Why Trade Reyes or Wainwright to Improve?

Wednesday's trade for pitcher Jeff Weaver again proves the Cards can improve without giving up the store. In the process, those who think prized rookies Anthony Reyes and/or Adam Wainwright have to go to make a deal are proven wrong.

I have to admit that lately, I've been almost as ticked at some Cardinals fans as I have been about the team's mediocre play.

The latest item that set me off was a message board poster apparently accepting as gospel that the Cardinals absolutely have to include their best young players Anthony Reyes or Adam Wainwright or both to make a trade to improve the team this season. The source was an unnamed television talk show.

I can't explain how ignorant that is, or more politically-correct, ill-informed. I suspect those commentators have no idea what the names are of any Cardinals minor leaguers other than those two.

At any rate, anyone with a memory 24 months or longer should be able to recall any number of impact trades made by Walt Jocketty at or near the deadline that didn't include important members of his major league roster.

Here are several examples that quickly come to mind:

August 6, 2004: Larry Walker acquired from the Colorado Rockies for three minor league pitchers - Jason Burch, Luis Martinez and Chris Narveson.

Burch was a 21st-rounder in 2003 and Martinez had been claimed off waivers the previous winter. Only Narveson was considered a top prospect and he is back with the organization now. Yes, the Cardinals had to assume part of Walker's salary, but this trade didn't hurt the team down the road, as none of the three have since thrown a single pitch in the majors.

July 19, 2002: Chuck Finley acquired from the Cleveland Indians for minor leaguers Coco Crisp and Luis Garcia. (Crisp was named on August 7.)

For a Cardinals team badly in need of a starting pitcher after the death of Darryl Kile, Finley fit the bill, going 7-4 with a 3.80 ERA the rest of the way. While Crisp has come on to be a productive major leaguer, he had not yet made an appearance in the majors at the time of the trade.

July 31, 2000: Will Clark acquired from the Baltimore Orioles with cash for minor league infielder Jose Leon.

Leon was a 22nd-round draft pick in 1994. He did eventually make the majors for a short time, playing in 88 games during the 2002 through 2004 seasons, hitting just .225. We all remember the spark that Clark gave to the 2000 Cardinals.

July 31, 1997: Mark McGwire acquired from the Oakland A's for pitchers Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews, and Blake Stein.

Ludwick, then 25, was a second-rounder in 1993. At the time of the trade, he had appeared in 11 major league games with an ERA over nine. He would play in 20 more games with three teams in his abbreviated MLB career. Former 36th-rounder Mathews was a durable middle reliever, much like say, a Kiko Calero was before he was traded. Stein, a sixth-rounder in 1994, made his MLB debut the next season following the trade. He eventually logged a 21-28 career record.

I could probably come up with more examples, but I think these should be sufficient.

Wednesday's trade of Double-A outfielder Terry Evans for pitcher Jeff Weaver and cash again illustrates my point.

I suspect Jocketty's positive relationship with Scott Boras, Weaver's agent, helped smooth this deal. With cash included to cover a portion of the $4-plus million due Weaver for the remainder of the season, the Cardinals should still have money in their war chest to add a bat.

Weaver is a good, low-risk, short-term addition for the Cardinals. Even if Dave Duncan cannot restore the 29-year-old to the form that enabled him to win 14 games in 2005, the Cards are not obligated to keep Weaver beyond this season.

Now, I am not saying what will happen over the next three or four weeks, but I am smart enough to know that Walt Jocketty can act without giving up his two important young pitchers. Jocketty should have dispelled any doubters with his action Wednesday night.

And I strongly suspect his dealing is not done.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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