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Cardinals restock rotation by acquiring J.A. Happ, Jon Lester at deadline

The Cardinals add a pair of former All-Star lefties who have struggled in 2021.

MLB: Washington Nationals at San Francisco Giants John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals added some reinforcements to their starting rotation just prior to Friday afternoon’s trade deadline, acquiring lefty J.A. Happ and cash from the Twins for righty John Gant and minor league lefty Evan Sisk, then getting lefty Jon Lester from the Nationals in exchange for outfielder Lane Thomas:

Happ, a 2018 All-Star who has pitched 15 seasons in the big leagues, has struggled significantly for the Twins this year, posting a 6.77 ERA with a 1.59 WHIP, 77 strikeouts, and 31 walks in 98.1 innings. But the Cardinals will hope he can bounce back to his previous level of success, and they obviously view him as a better option to eat innings than young pitchers like Johan Oviedo and Jake Woodford who had been making starts in recent weeks.

Lester, a five-time All-Star and three-time World Series winner who should at least get some down-ballot Hall of Fame votes when his career is all said and done, has also had a rough 2021 campaign. In his first season with the Nationals, the 37-year-old lefty has a 5.02 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP with 51 strikeouts and 29 walks in 75.1 innings.

It remains unclear whether Happ and/or Lester will stick in the Cards’ rotation once Jack Flaherty and Miles Mikolas, who are both currently on rehab assignments, return from the injured list, but they give the Cardinals more major league-tested starting depth than they had prior to the deadline.

Gant looked like an All-Star candidate while spending the first two months of the season in the Cardinals’ rotation, but his poor command began to punish him in June and he was moved to the bullpen. He has a 3.42 ERA with a 1.57 WHIP, 56 strikeouts, and 56 walks in 76.1 innings this year.

Sisk, a 24-year-old lefty reliever, was having a solid season between High-A Peoria and Double-A Springfield, putting up a combined 3.31 ERA with a 1.59 WHIP over 26 appearances.

Thomas has put up a .790 OPS at Triple-A Memphis this season but has been unable to hit major league pitching, posting a .104/.259/.125 slash line in 58 plate appearances with the Cardinals this season.