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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Who was the best minor league acquisition in Cardinals history?

The St. Louis Cardinals have a long history of draft success, a key contributor to the club being a perennial contender. When a talent gap occurs, the team has not been hesitant to step into the free agent market when necessary.

Of course, trades are the most common method of trying to improve a club instantly. A proven major leaguer is added who helps spur the team to greater heights. There are many such examples in Cardinals franchise history.

Yet the full benefits of some deals are not immediately evident.

That is the focus of this article. I have been thinking about the best Cardinals that came over from another major league organization while still in the minor leagues, then reaching the big-leagues and becoming a star with St. Louis.

Four names come to mind almost immediately – two from the past and two from the present. Three are in the organization today – two as active players and one in the front office. There are probably others worthy of consideration that I have forgotten.

Julian Javier – The second baseman was acquired from the Pirates in a four-man trade in May 1960 as the Bucs had some guy named Mazeroski playing there. Then in Triple-A, Javier reported to St. Louis and never played another game in the minors. The Dominican native held down second base for a dozen seasons, starting more games at the position than any player in team history. Javier was a two-time all-star and a key member of the great Cardinals teams of the 1960s.

Willie McGee – The former first-round pick was snatched from the Yankees in October 1981 for reliever Bob Sykes and became an immediate star as the 1982 Cardinals won the World Series. McGee won two batting titles and the 1985 National League MVP and he helped lead the Cards to another title in 1987. The four-time all-star won three Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger. McGee spent 13 of his 18 years as a player with St. Louis and is a special assistant to the general manager today.

Adam Wainwright – While the Cardinals received immediate help in pitchers Jason Marquis and Ray King, the jewel of the December 2003 J.D. Drew trade with Atlanta was the Braves’ former first-rounder, Adam Wainwright. Then a 21-year-old in Double-A, Wainwright reached St. Louis to stay in 2006. The right-hander has been integral to two World Championships and is a two-time all-star and Gold Glove Award winner.

David Freese – Forever linked to the Cardinals improbable 2011 World Series comeback, the third baseman was acquired from San Diego in December 2007 for the late-career Jim Edmonds. The local boy first joined St. Louis late in the 2009 season and in addition to the 2011 title, was named a 2012 National League all-star.

Who was the best player acquired as a minor leaguer via trade in Cardinals history?

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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28 Responses to “Who was the best minor league acquisition in Cardinals history?”

  1. Bw52 says:

    McGee for Bob Sykes.A steal for the Cards.Sykes was a average guy and McGee turned into a WS hero and MVP and All-Star.

  2. Bw52 says:

    Any word on who Cards will bring up when Memphis is finished?

  3. blingboy says:

    Wainwright would be hard to beat. Also a WS hero. One of the throw ins in the Drew for Marquis trade.

    Will have to think about some of the longer ago guys.

  4. Bw52 says:

    AW sure stunk today.Somebody wake the offense up also.Bad game all around.

  5. Bw52 says:

    Nice article.Anybody who thinks AW isn`t trying is full of crap.People are disappointed with him lately but people saying he wasn`t trying is plain dumb.For whatever reasons he hit a rocky spot lately even in his wins he hasn`t been himself.It happens to everyone.It just seems like the Reds had his number lately.Still got 25 more to go and Cards need the good Adam not the bad Adam.

    • crdswmn says:

      Thanks BW. Sometimes you surprise me in a good way.

      • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

        Brewers had Blazek throw a short pen last night. They put him in the game at the earliest possible moment, team trailing of course. He induced a couple of pop outs from Martin and Barmes, then struck out Garret Jones. He was nervous, but challenged when he had to. Their color men were clucking like they were told. The point? What dialogue and its contents, between Mo and Melvin made this a personal issue?

        Adam has a problem. It is not a glaring mystery. The question? Does Dave Duncan chime in? Is he being asked? Is he off limits? They are talking about seeing a allot of little things. Ya think? A problem I see, is that Freeman followed him in and used a very retarded delivery when he went to his off speed pitch. Is it contagious? That is never okay, for either of them. Is Chris Carpenter not with the team? Adam, even on his quick delivery slide step, was telegraphing his pitches. Why? Because he doesn’t throw that off speed curve with the slide step ever.
        He did what he could to decoy his disadvantage when it was obviously brought to his attention. But that opened up a whole new can of worms.

        Bottom line. Adam is tiring. He is trying to be a bit more like KLo. Here is lies the problem. The change-up with full tempo is done with grips. As are some of the other off speed pitches. The windup and release are always constant. Adam is breaking all of the rules, and Dusty’s boys are all over it. They are bright and experienced ball players. Adam can recover, if he will admit that that is not his style. He is a good professional pitcher who can do these things with planning by his next start. The mental becomes his challenge. A word with Dave wouldn’t hurt.

        • blingboy says:

          Did anybody else notice the look Wainy gave Yadi as Wainy walked off the mound and Yadi stood there not realizing there were three outs.

          • crdswmn says:

            No I didn’t. What kind of a look was it?

            I had hoped to have a discussion about what might be happening with Waino, but everyone pretty much disappeared after the game was over on all the forums.

            I wonder if he is tipping his pitches. It’s odd that that it is only the Reds that are suddenly having so much success.

            I did see someone on another forum suggest that Waino needs to pitch inside more.

            He could also just be hitting a wall, but getting some rest is going to be difficult now.

            • blingboy says:

              This was after he had been knocked around a couple innings and had that ice man look on his face out there. Not happy, don’t f*** with me look. Then he gets the third out and walks off the mound. Then he gives that same look toward the plate, and the booth guy says Yadi doesn’t know there are three outs. Later, Yadi left with some kind of injury. Don’t know if he was distracted with some physical issue.

              As to what is wrong. His control seems off. Other than some of the curves he snapped off pretty good, not much movement. He didn’t seem to be fooling anybody, so tipping is possible. He didn’t seem to get worse at the pitch count rose, so I tend to think it is not a physical/injury issue. Maybe just going through a dead arm spell. Maybe mentally fatigued.

              Basically, if he bombs again next time, I will get worried.

              • crdswmn says:

                Matheny suggested in the post game interview that tipping was something that would be looked at. If he is doing it I hope they figure it out, because if the Reds have caught on, other teams will too.

                I am already worried. And having to wade through all the BS that people post about it is getting me down. I don’t understand people who think they have to demean players on the internet. It’s not helpful.

              • blingboy says:

                I doubt tipping is all it is. Part maybe.

                He went through a rocky stretch prior to his last two wins. Do you think it is related?

                • crdswmn says:

                  I don’t know, could be. We never get anything but the feel goods and cliches about these things so it’s hard to pin anything down. I understand why they don’t say stuff in public, but it lends itself to people making up all kinds of crazy things to explain it

                  Whatever it is, I hope it gets straightened out. My nerves are about shot.

                • blingboy says:

                  I’m not as Waino-centric as you, but will feel better if he does well next time. Truthfully, even after all the bad starts lately, I worry more about the offense. It disappears for long streatches and is utterly unable to rise to an occassion. The team really looks a lot like last year’s team. A lot like it.

                  Time to turn in.

                  • crdswmn says:

                    Yes, the offense is definitely a problem. People tend to always blame pitching first.

                    Waino-centric? That sounds a little creepy. I really like him, but my life is not centered around him. I have too many other issues to worry about.

                    Good night. I’m subbing tomorrow so won’t be on the forums as much during the day. I’m anxious to hear what other call ups may be occurring.

  6. crdswmn says:

    Brian Stull at 101 ESPN is also making a case that Waino might be tipping his pitches.

    • blingboy says:

      That bandwagon has gotten popular.

      I forgot to mention I heard Dave Duncan on 101 the other day with Chris. Before Wainy’s start. He was practically drooling over Siegrist. Also, was wanting to wait and see about Wacha, specificlly whether he has what it takes to be a #1. He said Kelly could the #2 from here on out this year, but doubts he will be used as such.

      (I tend to think about how Lynn has a history of reeling off a string of wins, then seemingly turning into Mr Hyde. So far, Kelly hasn’t stayed in the rotation long enough to find out if he’d do the same.)

      I’m sure DD is still going through a grieving process and re-configuring his life, etc., but if he needs something to do, the Cards could use his help, in any capacity.

      • crdswmn says:

        I know that you don’t have much use for sabermetrics, bling, but Joe. Kelly’s numbers indicate he has a significant regression in his future. He has a large differential between his ERA and his FIP and an abnormally high LOB%. I wouldn’t expect his current performance to continue.

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