Cardinals Spring Trades

It would not be unusual for the St. Louis Cardinals to make a trade in February, March or early April that turns out good for them. Brian Walton revisits a dozen such deals over the last quarter century.

Spring doesn't generate the same level of traffic as the primetime around Baseball's Winter Meetings or at the July 31 trade deadline, but neither is it unusual for the St. Louis Cardinals to be active in the trade market around this time of year.

That activity could occur just before, during or at the end of Spring Training. With potential needs in shoring up their 2007 rotation and perhaps the outfield, it is worth keeping in mind for the Cardinals this season, too.

While there was not a major trade every year, and activity in recent years has diminished, there has been enough action to create reason to watch to see if this year adds to this list of transactions.

Another reason to care is that by my assessment, the Cardinals came out on top in nine of their 12 most recent significant spring trades, losing in just three, a pretty good success ratio.

To that end, here is a look back at a dozen notable February, March and early April Cardinals trades in the last 25 years.

Trades are divided into three categories - before, during and at the end of Spring Traning - with the most recent trades in each group listed first.

Trades before Spring Training games

February 13, 1996 – Acquired closer Dennis Eckersley from the Oakland A's in return for Steve Montgomery.

While Eck was nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career, he immediately helped then-new Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan capture a Divisional crown in their first season in St. Louis, the Cards' first title of any kind in ten years.

At the age of 41 and 42 years old, Eckersley saved a total of 66 games for the 1996 and 1997 Cardinals. Montgomery posted a 2-8 career major league record with three saves and a 4.98 ERA for three different clubs.

Win: Cardinals

February 22, 1993 - Acquired second baseman Gregg Jefferies and minor leaguer Ed Gerald from the Kansas City Royals for Felix Jose and Craig Wilson. Jefferies was a former Mets first-rounder who had moved to the Royals in the Bret Saberhagen trade. Manager Joe Torre converted the switch-hitter to first base. Jefferies could always hit, and put together two high-average years (.342 and .325 respectively), and his only All-Star selections as a Cardinal before becoming a free agent following the 1994 season.

Highly-thought of at the time, Jose had come to the Cardinals in return for Willie McGee two years before. But, Jose was never able to replicate his successful 1992 campaign and remained a fringe major leaguer for the next ten years.

Win: Cardinals

February 27, 1990 – Acquired starting pitcher Omar Olivares from the San Diego Padres in return for Alex Cole and Steve Peters.

While hardly a blockbuster trade, Olivares would join the rotation in 1991 and went 11-7 that season. Overall, in five years with the Cards, OO would start 81 games, winning 30 and losing 28. After being released by St. Louis in 1995, he played for at least seven other organizations.

Cole lasted only a few months with San Diego before being shipped to the Cleveland Indians. He was a slap-hitting speed guy who posted an eye-opening 40 stolen bases in his first 63 games that season. He ended up hanging around the bigs for another six years, but couldn't hold down a starting job.

Win: Cardinals

February 9, 1988 – Acquired starting pitcher Jose DeLeon from the Chicago White Sox for Ricky Horton, Lance Johnson and cash.

DeLeon had been an enigma for some time with Pittsburgh and the White Sox. As a Cardinal, he became Whitey Herzog's number one starter and went 16-12 with a 3.05 ERA and took the National League strikeout championship in 1989. However, he lost 19 games the next season and after leaving the Cardinals in 1992, hung around the game as a reliever three more years.

22 years old when traded, Johnson became a long-time outfielder for the White Sox and later, several other teams, playing 14 seasons in all. He stole 327 career bases. Horton won a World Championship with the Dodgers, but is best known in his post-playing career as a Cardinals broadcaster.

Win: White Sox

February 1, 1985 – Acquired first baseman Jack Clark from the San Francisco Giants in return for David Green, Gary Rajsich, Dave LaPoint, and Jose Uribe.

The power-hitting Clark was a key ingredient of the 1985 National League champions, but his broken ankle in September was a crushing blow for his club. After his best season in 1987, 35 home runs and 106 RBIs, Clark bolted the Cardinals over a salary dispute, signing with the Yankees. As with so many others, his career was never the same after leaving St. Louis.

Of the players the Giants received, Uribe had the longest career, playing eight seasons for them, mostly as a reserve middle infielder.

Win: Cardinals

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.

Win: Cardinals

Trades during Spring Training

March 21, 2004 – Acquired second baseman Tony Womack from the Boston Red Sox in return for pitcher Matt Duff.

Womack was a speed burner, but undisciplined hitter, perhaps known best in St. Louis for his series-winning hit for Arizona against the Cardinals in the 2001 playoffs. With no replacement for the departed Fernando Vina at second base, Walt Jocketty added Womack late in Spring Training 2004 from the Red Sox, who had no place to play him.

Womack would put together a most surprising season at age 34, hitting .300 for the only time in his career, stealing 26 of 31 base attempts and playing credible defense. Following that campaign, Womack departed for the Yankees and returned to being a end-of-career baseball vagabond.

Duff, a former independent league pitcher, never returned to the majors with the Red Sox and was back in indy ball by 2006.

Win: Cardinals

March 23, 2000 – Acquired outfielder Jim Edmonds 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 six Division Series in seven years, five League Championship Series, two World Series and one World championship, along with three All-Star Game selections and a Silver Slugger Award.

And, just for the record, Edmonds has 229 home runs and 660 RBI in his seven 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 recently returned to the Cardinals as a free agent.

Win: Cardinals

Trades as Spring Training closes

April 5, 1995 – Acquired starting pitcher Ken Hill from the Montreal Expos for Kirk Bullinger, Bryan Eversgerd, and Da Rond Stovall.

Hill's second stay in St. Louis would last less than four months. (His initial stop was from 1986 through 1991.) Hill posted a 6-7, 5.06 ERA in a partial season before being shipped off to Cleveland for third baseman David Bell.

The three players the Expos received ended up logging a total of 187 undistinguished career major league games.

Win: Cardinals

March 31, 1993 – Acquired outfielder Mark Whiten from the Cleveland Indians for Mark Clark and Juan Andujar.

Hard Hittin' Mark Whiten's main claim to fame was driving in a major league-tying record 12 runs in a single game during 1993. That would be his best season as a major leaguer, with 25 home runs and 99 RBIs for the Cards. Almost two years later, in April, 1995, he was traded to Boston.

Mark Clark went on to win double digits in games three times over the next eight years as a major leaguer, primarily with the Indians and Mets.

Win: Indians

April 1, 1987 – Acquired catcher Tony Pena from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Andy Van Slyke, Mike LaValliere, and Mike Dunne.

Pena had already put up his best years in Pittsburgh by then. Though he hit just .214 in the 1987 regular season, he excelled in the playoffs as the Cards lost to the Twins in the World Series. With Todd Zeile on the horizon, Pena moved to the Red Sox as a free agent after the 1989 season.

Van Slyke and LaValliere would become extremely popular fixtures in the Steel City, helping power Jim Leyland's Pirates to three straight East Division championships from 1990 through 1992.

Win: Pirates

April 2, 1985 – Acquired infielder Jose Oquendo and Mark J. Davis from the New York Mets in return for Angel Salazar and John Young.

What at the time looked like the most minor of trades turned out to be a bonanza for the Cardinals. Though he had started for the Mets at shortstop, the man who would later become the Cards' "Secret Weapon" was considered by the Mets to be too light-hitting to make it.

Oquendo would go on to play ten seasons for the Cardinals as both a starter at second base and as a reserve infielder. He remains with the club today as their third base coach.

Salazar never played for the Cardinals or Mets, but did hit .212 in 886 career at-bats for three other clubs. Neither Davis nor Young reached the majors.

Win: Cardinals



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

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