right after the edmonds trade went down, somebody asked me if jimmy was the best player the cards had ever traded away. probably not the best, i answered (they did trade rogers hornsby, after all), but he might be in the top 3 or top 5; i really don't know. and of course, the answer would depend partly on how we define "best." do we mean the player with the best overall career stats? the one with the best current-year stats at the time of the trade? the one who played the best after being traded away?
obviously the question merited in-depth scrutiny, and a corresponding post at VEB. to help answer it, i put together an all-traded team --- the best players at each position who the cardinals dealt away. i defined "best" as, roughly speaking, "cardinalest" --- the guys most steeped in the franchise's tradition and lore. all the guys on this list were long-term redbirds (at least 5 years w/ the franchise) and, generally, contributors to championship teams. in varying degrees, they all were or are franchise icons. so let's get going:
c ted simmons
traded december 12, 1980, with rollie fingers and pete vukovich in exchange for sixto lezcano, lary sorensen, david green, and dave lapoint
talk about controversy . . . . simba was the face of the franchise in the 1970s, the team's best power hitter and a 6-time all-star. he had the bad luck to play in the era of great-hitting catchers (bench, fisk, munson, carter, etc.) and hence was somewhat overshadowed outside of stl, but he gave card fans something to cheer about during a bleak decade; at the time of his departure he ranked 5th on the franchise's all-time home run list and to this day ranks 6th in rbi. whitey herzog had only been the gm for a few months when he dealt this beloved 11-year cardinal away, in a trade that seemed mind-bogglingly lopsided: the cards gave up three all-stars --- their best hitter, best pitcher (vukovich), and a hall of fame relief pitcher they'd acquired only a few days before (fingers) --- for a bunch of players nobody ever heard of. in hindsight, the trade looks brilliant; herzog ended up flipping sorensen for lonnie smith, a crucial part of the '82 championship team; lapoint also contributed to that team, and then goto traded with green and others for jack clark; and lezcano was included in the package that brought ozzie smith to st louis. that course-changing trade put the cardinals on track to get younger, faster, and better defensively. but at the time, we all howled bloody murder --- it looked like herzog, a first-time gm, didn't know what the hell he was doing.
runner-up: tim mccarver, part of the most famous trade in baseball history (ie, the curt flood trade of october 7, 1969)
1b jim bottomley
traded december 17, 1932, to cincinnati for estel crabtree and ownie carroll
i was tempted to list another herzog head-scratcher here, the june 1983 trade that sent keith hernandez to new york, but bottomley was a more significant player to the franchise. the starting first baseman on its first four pennant-winners (1926, 28, 30, and 31), sunny jim spent 11 years in st louis and remains a prominent figure on the franchise leaderboards --- 8th in batting average and homers; 9th in slugging, runs, and hits; 7th in doubles; and 3d in rbi. it was a classic branch rickey trade --- bottomley was 32 years old, past his prime but at the height of his earning power. crabtree took only 34 at-bats for the cardinals and then got sent to the minors, not returning to big-league ball for 8 years; carroll got traded a few weeks later for dazzy vance, a 42-year-old hall of fame pitcher who hung on long enough to get a world series ring w/ the gashouse gang in 1934. . . . . . . bottomley, like many an ex-cardinal of that era, came back to st louis at the end of his career to finish up his playing days with the browns.
runners-up: hernandez and johnny mize, traded by rickey at age 29 after the 1941 season to help open a spot in the lineup for a kid named musial.
2b rogers hornsby
traded december 20, 1926 to the new york giants for frankie frisch and jimmy ring
today marks the 81st anniversary of the trade. it happened only a couple months after player-manager hornsby had led the cardinals to their first world championship; nice job, thanks a lot, now get lost. another branch rickey special --- hornsby had just turned 30 (a key treshhold in rickey's mind) and had a poor season in 1926 by his own standards --- he batted just .317 after 5 straight years at .384 or above. hornsby still had a few great years left --- he won the mvp award in 1929 and led the cubs to the nl pennant --- but frisch was 3 years younger and made less money. he played on 4 st louis pennant winners and 2 world champions, managing the gashouse gang to a world title in 1934.
runner-up: red schoendienst, dealt to the new york giants on june 14, 1956 in an 8-player deal engineered by frank "trader" lane. alvin dark and whitey lockman were the main players who came to st louis.
ss marty marion
he actually was never traded; bill walsingham released him in october 24, 1951, after marion missed the entire 1951 season. interestingly enough, noteworthy cardinal shortstops tend to leave the franchise by means other than trade; marion was released, ozzie retired, and renteria and eckstein left via free agency. the only two who were traded were dick groat and garry templeton, and neither one really seemed to fit on this list. groat did play a big role on on championship team ('64), but he only played in st louis for 3 seasons. templeton was here for 6 years but didn't play on winning teams and left with a legacy that's more negative than positive. so i bent the rules here a little bit and chose marion, who was 32 years old at the time of the release and one of several regulars (along w/ musial, slaughter, and schoendienst) still on hand from the cards' early-40s juggernaut. but that team (not unlike the current one) had been held together too long; enos and red would follow him out the door in the ensuing years, and the team would slog through the 1950s with only The Man to remind them of the glory years. marion signed with the brownies a month or so after the cards let him go.
3b ken boyer
traded october 20, 1965, to the new york mets for charley smith and al jackson
lotta parallels here to the edmonds trade. like edmonds, boyer was an almost hall-of-famer who ranks among the best fielders of all time at his position. although just a year removed from his mvp season, he was in obvious decline at the time of the trade --- barely a league-average hitter, and no longer a gold-glove defender. the breakup of the 1964 champs bears a lot of similarity to the abrupt breakup of the 2006 champs; the '64 cards were held together for one lackluster year (80-81) and then torn asunder, with the entire heart of the lineup (groat, boyer, and bill white) sent packing within an 8-day period after the 1965 season. it was particularly cruel to deal boyer to the pathetic mets. at the time he was dealt boyer ranked 4th all-time on the franchise list in games and at-bats; 5th in runs, hits, and rbi; and 2d in homers.
runner up: nobody of note.
lf joe medwick
traded june 12, 1940, with curt davis to the brooklyn dodgers for 4 guys and $125,000 in cash.
you wanna talk salary dumps? medwick was only 28 years old, 3 years removed from a triple crown season and riding a five-year run of consecutive all-star appearances. the cardinals got four plowhorses in exchange for him; it was virtually a straight cash sale. but cut rickey some slack; the great depression was still in force, and the cardinals were richer in prospects than dollars --- enos slaughter had arrived the previous year, and stan musial was on the horizon. besides, medwick (though still shy of the deadly age-30 mark) appeared to be slipping; he hit only 14 hrs in 1939 and just 3 in the first quarter of the 1940 schedule. at the time of the trade he was slugging only .437. he bounced back (they all do) and helped the dodgers to a pennant the following year, but it was his last great season; after age 30, medwick would never again hit more than 7 homers in a year.
runner-up: chick hafey, traded on april 11, 1932 to the reds for a coupla nobodies.
traded december 15, 2007, for david freese
this is a very crowded field. the cardinals have a long tradition of outstanding centerfielders, and nearly all of them get dumped at some point. taylor douthit, the cf on the 26, 28, and 30 pennant winners, got traded to cincinnati in mid-1931 (right after he turned 30; branch rickey strikes again). curt flood, you all know about; willie mcgee got dumped in late 1990 for 3 prospects; and ray lankford was launched in august 2001 for woody williams. while the flood trade fascinates for its repercussions in the labor arena, it's a pretty interesting transaction to pick apart at a pure baseball level. the cardinals packaged up the two longest-tenured mainstays of their 1960s dynasty --- flood and mccarver, both of whom debuted in the late 1950s --- with their best relief pitcher (joe hoerner), in exchange for one very troubled superstar who couldn't play defense and couldn't stay healthy. allen got traded a year later for ted sizemore, a nice little player but a pretty scanty return on the bloc of veteran talent the cards dealt away. . . . . like the '64 team, the 67-68 team got blown apart pretty fast. within two off-seasons, the cards had parted ways with four regulars (maris, cepeda, mccarver, and flood) and a big chunk of the bench. they were back in contention from 1971-75 but always came up a pitcher or 3 short.
rf enos slaughter
traded april 11, 1954, to the yankees for bill virdon and a coupla throw-ins
if he hadn't missed 3 years of his prime fighting in world war ii, slaughter would rank in the franchise's all-time top 3 in nearly every counting-stat category. even with the missed time he's in the top 5 on nearly every list. he was 37 years old when the dealt him, preparing for his 14th season in st louis; he sobbed at his locker when he learned of the trade, and not even the chance to play for the 5-time-defending world champ yankees could console him. the cards got a fine player in exchange, albeit one who was still a year away; virdon won the rookie of the year award in 1955. the following year trader lane, outsmarting himself as usual, flipped virdon to pittsburgh for a couple of lesser players.
runner-up: george hendrick, traded december 12, 1984, to the pirates for john tudor.
i ran out of time and won't be able to go into the pitchers; the rotation would include dizzy dean, harry brecheen, curt simmons, and mort cooper. to get back to the original question: i'd say the "best" player the cardinals have ever traded away has got to be hornsby, with boyer edmonds slaughter and medwick in the 2 through 5 slots --- arrange them however you want.