Whenever someone familiar with the Cardinals goes on a diatribe about the great lopsided trades that have worked in favor of the team, the Ernie Broglio for Lou Brock deal nearly always gets mentioned. What about the trades that didn’t work out so well for the Redbirds? Do people find no value in evaluating such deals in hindsight? Of course some do, and I’m all about second guessing. Here are quite possibly the worst 10 deals made by the Cardinals in the past 30 years (in no particular order).
- Brendan Ryan to the Seattle Mariners for Maikel Cleto – December 12, 2010. The Mariners have coughed up just $1M in 2011 and the pro-rated amount to date of $1.75M for 2012 (about $1.3M) for the best defensive shortstop in baseball. For that tidy sum of just about $2.3M, they have received 7.1 WAR in return. Granted, Cleto remains a work in progress, but his 13.1 innings in the big leagues have been part of a painful learning process thus far.
- Daric Barton, Kiko Calero, and Dan Haren to the A’s for Mark Mulder – December 18th, 2004. Since leaving St. Louis, Haren has ONLY accounted for 29.1 WAR at a cost of approximately $40M. That includes a record of 109-82 with a 3.56 ERA (ERA+ 119). Meanwhile, Mulder netted a cool $25.3M in exchange for 311 innings for -0.4 WAR. To put that in perspective, the Cardinals paid Mulder $1.15M per pitching win (22-18). Ouch.
- Lonnie Smith to the Kansas City Royals for John Morris – May 17, 1985. Skates went on to produce a measly 21.4 WAR for the Royals, Braves, and Orioles combined. Morris went on to play 7 season for the Cardinals and produced something in the neighborhood of -0.9 WAR.
- Jess Todd and Chris Perez to the Indians for Mark DeRosa – June 27th, 2009. Since the beginning of the 2010 season, Perez has notched 88 saves while holding down his ERA to 2.82 (ERA+ 139). Also, he turned 27 just last month and goes into this offseason as a 2nd year arbitration eligible player. DeRosa (.270 career hitter) never quite gained traction in St. Louis, and he struggled to a .228/.291/.405/.696 line in 68 games with the Cardinals. His latest addition to his body of work in MLB consists of 34 games with the Nationals this season in which he hit .152.
- Placido Polanco, Bud Smith, and Mike Timlin to the Phillies for Doug Nickle, Scott Rolen and cash – July 29th, 2002. During his time with the Cardinals, Rolen accounted for 24.7 WAR for about $60M from 2002-2007. Over the same period of time, Placido Polanco alone posted 21.6 WAR for less than $22M. Mike Timlin produced 7.1 WAR as a pitcher for both the Phillies and the Red Sox from 2002-2007 for approximately $17M.
- Mike Dunne, Mike LaValliere, and Andy Van Slyke to Pittsburgh for Tony Pena – April 1, 1987. Pena went on to handle the catching duties in St. Louis quite admirably, but his 1.7 WAR during his time with the Cardinals probably included the true end to his peak years. After leaving the Cardinals, he actually lost some of his WAR value (-0.9) over another 8 season. Meanwhile, Andy Van Slyke went on to play 1137 games in 9 years with the Pirates and accounted for 29.2 WAR.
- Mark Worrell and Luke Gregerson to the Padres for Khalil Greene – December 4th, 2008. Greene played all of 77 games with the Cardinals in 2009 and hit right at the Mendoza Line. Gregerson was the “player to be named later” in the deal, and he turned into the best part of the trade. He has been pitching in the majors since 2009 and boasts a 3.03 ERA and 1.129 WHIP over 3+ seasons in 265 appearances.
- Tino Martinez to the Rays for Evan Rust and John-Paul Davis November 21st, 2003. Tino only played 2 more years, but he did manage to add 40 HR and 125 RBI to his career totals while sporting a .801 OPS.
- Scott Rolen to the Blue Jays for Troy Glaus – January 14th, 2008. This trade represented a swapping of “risks” in a manner of speaking. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Glaus gave the team 1 good year (2004) and 1 season that consisted of just 14 games (2005). Glaus still gave the team 4.3 WAR over that stretch, but Rolen gave the Blue Jays 8.1 WAR during the same period. Maybe Cardinal fans can console themselves with the fact that the team saved $3M+, but it seems that money would have been better spent on Rolen.
- Keith Hernandez to the Mets for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey on June 15, 1983. Hernandez went on to average about 3.0 WAR per season for 8 years with the Mets and than with the Indians. Allen basically provided the Cardinals with a replacement level pitcher for a few years, and Ownbey only made 21 appearances for St. Louis from 1984-86.
Now, it should be noted here that the full impact of every trade requires additional information to form the bigger picture. Some deals are made for immediacy of impact, to fill a void created by injury, or for financial prudence. Most of these do not fall into those categories. That’s not to say that things would have turned out better or worse in an alternate baseball universe where we can rescind trades years after they happen. We simply cannot know all the possibilities. What we can know is that in hindsight, some of these really set the team back or represent significant missed opportunities.
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