Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Cardinal Trades - 1997

The 1997 St. Louis Cardinals looked to be a team on the rise. They were coming off of a season in which they won 88 games and had the Braves down 3 games to 1 in the NLCS before dropping 3 games in a row. Most of the team was returning in 1997, with rookies Dmitri Young and Matt Morris ready to lend a hand to the cause. Free agent acquisition Delino DeShields was the only move made outside of the organization to improve the team.

Unfortunately, 1997 just wasn't meant to be in St. Louis. Brian Jordan, Donovan Osborn, and Alan Benes all missed considerable time to injuries, while Ron Gant and Gary Gaetti saw their production drop off in a major way. The end result was kind of odd - the Cardinals found themselves going after Mark McGwire despite their not being in the playoff hunt and him being in the last year of his contract. The gamble paid off as Big Mac enjoyed the fans of St. Louis and decided to ink a 4 year deal with the Redbirds, setting a trend of big name players coming to St. Louis for a discount. That was the only trade pulled off by Walt Jocketty for the 1997 season - but what a trade it was.

The Cardinals send Eric Ludwig, T.J. Matthews, and Blake Stein to the Athletics for Mark McGwire.

Ludwig didn't do much before or after playing with the Cardinals. After leaving St. Louis, the A's got 24 innings out of him in 1997 with an 8.25 ERA. The A's ended up dealing him to Florida for Kurt Abbot during the off-season of that year. Overall, Ludwig went 2-8 with an 8.11 ERA over 3 seasons after leaving St. Louis.

Matthews was the best of the bunch sent away for McGwire. He actually played for Oakland from the time of the trade until the middle of the 2001 season, when the A's released him. He was then signed by the Cardinals in 2001, giving them 14.2 innings and a 3.07 ERA during the push for the pennant. He played for Houston in 2002, which was his last season in baseball. Overall, the reliever was 25-15 with a 4.60 ERA post-trade.

Blake Stein may have helped the A's the most, but in an indirect manner. Stein was with the A's until the trade deadline in 1999 when he was packaged with Jeff D'Amico and Brad Rigby for Kevin Appier, who was a big part of the A's 2000 playoff team. Stein himself had a couple of decent seasons as a starter for the Royals. Overall he finished his career after the 2002 season with a 21-28 record, 5.41 ERA after leaving the Cardinal organization.

Mark McGwire joined the Cardinals with 34 home runs - the most ever traded away at the deadline, if memory serves correct. He hit 24 more in St. Louis, giving him 58 on the year - the most in the majors. He actually led the A's in home runs on the season, and had the 2nd most for the Cardinals (Lankford led with 31 that year.) And, of course, you all know the rest. He hit 70 in 1998, 65 more in 1999. There is plenty of controversy surrounding Mark McGwire these days, but no matter what you think about his accomplishments you have to concede a couple of points. One, as mentioned above, McGwire started the trend of bigger name players signing with the team rather than testing free agency. (McGwire lobbied Jim Edmonds, for example, after his trade to St. Louis.) Two, it is very likely that Mark McGwire and the excitement generated by his power hitting was a large part of getting the new stadium approved in St. Louis.

Win Share Totals

Mark McGwire - 109 Win Shares (Parts of 5 years in St. Louis)

Eric Ludwig - 0 Win Shares (3 years)
T.J. Matthews - 20 Win Shares (6 years)
Blake Stein - 18 Win Shares (5 years)

1997 Totals

Win Shares acquired by St. Louis - 109

Win Shares given up by St. Louis - 38

Net Win Shares gained by St. Louis - 71, or roughly 24 wins.

Running Totals (1996-1997)

Win Shares acquired by St. Louis - 192

Win Shares given up by St. Louis - 177

Net Win Shares gained by St. Louis - 15, or roughly 3 wins.

After just two years of becoming the GM of the St. Louis Cardinals, Walt Jocketty had received more value than he had given up in trades. It is worth mentioning, however, that the Bernard Gilkey trade actually ate up a lot of the advantages that Jocketty received when he picked up Big Mac. Here is the updated table for WS over time.

1996, -5, -2
1997, 9, 3
1998, 40, 13
1999, -7, -2
2000, 3, 1
2001, -11, -4
2002, -8, -3
2003, -3, -1
2004, -3, -1

As you can see by the above numbers, the biggest benefit to the Cardinals provided by Mark McGwire (and the other players traded for by Jocketty) came in 1998, when the team won 13 more games than they would have by simply promoting their farm sytem. Another item of note is that McGwire had more win shares than the players the Cardinals traded for him every year but 2001. That season, McGwire had 8 WS, while Stein had 7 and Matthews had 2. Personally? It was worth it.

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