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MLB Trade Deadline: St. Louis Cardinals' 10 Greatest Trades of All Time

Michael SpragueContributor IIJanuary 8, 2017

MLB Trade Deadline: St. Louis Cardinals' 10 Greatest Trades of All Time

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    With the 2012 MLB Trade Deadline upon us, it will be years before the greatness of any deal can truly be measured. Still, St. Louis Cardinals fans wait to see what—if any—moves John Mozeliak and company decide to make.

    Will it be a minor move? Something major and unexpected? Or will the Cardinals front office choose to move forward with the current roster?

    All of these questions and more will be answered by the day's end.

    What will not be answered is the impact any potential deal(s) will have moving forward.

    Luckily for us, the Cardinals have a long, storied history that is filled with trades—some having better outcomes than others.

    Given the exciting buzz that the Trade Deadline always seems to create, lets look back at the 10 greatest trades in Cardinals' team history.

    Before we get started, there are a couple things you should know:

    • The deal must have been a trade—no players who were solely bought or sold were considered.
    • Trades from any part of the season were considered, not just deadline deals
    • Productivity of the players the Cardinals gave up is taken into consideration

    And with that we're off...

Honorable Mentions

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    When you mention "St. Louis Cardinals" and "greatest of all time," you're never short on material. Here are the deals that just missed the cut—appearing in chronological order. 

    June 7, 1981: Joaquin Andujar acquired from the Houston Astros in exchange for Tony Scott

    Andujar played five seasons in St. Louis, twice surpassing the 20-wins mark. He also was an integral part of the Cardinals 1982 World Series Championship.

     

    December 12, 1984: John Tudor and Brian Harper acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for George Hendrick

    Tudor was the key addition here. His 21-8 record and sub-two ERA in 1985 landed him second on the National League Cy Young Award balloting.

     

    August 2, 2001: Woody Williams acquired from the San Diego Padres in exchange for Ray Lankford

    After being acquired late in a playoff race, Williams' 7-1 record—including three complete games—helped St. Louis edge out the Giants for their first ever Wild Card berth. Williams was a key piece on three playoff teams in his four seasons with the Cardinals. 

     

    December 15, 2007: David Freese acquired from the San Diego Padres in exchange for Jim Edmonds

    The 2011 postseason. Need I say more? OK, I will. Freese forever ingrained himself in Cardinal History with one of the most memorable World Series moments ever.

     

    July 25, 2009: Matt Holliday acquired from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen, and Shane Peterson.

    Like the Freese deal, this one is still being played out. Currently, the Cardinals have gotten more out of Holliday than the other three in the deal have combined to produced. Holliday's acquisition became even more valuable once the Cardinals failed to retain Albert Pujols.

10. December 14, 2003

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    Cardinals receive: Adam Wainwright, Jason Marquis and Ray King

    Atlanta Braves receive: J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero

     

    The trade that sent J.D. Drew to Atlanta was a risky one for both teams involved. Four former first round selections were being exchanged.

    Luckily for St. Louis, they got quality production out of each of their three acquisitions.

    Ray King and Jason Marquis strengthened the pitching on the teams of the mid-2000s. They also played key roles in getting the Birds back into playoff contention.

    The third player didn't make his debut until the 2005 season.

    He was worth the wait.

    Adam Wainwright was the clear-cut gem of the deal. Had he not encountered arm troubles, "Wain-o" was expected to contend for the National League Cy Young Award for a third straight season.

    This deal still has room to improve as Wainwright is slowly but surely getting back to form.

    Eli Marrero was decent bench player during his career and the change of scenery did J.D. Drew good. He was clearly struggling to stay healthy and was catching a lot of heat in St. Louis due to high expectations.

9. May 17, 1969

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    Cardinals receive: Joe Torre

    Atlanta Braves receive: Ray Sadecki and Tommy Moore

     

    It is unfortunate for Joe Torre that he joined the National League's most decorated franchise as a championship era faded into mediocrity.

    World championships weren't a part of the 1970s Cardinals accolades. That didn't stop Torre from earning a few of his own.

    The future manager compiled One National League MVP, one National League batting championship and four All-Star selections in his six-year stint that kept the Cardinal name afloat.   

    Veteran Ray Sadecki was a solid bullpen option in his five seasons in a Mets uniform. After that, he had trouble regaining his success.

    Tommy Moore only appeared in 42 games in his entire career.

8. December 9, 1980

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    Cardinals receive: Bruce Sutter

    Chicago Cubs receive: Leon Durham, Ken Reitz and Ty Waller

     

    Bruce Sutter spent only four of his twelve seasons with the Cardinals. He led the league in saves in three of them.

    His 2.72 ERA in that same time span also propelled him into the top five of NL Cy Young voting three times—as a reliever.

    Sutter was a great pitcher even before the Cubs decided to deal him. He was the winner of the 1979 National League Cy Young Award. What Chicago wasn't able to offer Sutter was a World Series Championship.

    He achieved that in his first season with the Redbirds—1982. 

    I'd say he might have taken that into account upon selecting the trademark "STL" logo to be inscribed on his Cooperstown plaque instead of the Chicago "C."

    Talk about adding fuel to the fire. 

    On the other end, Leon Durham had a respectable career with the Northsiders, twice making the All-Star team.

    However, Ken Reitz was in the final years of his playing days and Ty Waller contributed to the minor leagues for the majority of his career.

7. December 5, 1957

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    Cardinals receive: Curt Flood and Joe Taylor

    Cincinnati Reds receive: Marty Kutyna, Ted Wieand and Willard Schmidt

     

    While Joe Taylor only contributed for a season in St. Louis, Curt Flood was staple in center field throughout the greatest decade in team history.

    Flood was a member of three World Series teams—twice a champion.

    His 12 years wearing a Cardinal uniform produced three All-Star appearances and a .293 average.

    Not a bad average for someone who's greatest contribution came on the opposite side of the ball. His seven Gold Gloves speak for themselves.

    Meanwhile, the combined seven professional seasons between Kutyna, Wieand and Schmidt makes up barely half the time Flood served the Cardinals. 

6. July 29, 2002

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    Cardinals receive: Scott Rolen and Doug Nickle

    Philadelphia Phillies receive: Placido Polanco, Mike Timlin, and Bud Smith

     

    Scott Rolen spent the majority of his prime in St. Louis as a central part of the dynamic trio—including Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds—that finished three, four and five the 2004 NL MVP balloting. 

    His prior offensive production carried over from Philadelphia. His defense only seemed to get better with age. 

    Four of his eight Gold Gloves were won with the Birds.

    Rolen took two trips to the Fall Classic in his St. Louis Tenure, cashing in on the 2006 Championship.

    It's a good thing Rolen worked out, as Placido Polanco and Mike Timlin had great production in multiple seasons in their time after St. Louis.

    Bud Smith? Not so much.

5. March 23, 2000

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    Cardinals receive: Jim Edmonds

    Anaheim Angels receive: Kent Bottenfield and Adam Kennedy

     

    Jim Edmonds probably trails only Ozzie Smith on the Cardinals' unofficial jaw-dropping moments list.

    Just when you expected the ball to fall for a hit, Edmonds came diving in out of nowhere.

    Over his head? Not a problem. He could bring back balls that seemingly were headed for the fourth row of the outfield seats on a nightly basis.

    Jimmy Ballgame also swung a pretty hot stick in the process. Six of Edmonds seven career best home run totals were achieved in St. Louis, twice surpassing the 40 mark.

    Edmonds production, while great, was possibly overlooked around the league by the emergence of a rookie sensation in the form of Albert Pujols.

    Still, some of the greatest moments of the Cardinals mid-2000s stranglehold of the National League are accredited to their hot-hitting, high-flying center fielder.

    Edmonds has one World Series title on his St. Louis résumé. 

    Bottenfield spent only one season with the Halos. He pitched sparingly over the next two years before retiring.

    Kennedy never found the lasting success his first-round potential had promised. He has been with five teams in the last five seasons. 

4. October 21, 1981

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    Cardinals receive: Willie McGee

    Yankees receive: Bob Sykes

     

    If you want to talk about great trades, how about one that netted one team an NL MVP, four All-Star selections and four Gold Gloves while the other received literally nothing.

    That's right. McGee had the best nine years of his career in St. Louis.

    No. 51 also managed to sneak his way into the hearts of Cardinal Nation. Many fans continue the plea to have Willie's number retired by the team.

    Retired number or not, McGee's remains one of the most popular players in team history both on and off the field.

    Bob Sykes?

    He never threw another pitch.

3. July 31, 1997

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    Cardinals receive: Mark McGwire

    Oakland Athletics receive: Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews and Blake Stein

     

    Bare with me on this one and put your personal opinions aside.

    Mark McGwire was one of the leagues greatest sluggers at the time of the trade. His presence in St. Louis brought attention back to a Cardinals franchise that flat out stunk for the majority of the 1990s.

    If you don't know what happened in the summer of 1998, you probably live under a rock.

    McGwire's epic home run chase with the Chicago Cubs' Sammy Sosa brought back even the stingiest fans still holding out following the 1994 players strike.

    Big Mac set the tone for the return of the franchise's winning tradition following his acquisition.

    While the majority of his success came from Oakland, you'll have a hard time convincing Cardinal Nation he ever donned another insignia on his cap.

    T.J. Mathews was the most notable of Oakland's return. He posted a 4.78 ERA in 210 games with the Athletics.

2. December 10, 1981

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    Cardinals receive: Ozzie Smith, Steve Mura and Al Olmsted

    San Diego Padres receive: Sixto Lezcano, Garry Templeton and Luis DeLeon

     

    Garry Templeton—the Padres most notable return—was coming off three really good seasons in a Redbirds uniform. His .305 average in six seasons with the team was pretty respectable.

    Smith was a 25-year-old shortstop with a .231 career batting average and a pretty flashy glove.

    What were the Cardinals thinking?

    It doesn't really matter at this point.

    "The Wizard" played out the rest of his Hall of Fame career in St. Louis. He was a member of the 1982 World Champions. 

    Smith was not the offensive juggernaut one would expect to find this high on the list.

    He is, however, arguably the greatest defensive shortstop of all time. Smith's 13 Gold Gloves are tied for fourth most overall and the most of any shortstop. 

    Templeton didn't sniff .300 but once in his 10 seasons away from St. Louis.

    He also didn't back-flip onto the field to start every game. 

1. June 15, 1964

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    Cardinals receive: Lou Brock, Jack Spring and Paul Toth

    Chicago Cubs receive: Ernie Broglio, Bobby Shantz and Doug Clemens

     

    Forget Cardinals' history. This is one of the most lopsided trades in Major League Baseball history.

    Lou Brock went on to have a Hall of Fame career in St. Louis.

    His resume includes two World Series championships, six All-Star game appearances and the second most stolen bases all-time.

    Until 1991, Brock's 931 career stolen bases stood as the all-time mark—a period of 15 years. Brock's 1974 total of 118 is also the second most in a single season in the modern era.

    Ernie Broglio—the centerpiece of the deal for Chicago—had a mediocre career with the Cardinals prior to the trade. However, in Chicago, Broglio pitched in part of only three seasons.

    He never even came close to the sort of production he put up in St. Louis.

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