In the 2003 offseason, the Braves lost their starting right fielder, Gary Sheffield, to the New York Yankees. This left GM John Schuerholz in a tough spot for the outfield. He tried to find cheap options, but nothing seemed more enticing than J.D. Drew, from the St. Louis Cardinals. Drew had never played more than 135 games in a season, including just 100 in 2003. Let’s look at what transpired.
December 13, 2003- The Braves shipped off young right handers Jason Marquis and (gulp) Adam Wainwright, and reliever Ray King in exchange for J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero.
The Braves had seen Marquis struggle since entering the league in 2000. In 2003, they tried to transition him into a reliever with no luck. Some assume the Braves management lost faith in Marquis, but nothing has ever been officially stated. Marquis enjoyed instant success in St. Louis. He accumulated a 3.92 ERA 28-21 record along with a 2005 Silver Slugger Award. He enjoyed luck in those two seasons according to his low strikeout rate, high walk rate, and high WHIP. In 2006, his luck caught up with him as he went 14-16 with a 6.05 ERA, while maintaining his average peripherals. He was not offered a contract in the 2006 offseason and signed with the Cubs.
Ray King was traded by the Brewers to Atlanta the year before in exchange for John Foster and Wes Helms. Individuals believed he was a throw-in in the deal, but the fact is that the Cardinals needs some middle relief help from their bullpen. King offered the Cardinals that stability for two years, and followed through with it. King was an individual who always performed better than his peripherals would indicate. His strikeout and walk rate was similar to Marquis, but King had a knack for not allowing hitters to make good contact with the ball. King was traded in the offseason of 2005 to the Colorado Rockies, where he continued his good work.
Here is the part that hurts. The Braves had a young right handed prospect named Adam Wainwright. The Braves thought that Wainwright’s growth (literally) was going to affect his mechanics, and he would not project to be as high as originally thought. The Braves front office isn’t wrong about a lot, but they were wrong here. He and Marquis received World Series rings from the Cardinals after they beat the Tigers. Wainwright, a reliever at the time, was about to make the switch back to the starting rotation. You know what happened next, right? Let me enlighten you. He’s a perennial CY Young candidate, he strikes out batters, but doesn’t walk them, and he keeps the ball in the yard. Here is an average Adam Wainwright season since his transition to the rotation (I’m combining 2013 and 2008 since it would have been a combined 33 starts): 17-10 record, 3.07 ERA, 218 innings, 185 strikeouts, and just 57 walks. I think it is safe to say that he developed to his projected ceiling. He did miss his 2011 season with Tommy John surgery, but has not lost a beat since returning to the rotation in 2011.
The Braves received Eli Marrero, a catcher by trade, but had proven to be a useful utility player. His offensive numbers were not impressive up to the point of his trade. he owned a .238/.295/.390 slash line in his 525 games with the Cardinals. He did have some power in his bat, as he hit 18 home runs in 2003. Marrero was thought to be a guy thrown in to make it look a little better for the Braves, but he ended up proving very valuable. For the Braves in 2004, he owned a .320/.374/.520 line for the Braves while hitting 10 home runs in 250 at bats. Marrero did all of this while playing the outfield for the Braves, but was also used as a pinch hitter. The Braves traded Marrero a year after they acquired him, in exchange for reliever Jorge Vasquez from the Kansas City Royals. It was thought that the Braves and Marrero did not like each other, but I could not find any documents supporting the claim.
J.D. Drew was the prized commodity in this deal. Drew was the fifth overall pick by the Cardinals in the 1998 draft. He was ranked as the number one prospect in the game in the 1999 season by Baseball America, after making his debut a few months after being drafted. He started his first full year in the major leagues, but had a lackluster line of .242/.340/.420, but that was impressive for a kid that was playing for Florida State a year ago. Drew could never seem to be healthy, which is what held him back from his super stardom in St. Louis. He showed flashes of brilliance, but he could never make it to the field consistently. The Braves were in the hunt for him in that offseason against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were looking to replace Brian Jordan. Both teams were banking on Drew’s potential, but the Braves package was better. Drew enjoyed great success in Georgia, which is where he went to high school. He hit .305/.436/.569 line with 31 home runs to go along with placing sixth in the MVP voting. Drew made it known that he would not take a hometown discount and was looking forward to free agency. The Dodgers inked him to a multi-year deal.
The Cardinals (27.5 WAR) beat the Braves (10.6 WAR) in this trade. Wainwright has been phenomenal for the Red Birds during his tenure there. The Braves got what they wanted from Drew and Marrero, but Wainwright has proven to be more valuable. The Braves scouts don’t usually get ‘em wrong, but they got it wrong here.
Up next for the Braves Bat Acquistion Series? 2006 and Edgar Renteria.
TWEET OF THE NIGHT
Don’t worry, Matt. They don’t have to. Unless they meet in the playoffs…
Oy Oy Oy the strikeouts. No California love for the #Braves bats. I think their West coast privileges should be revoked until 2014.
— Matt Chernoff (@RealMattlanta) June 12, 2013
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