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The Cardinals biggest MLB trade deadline surprise

The St. Louis Cardinals had a pretty solid 2022 MLB trade deadline. They shored up a depleted pitching staff by picking up a pair of end of the rotation starters in Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery, and added to their bullpen with Chris Stratton and JoJo Romero.

When all was said and done, it was pretty clear that the Cardinals had improved quite a bit as a result of the trade deadline. In a competitive National League Central race with the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis emerged from the deadline looking like the better team. Whether they can translate that into winning their division remains to be seen.

While these moves for the Cardinals were good, they weren’t necessarily surprising. Everyone knew the Cardinals were going to be looking for pitching help at the deadline. The biggest surprise for St. Louis at the deadline came in the form of a deal that they ended up not making, and it could have drastically changed the outlook of the future teams.

The biggest surprise of the St. Louis Cardinals 2022 MLB trade deadline

Not trading for Juan Soto

Ever since Juan Soto was reportedly made available by the Washington Nationals after he turned down a mammoth 15-year, $440 million extension offer, the Cardinals seemed like a very reasonable landing spot for the young superstar. They needed some more help in their lineup, and their outfield was a perfect landing spot for another big bat.

The 23 year old Soto would be the perfect fit for the Cardinals teams of the present, and those of the future as well. St. Louis currently has a lineup spearheaded by star sluggers Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, and adding Soto to that core group would instantly have given them one of the best lineups in the league.

Not to mention, the Cardinals have a ton of young talent on their roster complementing Arenado and Goldschmidt already. Adding Soto could have been the piece that led them to success this season, but also for many seasons in the future.

Using Soto as a building block for the future of the team made a lot of sense. St. Louis would have admittedly had to part with some of their young talent to land Soto, but their farm system is currently deep enough to absorb a blow of that caliber.

The Cardinals emerged as one of the three true finalists for Soto as the day of the deadline crept up. Their competition was stiff in two other powerhouses in the NL, the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers. But given the depth of the Cardinals farm system, it felt like they had the inside track to land Soto here.

Instead, they watched the Padres do what the Cardinals front office decided against doing, and that was parting with pretty much their entire farm system. It’s also worth noting that the Padres swung deals for Josh Hader and Brandon Drury as well, and also picked up Josh Bell in their trade with Washington for Soto, but the brunt of their prospects were used to pick up Soto.

It’s not a fantastic look for the Cardinals front office to have largely stood pat at the deadline while a National League competitor did what they could have done, and thrown everything at the top players available at the deadline. Truth be told, St. Louis was probably in a better spot to absorb a trade for Soto than San Diego was.

Instead, the Cardinals made some under-the-radar moves that improved them, but not at the same rate that a team like San Diego improved. Even with their aforementioned deadline deals, St. Louis is still a borderline playoff team, and if they don’t beat out the Brewers in the NL Central, they could miss the playoffs entirely.

Acquiring Juan Soto would have been the move that put this team over the top, and it was quite surprising to see them not do what it took to land the transcendent superstar from Washington. Arenado and Goldschmidt aren’t getting any younger, and they are struggling to keep the Cardinals otherwise weak offense running on their own.

Unfortunately, they will have to continue to carry the brunt of the workload this season for St. Louis, and hope that some of their younger teammates can continue to develop throughout the rest of the 2022 season. Picking up Soto would have changed everything for the Cardinals, and in retrospect, it’s quite surprising that they didn’t do what it took to land him. Instead, they will be left to wonder whether they could have done more at the deadline as they continue to fight for a playoff spot down the stretch of the season.

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