LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Eight months after signing a six-year contract extension that was described by chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. as a way to ensure Stephen Piscotty would be "a fixture in a Cardinals uniform," the outfielder's tenure in St. Louis has come to an end.
The Cardinals, in an effort to continue clearing their outfield surplus, traded Piscotty to the A's on Thursday for Minor League infielders Yairo Munoz and Max Schrock.
Drafted out of Stanford University in 2012 with one of the two compensation picks the Cardinals netted upon Jose Pujols' departure, Piscotty has been the Cards' starting right fielder since he debuted in July 2015. But his fit -- and circumstances -- changed unexpectedly last season.
After signing a $33.5 million contract in April, Piscotty never found much offensive traction. He tried making various changes to his swing and even returned to Triple-A in an effort to reset. Neither offered the jump-start he needed.
A year after hitting .273/.343/.457 with an .800 OPS, 22 homers and 85 RBIs in 2016, Piscotty slashed .235/.342/.367 with a .708 OPS, nine homers and 39 RBIs.
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What's impossible to calculate, though, was how much his personal situation might have affected performance. In May, Piscotty learned that his mother, Gretchen, had been diagnosed with ALS. This trade will give Piscotty the chance to play just miles away from his family in Pleasanton, Calif.
That wasn't the impetus behind the Cardinals' decision to trade Piscotty to Oakland. But it also wasn't ignored.
"In fairness, it's really two-fold," said John Mozeliak, Cardinals president of baseball operations. "One, we look at our outfield, and there's definitely congestion. And clearly, an opportunity to get him closer to home was something we were also thinking about. But you're never making a player trade simply for geographic or sentimental reasons. It had to be something that made sense for us.
"There were certainly some opportunities to move him elsewhere, and when you're looking at how to break a tie, clearly that did play into it."
Mozeliak, who spoke to Piscotty about the move, described the outfielder's reaction to the news as "bittersweet."
"He liked being a Cardinal, liked playing in St. Louis," Mozeliak said. "And certainly [he] wanted to prove last year was an outlier."
This wasn't the first time Piscotty's name had surfaced in talks between the two clubs. Just months ago, the Cardinals appeared willing to deal him in a trade for Sonny Gray, who was eventually dealt to the Yankees. Piscotty became even more expendable after the Cards reached an agreement to acquire Marcell Ozuna earlier this week.
Piscotty no longer had a certain starting position in St. Louis, and the Cardinals had an outfield logjam to clear. Other outfielders could still be on the move, Mozeliak acknowledged.
While addressing its outfield clutter, the Cardinals were also able to upgrade their infield depth. Munoz gives the club an above-average defender who can play multiple positions, including shortstop. With Aledmys Diaz no longer in the organization, the Cards had been eyeing ways to protect themselves at that position.
"The scouting reports on him are very strong," Mozeliak said. "We think he's a nice fit."
Munoz, who enters 2018 with Minor League options still remaining, reached as high as Triple-A last season. In 112 games combined between Double-A and Triple-A, the 22-year-old slashed .300/.330/.464.
It was the offensive profile that drew the Cardinals to Schrock, who posted an .801 OPS and a .321/.379/.422 slash line in Double-A last year. He does not have to go on the Cards' 40-man roster immediately, and St. Louis considers him a defensive option at third, second and in the outfield.
"Everywhere he's been, he's hit," Mozeliak said. "When you're looking at all the different things you're trying to do, it's nice to be able to find a couple players that we can just stick right into Double-A and Triple-A and know that they're going to be productive."