In December 2003, the Atlanta Braves sent then-minor league pitcher Adam Wainwright to the St. Louis Cardinals in a deal that centered on outfielder J.D. Drew. (Another player going to St. Louis in that trade is still active - by a thread – Cincinnati’s Jason Marquis.)
As the history books remind us, Drew spent just one year in Atlanta before joining the Los Angeles Dodgers and later, the Boston Red Sox before retiring a career underperformer – at least compared to expectations - at the age of 35.
Wainwright, who reached the Majors in the 2005 season, continues a decade later as one of the game’s best pitchers. Though he is out for the remainder of the 2015 season due to an Achilles injury, the scale of this trade is forever clearly tipped in St. Louis’ direction.
This past winter, the tables were turned as the Cardinals needed an outfielder this time, after the death of Oscar Taveras. They sent a young, promising pitcher to the Braves in Shelby Miller in a package in which Jason Heyward moved to St. Louis. As was Drew, the latter is a potential lame duck - eligible to become a free agent following the 2015 season.
In the early going, the Miller side of the trade looks very strong. The third-year Major Leaguer carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning last Sunday and sports National League-bests in ERA (1.33) and WHIP (0.83) with 43 strikeouts against 16 walks in 54 innings.
On the other hand, Heyward is batting just .245 with career lows in both OBP (.300) and slugging (.388), and therefore, OPS. Trying to get the 25-year-old started, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has tried Heyward in just about every spot in the batting order – including the leadoff spot, a move which seemed to cause a fair amount of controversy in Atlanta last season.
Of course, while every trade can be and probably is re-evaluated every single day – at least on Twitter - the final score on most deals will take at least several years to tabulate fairly.
The mention of Miller leads to my message for this week.
One of the most active trade probers in National League Tout Wars is BaseballHQ’s Phil Hertz. Last week in this space, I outlined a swap we made in which I received Marco Gonzales in return for Pedro Strop.
This time around, Hertz e-mailed the entire league with his offer. Seizing on Miller’s two-hitter, he placed the right-hander on the trade table the very next day. The stated price was a closer and a hitting upgrade.
Having made the highest bid for formerly-dependable, now manager-killing and deposed closer Steve Cishek on draft day meant I was excluded from consideration for this deal.
Despite that and the fact he apparently was unable to close a trade, I admired what Hertz was trying to do. Whether or not he believes Miller’s value has peaked, Hertz decided to gauge interest on a red-hot player. He did it with a clearly-stated set of needs.
That way, others could make a quick evaluation. First of all, do I believe that Miller will continue to pitch well? Second, do I have what may be needed to close the deal? Finally, would I be willing to move into negotiations?
When making unsolicited trade offers, follow Hertz’ lead, but make sure you don’t stop there. If you are the seller, be ready to immediately follow up on each and every response, no matter how bad you think the counter offer may be.
From the other end, there is nothing worse than replying positively to these kinds of inquiries, only to not receive an acknowledgement of any kind. Next time, you might be branded as a difficult trader and may be left out of consideration for future offers.
Why limit your own options?
Just do these simple things and your odds of closing a deal – this time and down the road as well – are bound to increase.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.