December 18, 2004: Cardinals trade for Mark Mulder

From left: Dan Haren, Daric Barton, and Mark Mulder

On the heels of the Cardinals’ loss to the Red Sox in the 2004 World Series, their offseason began with the departure of several prominent players.

Shortstop Edgar Renteria signed with Boston. Catcher Mike Matheny went to the Giants, second baseman Tony Womack signed with the Yankees, and pitcher Woody Williams returned to the Padres on a free-agent deal.

“You lose the guy who started Game 1 of the World Series (Woody Williams), you lose your catcher, your leadoff guy, your shortstop. Fans are saying, ‘Are we going to do anything? What’s happening? What’s happening?’ I think we knew at one point, something good was going to happen,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.[1]

General manager Walt Jocketty made his big move on December 18, 2004, trading starting pitcher Dan Haren, reliever Kiko Calero, and prized catching prospect Daric Barton to the A’s for left-handed ace Mark Mulder.

The A’s, who emerged as American League contenders behind a pitching staff led by Mulder, Tim Hudson, and Barry Zito, had traded Hudson to the Braves three days earlier. Jocketty indicated that the Cardinals had the option to pursue either Mulder or Hudson, and preferred the 6-foot-6 left-hander from South Holland, Ill.

“This is something we’ve been working on for two or three weeks,” Jocketty said. “We’ve been going back and forth between Hudson and Mulder and we felt like in our case, we had control of Mulder for an extra year. Given his age, we knew it was going to be a steep price. Both are quality, top-of-the-rotation starters.”[2]

Mulder was due $6 million for the 2005 season with a $7.25 million club option in 2006.

“Given the sticker prices going around this winter, Mulder is a relative bargain,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Dan O’Neill wrote.[3]

St. Louis Post-Dispatch — December 19, 2004

A second-round pick of the A’s in the 1998 draft, Mulder raced to the majors, making 27 starts for Oakland as a 22-year-old in 2000. He enjoyed a breakout season the following year, winning a league-high 21 games with a 3.45 ERA in 229 1/3 innings. He placed second in the Cy Young Award voting behind Roger Clemens.

“I’m not a guy who goes out there and tries to get the strikeout,” said Mulder, who ranked second in the league in groundouts in 2004. “If I can get three pitches and three outs, that’s the way I’ll do it.”[4]

From 2001 through 2004, Mulder’s 72 wins trailed only Curt Schilling’s 74 for the most in the majors.[5] During that span, he led the American League twice in complete games (2003 and 2004) and shutouts (2001 and 2003).

“(Mulder) is the top-of-the-rotation-type pitcher we’ve been working hard to obtain this offseason,” Jocketty said. “It was difficult to part with the three players we traded, but to acquire someone like Mulder, we felt that this deal worked for us in several ways.”[6]

Both Jocketty and La Russa indicated that the deal would not have been possible had the Cardinals not lost Renteria to free agency. The team offered the shortstop a four-year contract worth $36 million, but instead he accepted a four-year, $40 million offer from the Red Sox.[7]

“I really think we did the right thing,” La Russa said. “Edgar was more than we should spend. If we had signed Edgar, I don’t know that we could have made this trade. We would not have been able to address this first priority. Here we are now, and we have five legitimate starters.”[8]

With the addition of Mulder, the Cardinals’ rotation was slated to include Chris Carpenter, Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan, and Matt Morris, though Morris had recently undergone shoulder surgery and wasn’t projected to return until May.[9] Rick Ankiel provided additional rotation depth.

“I can take my hat off to Walt and (Cardinals chairman of the board Bill DeWitt),” La Russa said. “After what’s taken place the past few days, we didn’t panic. We didn’t get into, ‘We’re not trying,’ or whatever the perception might have been. We said, ‘Let’s be patient, let’s do the smart thing.’”[10]

Jocketty admitted that the Cardinals strategically kept the potential deal under the radar until it was finalized.

“We knew if the word got out that Oakland was willing to trade Mulder, and we were trying to close in on it, other teams would get involved and it would become a feeding frenzy,” he said. “So we tried to keep it quiet.”[11]

2004 Donruss Studio

The deal did, however, come with a question mark: Mulder’s health. On Aug. 24, the left-hander became the first pitcher in baseball to win his 17th game of the season, but he failed to win again in his next seven starts, going 0-4 with 47 hits and 33 runs allowed in 28 2/3 innings. During that span, his ERA climbed from 3.72 to 4.43.

“There will be some concern because he struggled a little toward the end of the season,” La Russa said, “but I’ve talked to the Oakland people and we know that mentally and physically, he’s ready to go.”[12]

Jocketty said trainer Barry Weinberg, who also previously worked with the A’s, spoke to Oakland’s trainers and doctors and reviewed all of Mulder’s records. Instead, Jocketty suggested that Mulder was simply trying to do too much during the season’s stretch run.

“He put a lot of pressure on himself,” Jocketty said. “The A’s lost Hudson to an injury for a while and Zito was having a rough year, so it fell on Mulder to carry the load of the entire rotation and he tried to do too much. It happens. It might have helped him to go through something like that. He’ll know how to handle it better from now on.”[13]

“I wasn’t hurt at all,” Mulder said. “Whether I got tired, I don’t know. … There was nothing wrong with me and there is nothing wrong with me, it was just one of those things where I just flat-out struggled. I have never struggled like that in my career. More than anything, it was embarrassing for me. I was in a funk.”[14]

Even after Hudson was traded, Mulder anticipated that he would be able to rebound the following season in Oakland. When Jocketty called to welcome Mulder to the Cardinals, the left-hander admitted that he was still shocked.

“I feel bad,” Mulder said. “I didn’t really sound excited when I talked to (Jocketty). … I am. I am excited about it.”[15]

2001 Fleer Platinum

Mulder called Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen, who was with the A’s during Mulder’s first two seasons. His message was simple: “What’s up, teammate?”

Isringhausen said, “I called him just to talk before the trade: How he was doing, what he was thinking and blah, blah, blah. I knew Walt was trying to get him, and it happens to everybody at some point in Oakland. He’ll be a good fit.”[16]

Meanwhile, the A’s once again found themselves rebuilding.

“We’ve had to reinvent ourselves every year,” A’s general manager Billy Beane said. “This is probably the most drastic. … There’s certainly some sadness losing first Tim and then Mark from a personal standpoint. Unfortunately, this is something we’ve had to deal with. We’re still the Oakland A’s. We’re still going to go on.”[17]

Haren, the Cardinals’ second-round draft choice in 2001, had appeared in 28 games for the Cardinals the past two seasons, going 6-10 with a 4.85 ERA.

Calero had established himself as a key member of the Cardinals’ bullpen during their 2004 pennant run, posting a 2.78 ERA over 45 1/3 innings. In two seasons in St. Louis, he was 4-2 with a 2.80 ERA.

2003 Upper Deck

Barton was the potential prize of the deal. The Cardinals’ 2003 first-round choice, Barton hit .294/.420/.424 as a 17-year-old in the Appalachian League that year. In 2004, he hit .313/.445/.511 with 13 homers and 77 RBIs in Class A Peoria.

“Even though he’s a long way off, this guy is a hell of a hitter,” Jocketty said. “The question is where is he going to play. But he’s a left-handed hitter with power and he’s got a bright future. He should do well in the American League.

“It’s difficult to give up these young players, it really is. But we thought it was necessary to get Mulder, who can pitch at the top of the rotation, who fits in well with what we need and what we’re trying to accomplish. He’s an intelligent guy, a great athlete, a great fit.”[18]

Mulder’s first season in St. Louis was almost everything Jocketty could have asked for, as he went 16-8 with a 3.64 ERA over 205 innings. Mulder got off to a strong start in 2006, going 5-1 with a 3.69 ERA in his first nine starts.

After throwing 8 1/3 shutout innings in a 1-0 win over the Mets on May 17, however, Mulder’s career was never the same. He won just one of his next six starts and his ERA climbed from 3.69 to 6.09 before he was shut down in June with shoulder issues. Though Mulder returned for two more starts in August, the shoulder required surgery.

2006 Fleer Ultra

Despite the injury, the Cardinals re-signed Mulder to a two-year, $13 million contract with a club option for a third year. Mulder was never healthy during the length of that contract, pitching just 12 2/3 innings and losing all three of his decisions. The Cardinals bought out his option for $1.5 million and Mulder retired after the season.

“We had very high expectations that Mark would come back and throw to the capabilities he had when we acquired him from Oakland,” said John Mozeliak, who had replaced Jocketty as Cardinals general manager. “That didn’t happen.”[19]

In 2014, Mulder briefly attempted a comeback with the Angels but tore his Achilles tendon on the second day of spring training and was released.

Each of the three players the Cardinals sent to Oakland in the deal went on to have successful major-league careers.

Barton debuted with the Athletics in 2007 and appeared in eight major-league seasons, all with the A’s. In 551 career games, the first baseman batted .247/.356/.365 with 30 homers and 184 RBIs, establishing himself as a patient hitter with a high on-base percentage but relatively little power.

After the 2014 season, he signed a free-agent deal with the Blue Jays but never appeared for the major-league club. He spent three seasons in the Mexican League, playing his final pro game in 2019.

2006 Upper Deck

Calero pitched four seasons for the A’s, posting a 3.96 ERA over 159 innings. He made three appearances in the 2006 NLCS for Oakland, throwing two scoreless innings against the Tigers.

The A’s released Calero in June 2008. He spent the 2009 season with the Marlins, appearing in 67 games with a 1.95 ERA. Strangely enough, given his success with the Marlins, he spent the 2010 season with the Mets’ and Dodgers’ Triple-A teams and did not return to the majors. He ended his career with a 3.24 ERA over 302 2/3 innings.

Of the three players Oakland received in the trade, Haren had the most success career. In three seasons with the A’s, Haren was the model of consistency, starting 34 games each season and winning 14, 14, and 15 games, respectively. During that span, he posted a 43-34 record with a 3.64 ERA. In 2007, his final season with the A’s, he made the first all-star appearance of his career, posting a 3.07 ERA over 222 2/3 innings.

That December, Beane traded Haren and Connor Robertson to the Diamondbacks for Brett Anderson, Chris Carter, Aaron Cunningham, Dana Eveland, Carlos Gonzalez, and Greg Smith. In Arizona, Haren enjoyed the best seasons of his career, earning all-star nods in 2008 and 2009. In 2009, his 14-10 record and 3.14 ERA placed him fifth in the Cy Young Award balloting.

Haren’s 13-year career included stints with the Angels, Nationals, Dodgers, Marlins, and Cubs. He retired after the 2015 season with a 153-131 career record and 3.75 ERA.


Enjoy this post? Find similar stories listed by decade or by player. You can also enter your email below to get new posts sent directly to your inbox!


[1] Dan O’Neill, “Cards land Oakland’s Mulder,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 19, 2004.

[2] Dan O’Neill, “Cards land Oakland’s Mulder,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 19, 2004.

[3] Dan O’Neill, “Cards land Oakland’s Mulder,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 19, 2004.

[4] Derrick Goold, “Mulder says trade was quite a shock,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 21, 2004.

[5] Bernie Miklasz, “Jocketty moves under the radar,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 19, 2004.

[6] Janie McCauley, Associated Press. “Big Three for A’s now is a Zito solo,” Fresno Bee, December 19, 2004.

[7] Ian Browne, “Sox, Renteria make deal official,” MLB.com.

[8] Dan O’Neill, “Cards land Oakland’s Mulder,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 19, 2004.

[9] Janie McCauley, Associated Press. “Big Three for A’s now is a Zito solo,” Fresno Bee, December 19, 2004.

[10] Dan O’Neill, “Cards land Oakland’s Mulder,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 19, 2004.

[11] Bernie Miklasz, “Jocketty moves under the radar,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 19, 2004.

[12] Dan O’Neill, “Cards land Oakland’s Mulder,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 19, 2004.

[13] Bernie Miklasz, “Jocketty moves under the radar,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 19, 2004.

[14] Derrick Goold, “Mulder says trade was quite a shock,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 21, 2004.

[15] Derrick Goold, “Mulder says trade was quite a shock,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 21, 2004.

[16] Derrick Goold, “Mulder says trade was quite a shock,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 21, 2004.

[17] Janie McCauley, Associated Press. “Big Three for A’s now is a Zito solo,” Fresno Bee, December 19, 2004.

[18] Dan O’Neill, “Cards land Oakland’s Mulder,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 19, 2004.

[19] Derrick Goold, “Cards decline to exercise Mulder option,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 21, 2008.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: