A’s and Cardinals Execute Win-Win Trade

Stephen Piscotty didn’t have the best 2017 season.
(Photo: Keith Allison)

The St. Louis Cardinals have had a busy couple of days. One outfielder came in, another left. The latter move sent Stephen Piscotty to the Oakland A’s in exchange for two middle-infield prospects, Yairo Munoz and Max Schrock. The trade was made partly to accommodate Piscotty, whose mother has ALS, but the deal does help St. Louis. Likewise, it fills a need for Oakland.

Let’s start with Piscotty. Coming off a 2.8 WAR season in 2016, Piscotty looked to be building a solid profile in St. Louis. Clearly the Cardinals thought so, as they signed him to a six-year, $33.5 million contract that included a $2 million bonus. By the second week of the 2017 season, he was hitting cleanup.

Things didn’t go that smoothly all year though. Piscotty missed 15 days in May due to a strained hamstring. In mid-July, he landed back on the DL with a strained right groin. They recalled him on Aug. 1 from that injury but then optioned him to the minors on Aug. 7, only to reverse course and bring him back to the majors on Aug. 20. In his stint in the minors after he was demoted, he hit .313/.421/.781 in Triple-A, suggesting that he didn’t really need to be demoted in the first place. We’ll chalk that up to a bit of Mike Matheny Logic. Expecting a player fresh off the DL to hit like normal is shortsighted at best. Amusingly, in his last plate appearance before he was demoted, Piscotty hit a pinch-hit double.

Here’s his lines, split around his DL stints.

Stephen Piscotty, 2017 Splits
4/2 5/4 98 19 16.3% 18.4% 0.139 0.283 0.241 0.378 0.380 0.339 109
5/20 7/14 175 35 11.4% 21.1% 0.133 0.279 0.233 0.331 0.367 0.308 89
8/1 8/6 18 3 5.6% 22.2% 0.059 0.231 0.176 0.222 0.235 0.204 21
8/20 9/30 110 23 13.6% 25.5% 0.137 0.313 0.242 0.345 0.379 0.314 92

The biggest takeaway here is that he never really had a big sample to his season. The second takeaway, for me, is that he was doing just fine before he hurt his hamstring. It looks as though injuries more or less ruined his season, with a dash of Matheny Logic costing him two weeks in August.

One thing that we can say for sure is that he was pressing in the middle of his three big stints. Let’s take a look at another table:

Stephen Piscotty, 2017 Splits
From To O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% Pace
4/2 5/4 27.2% 62.0% 42.3% 62.3% 84.0% 76.1% 43.3% 22.8
5/20 7/14 29.8% 71.6% 49.7% 61.7% 83.3% 76.5% 47.7% 25.4
8/20 9/30 29.6% 58.0% 43.2% 55.4% 89.9% 77.5% 47.7% 23.8
2017 Season 30.2% 65.9% 47.0% 60.5% 85.5% 77.0% 47.1% 24.7

As you can see in this table, Piscotty was swinging at a much higher rate when he came back from his hamstring injury, but he wasn’t making contact at a higher rate. When he finally got healthy toward the end of the season, though, he was able to go back to swinging less, and he made slightly more contact. He also swung at far fewer pitches out of the zone. That’s a promising development.

Whether he can repeat the swing improvements is a matter that will play out in Oakland. On the left coast, he’ll switch from right field to left field but become a valuable cog in their outfield no matter the corner in which he plays.

Oakland A’s, 2018 Corner Outfielders Projections
Stephen Piscotty 532 0.253 0.337 0.420 0.327 3.2 -1.6 0.4 1.5
Matt Joyce   413 0.240 0.347 0.431 0.336 5.7 0.0 -3.9 1.2
Chad Pinder   469 0.244 0.292 0.403 0.298 -8.8 -0.9 0.1 0.2
Dustin Fowler   119 0.253 0.289 0.408 0.296 -2.4 -0.1 -0.3 0.0
Min. 50 PA

Of the four players we see getting significant time in an Oakland outfield corner, Piscotty projects to be the second-best hitter (by wOBA) and the best player overall. And this projection is probably a little conservative. If healthy, Piscotty could easily it. Given the way his 2017 season unfolded, I’m willing to throw out his replacement-level performance and be a little optimistic.

Over in St. Louis, Munoz and Schrock have their fans. Both were among Eric’s top 24 A’s prospects last spring. Munoz made Chris’s midseason KATOH top-100 list this past year. And Schrock was a fixture on Carson’s Fringe Five list last season. At the time of his last Fringe Five appearance in August, he was the yearly leader, and he would eventually finish the season third on the Fringe Five leaderboard.

All of this is to say that Munoz, a shortstop, and Schrock, a second baseman, weren’t throw-ins. They could potentially be valuable players. That is furthered by the dearth of middle-infield talent in the St. Louis farm system. Eric selected the Cardinals for one of his first top-prospects pieces this offseason. Here’s how the talent broke down:

St. Louis Cardinals Top 23 Prospects Positional Breakdown
Position 1-10 11-23
RHP 4 6
C 2 0
OF 4 4
SS 0 2
LHP 0 1

There are two shortstops but no second basemen, and one of the shortstops is a 40 future value (FV) player who hasn’t yet reached A-ball. Munoz, meanwhile, ascended to Triple-A last season, and Schrock should be ready for Triple-A this season. Schrock actually projects to post a 87 wRC+ in the majors this year, which puts him in league with utility infielder Greg Garcia. Neither Munoz nor Schrock is likely to crack the Opening Day roster, but they should provide good depth for the Cardinals, who always seem to manage to turn average prospects into solid major leaguers. Oakland, meanwhile, still has plenty of middle infielders on the farm and in the Show. Top prospect Franklin Barreto is ready for major-league duty but may not actually get it to start the season, for instance.

This is a win-win deal. The Cardinals had too many good outfielders and too few good middle infielders. The A’s had too many good middle infielders and too few good outfielders. And as an added bonus, Stephen Piscotty — who will probably be fine if he can he avoid last season’s leg injuries — gets to be closer to his ailing mother. It’s hard not to like this trade from all angles.

Paul Swydan used to be the managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for Boston.com and The Boston Globe. Now, he owns The Silver Unicorn Bookstore, an independent bookstore in Acton, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan. Follow the store @SilUnicornActon.

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The A’s are going to get a lot of production out of the guy the Cardinals thought Piscotty could be when they locked him up pre-arbitration. And when he does it’s going to be an insane return on that club-friendly contract.

Really excited as a Cards fan to see what Munoz and Schrock do in Springfield and/or Memphis this year. I’m hoping that both Kolten Wong and Paul DeJong have repeats of last year, but it’s always nice to have options, particularly in 2019 and beyond. Or who knows, they could get flipped this winter yet. The Cards’ front office has been busy and Mozeliak says he’s looking for more.

BTW Piscotty’s mom has ALS, not cancer. Both the St. Louis and Bay Area media have been pushing that angle all week long, but it looks like a good baseball business trade on top of it.

Carson Cistulli

Duly edited regarding Piscotty’s mother. Thanks.


Fuck ALS and Fuck Cancer they’re both terrible


What people miss there is that Oakland may be thinking they will get better production out of a happy player and vice versa for the Cardinals. With that in mind, it makes more sense they got a deal done. And teams do think about chemistry and satisfaction these days and believe in the effects. Farhan Zaidi talked about the importance of that when I saw him speak in Oakland.


I imagine most players would be happier playing for Melvin than Matheny.