Cardinals Drafts: 1996

The first in a series looking back at recent Cardinals drafts, starting in 1996.

The story of the 1996 Draft was the revelation of a loophole in the Professional Baseball Agreement that allowed four first-round picks to become free agents and cash in for a combined $30 million. Though it didn't affect the Cardinals, it actually came very close.

The loophole was the result of violations to Rule 4(E) of the PBA, which required teams to make a formal contract offer to every pick within 15 days of the draft. First challenged by Scott Boras, who represented the 12th overall pick, Bobby Seay, the loophole had been a part of the PBA since at least 1990, but had never before been made an issue.

In addition to Seay, the other three players to be granted free agency were Travis Lee, Matt White and John Patterson. Lee and Patterson ended up signing with the expansion Diamondbacks, getting $10 million and $6.075 million respectively. The Devil Rays, also an expansion team, snagged up the other two players, giving $10.2 million to White and $3 million to Seay. Going into the 2007 season, Patterson is the only one with a guaranteed spot on a major league roster and White has already announced his retirement. Lee and Seay will both be trying to earn their way onto major league rosters with minor league deals.

What most people probably don't remember is that six other players filed similar grievances, including the Cardinals' first-round pick, Braden Looper. However, the Cardinals came to an agreement with the right-hander before Major League Baseball made a decision and it is believed that he became the first draft pick in Cardinals history to receive a seven-figure signing bonus, getting $1.675 million.

A complete listing of the Cardinals draft picks from '96 can be found below, but first we will take a look at the five players drafted by the Cardinals that made it to the major leagues (or NFL), two of which are actually with the club today.


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Braden Looper (1st round)

Rated as the top college prospect by Baseball America, Looper was taken third overall by the Cardinals. He made his major league debut for the team in 1998, appearing in four games, but was traded to Florida with Pablo Ozuna and Armando Almanza for Edgar Renteria following the season.

Looper became the Marlins all-time leader in games pitched on August 21, 2002, with appearance number 275, passing Antonio Alfonseca. He saved a total of 41 games for the Marlins in 2002 and 2003 and also won a World Series ring with the club before signing a two-year $6.75 million deal with the Mets to become their closer prior to the 2004 season. He appeared in 71 games in 2004, posting a 2.70 ERA and 29 saves. Pitching with a sore shoulder in 2005, Looper appeared in a career-low 60 games for the Mets. Following the season, he underwent arthroscopic surgery to clean out the AC joint in his right shoulder.

The Mets decided to let him go, declining his option, and he returned to the Cardinals on a three-year, $13.5 million deal. In 2006, he won his second World Series ring and a career-high nine games pitching out of the bullpen in the post-season. In 69 regular-season appearances, he posted a 3.56 ERA, allowing 76 hits, striking out 41 and walking 20 in 73.1 innings. He will apparently compete for a spot in the Cardinals 2007 rotation, despite the fact that he has not started a game since 1997 when he made 12 starts for Prince William in the Carolina League.


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Brent Butler (3rd round)

Butler was the Cardinals next pick following Looper due to the fact that they lost their second round pick to the Cincinnati Reds as compensation the signing of Ron Gant, who was a Type A free agent.

Following the '99 season, the Cardinals traded Butler, along with Manny Aybar, Rich Croushore and Jose Jimenez to the Colorado Rockies for Darryl Kile, Luther Hackman and Dave Veres. He split the 2001-03 seasons between the majors and Triple-A, and played in 113 games for the Rockies in 2002.

Butler signed a minor league contract with the Cardinals in 2004 and was invited to spring training, but failed to make the team and was released. He then signed on with the Braves, spending the entire season in Double-A, and then joined the Devil Rays in 2005, again spending the entire season in Double-A. He remained with Tampa Bay in 2006, moving up to Triple-A, and will likely return there in 2007, having just recently re-signed with the club. He did not get an invitation to big league camp, however.

Isaac Byrd (11th round)

Byrd, a St. Louis native who attended Parkway Central High school in Chesterfield, was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 73rd round in 1993, but decided to play baseball and football at the University of Kansas instead. He chose to sign with his hometown team, the Cardinals, in 1996 when they selected him in the 11th round. The outfielder played in just 23 games for Rookie-level Johnson City, hitting .275 with two home runs, 15 RBI and five stolen bases, before leaving to fulfill a commitment to play his senior year as a wide receiver for the Jayhawks' football team. He never played another game in the Cardinals organization.

In April, 1997, Byrd was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the sixth round and chose to sign. He didn't make it with the Chiefs, but was picked up by Tennessee and played in six games for the team that season. He made two receptions for the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV against the St. Louis Rams. His best season was 2001 when he made 37 receptions for 492 yards, playing in 15 games. Byrd retired following the 2002 season.


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Randy Flores (21st round)

Yes, this is the same Randy Flores that just signed a two-year, $1.8 million contract extension with the Cardinals. He was the club's 21st round draft pick in ‘96, but opted to return to USC for his senior season. This ended up being a pretty good decision, as he moved up to the ninth round in '97 and signed with the Yankees.

Flores spent five seasons in the Yankees system before they dealt him to Texas as a player-to-be-named-later in a 2001 trade for Randy Velarde. He made his major league debut with the Rangers in 2002, but after posting a 4.50 ERA in 20 appearances, he was placed on waivers and picked up by the Rockies. He appeared in eight games for the Rockies that season and spent all of 2003 at Triple-A Colorado Springs.

The Cardinals signed Flores after he became a free agent. He began the 2004 season at Triple-A Memphis where he posted a 3.82 ERA in 36 appearances, 15 of which were starts, and earned a late-season promotion to St. Louis. Flores replaced Steve Kline as a key left-handed reliever out of the Cardinals bullpen in 2005, posting a 3.46 ERA in 50 appearances. 2006 was his first full season in the majors, despite the fact that he struggled somewhat, posting a 5.62 ERA in 65 appearances.


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Stubby Clapp (36th round)

A late round draft pick, Richard "Stubby" Clapp toiled in the Cards' minor league system for nearly six seasons before being called up in June, 2001. He instantly became a fan favorite in St. Louis, getting a standing ovation after striking out in his first major league at-bat. Despite the fact that he hit just .200 in 23 games for the Cardinals that season and has not returned to the majors since, Cardinals fans will always remember the scrappy 5-foot-8 middle infielder.

He became even more popular in Memphis, however, where he spent the better-part of four seasons (1999-2002) playing for the Triple-A Redbirds. He was often referred to as the "Mayor of Memphis" and still makes his home in the city today.

After becoming a free agent following the 2002 season, Clapp signed on with the Braves for one season before moving on to the Toronto system where he spent 2004 season. The Canadian played for Team Canada in both the 2004 Summer Olympics and 2006 World Baseball Classic. He has spent the past two seasons playing for the Edmonton Cracker-Cats of the independent Northern League and is currently deciding whether to retire or return to the Cracker-Cats for another season.

1996 Draft Picks

1. Braden Looper, rhp, Wichita State University.
2. Choice to Reds as compensation for Type A free agent Ron Gant.
3. Brent Butler, ss, Scotland County HS, Laurinburg, N.C.
4. Bryan Britt, of, Univesity of North Carolina-Wilmington.
5. Jeff Rizzo, 3b, La Jolla (Calif.) HS.
6. Jim Gargiulo, c, University of Miami.
7. Kevin Sheredy, rhp, UCLA.
8. Dave Schmidt, c, Oregon State University.
9. Shawn Hogge, rhp, Western HS, Las Vegas.
10. Cordell Farley, of, Virginia Commonwealth University.
11. Isaac Byrd, of, University of Kansas.
12. Rodney Eberly, 3b, Highland Community (Kan.) JC.
13. Lance Smith, rhp, Dickinson (Texas) JC.
14. Steve Norris, lhp, Tyler (Texas) JC.
15. Greg Heffernan, rhp, St. Andrews Presbyterian (N.C) College.
16. Stacy Kleiner, c, University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
17. Keith Gallagher, rhp, Murray State University
18. William Goodson, lhp, Troup County HS, LaGrange, Ga.
19. Keith Finnerty, 2b, St. John's University.
20. Ryan Darr, ss, Corona (Cailf.) HS.
21. Randy Flores, lhp, University of Southern California.
22. Paul Tanner, ss, University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
23. Nathan Rice, lhp, Cal State Northridge.
24. Jason Pollock, rhp, West Liberty State (W.VA.) College.
25. Andrew Gordon, rhp, James Madison University.
26. Patrick Driscoll, lhp, University of Nebraska.
27. Greg Montgomery, rhp, University of Central Arkansas.
28. Tim Onofrei, rhp-of, Albertson (Idaho) College.
29. Mark Nussbeck, rhp, Bellevue (Neb.) College.
30. Orvin Matos, c, Utuado, P.R.
31. Brian Mazurek, 1b, College of St. Francis (Ill.).
32. Steven Doherty, ss, Los Angeles CC.
33. Brad Kennedy, 3b, Southwest Missouri State University.
34. Ryan Kritscher, 2b-of, University of California, Santa Barbara.
35. Paul Wilders, 3b, Siena College.
36. Stubby Clapp, 2b, Texas Tech.
37. Clint Weibl, rhp, University of Miami.
38. Greg Johnson, rhp, Okeechobee (Fla.) HS.
39. Daniel Pierce, of, Jurupa Valley HS, Mira Loma, Calif.
40. Clay Hawkins, c-of, Seminole (Okla.) JC.
41. John Tuttle, rhp, San Marino (Calif.) HS.
42. Ryan Roberts, 3b, Brigham Young University.
*Source: Baseball America Draft Almanac

Jason Scott can be reached via email at jasonscott@thecardinalnation.com.

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