Todd Stottlemyre

How the Cardinals acquired Todd Stottlemyre from Oakland

It turned out that the Cardinals weren’t quite done with their Christmas shopping.

Having already obtained Royce Clayton, Ron Gant, Andy Benes, Willie McGee, and Gary Gaetti ahead of the 1996 season, the Cardinals added yet another newcomer when they traded outfielder Allen Battle and pitchers Jay Witasick, Carl Dale, and Bret Wagner to the Athletics for Todd Stottlemyre.

After seven years with the Blue Jays, Stottlemyre had signed with the Oakland Athletics the previous April. Under Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan, the 30-year-old Stottlemyre went 14-7 with a 4.55 ERA, ranking second in the American League in strikeouts with 205.

“With Tony coming over to St. Louis and Duncan and the rest of the staff, I was hoping to come there,” Stottlemyre said. “I felt that last year I took another step toward being able to pitch to my capability.

“I feel I’ve got a lot of room for improvement, but I feel I got a lot closer last year. I felt I was more in control of myself throughout more ballgames. There are still lapses here and there, but I’ve been able to get control of my curveball and changeup and offspeed pitches instead of just being a fastball, slideball (slider) pitcher.”[1]

Despite his success in Oakland, Stottlemyre was due for arbitration after earning $1.8 million the previous season. With a pay raise looming, the Athletics chose to trade him for prospects.

“I knew it was in the works,” said Athletics manager Art Howe, who had taken the place of La Russa in Oakland. “Obviously, he’s a quality pitcher and I would’ve loved to have had him, but that’s out of our control.”[2]

In exchange, the Athletics obtained Battle, a 27-year-old, former 10th-round pick in the 1991 draft, and three pitching prospects who had yet to appear in the majors. In 1994, Battle hit .313 with six homers, 69 RBIs, and 23 stolen bases for the Cardinals’ Triple-A club in Louisville. The following year, he split time between Louisville and St. Louis, batting .271 with three stolen bases and just five extra-base hits in 118 at-bats with the big-league club.

“He plays center field, runs real good, and has some pop in his bat, but didn’t get much of a chance to play,” Howe said. “He could be the sleeper in this deal.”[3]

Witasick, a 6-foot-4, 22-year-old right-hander, was the Cardinals’ second-round pick out of the University of Maryland in 1993. He opened the 1995 season with the Cardinals’ high Class A affiliate in St. Petersburg, where he went 7-7 with a 2.74 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 105 innings. He was then promoted to Double-A Arkansas, where went 2-4 with a 6.88 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 34 innings.

Wagner, 22, was the Cardinals’ 1994 first-round draft choice out of Wake Forest University. Like Witasick, the left-hander split his 1995 season between high Class A affiliate St. Petersburg and Double-A Arkansas. In 93 1/3 innings in St. Petersburg, Wagner went 5-4 with a 2.12 ERA and 59 strikeouts. In Arkansas, he went 1-2 with a 3.19 ERA and 31 strikeouts over 36 2/3 innings.

Dale, 23, was the Cardinals’ second-round pick in the 1994 draft. A right-hander out of Winthrop University, Dale had spent the 1995 season at the Cardinals’ Class A affiliate in Peoria, where he went 9-9 with a 2.94 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 143 2/3 innings.

“When you go shopping in the high-rent district, you know it’s going to be expensive,” said Cardinals director of player development Mike Jorgensen, noting that all three pitchers were considered major-league prospects. “We’re still pitching-rich. People are always talking about our pitchers.”[4]

They were beginning to talk about the Cardinals’ major-league rotation as well, where Stottlemyre was joining a rotation that already included Andy Benes, Alan Benes, Danny Jackson, Donovan Osborne, and Mike Morgan. The Cardinals expected him to fill the No. 2 slot in the rotation behind fellow newcomer Benes.

“It’s a good problem to have too much pitching,” Stottlemyre said.[5]

The son of Yankees pitching legend Mel Stottlemyre and the brother of Mel Stottlemyre Jr., who pitched eight seasons with the Astros and Royals, Stottlemyre had originally been drafted by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 1983 draft. He didn’t sign, and instead of continuing his playing career at Yakima Valley Community College. The Cardinals drafted him in the secondary phase of the 1985 draft, but he was battling arm troubles at the time and did not sign. Finally, the Blue Jays took him third overall in the June 1985 draft.

In seven seasons with the Blue Jays, he went 69-70 with a 4.39 ERA and was part of the Blue Jays’ world championship teams in 1992 and 1993. His 1995 season with Oakland had been his best season since he went 15-8 for the Blue Jays in 1991.

“He won 14 games and struck out a lot of people last year, but that’s still not a true measurement of what kind of season he had,” Duncan said. “He could have won five or six more if he had been on a better team. I’m excited because we know Todd, his makeup, his competitive intensity. We feel his best years are ahead of him.”[6]

One of the first phone calls Stottlemyre received after the trade was from his father Mel, who had pitched against the Cardinals in the 1964 World Series. Mel Stottlemyre matched up against Bob Gibson in both his starts, a Game 2 Yankees win and a Game 7 Cardinals win.

“He spoke of the tradition of this club and its history of winning pennants and World Series and … the way this city backs its baseball team,” Todd Stottlemyre said.[7]

Though he was coming to St. Louis with two World Series rings already in tow, Stottlemyre said he wanted an opportunity to play a leadership role on a championship team.

“In 1992, I came out of the bullpen and the next year I made only one start and that game was 15-14,” he said. “I want to be able to make a real contribution to the club and to the city.”

Stottlemyre wouldn’t reach the World Series in his three seasons with the Cardinals, but he did enjoy three strong seasons in St. Louis and helped the Cardinals reach the NLCS in 1996. That year, Stottlemyre went 14-11 with a 3.87 ERA over 223 1/3 innings, walking 93 and striking out 194.

In the postseason, he won Game 1 of the NLDS against the Padres, allowing one earned run over 6 2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out seven in earning the first postseason win of his career.

Facing Greg Maddux and the Braves in Game 2 the NLCS, Stottlemyre allowed three runs in six innings to earn the win. In Game 5, however, he lasted just one inning, allowing seven runs in a 14-0 loss.

Stottlemyre went 12-9 with a 3.88 ERA in 1997 and was 9-9 with a 3.51 ERA in 1998 when the Cardinals traded him and Royce Clayton to the Texas Rangers for Darren Oliver, Fernando Tatis, and a player to be named later. A little more than a week after the trade, the Rangers sent Mark Little to the Cardinals to complete the deal.

Across three seasons, Stottlemyre’s Cardinals career included a 35-29 record and 3.77 ERA.

Battle played one major-league season with Oakland, batting .192 with 10 stolen bases in 151 plate appearances. He played in the White Sox, Expos, and Cubs organizations and played one season in the Mexican League before retiring after the 1999 season.

Dale made four major-league appearances with the Brewers in 1999. Wagner never appeared in the majors.

Though Howe predicted that Battle could be the hidden gem in the deal, it was Witasick who put together a 12-year major league career, primarily as a reliever. Witasick pitched two three-year stints in Oakland in a career that included four seasons in San Diego, two seasons in Kansas City and stops in Tampa Bay, Colorado, San Francisco, and the New York Yankees. He finished his career with a 32-41 record and 4.64 ERA.

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[1] Rick Hummel, “Stottlemyre Joins Cards’ Arm Force,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 10, 1996: Page D6.

[2] “A’s trade Stottlemyre to Cardinals,” San Francisco Examiner, January 9, 1996: Page D5.

[3] “A’s trade Stottlemyre to Cardinals,” San Francisco Examiner, January 9, 1996: Page D5.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Stottlemyre Joins Cards’ Arm Force,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 10, 1996: Page D1.

[5] Rick Hummel, “Stottlemyre Joins Cards’ Arm Force,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 10, 1996: Page D1.

[6] Rick Hummel, “Stottlemyre Joins Cards’ Arm Force,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 10, 1996: Page D6.

[7] Rick Hummel, “Batting Practice Is On Agenda For Lankford,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 2, 1996: Page D5.

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