December 13, 2003: Cardinals deal J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero to get Jason Marquis, Ray King, and Adam Wainwright

When the Cardinals drafted J.D. Drew in 1998, they thought they were getting a franchise cornerstone. More than five years later, they obtained a new foundational piece when they traded Drew to the Braves in a five-player deal.

The Cardinals sent Drew and catcher/outfielder Eli Marrero to Atlanta in exchange for starting pitcher Jason Marquis, left-handed reliever Ray King, and the Braves’ No. 1 prospect, Double-A pitcher Adam Wainwright.

In Drew, the defending National League East champion Braves got an outfielder they believed could replace Gary Sheffield, who was now a free agent. The Cardinals, meanwhile, sought to bolster their pitching depth while under a directive from ownership to reduce payroll to approximately $80 million.[1]

“Economics are an important part of this,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “A lot of people draw a negative from this, but our payroll is $80 million. That’s a lot of money. I know a lot of managers who are friends with payrolls of 50, 40, 30 million dollars. Our problem is our good players have good years and keep making more money.”[2]

The Cardinals cut their payroll approximately $5.4 million with the trade. Drew was arbitration-eligible for 2004 and expected to receive at least $4 million.[3] Marrero, who received a two-year, $4.5 million contract following the 2002 season after he hit .262/.327/.451 with a career-high 18 homers, 66 RBIs, and 14 stolen bases, was scheduled to make $3 million in 2004.[4]

Meanwhile, King was slated to make $900,000 after the Braves assumed his option in November, and Marquis was arbitration-eligible after making $368,000 in 2003 while splitting the season between Atlanta and Class AAA Richmond.[5]

With Drew and Marrero’s salaries off the books, the trade freed up the Cardinals to acquire additional pitching ahead of the 2004 season. The risk, of course, was that Drew would finally live up to his potential.

“Our biggest concern is that this could be his breakout year,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said. “This is something we agonized over for a long time – whether we should try to trade him or not, or try to sign him long term. We needed pitching. We had only a few chips we could use to acquire it. With our luck, it’ll be this year.”[6]

1999 Pacific

The Cardinals were actually the third team to draft Drew when they selected him fifth overall in the 1998 amateur draft. In 1994, the Giants chose him out of Lowndes County High School but failed to sign him. In 1997, Drew created a stir when the Phillies selected him second overall, but he declined their $2.6 million contract offer. Instead, he played a season of independent baseball before the Cardinals drafted him the following year and gave him a $7 million contract.

Before giving Drew that contract, Cardinals team chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. touched base with scout Fred McAllister for one last discussion.

“Best natural hitter I’ve ever seen,” McAllister told DeWitt.

Better than Mays? Mantle? Aaron? Musial?

“Yes,” McAllister said.[7]

Unfortunately, Drew was dogged by six stints on the disabled list and a reputation for playing with an intensity somewhere below 100%. In 2000, the 24-year-old Drew appeared to have a breakout season, batting .295/.401/.479 with 18 homers, 57 RBIs, and 17 stolen bases.

Despite missing time with a broken hand in 2001, he hit .323/.414/.613 with 27 homers and 73 RBIs. It proved to be his best season in St. Louis. A patellar tendon injury in 2002 altered his swing and made it difficult for him to make it through a full nine innings.

In 2003, oblique, hip, and back strains limited Drew to 100 games.

“The Braves need to see what I can do when I’m healthy, and I want to find out myself,” he said.[8]

Atlanta Journal-Constitution — December 14, 2003

Drew learned of the trade when Jocketty called him at his parents’ home in Hahira, Georgia, just north of the Florida state line.[9]

“He’s a guy that has been touted with all kinds of talent through the years,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “Unfortunately, he’s had all kinds of injuries, but he’s the kind of player who could be an all-star.”[10]

“If he’s healthy and plays the full year, we think he’s a .290 or .300 hitter with 35 homers and 120 RBIs,” Braves general manager John Schuerholz said.[11]

In Marrero, the Braves obtained a right-handed bat who could play catcher, first base, and the outfield. After his breakout 2002 season, injuries limited the 29-year-old Marrero to just 41 games. He batted just .224 with two homers and 20 RBIs.

“I think he’ll see a lot of playing time,” Cox said. “He’s not just a throw-in. We really wanted him.”[12]

Marquis, 25, was expected to immediately slot into the Cardinals’ starting rotation. In 96 games in Atlanta – including 40 starts – Marquis had gone 14-15 with a 4.45 ERA. He pitched just 40 2/3 major-league innings in 2003, posting a 5.53 ERA, and butted heads with Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone after he lost his rotation spot.[13]

Just as the Braves expected Drew to reach new heights in Atlanta, the Cardinals believed Marquis could reach his potential in St. Louis.

“Look at his age; look at his athleticism; look at his arm. That’s a good value,” La Russa said. “I think we may have had to make a deal just to get some flexibility. Instead, we made a deal where we have flexibility and three arms.”[14]

St. Louis Post-Dispatch — December 14, 2003

“I’m excited about him,” Jocketty said. “I really think he has a chance to be pretty good.”[15]

In King, the Cardinals obtained a rubber-armed left-hander who had appeared in 80 games for the Braves in 2003, posting a 3.51 ERA. In each of his last three seasons, King had appeared in at least 76 games.

“I’m the type of pitcher when I get to the ballpark I expect to pitch; I want to pitch,” King said. “Hopefully I get in the game. Each season I set a goal to pitch in more games than I pitched the year before. I take pride in that.

“(Steve ) Kline is another durable guy. With Kline and me, we can work 162 games. I’m hoping I can come in in the seventh inning with one or two outs, then pitch the eighth to save another guy for the next situation. Hopefully, Kline and I can eat up one or two innings to get to Izzy (Jason Isringhausen) and not have to burn two or three guys every day.”[16]

In the 22-year-old Wainwright, the Cardinals found their pitcher of the future.

“Without him, there wasn’t a deal,” Jocketty said.[17]

“We see him as a top-of-the-rotation guy in a couple of years,” he added.[18]

2003 Grandstand Greenville Braves

Wainwright spent the 2003 season in Class AA Greenville of the Southern League. He went 10-8 with a 3.37 ERA and 128 strikeouts over 149 2/3 innings. Wainwright was expected to open the 2004 season in the Triple-A Memphis rotation.

“Adam was our No. 1 pitching prospect and that makes it tough to do,” Schuerholz said, “but under the circumstances, we had no choice.”[19]

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz expressed hope for Wainwright’s future, but wasn’t convinced that La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan were capable of helping the young right-hander reach his full potential.

“Wainwright is a legitimately bright prospect and a potential steal for the Cardinals,” Miklasz wrote. “But if Duncan and La Russa are around beyond the 2004 season it may not matter, because they can’t develop young pitchers. Perhaps young Wainwright will be nurtured and saved by the next regime.”[20]

Miklasz warned that while Drew might very well reach his incredible potential in Atlanta, that didn’t make it a bad trade for the Cardinals.

“The only risk in this transaction is that J.D. Drew finally will be aroused to compete. If so, he will give the Braves the incredible season the Cardinals waited for in vain,” Miklasz wrote. “… Even if Drew wins the Triple Crown next season, we must remember. The Cardinals wouldn’t have been able to re-sign him after next season. Drew was gone anyway. So at least they got something for him now.”[21]

Drew indeed had a big season for the Braves, batting .305/.436/.569 with a career-high 31 homers as well as 93 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. After the season, however, Drew signed a five-year, $55 million contract with the Dodgers. He played two seasons in Los Angeles before opting out of his contract to sign a five-year, $70 million deal with the Red Sox, where he played the remainder of his career. Drew retired following the 2011 season with 242 career homers and 795 RBIs.

2004 Topps

Marrero also had a successful 2004 campaign in Atlanta, batting .320/.374/.520 with 10 homers and 40 RBIs in just 250 at-bats. After the season, the Braves traded him with cash to the Royals for Jorge Vasquez. Marrero played for the Royals and Orioles in 2005, then for the Rockies and Mets in 2006.

In November 2006, Marrero re-signed with the Cardinals, but appeared in just one Triple-A game before he was released in May.

Marquis won 42 games over three seasons in St. Louis. In 2004, he went 15-7 with a 3.71 ERA, helping the Cardinals capture the National League pennant. The following year, he went 13-14 with a 4.13 ERA. In 2006, Marquis went 14-16, leading the league in losses and home runs allowed (35). He did not pitch in the playoffs as the Cardinals captured their 10th World Series championship.

After the season, Marquis signed a free-agent deal with the Cubs. After stops with the Nationals, Diamondbacks, Twins, Padres, and Reds, Marquis retired with 124 career wins.

As promised, King proved to be a workhorse for the Cardinals, appearing in 86 games in 2004 with a 2.61 ERA. That role continued in the playoffs, as he appeared in three NLDS games, four NLCS contests, and three World Series games.

2004 Topps

King appeared in 77 more games in 2005, posting a 3.38 ERA in 40 innings. After the season, the Cardinals traded King to the Rockies for Aaron Miles and Larry Bigbie. King played his final game in 2008; he retired with a 3.46 ERA over 411 career innings.

Wainwright, of course, became the true gem of the deal for the Cardinals. In 2005 and 2006, he broke into the majors as a reliever and famously closed out the NLCS by striking out the Mets’ Carlos Beltran with a sweeping curveball. Wainwright saved four games that postseason in helping the Cardinals win the World Series.

Wainwright joined the starting rotation in 2007. In 2009, he won 19 games and placed third in the Cy Young Award voting. In 2010 and 2013, he placed second in the Cy Young Voting, and he placed third once again in 2014.

After winning 17 games and placing seventh in the Cy Young voting in 2021, Wainwright entered 2022 with 184 career wins and a 3.34 ERA. Each of his 16 major-league seasons to date have been with the Cardinals.


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[1] Joe Strauss, “Cards deal Drew, Marrero for pitching,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 14, 2003.

[2] Joe Strauss, “Cards deal Drew, Marrero for pitching,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 14, 2003.

[3] Joe Strauss, “Cards deal Drew, Marrero for pitching,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 14, 2003.

[4] Joe Strauss, “Cards deal Drew, Marrero for pitching,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 14, 2003.

[5] Joe Strauss, “Cards deal Drew, Marrero for pitching,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 14, 2003.

[6] Joe Strauss, “Cards deal Drew, Marrero for pitching,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 14, 2003.

[7] Bernie Miklasz, “Trading enigmas begets more enigmas, but it’s just a start,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 14, 2003.

[8] Guy Curtright, “Drew delighted Braves called,” Atlanta Journal Constitution, December 15, 2003.

[9] Joe Strauss, “Drew seeks better reputation, while King wants to keep his,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 15, 2003.

[10] Guy Curtright, “Drew joins Braves,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 14, 2003.

[11] Guy Curtright, “Drew joins Braves,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 14, 2003.

[12] Guy Curtright, “Drew joins Braves,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 14, 2003.

[13] Joe Strauss, “Cards deal Drew, Marrero for pitching,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 14, 2003.

[14] Joe Strauss, “Cards deal Drew, Marrero for pitching,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 14, 2003.

[15] Joe Strauss, “Cards deal Drew, Marrero for pitching,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 14, 2003.

[16] Joe Strauss, “Cards deal Drew, Marrero for pitching,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 14, 2003.

[17] Guy Curtright, “Drew joins Braves,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 14, 2003.

[18] Joe Strauss, “Cards deal Drew, Marrero for pitching,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 14, 2003.

[19] Joe Strauss, “Drew seeks better reputation, while King wants to keep his,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 15, 2003.

[20] Bernie Miklasz, “Trading enigmas begets more enigmas, but it’s just a start,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 14, 2003.

[21] Bernie Miklasz, “Trading enigmas begets more enigmas, but it’s just a start,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 14, 2003.

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