With the Major League Baseball trade deadline passing on Tuesday, Springfield Cardinals fans have seen one fan favorite for the final time but the two main attractions remain.
Third baseman Jordan Walker and shortstop Masyn Winn, the St. Louis Cardinals’ top minor-league prospects, will continue to wow fans at Hammons Field for the foreseeable future. This after St. Louis declined to deal either at the deadline.
Most of the talk surrounding the last couple of weeks involved a possible trade for Juan Soto from the Washington Nationals. Internet frenzy overtook reality, as I doubt the Cardinals were ever serious contenders to acquire Soto.
Not at the asking price of ransacking the farm system of Walker and Winn, both 20 and perhaps St. Louis’ best prospects in a decade. Multiple major leaguers also would have been required to pry Soto, who wound up in San Diego after the Padres paid a hefty price.
It’s been a bit comical to watch the process play out from inside Hammons Field. Last week, when Winn was a late lineup scratch due to feeling ill, a buzz enveloped the press box and Twitter exploded with conspiracy theories that Winn was packing his bags and heading to the airport as the result of a just-concluded trade.
The same thing happened a few nights later when Walker had a scheduled day off, prompting hyperventilating from many when the lineup was unveiled. Walker returned to hit four home runs over the weekend and, with a maturity beyond his years, shrugged off the speculation that he surely had to hear all around.
“I don’t really think too much into it,” Walker told MLB.com over the weekend. “I just feel like that’s going to be too much to think about during the season when it’s already tough. Whatever happens, happens. I just want to play my game.
“Masyn and I, people have asked us that before, but we really don’t think too much about it.”
Having Soto in St. Louis would have been a bit like adding a Ferrari to a garage that already was full of functional automobiles, yet the house attached to the garage was falling apart. That house is the Cardinals’ big-league pitching staff, which badly needed upgrades.
For all his talents, Soto doesn’t pitch. The Cardinals were able to get some needed help by acquiring Jose Quintana from the Pirates and Jordan Montgomery from the Yankees for former Springfield Cardinal center fielder Harrison Bader.
The Springfield Cardinals did lose a fan favorite to help acquire Quintana. Malcom Nunez, a 21-year-old corner infielder, has been on a power-hitting tear of late. He hit four home runs on the recent homestand to boost his season total to 17.
Signed as a 16-year-old international free agent out of Cuba, Nunez appeared to be coming into his own. But with Walker playing his natural position at third and the big-league team with Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt at the corners, Nunez was blocked.
Going to the talent-starved Pirates could be a good opportunity for Nunez to reach the big leagues in the near future. Known as much for his smile and quiet personality as his hitting ability, I interviewed Nunez a few days prior to the trade with a story planned on him for this week.
This was something of a breakthrough as Nunez, who according to Springfield manager Jose Leger is on the shy side, had declined interview requests all season until last week.
Nunez spoke about the struggles with the language barrier and to find authentic Cuban food in the Ozarks. I gave him a couple of suggestions of local favorites on Commercial St. and he smiled and said, via teammate/interpreter Aaron Antonini, that he would give them a try.
Hopefully that happened over the weekend, because now Nunez will continue his search for Latin-flavor-quality beans, rice and pork in a new community.
It’s all part of the professional baseball business, where players are here today and gone tomorrow. Springfield fans should continue to enjoy Walker and Winn while they can.
Cardinals upcoming games
The Springfield Cardinals opened an extended road trip on Tuesday night at Corpus Christi, where they will play through Sunday. The Cardinals play a series at Amarillo from Aug. 9-14. They return to Hammons Field on Aug. 16 to open a homestand against Arkansas.