 with eight saves and tossed 79 1/3 innings over 68 appearances.
Both Oviedo and Nunez are from Havana, Cuba.
Oviedo, 24, is 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 25 1/3 innings over 14 games (one start), striking out 26 and walking seven for the Cardinals. The 6-foot-5, 245-opunder was 4-2 with a 5.58 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 50 innings over 10 starts for Triple-A Memphis.
Nunez, 21, is ranked the Cardinals’ No. 10 prospect by MLB Pipeline and No. 13 by Baseball America. A corner infielder was stuck behind Nolan Arenado, Nolan Gorman and Jordan Walker at third base with the Cardinals, he projects as a potential first baseman or designated hitter because of his power and bat speed.
Nunez batted .255/.360/.463 with 11 doubles, 17 home runs and 66 RBIs in 86 games for Double-A Springfield this season. The 5-11, 205-pounder signed with the Cardinals for $300,000 in 2016 and won the triple crown in the Dominican Summer League, slashing .415/.497/.774, but struggled to a .183 batting average in 21 games in Low-A and missed the 2020 season.
Nunez bounced back last year, splitting his season between High-A Peoria and Double-A Springfield. He slash .285/.351/.453 with 10 doubles, two triples, three home runs and 20 RBIs at Peoria and .257/.330/.371 with five doubles, six homers and 19 RBIs at Springfield.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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