February 12, 1993: Cardinals trade Felix Jose to the Royals for Gregg Jefferies

After Pedro Guerrero retired and Andres Galarraga signed with the Rockies, the Cardinals needed to think outside the box to fill their first base vacancy.

On February 12, 1993, the Cardinals announced that they had traded outfielder Felix Jose and utility infielder Craig Wilson to the Royals for infielder Gregg Jefferies and minor-league outfielder Ed Gerald. The trade was centered around the highly athletic, 27-year-old Jose and Jefferies, the two-time Baseball America minor league player of the year and former first-round draft pick.

“We like the versatility of this guy,” Maxvill said of Jefferies. “We feel he’s a more consistent and more disciplined hitter. He’s a fine hitter, and we think he’ll be a fine run producer. We think he can win a batting championship.”[1]

Trade talks began at the winter meetings in Louisville when the Royals asked about Jose’s availability to fill their need for a right fielder. The Cardinals asked about getting Jefferies in return, but the Royals were concerned about their infield depth if they lost Jefferies and moved utilityman Keith Miller to third base.

The trade finally gained traction when the Cardinals agreed to include Wilson, who hit .311 while appearing at second base, third base, and right field in 1992. In exchange, the Royals added Gerald, a 21-year-old who had spent the past two seasons in Class A.[2]

Jose and Jefferies each recently avoided arbitration. Jose had signed a one-year contract for $1.525 million,[3] while Jefferies had signed for $2.65 million.[4]

“It wasn’t settled on the courthouse steps, it was actually in the courtroom with the judge sitting there,” said Jefferies’ agent, Seth Levinson.[5]

St. Louis Post-Dispatch — February 12, 1993

Jefferies’ career had begun with the Mets, who made him their first-round pick in 1985 (20th overall). He quickly established himself as one of the top prospects in baseball. After winning minor league player of the year honors in 1986 and 1987, Jefferies made his first extended look as a major leaguer as a 21-year-old in 1989, batting .258 with 12 homers, 56 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases.

In five seasons with the Mets, however, Jefferies never lived up to the high expectations established in his days as a prospect. As St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz described it, the Mets’ clubhouse atmosphere and the New York media proved to be a poor combination for the young hitter:

I was at Shea Stadium on a Friday afternoon in 1991 when Jefferies snapped before a Cardinals-Mets game. He was struggling at the plate and playing soccer at second base. The fans were booing him. Jealous teammates considered Jefferies a pampered pet of management and agitated him through the tabloids. That morning, an unnerved Jefferies had faxed an open letter to WFAN, New York’s sports station, to urge the fans to ignore the media and support him. A feeding frenzy ensued. At least 20 reporters interrogated the poor soul for 30 hostile minutes. It was awful. The next day, the New York Daily News ran a cartoon in the sports section. It depicted Jefferies – big head dressed in a baby’s bonnet – screaming “WAAAAH” as manager Bud Harrelson tried to burp him. Who can play baseball in such conditions?[6]

In December 1991, the Mets mercifully traded Jefferies and Kevin McReynolds to the Royals for Bret Saberhagen and Bill Pecota.

“In New York, I pretty much had to get traded,” Jefferies said. “I realized it was a no-win situation.”[7]

In his lone season in Kansas City, Jefferies started slow, batting just .205 on May 12 before recovering to finish the season with a .285 batting average, 10 homers, and 75 RBIs. In 604 at-bats, he struck out just 29 times.

“I enjoyed playing with Gregg,” Royals first baseman George Brett said. “You hear all the stories in New York about how hard he was to get along with, but he was a great guy over here.”[8]

Where Jefferies had fallen short was in the field. With the Royals, his 26 errors at third base led the American League.[9] The year before, with the Mets, he committed 17 errors – 11 in 51 games at third base and six in 77 games at second base. The Cardinals hoped the shirt to first base might limit his defensive shortcomings.

“I played it so I know it’s possible,” said Cardinals manager Torre, who played 903 games at catcher, 787 games at first base, and 515 games at third base during his career. “I’m more worried about throws in the dirt than anything going over his head. Ozzie (Smith) is not going to throw it over anybody’s head, and when (third baseman Todd) Zeile threw it over somebody’s head, it didn’t matter if we had Wilt Chamberlain over there.”[10]

St. Louis Post-Dispatch — February 13, 1993

If Jefferies couldn’t stick at first base, Torre said the team’s next option would be to look at him in the outfield, where he could possibly take the right field position vacated by Jose. With Jefferies at first base, Brian Jordan, Ozzie Canseco, and Rod Brewer were expected to compete for playing time in right field.

“A lot depends on Jordan, Canseco, and Brewer,” Torre said. “Can (Jefferies) play first? You’re asking me a question I can’t answer. We won’t know until we get there. Everybody is concerned about his height. He’s 5-10, but Steve Garvey was only 5-10.”[11]

Jefferies’ defense could only be helped by his recent weight loss. The Kansas City Star reported that he had trimmed down from 196 to 185 pounds thanks to an offseason diet.

“I was a blimp,” he admitted. “It was so easy to stop at Taco Bell after the game.”[12]

In Jose, the Cardinals gave up a highly regarded right fielder who had ranked fourth in the National League with 11 assists the previous season.[13] Acquired in the trade that sent Willie McGee to the Athletics, Jose earned an all-star nod in his first full season in St. Louis, batting .305/.360/.438 with eight homers, 77 RBIs, and 20 stolen bases.

“Jose is a great athlete,” said Royals newcomer David Cone, who had pitched against Jose in the National League. “Physically, he can do it all. He has power, he can run, and hits for average because of his speed. He’s gotten better every year. He was probably the toughest hitter in their lineup for me.”[14]

In 1992, Jose batted .295/.347/.432 with 14 homers, 75 RBIs, and 28 stolen bases. However, Torre and the Cardinals were looking to get more contact from Jose, who struck out 100 times in 509 at-bats. After batting .343 with runners in scoring position in 1991, Jose’s average dropped to just .261 with runners in scoring position in 1992 and he drove in just 13 of 35 base runners from third base with fewer than two outs.[15]

“That killed us more than anything last year,” Torre said. “Swinging and missing, getting in the runs that they gave us.”[16]

1991 Donruss

In assessing the trade, Miklasz wrote, “We’ve probably seen Jose’s peak performance. He turns 28 in May. He has erratic work habits and power numbers that don’t quite match his muscular frame. Jose should be more of a force, and manager Joe Torre found it difficult to get through to him. The Cardinals never knew which Jose would show up: (A) an aggressive, mentally locked-in Jose; (B) a loafing Jose; (C) a surly, unapproachable Jose.”[17]

“He will be a good player if you surround him with a lot of good players,” Torre said. “He could do a hell of a job. But I really covet (Jefferies). I liked him when he was with the Mets, but then he got caught in that whole New York thing, which will drive you nuts anyway.”[18]

The Royals planned to insert Jose into their lineup as the team’s cleanup hitter behind Brett.[19]

“We just felt it completed the puzzle we had,” Royals general manager Herk Robinson said.[20]

Dick Kaegel with the Kansas City Star wrote that the move not only filled the Royals’ need for a right fielder, but also created a vacancy for Miller, who hit .284 the previous year off the bench.

“Jose and Jefferies are switch hitters who might provide similar production,” Kaegel wrote, “but from the Royals’ standpoint, Jose played a position they needed to fill and they had a guy who could replace Jefferies. The Royals felt Miller, who hit just one point less than Jefferies, was their best batter in the leadoff slot. But, as Robinson noted, “We had a leadoff hitter out of the lineup.” The deal puts him back in it.[21]

Unfortunately for the Royals, 1992 proved to be Miller’s best season. Given the opportunity for a starting role in 1993, he hit just .167 in 108 at-bats. In June, the Royals signed Gary Gaetti and installed him at third base.

Jose hit .253/.303/.349 with six homers, 43 RBIs, and 31 stolen bases in 1993. He improved on those numbers in 1994, batting .303/.362/.475 with 11 homers and 55 RBIs despite appearing in just 99 games. However, he appeared in just nine games before the Royal released him in 1995.

Jose’s playing career took him from the minors to both the Mexican and Korean baseball leagues before he reappeared for short stints with both the Yankees and Diamondbacks.

Wilson played one season for the Royals, batting .265 in 49 at-bats.

1993 Fleer Ultra

Jefferies was an all-star in both his seasons with the Cardinals. In 1993, he .342/.408/.485 with 16 homers, 83 RBIs, and 46 stolen bases. The following year, he hit .325/.391/.489 with 12 homers, 55 RBIs, and 12 stolen bases.

After turning down a four-year, $20 million offer from the Cardinals because it did not include a no-trade clause, Jefferies signed a four-year, $20 million contract with the Phillies.[22]

The Phillies traded him to the Angels in August 1998 and he played the final two seasons of his major league career with the Tigers. In 1,465 major league games, Jefferies finished his career with a .289 batting average, 126 homers, and 663 RBIs.

Gerald, the other player the Cardinals received in the trade, played one season for the Cardinals’ High-A affiliate in St. Petersburg. He never reached higher than Double-A before bouncing around independent baseball for more than 10 years. He retired at age 34 in 2005.


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[1] Rick Hummel, “‘First Is Fine,’ Jefferies Says,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 13, 1993.

[2] Rick Hummel, “‘First Is Fine,’ Jefferies Says,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 13, 1993.

[3] Dick Kaegel, “Royals work on trade,” Kansas City Star, February 12, 1993.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Cards Near Deal For Jefferies,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 12, 1993.

[5] Dick Kaegel, “Jefferies accepts last-second deal,” Kansas City Star, February 11, 1993.

[6] Bernie Miklasz, “Will Jefferies Find An Identity With Cardinals?” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 14, 1993.

[7] Rick Hummel, “‘First Is Fine,’ Jefferies Says,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 13, 1993.

[8] Dick Kaegel, “Slugger carrying minuses,” Kansas City Star, February 14, 1993.

[9] Rick Hummel, “Cards Near Deal For Jefferies,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 12, 1993.

[10] Rick Hummel, “Lankford Thinks $650,000 Pact Would Be ‘Reasonable’ For Him,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 22, 1993.

[11] Rick Hummel, “‘First Is Fine,’ Jefferies Says,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 13, 1993.

[12] Dick Kaegel, “Slugger carrying minuses,” Kansas City Star, February 14, 1993.

[13] Dick Kaegel, “Royals work on trade,” Kansas City Star, February 12, 1993.

[14] Dick Kaegel, “Slugger carrying minuses,” Kansas City Star, February 14, 1993.

[15] Rick Hummel, “Cards Near Deal For Jefferies,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 12, 1993.

[16] Rick Hummel, “‘First Is Fine,’ Jefferies Says,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 13, 1993.

[17] Bernie Miklasz, “Will Jefferies Find An Identity With Cardinals?” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 14, 1993.

[18] Rick Hummel, “‘First Is Fine,’ Jefferies Says,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 13, 1993.

[19] Dick Kaegel, “Royals acquire Jose from Cards,” Kansas City Star, February 13, 1993.

[20] Dick Kaegel, “Royals acquire Jose from Cards,” Kansas City Star, February 13, 1993.

[21] Dick Kaegel, “Royals acquire Jose from Cards,” Kansas City Star, February 13, 1993.

[22] Dan O’Neill, “Refusal To Give Up No-Trade Clause Dooms Cardinals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 15, 1994.

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