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The St. Louis Cardinals are a trade or two away from fixing their starting rotation, and it should all start with Jose Quintana.
The Pirates, despite some signs of life in this early season, remain several years away from contention (if you can call it that). Ben Cherington has rebuilt Pittsburgh’s farm system into one of the best in baseball, and will be looking to add to said system at the deadline this year with a few savvy moves.
Trading Quintana — an asset Pittsburgh surely signed with the hope of moving this August — is essential.
While in-division trades are uncommon, the Bucs have no qualms with St. Louis this season. Quintana is not on a long-term contract. This will not come back to hurt Pittsburgh.
The Cards need pitching. Jack Flaherty and Steven Matz are injured for the time being. JA Happ is not walking through that door.
Quintana could at least be part of the answer.
Cardinals: A trade for Jose Quintana that works
Quintana, despite his 2.15 ERA, would not be all that expensive. If his numbers stay put, then perhaps he’ll be worth more come August, which could entice the Pirates to hold on to him for now.
Hence isn’t in the Cards top-10 prospects, but he’s ranked just outside that at No. 11 by MLB Pipeline, and he’s just 19 years old. In a few years, he could be near the top of the Bucs system with the right development. Per MLB Pipeline, here’s what to expect from Hence:
“Hence sits in the low-90s with his fastball right now but is capable of touching as high as 96, as he did in his prep days. He showed a plus slider in high school, but his curveball — a pitch with good spin and bite — seems more likely to be his go-to breaking ball these days. Like many pitchers from the prep ranks, a changeup remains on the to-develop list, but there’s hope it can be a solid option in time.”
Pittsburgh isn’t expected to contend for a few years yet. They’re lacking in pitching prospects, hence the inclusion of Hence and Pacheco, a 24-year-old ranked No. 28 in the Cards system.
Hence is the real prize here, and assuming Quintana is still pitching to a sub-3 ERA, he’ll be quite gettable for a Pirates system that could use the pitching upside.