Pirates send Quintana to Cards in 4-player trade

Bucs acquire RHP Oviedo, 3B prospect Nuñez; Stratton also STL-bound

August 2nd, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- As José Quintana walked off the mound in the sixth inning of Friday’s intrastate matchup against the Phillies, he was greeted with a thunderous standing ovation by those in attendance at PNC Park. The crowd knew the circumstances. Quintana did, too. He played coy when asked about the reception after the game, but he knew.

The crowd wasn’t just cheering his outing. They were cheering for what Quintana had done during his short time in Pittsburgh. They knew that might be the last chance to give the veteran left-hander his flowers. With Quintana and reliever Chris Stratton headed to the Cardinals in exchange for Johan Oviedo and Malcom Nuñez -- ahead of the Trade Deadline on Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET -- the crowd was right.

Pirates get: RHP Johan Oviedo, 3B Malcom Nuñez (No. 10 Cards prospect per MLB Pipeline)
Cardinals get: LHP José Quintana, RHP Chris Stratton

The 33-year-old Quintana gave the fans at PNC Park much to cheer about after signing a one-year, $2 million deal with the Pirates this offseason. In 20 starts for Pittsburgh, Quintana posted a 3.50 ERA and 3.24 FIP across 103 innings. As the quality starts stacked up, the vintage moniker ceased to apply; following a 2021 season that he described as the worst of his career, Quintana was back.

There was no shortage of mastery. On May 9, six scoreless innings against the Dodgers. On May 15, the day he accrued 10 years of service time, seven shutout innings against the Reds. On July 5, five innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts against the Yankees. On July 29, 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Phillies -- a fitting final act.

Quintana’s prowess on the mound was only half of what made him so valuable to the Pirates. Players and coaches alike were always willing to wax poetic about the leadership that he provided. On a team filled with rookies and inexperience, Quintana’s fountain of wisdom was invaluable.

“He shares so much of his knowledge and wisdom with us,” Roansy Contreras said in June through team interpreter Mike Gonzalez. “He’s always out there with us in our bullpens. Anything that he sees that he thinks that we could adjust or [do] better or amplify, he makes it aware to us in a very approachable way, in a very genuine way. Quintana is great.”

Stratton, 31, was not without his mentorship merits either. The right-hander was the longest-tenured pitcher on the Pirates, having been acquired from the Angels in 2019. In four seasons with Pittsburgh, he posted a 3.98 ERA and 3.73 FIP. Like Quintana, Stratton was a valuable member to the clubhouse, someone whom manager Derek Shelton described as a “stable force.” 

“It’s really important when you have a young bullpen group and guys that are finding themselves, that they can have somebody they can lean on, and Strat’s that guy,” Shelton said.

In terms of the return, the Pirates receive a 24-year-old right-handed reliever in Oviedo, who has several years of club control. There’s also Nuñez, who has hit .255/.360/.463 with 17 home runs and a 110 wRC+ for Double-A Memphis. Oviedo will fit nicely in a bullpen that badly needs assistance (Pittsburgh’s relievers posted a 5.21 ERA in July) while Nuñez further stocks Pittsburgh’s farm.

With Quintana and Stratton gone, a roster spot should open for reliever Colin Holderman, whom the Pirates acquired from the Mets for Daniel Vogelbach. Holderman was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis upon being acquired and has been there since. The trading of Quintana opens a spot on the active roster, one Holderman, who had a 2.04 ERA and 2.27 FIP with the Mets, can fill.

Still, the Pirates now have a spot in the rotation to fill. As constructed, Pittsburgh’s starters are JT Brubaker, Zach Thompson, Mitch Keller and Bryse Wilson. Contreras is with Indianapolis and likely will be for the next several weeks as he builds back up following a planned, in-season rest in an effort to limit his workload.

Among those on the Triple-A roster, Miguel Yajure and Jerad Eickhoff have started for the Pirates this season. Cody Bolton, who has posted a 2.96 ERA across 17 games (10 starts) after going 2 1/2 years without pitching in a professional game due to the pandemic and injury, could be an option as well. The Pirates could also roll with bullpen games, a strategy they have deployed on occasion.

The Cardinals will fly to Pittsburgh for a series on Sept. 9-11 and to close the regular season from Oct. 3-5. Perhaps Quintana will be pitching in one of those games, and even though he is now wearing different colors, perhaps he receives another ovation.