November 16, 1999: Cardinals trade for Darryl Kile

In November 1999, it was no secret that the Colorado Rockies were looking to shop Darryl Kile and his $8 million salary.

In two seasons in Colorado, the former Astros ace had gone just 21-30 with a 5.84 ERA, including a career-high 17 losses in 1998.

It was a far cry from the success Kile previously enjoyed in Houston. His peak had come in 1997, when as a 28-year-old he went 19-7 with a 2.57 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 255 2/3 innings. That season, he was recognized with his second all-star game appearance and finished fifth in the National League MVP voting.

By trading Kile, the Rockies hoped to free up enough money to sign free agent left-hander Chuck Finley. The Rockies recently had hired former Angels manager and pitching coach Marcel Lachemann and hoped that his relationship with Finley would give them an edge in acquiring the 14-year veteran.[1]

On November 11, 1999, the Associated Press reported that the Rockies and Cardinals were discussing a trade that would send Kile and closer Dave Veres to the Cardinals for right-handed pitchers Manny Aybar, Jose Jimenez, and Rich Croushore, and former Rockies left-hander Lance Painter.

“I’ve had ongoing discussions with St. Louis, like I have had with other clubs, but I’m not sure anything will happen,” Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd said.[2]

Prior to the 1999 trade deadline, the Cardinals had tried to acquire Kile for Darren Oliver, who became a free agent after the season, and Class AA pitcher Eric Stuckenschneider. The Rockies declined that offer.

On November 15, the Cardinals and Rockies had a deal in place pending a 72-hour window for the Cardinals to negotiate with Kile. In addition to Kile and Veres, the trade would send 25-year-old right-hander Luther Hackman to St. Louis. Meanwhile, the Cardinals would send Aybar, Jimenez, Croushore, and minor league infielder Brent Butler to Colorado.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals hoped to reduce Kile’s salary for 2000 to $6 million, with a $2 million buyout for 2001 on a $6 million option. Meanwhile, Kile was looking to increase that 2001 salary to $7 million or $8 million depending upon his innings pitched in 2000.[3]

“We’re still talking,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said. “We want it resolved quickly. It could be a day or two.”[4]

One day later, on November 16, the deal was completed. Jocketty and Kile had negotiated a $6 million salary for the 2000 season and an extension for the 2001 season.[5]

“I liked it here in Colorado,” Kile said. “That’s why I came here a couple years ago. I can’t say I’m excited to be leaving, but I’m excited to be playing for the Cardinals.”[6]

In announcing the deal, the Cardinals expressed optimism that Kile could rediscover his form – and his curveball – outside the mile-high confines of Coors Field. Jocketty said the Cardinals’ training staff had a training program in mind that could strengthen Kile’s arm and shoulder, and pitching coach Dave Duncan had some suggestions for Kile’s delivery.[7]

“He just lost his confidence,” Jocketty said. “You should see numbers closer to what he had in Houston in terms of ERA, hits to innings, those things.”[8]

Former Rockies manager Jim Leyland agreed.

“Kile is a ‘stuff’ pitcher,” he said. “In Colorado, your stuff automatically is not as good. I think you need to be more of a control pitcher than a ‘stuff’ pitcher in Colorado. His stuff will be much better in St. Louis. With that humidity in St. Louis, his breaking ball is going to be better.”[9]

For his part, Kile refused to use the thin air of Colorado as an excuse.

“I never thought of it that way,” he said. “When you make good pitches, you get outs. When you make bad pitches, you don’t, no matter where you pitch.”[10]

In Veres, the Cardinals were getting a 33-year-old relief pitcher who had just completed his first season as a closer. After going 3-1 with a 2.83 ERA and eight saves in 1998, Veres stepped into the closer’s role for the Rockies and saved 31 games with a 5.14 ERA in 1999. He and his wife had just bought a house in Denver three months prior to the trade.

“I know I had four or five games in Coors that were pretty horrendous,” Veres said. “A bad pitch there doesn’t go to the wall, it goes 20 feet over it.”[11]

Hackman, meanwhile, had just made his major league debut in 1999. In 16 innings with the Rockies, he had a 10.69 ERA, allowing five homers and walking 12.

For Colorado, the deal cleared salary while infusing the franchise with young arms.

That summer, Jimenez had shown flashes of potential, throwing a no-hitter against Randy Johnson and the Arizona Diamondbacks. He finished the season with a 5-14 record and 5.85 ERA, spending time in the minors to refine his command.

The 28-year-old Aybar had gone 12-15 across three seasons for the Cardinals with a 5.11 ERA. He spent the 1999 season as a reliever, posting a 4-5 record with a 5.47 ERA. In two seasons in St. Louis, Croushore was 3-10 with a 4.50 ERA over 100 relief appearances.

Butler had been considered one of the Cardinals’ top prospects since being drafted in the third round of the 1996 draft, but a 1999 Double-A season in which he batted .269 with a .308 on-base percentage and .386 slugging percentage had dimmed the Cardinals’ hopes for the infielder.

“It’s the next step in the plan, in the process that I’ve been talking about,” O’Dowd said. “We are very excited about the three young arms that we received. All of them, in our minds, were power arms that throw strikes.”[12]

The Cardinals felt that they too had improved their pitching staff with the additions of Kile and Veres. A week earlier, St. Louis had traded Albert Castillo, Matt DeWitt, and Painter to Toronto for former Cy Young Award winner Pat Hentgen and Paul Spoljaric.

“We have three pitchers that will be probably better than what we had at any level last year,” Jocketty said, referring to Kile, Hentgen, and Veres. “That’s a tremendous upgrade to our staff.”[13]

Hentgen went 15-12 in 2000 to help the Cardinals reach the playoffs, but left for Baltimore the following season. The trade for Kile and Veres had longer-lasting results.

As Jocketty predicted, Kile indeed returned to form. In 2000, he posted a career-high 20 wins, earning his third all-star game appearance and placing fifth in the National League MVP voting. The following season, he went 16-11 while dropping his ERA to 3.09.

Tragically, he passed away on June 22, 2002, of coronary atherosclerosis. He was 33.

Veres pitched three seasons with the Cardinals, saving 48 games, including 29 in 2000. Following the 2001 season in which Veres saved 14 games, the Cardinals signed Jason Isringhausen and installed him as the team’s new closer.

Hackman pitched three seasons in St. Louis. He was used primarily as a reliever, posting a 4.30 ERA over 119 1/3 innings.


[1] Associated Press, “Rockies talking up trade to get lefty Finley,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, November 11, 1999: Page C1.

[2] Associated Press, “Rockies talking up trade to get lefty Finley,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, November 11, 1999: Page C1.

[3] Rick Hummel, “Cards near deal for Kile, Veres,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 1999: Page C1.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Cards near deal for Kile, Veres,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 1999: Page C1.

[5] Mike Eisenbath, “Cards wrap up deal for Kile, Veres,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 17, 1999: Page D7.

[6] Mike Eisenbath, “Cards wrap up deal for Kile, Veres,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 17, 1999: Page D7.

[7] Mike Eisenbath, “Cards wrap up deal for Kile, Veres,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 17, 1999: Page D7.

[8] Mike Eisenbath, “Cards wrap up deal for Kile, Veres,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 17, 1999: Page D7.

[9] Rick Hummel, “Leyland says Kile will be instantly better here,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 21, 1999: Page D13.

[10] Mike Eisenbath, “Cards wrap up deal for Kile, Veres,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 17, 1999: Page D7.

[11] Associated Press, “Colorado trades Kile, 2 others to St. Louis,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, November 17, 1999: Page C9.

[12] Associated Press, “Colorado trades Kile, 2 others to St. Louis,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, November 17, 1999: Page C1.

[13] Bernie Miklasz, “Jocketty displays an ability to learn from his mistakes,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 17, 1999: D1.

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