Matt Adams Juan Yepez

Why the Cardinals traded Matt Adams for Juan Yepez in 2017

With at-bats few and far between in St. Louis, the Cardinals finally found an opportunity for Matt Adams to play – it just happened to be in Atlanta.

On May 20, 2017, the Cardinals traded the first baseman affectionately known as “Big City” to the Braves for 19-year-old prospect Juan Yepez, a Venezuelan corner infielder who had accepted a $1 million signing bonus to sign with the Braves two years earlier. The Cardinals also sent cash considerations to Atlanta to help cover Adams’ $2.8 million salary.

The trade marked the end of Adams’ eight-year career with the Cardinals organization. The pride of Slippery Rock (Pa.) University, Adams had been a 23rd-round draft pick in 2009. In 2010, the 21-year-old hit .310 with 22 homers and 88 RBIs for Class A Quad Cities, then followed that up with a .300 average, 32 homers, and 101 RBIs for Double-A Springfield, earning Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year honors.

After hitting 18 homers in 67 games for Triple-A Memphis, Adams made his major-league debut in 2012 and appeared in 27 games with the Cardinals, batting .244 with a pair of home runs. Adams served as the Cardinals’ backup first baseman behind Allen Craig in 2013, batting .284 with 17 homers and 51 RBIs in 296 at-bats.




When right fielder Carlos Beltran departed as a free agent after the season, Craig moved to right field and Adams inherited the starting first base job in 2014. That season, Adams hit .288 with 15 homers and 68 RBIs, and in Game 4 of the NLDS against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, Adams hit a three-run home run that erased L.A.’s 2-0 lead and gave the Cardinals a 3-2 win that secured their fourth consecutive NLCS appearance.

A torn quad limited Adams to just 60 games in 2015, and in 2016 he hit 16 homers and drove in 54 runs in just 297 at-bats. Heading into 2017, the Cardinals made Matt Carpenter their starting first baseman, a move that left Adams as a valuable bat off the bench but limited him to just 48 at-bats in the Cardinals’ first 39 games.

When Braves all-star first baseman Freddie Freeman suffered a broken wrist that was expected to keep him out of action for 10 weeks, the Cardinals and Braves suddenly matched up for a potential trade. The Cardinals also needed a roster spot, as outfielder Stephen Piscotty was preparing to return from the disabled list.

“When you think about them losing Freddie Freeman, obviously they had a need,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. “When you think of moving Carp to first, the dynamics of plate appearances (for Adams) changed quickly, and so we really felt it was sort of a win-win for everybody to try to do this. It also frees up some opportunities for what we might do. If we want to give Carp a day off, now you could think about either a (Jedd) Gyorko or a (Johnny) Peralta over there.”[1]




At the time of the trade, Adams hadn’t had more than one at-bat in a game since May 6, when he went 2-for-4 with a home run against the Braves.

“It’s the best thing for my career,” Adams said. “I’ll be able to join another great organization and be able to play every day, but I can’t say enough and thank the Cardinals enough for the opportunities that they gave me and the trust they had in me. It’s tough to go. It’s tough to say goodbye to all my friends here and the coaches and everybody.”[2]

Adams’ now-former teammates shared that sentiment.

“It’s a great opportunity for him,” infielder Greg Carcia said. “He’s one of my most favorite teammates of all time. He’s a guy who will do anything for anybody and all he cared about was his team winning. He’s got that infection smile, and now he gets to play and show the league what he can do. We’re all rooting for him. We’re going to miss him, for sure.”[3]




“He’s a good player, but opportunity wasn’t really here for him,” Gyorko added. “It’s a tough loss because he was a great guy off the bed. Heaven forbid, something should happen with an injury, he’s a guy who could fill in.”[4]

“I’m a big fan of Matt Adams as a person and as a player,” Matheny said. “We weren’t able to give him the kind of at-bats and the kind of playing time that he deserved. … From the business side, it was an opportunity to invest into our future and try to make it a situation that works for everybody.”[5]

Adams was told of the trade on Saturday afternoon and was booked on a 7 a.m. flight to Atlanta the following morning.[6]

“Everybody out there knows I’m not trying to come in here and be Freddie; that’s not who I am,” Adams said when he arrived. “I’ve just got to be myself and go out there and play. I’m just excited to have the opportunity and try to run with it.”[7]




“It’s a smart move,” Braves outfielder Nick Markakis said. “Obviously it’s going to be hard, if not impossible, to fill Freddie’s shoes, but we need a consistent first baseman over there. Jace (Peterson) has been doing a good job, but if we use him at first base it kind of takes away from his ability to do what he’s here to do. It’s good, getting an established guy who wasn’t getting much at-bats. He’s going to come here and get some at-bats. We know what he can do. We’ve seen him.”[8]

Adams played in 100 games for the Braves the remainder of the season, batting .271 with 19 homers and 58 RBIs in 291 at-bats. That December, he signed a one-year contract with the Nationals and hit 18 homers in 94 games with the Nationals before the Cardinals acquired him off of waivers. Adams hit three homers in 57 at-bats before signing back with the Nationals for the 2019 season. He went on play for the Braves in 2020 and the Rockies in 2021 before concluding his big-league career.

Across 10 major-league seasons, Adams hit .258 with 118 homers and 399 RBIs.

Yepez made his major-league debut for St. Louis in 2022, batting .253 with 12 homers and 30 RBIs in 253 at-bats. In the Cardinals’ two-game wild-card loss to the Phillies that season, Yepez drove in two of the Redbirds’ three runs, hitting a pinch-hit, two-run home run off Jose Alvarado to give the Cardinals a brief 2-0 lead in the seventh inning.

In 2023, Yepez hit just .183 with two homers in 60 at-bats, and that November he was granted his free agency. He signed a minor-league contract with the Nationals in December 2023.





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[1] Rick Hummel, “Cardinals trade Adams to Braves for prospect,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 21, 2017.

[2] Rick Hummel, “Cardinals trade Adams to Braves for prospect,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 21, 2017.

[3] Rick Hummel, “Wong, Piscotty are not in lineup,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 22, 2017.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Wong, Piscotty are not in lineup,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 22, 2017.

[5] Rick Hummel, “Wong, Piscotty are not in lineup,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 22, 2017.

[6] David O’Brien, “‘Big City’ set for a new start,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 22, 2017.

[7] David O’Brien, “‘Big City’ set for a new start,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 22, 2017.

[8] David O’Brien, “‘Big City’ set for a new start,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 22, 2017.

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