Adam Wainwright to the Cardinals Is a Trade Worth Revisiting

Adam Wainwright
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Adam Wainwright will go down as one of the most dominant pitchers of his era. Having pitched so long for the St. Louis Cardinals, it’s hard to imagine Wainwright in any other jersey. However, he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2000. He became a Cardinal via trade following the 2003 season while in the minor leagues. The transaction was beneficial for both ball clubs, but the inclusion of Wainwright and his future success with St. Louis made this a lopsided trade. 

Adam Wainwright Trade

The Deal

December 13, 2003 

To the St. Louis Cardinals: Ray King, Jason Marquis, and Adam Wainwright 

To the Atlanta Braves: J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero 

Atlanta Braves 

The 2003 Braves won their 9th straight NL East division title with 101-61. Following an NLDS loss to the Chicago Cubs in 2003, the Braves wanted to add another offensive bat to a line-up. Despite the 2004 Braves being favored to win the NL East, they knew their window for another championship was closing. 

As a result, general manager John Schuerholz made a trade that affected both teams for the next two decades. He decided to trade for Cardinals’ right fielder J.D. Drew, one year away from free agency. During the 2004 season,  Drew did not disappoint. In 145 games, Drew had a .305/.436/.539 with 31 home runs and 93 RBI. He led the Braves in WAR with 8.3 and finished sixth in the MVP voting. 

Furthermore, the deal was Cuban-born outfielder Eli Marrero. In his 90 games for the Braves, Marrero had a .320/.374/.520 with ten home runs and 40 RBI. Unfortunately, the 2004 Atlanta Braves lost to the Houston Astros in the NLDS. Following the 2004 season, the Braves sent Marrero to Kansas City for relief pitcher Jorge Vasquez. J.D. Drew entered free agency and signed a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the end, Drew retired after the 2011 season as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

St. Louis Cardinals 

The 2003 Cardinals finished the season 85-77. With this in mind, the biggest problem for St. Louis was their pitching staff. Their team ERA with 4.60 (11th in the NL), 13th in hits allowed, 12th in earned runs, 15th in home runs, and 12th in strikeouts. If the Cardinals wanted to contend, they needed better pitching. As a result, they acquired starting pitcher Jason Marquis and reliever Ray King. In the 2004 season, Marquis had a 15-7 with a 3.71 ERA in 201, and 1/3 innings pitched. King had an ERA of 2.61 in 62 innings thrown. By far King’s best season in the Major Leagues. 

In contrast, the Cardinals improved drastically as the team was 2nd best in the NL with an ERA of 3.75, 2nd in hits allowed, and 1st in the NL in Runs Allowed. The 2004 Cardinals used this momentum to finish the season with a 105-57 record and won the pennant. Although they were not successful in winning the World Series in 2004, they won 2 years later and acquired a generational talent in the process. Despite the effect, it was not being immediate. The St. Louis Cardinals won this trade. 

Here Comes Wainwright 

In 2003, Wainwright was a 21-year-old starter with the Double-A Greenville Braves. Furthermore, he had a 10-8 with a 3.37 ERA in 149 and 2/3 innings pitched. Then, the trade to St. Louis saw Wainwright promoted to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds. After a rough 2004 season, Wainwright had a great 2005 ending with his major league debut on September 11. 

After earning a spot on the 2006 major league roster, Wainwright became a 2006 World Series Champion, 3-time All-Star, 2-time Gold Glove winner, and the 2017 NL Silver Slugger as a pitcher. In addition, Wainwright recorded the final three outs of the 2006 World Series for St. Louis. Wainwright’s other notable performances include throwing eight innings in Game 4 of the 2012 NLCS against the San Francisco Giants and a complete game in a win or go home Game 5 of the 2013 NLDS against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Wainwright’s best game of his career comes in the 9th inning of Game 7 in the 2006 NLCS. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, he strikes Carlos Beltran to end the game and send the Cardinals to the World Series. After all, it was the only time an NL team eliminated the New York Mets at Shea Stadium during its 44-year tenure. The only other pitcher to stop the Mets at Shea Stadium was Mariano Rivera in the 2000 World Series. 

Also worth noting that Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina are fourth all-time for most games started between a pitcher and catcher with 305 games and counting. Wainwright has a career record of 184-105. Not to mention a career ERA of 3.35 over 2300 innings pitched and over 2000 strikeouts. On the other hand, Wainwright intends to retire following the 2022 season, a career that could have been different had he not been traded to the Cardinals organization back in 2003. 


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Players Mentioned:

John Schuerholz, J.D. Drew, Eli Marrer, Jorge Vasquez, Jason Marquis, Ray King, Carlos Beltran, Mariano Rivera, Yadier Molina