Best Cardinal Trades of the Last 40 Years

Revisiting five of the greatest deals in recent St. Louis Cardinals history.

As the close of spring training approaches, the Cardinals may be active and maybe not. But, there is no doubt that over the years, the Cardinals have made some spectacular trades. It is a good time to look back fondly at the great ones - the really great ones.


As a starting point for this analysis, I chose the time around when Kenny Boyer was traded away in one of the franchise's worst moves ever. But, that was yesterday's article. 


Today, we look at the upside of Cardinal dealing. There were a lot of candidates, but these are my favorites. Join the discussion on our message board to share your bests.


5.  Average second baseman and "proven" pitcher traded for "troubled", but perennial All-Star: Tie between Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen.  OK, I copped out here on my last pick, but the similarities are striking. And both Edmonds and Rolen are still active, so they have a very good chance to move up this list before their Cardinals careers end.


March 23, 2000: Jim Edmonds is acquired from the Anaheim Angels for pitcher Kent Bottenfield and second baseman Adam Kennedy. Edmonds had picked up a rap as a selfish player, more interested in highlight-film catches and individual stats than team results. Bottenfield was coming off a career 18-win season and Kennedy was a top prospect, but blocked by the arrival of Fernando Vina. You know what Edmonds has accomplished in his time with the Cards, including five Division Series in six years, four League Championship Series and one World Series, along with two All-Star Game selections. And, just for the record, Edmonds has 210 home runs and 590 RBI in his six seasons in St. Louis. Bottenfield was a washout in Anaheim, then moved to Philadelphia and Houston, winning only 10 more games in the next two seasons. He last appeared in the majors in 2001. Kennedy is a career .281 hitter and is considered solid, but not spectacular.


July 29, 2002: Scott Rolen ends his unhappy stay in Philadelphia, joining the Cardinals in return for infielder Placido Polanco, and pitchers Bud Smith and Mike Timlin. Rolen was already recognized as one of the very best all-around third basemen in the majors and has solidified that reputation since joining the Redbirds. After three and one-third seasons on the team, one ruined by injury, Rolen has amassed 81 home runs and 300 RBI. Polanco remains a serviceable middle infielder, but lacks the power needed at the corner. Smith was the key to the deal for the Phillies. The 23-year-old owned a no-hitter, although that remains his only complete game. Due to injury, Smith's career seems to be over. In 2005, he was unable to pitch effectively at the Triple-A level for the Twins and has since fallen off the baseball radar map. Timlin was a salary dump and has since moved on to Boston in his role as an overpaid former closer, now middle reliever.


4.  Willie McGee: October 21, 1981. In what at the time looked to be an unimportant deal, the Yankees sent minor league outfielder Willie McGee to the Cardinals for pitcher Bob Sykes. McGee joined the Redbirds for good during the 1982 World Championship season, starting what would be a 2200-game major league career, most of which was spent in St. Louis. McGee logged a career batting average of .295, four All-Star selections, three Gold Gloves, one Silver Slugger award, two batting championships and an MVP award in the 1985 National League Championship season. Returning to St. Louis to close his career cemented McGee's role as one of the most respected elder statesmen of the franchise. Sykes encountered arm problems and soon retired. 


3.  Mark McGwire: July 31, 1997. In one of the most famous trade deadline deals ever, the Oakland A's swapped impending free agent first baseman (and future Hall of Famer?) Mark McGwire to the Cardinals for young pitching prospects Blake Stein, T.J. Mathews and Eric Ludwick. In the years after leaving the Cards, these three hurlers totaled 52 wins, 55 losses and 10 saves. On the other hand, McGwire's Cardinal contributions were immense in both the business and field aspects of the game. Rather than restate his obvious home run hitting prowess, let's look at his impact at the gate.  In the two seasons prior to 1997, the Cards drew 2.6 million fans per year. That immediately jumped by 600,000 to 3.195 million in 1998 and 3.235 million in 1999, the first three-million attendance years that decade. Since, attendance has dipped below three million only once.  That's star power.


2.  Ozzie Smith: February 11, 1982.  After two months of being on hold due to a contract dispute, the Padres' trade of two-time Gold Glove (and future Hall of Fame) shortstop Ozzie Smith for All-Star shortstop Garry Templeton was formally completed. Outfielder Sixto Lezcano also moved to the Padres and pitcher Steve Mura was sent to the Cards. Templeton was a career .304-hitter who had run-ins with the team and fans and had previously asked to be traded. After the trade, Templeton was never again an impact player, hitting only .251 over the next decade in San Diego.  At the time of the trade, Smith's glovework quality was already known, but he had hit only .211, .230 and .222 during his three prior seasons with the Padres.  Although not many of us understood at the time, Smith would be the perfect player for Whiteyball. The rest is history.


1.  Lou Brock: June 15, 1964. In a six-player trade that was essentially a swap for pitcher Ernie Broglio, Cubs outfielder (and future Hall of Famer) Lou Brock joined the Cardinals.  Brock helped power the then-fourth-place Cards to their first World Series Championship since 1946. He sparked Cardinal championship teams in 1967 and 1968, excelling in the Series, and went on to become baseball's leading base stealer.  The six-time All-Star played for the Cardinals until his retirement after the 1979 season. Oh yeah, Broglio won seven games and lost 19 before ending his major league career in 1966.


As opposed to the worst trades list, the Walt Jocketty era is well-represented here.  Now Walt, what have you done for us lately?  ;-)


Brian Walton can be reached via email at


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