The St. Louis Cardinals are trying to cram their entire offseason into one day. The team continued making moves Wednesday, dealing outfielder Stephen Piscotty to the Oakland Athletics. The Cardinals will receive two minor leaguers in the deal, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman.
The move came just hours after the team strengthened its outfield by acquiring Marcell Ozuna from the Miami Marlins. With the club set at all three outfield spots, the 26-year-old Piscotty was expendable.
Piscotty is coming off a disappointing 2017 campaign, in which he hit just .235/.342/.367, with nine home runs, over 401 plate appearances. It was a far cry from his 2016, when Piscotty broke out to post a .273/.343/.494 slash line. He belted 22 home runs that season.
Despite his struggles, Piscotty’s upside gives the A’s a big upgrade over the team’s current options. Chad Pinder was slated to start in left prior to the trade. Boog Powell — not that one — was projected to start in center. Even if you buy Powell’s strong numbers in a limited sample last year, Piscotty has the better track record.
The move also is significant for Piscotty for reasons that go beyond baseball. It would allow Piscotty to be closer to his mother, who was diagnosed with ALS this year. Piscotty grew up in California.
From the great @dgoold, comments from Mike Matheny that make it clear Cards would like to help Piscotty get back to the Bay Area. Piscotty’s mom was diagnosed with ALS this year: pic.twitter.com/hi6Q5XWz9B
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) December 13, 2017
Getting Piscotty to turn things around on the field could require a change in his approach at the plate. A big part of his power decline came from putting the ball on the ground way too much in 2017. Piscotty’s ground ball rate shot up from 43.6 percent to 49.2 percent last year. That figure would have ranked near the top-20 had Piscotty qualified for the batting title.
There’s reason to believe the A’s can help there. The team actually led baseball with a 41.1 percent fly ball rate. Maybe some of that is linked to the players they already had, but it’s worth noting they oversaw Yonder Alonso’s breakout, which was aided by hitting more fly balls.
After signing an extension with the Cardinals in April, Piscotty is under team control through 2022 for under $10 million each year. The A’s have the option to keep Piscotty around for 2023, but he’ll make at least $15 million that season. That figure can increase if Piscotty makes the All-Star team.
That’s a long ways off, making this a classic A’s move. They picked up a player they believe can bounce back whose contract is well under market value for a number of years. Even if Piscotty can’t regain his form, his contract won’t hurt them.
The Cardinals may have believed in Piscotty’s talent as well, but ran out of places to play him. After dealing for Ozuna, the team’s outfield consists of Dexter Fowler, 2017 breakout Tommy Pham and Ozuna. Piscotty would have been relegated to the bench in 2018, or would have had to regain his form in Triple-A had he remained with St. Louis.
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Chris Cwik is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik