Drafted but Unsigned Cardinal: Craig Swan

Craig Swan passed on the St. Louis Cardinals, but pitched 12 years in the Major Leagues for the Mets.

Here we are with the third member of the top 10 players once drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, but signed elsewhere and performed well. The covered period runs from the start of the modern draft in 1965 through 1980.

Our third selection is Craig Swan, who amassed a career total of 12.6 bWAR while pitching in the New York Mets rotation from 1973-1984.

Like our prior team member Ed Halicki, Swan was taken by the Cardinals in the 1968 Draft and also like Swan, finished his long MLB career with a brief stint with the Angels.

Swan, a 17-year-old California prep star when drafted by the Cardinals, decided instead to enroll at Arizona State University, the same path followed by our first team member, Lenny Randle. The two were teammates on the Sun Devils’ College World Series-winning 1969 club and Swan almost pitched ASU to another title in 1972.

Swan signed with the Mets after being taken with their third-round pick in 1972. Interestingly, his professional debut was with Memphis, then the Mets’ Double-A club. Despite Swan being ready for the bigs, the Mets rotation was loaded with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koozman and Jon Matlack, meaning he did not establish a firm grip on a major league rotation spot until 1976, when he made 22 starts with a 3.54 ERA.

As the Mets’ fortunes sunk and the front office re-tooled the team, all three of their aces were eventually dealt away. Swan became the dependable, though unlucky leader of the club’s starting five. Though he won more than 10 games just twice in his 12-year career, in the five-year stretch from 1978 through 1982, he was very good, posting a 3.12 ERA.

Swan had an MLB-best 2.43 ERA in 1978, but still had just nine victories to show for his efforts as the Mets finished in last place. The next season, he logged 14 victories, including 10 complete games, in an impressive effort for Joe Torre’s 63-win cellar-dwelling 1979 club.

Injuries began to pile up as Swan tore the rotator cuff in his shoulder in 1980 and suffered a fractured rib the next season. He rebounded to have a very successful 1982 campaign but was moved back and forth between starting and relieving by new manager George Bamberger and struggled in 1983 with another injury.

After the Mets released him in May 1984, Swan pitched very briefly with the Angels before his career ended at the age of 33.

Over parts of 12 MLB seasons, Swan finished with a 59-72 record, a 3.74 ERA and 12.6 bWAR. He never pitched in a post-season contest. After baseball, the oft-injured former hurler became a physical therapist.

Stay tuned as the final seven members of this team are named, in career bWAR order. For more details on the All-Drafted, but Unsigned Team, click here.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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