Cardinals trade Paul DeJong to Blue Jays for minor-league reliever Matt Svanson

The Cardinals have traded Paul DeJong to the Blue Jays for minor-league pitcher Matt Svanson.
Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 1:01 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - After twice trading with the Blue Jays in recent days, the Cardinals have finalized another deal with Toronto⁠—one that will mean saying goodbye to a longtime fixture of the St. Louis infield.

The Cardinals have traded Paul DeJong to the Blue Jays for minor-league pitcher Matt Svanson. The team has announced the deal.

Reports in recent days have suggested the Cardinals were shopping DeJong leading up to Tuesday’s trade deadline, which hits at 5 p.m. Central.

Svanson is a 24-year-old reliever who has excelled between Low-A Dunedin and High-A Vancouver this season in the Toronto system. He has a 1.11 ERA in 32.1 innings while striking out 39 batters on the year. Despite his success this season, Svanson sits outside the Blue Jays’ top 30 prospects as he has largely pitched at levels typically staffed by players younger than his 24 years of age—a major factor when considering prospect status.

Though the return will likely be perceived as a meager one for a longtime Cardinal mainstay, there are various elements to the situation that render Svanson an appropriate return under the circumstances.

DeJong’s contract situation is one of several elements that made his status intriguing ahead of this deadline. The 29-year-old shortstop who signed a six-year extension signed in March 2018 has now reached the final guaranteed year of that deal. Despite a rebound season at the plate and a continued sturdy presence in the field, DeJong’s .710 OPS (93 OPS+) likely wasn’t robust enough production for the Cardinals to have had an appetite for the $12.5 million club option it held on the shortstop for 2024.

The Cardinals announced in the press release that they sent cash along with DeJong in the deal. As part of his contract, DeJong would have been owed a $2 million buyout should the Cardinals have elected to decline the option year. The buyout coupled with the money still owed to DeJong over the remainder of the 2023 season is the explanation for the financial implications of the deal between the Cardinals and Blue Jays.

Though Toronto’s need for a shortstop following an injury to Bo Bichette may have provided the Cardinals some leverage in this pursuit, it will be interesting to learn the exact amount paid by the Cardinals to facilitate the trade. The Cardinals do not disclose exact financial terms in deals of this nature.

The presence of a rising shortstop prospect in the organization also may have played into the Cardinals’ desire to find a new home for DeJong prior to Tuesday’s deadline. Shortstop Masyn Winn is lurking in Triple-A Memphis as one of the club’s top prospects and has produced consistent offensive numbers for the Redbirds in recent weeks.

Winn, who will immediately boast one of the best shortstop arms in the big leagues the moment he arrives in St. Louis, has looked like a Major League-ready defender on the infield for some time. But the strides he’s made at the plate have caused Cardinals brass to consider the notion of his promotion to St. Louis on an expedited timeline. After a sluggish start to 2023, Winn has increased his OPS to .823 and has mashed 16 home runs on the year.

Though it’s difficult to project how the 21-year-old’s progress might translate against MLB-caliber pitching, his balanced .284/.356/.467 batting line with only 75 strikeouts in 452 plate appearances is an encouraging sign of a well-rounded plate approach. How quickly the Cardinals might look to give Winn that call to the big leagues remains to be seen, but John Mozeliak has alluded to the possibility.

“Obviously, he’s having a tremendous year,” Mozeliak said earlier this week. “We’re super excited about what we’re seeing out of him. But I don’t know when that button will be pushed. Could I imagine seeing him in the big leagues in 2023? Yes. The timing of that is: I don’t know.”

Mozeliak went on to explain the impact of roster implications on how a timeline for players like Winn could play out. Tommy Edman is expected to return to the St. Louis lineup from the injured list Tuesday, although his name has also surfaced in various trade rumors in recent days.

Regardless of how Edman’s situation shakes out⁠—the versatile defender has spent significant time at both shortstop and center field this season⁠—DeJong’s departure undoubtedly offers the Cardinals the type of roster flexibility that Mozeliak would need at his disposal to ‘push the button’ on Winn’s arrival to St. Louis.