Royce Clayton Todd Stottlemyre Fernando Tatis

Why the Cards traded Todd Stottlemyre and Royce Clayton at the 1998 trade deadline

One year after acquiring slugger Mark McGwire at the trade deadline, Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty found himself as a seller at the 1998 deadline, sending starting pitcher Todd Stottlemyre and shortstop Royce Clayton to the Texas Rangers for starting pitcher Darren Oliver, third baseman Fernando Tatis, and a player to be named later. That August, the Rangers sent outfielder Mark Little to St. Louis to complete the trade.

“I think it serves Texas’ needs for this year because they’re getting Royce and Todd, who can help them try to win the West Division,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “It really helps us too. I think we’ll be good for the next couple of months and in the future.”[1]

The 51-57 Cardinals were 13 ½ games out of first place in the National League Central Division at the time of the trade. With four players slated to become free agents after the season – Stottlemyre, Clayton, Brian Jordan, and Delino DeShields – the Cardinals had been at the center of trade rumors, particularly around Stottlemyre and Jordan.

Meanwhile, Jocketty was seeking to improve the Cardinals’ pitching and obtain a third baseman to replace 39-year-old Gary Gaetti.




“Those are the real glaring needs,” he said.[2]

Ahead of the trade deadline, Rangers general manager Doug Melvin was in Denver to watch Todd Stottlemyre pitch against the Rockies.[3]

“There have probably been six clubs that have shown interest” in Stottlemyre, Jocketty said. “Just about every club that’s in the race – with different degrees of interest.”[4]

The trade was part of a busy day for the Rangers, who also sent two prospects to the Marlins for former Cardinal Todd Zeile.




“I think it’s going to help our ballclub and there’s no doubt what we did today is an effort to win our division and go beyond,” Melvin said.[5]

In Stottlemyre, the Rangers were obtaining a veteran right-hander who had won 35 games for the Cardinals since signing with St. Louis ahead of the 1996 season. Jocketty and Stottlemyre had been negotiating a possible long-term deal, but Stottlemyre was reportedly seeking four years while the Cardinals would not go past their three-year, $21 million offer.[6]

“We think very highly of Todd, and we’d love to have him back, and we may have him back, but this allowed us to get a few pieces to help our situation,” Jocketty said.[7]

Both the Cardinals and Stottlemyre expressed a willingness to continue negotiations after the season ended.




“This has been a great experience,” Stottlemyre said. “When I was traded (from Oakland), they told me it was a great baseball town. They were wrong. It was the best. The fans are real special. The times they gave me standing ovations when I was walking off the mound? Awesome.”[8]

The Rangers turned to Stottlemyre after their negotiations to acquire Roger Clemens from the Blue Jays failed to gain traction. Sources said the Jays wanted left fielder Rusty Greer, Oliver, and a premier prospect.[9]

“He’s a real competitor,” Melvin said of Stottlemyre. “I told him he was probably pitching against Boston next weekend and he said, ‘Good.’”[10]

“I go from a club that was 13 ½ games out to a club that’s in the pennant race,” Stottlemyre said. “From that standpoint, it’s pretty exciting. For the next two months, going out and pitching with that kind of pressure, it’s what every player wants.”[11]




Clayton was all too familiar with pressure, having come to St. Louis in a December 1995 trade that made him the heir apparent to Ozzie Smith. In Clayton’s first season in St. Louis, Clayton and Smith split time at the position, creating a tense situation that was only resolved when Smith announced his retirement effective at the end of the season.

After hitting .277 with six homers, 35 RBIs, and 33 stolen bases in his debut season in St. Louis, Clayton earned All-Star recognition in 1997, batting .266 with nine homers, 61 RBIs, and 30 stolen bases. His 1998 campaign, however, was disappointing, and at the time of the trade he was batting just .234.

“I didn’t think anything was going to happen,” Clayton said. “I thought things had pretty much subsided when you don’t hear your name, but there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m going to help this team.”[12]

Clayton was taking the place of Kevin Elster, whom the Rangers released upon completing the trade. Elster had helped Texas win the AL West in 1996, but when he returned ahead of the 1998 season the Rangers found that the 33-year-old had lost a step.




“Of all the priorities we had, improving at shortstop was No. 1,” Rangers manager Johnny Oates said. “Shortstop is such an important position defensively. A good one makes your pitching better, makes your outfielders better by cutting down on their throws. I talked to Tony La Russa at length this afternoon and he’s very high on (Clayton). He said we’ll like him, that the ball jumps off his bat, that he has good range and a good arm, and that he likes to play and play hard. Those were all the things we were looking for.”[13]

“I’m just happy to be part of an organization that is trying to better itself,” Clayton said. “This team showed they will do what it takes to help the ballclub – not to say that they needed help, because I personally felt like Texas had a great team to start with.”[14]

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz considered the Cardinals’ trade of Clayton to be addition by subtraction.

“Clayton represented everything wrong with this disappointing team: moodiness and stubbornness,” Miklasz wrote. “He pouted when he didn’t bat leadoff. He never embraced the suggestions to hit smarter with two strikes. Clayton never tried to hit the ball the opposite way, no matter how many lectures he heard from batting instructor Dave Parker. So before firing Clayton, the Cardinals exchanged him for Tatis, who could be their third baseman for many summers. Jocketty made it clear to Rangers GM Doug Melvin that he wouldn’t trade Stottlemyre for Oliver unless the deal was expanded to include the swap of Clayton for Tatis. Because of his tough posture, Jocketty got Tatis as a bonus.”[15]




A native of the Dominican Republic, the 23-year-old Tatis made his debut the previous year, batting .256 with eight homers and 29 RBIs in 241 plate appearances. At the time of the trade, he was batting .270 with three homers and 32 RBIs through 95 games.

“We don’t like giving him up because we really think he’ll be an All-Star third baseman,” Melvin said.[16]

“The guy we liked is Tatis,” Jocketty said. “We needed to find a third baseman and he was the best guy available.”[17]

Oliver, 27, had been in the Rangers organization since they drafted him in the third round in 1988. In his previous two seasons with the Rangers, he won 27 games and threw 375 innings. At the time of the trade, however, he was struggling through a down year and was just 6-7 with a 6.53 ERA.




“We’ve had good reports on Oliver,” Jocketty said. “He’s a solid third or fourth starter and probably better than that. He gives us a little depth in our rotation. A couple of clubs have called about him, but we’re going to hold onto him.”[18]

“He’s very deceptive,” said Mark McGwire, who had played against Oliver in the American League. “He’s got a very smooth delivery. Great demeanor on the mound. You wouldn’t know if he had given up five runs or that he had a no-hitter going.”[19]

Oliver’s contract ran through the 1999 season, making him a rotation piece the Cardinals could count on in the upcoming season.

The Rangers, however, were clearly focused on that fall.




“We’re the front-runners now,” Texas second baseman Mark McLemore said.[20]

Indeed, the Rangers went on to pass Anaheim in the AL West race, going 37-23 in August and September to win the division with an 88-74 record, three games ahead of the Angels. Stottlemyre went 5-4 with a 4.33 ERA in 10 starts while Clayton hit .285 with five homers and 24 RBIs in 186 at-bats.

In the playoffs, the Rangers’ surge came to an abrupt halt, as the Yankees swept them in a three-game AL Division Series. Stottlemyre took the loss in Game 1 despite holding New York to two runs over eight innings (David Wells and Mariano Rivera combined for a shutout in the Yankees’ 2-0 win).

Clayton went 2-for-9 in the series with four strikeouts.




That December, Clayton signed a four-year, $18 million contract to return to the Rangers. He played two seasons of that contract before he was traded to the White Sox. Clayton spent two years in Chicago before playing for the Brewers, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Nationals, Reds, Blue Jays, and Red Sox over the next five seasons.

After the 1998 season, Stottlemyre signed a four-year, $32 million deal with the Diamondbacks. Unfortunately, Stottlemyre’s time in Arizona was plagued by injury. He threw 101 1/3 innings in 1999, followed by 95 1/3 innings in 2000. He missed all of the 2001 season with shoulder and elbow injuries, and his attempt at a comeback at age 37 lasted just 20 1/3 innings. He retired after the 2002 season with a 138-121 record and a 4.28 career ERA.

Tatis hit .287 with eight homers and 26 RBIs down the stretch for the Cardinals in 1998. In April 1999, Tatis set a record that is unlikely ever to be broken, as he hit two grand slams in one inning against Dodgers pitcher Chan Ho Park.

Tatis posted career highs that season as he batted .298 with 34 homers, 107 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases. The following year, his numbers dipped as he batted .253 with 18 homers and 64 RBIs. That December, the Cardinals Tatis and pitcher Britt Reames to the Expos for Dustin Hermanson and Steve Kline.




Oliver went 4-4 with a 4.26 ERA for the Cardinals during the remainder of the 1998 season. He made 30 starts for St. Louis in 1999, going 9-9 – again posting a 4.26 ERA – before signing with the Rangers ahead of the 2000 season. In 2004, Oliver was converted to a relief pitcher, a move that allowed him to continue pitching as a left-handed specialist through his age-42 season.

Oliver was in his third stint with the Rangers in 2011 when the Cardinals met them in the World Series; he earned the win in Game 5 after throwing a scoreless eighth inning.

After being named as the fifth player in the trade, Little joined the Cardinals and appeared in seven games, posting a single in 12 at-bats. He did not return to the majors again until 2001, when he hit .341 in 85 at-bats with the Rockies. Little played parts of four big-league seasons with the Cardinals, Rockies, Mets, Diamondbacks, and Indians.





Enjoy this post? Find similar stories listed by decade or by player.


[1] “Cards trade Stottlemyre, Clayton,” Belleville News-Democrat, August 1, 1998.

[2] Rick Hummel, “Jocketty is confident he’ll swing a deal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 28, 1998.

[3] Rick Hummel, “Jocketty is confident he’ll swing a deal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 28, 1998.

[4] Rick Hummel, “Jocketty is confident he’ll swing a deal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 28, 1998.

[5] Johnny Paul, “Real Deals For Rangers, Astros,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 1, 1998.

[6] Bernie Miklasz, “Cards GM salvaged some future options in trade with Texas,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 2, 1998.

[7] Rick Hummel, “Cards trade Stottlemyre, Clayton to Texas for pitcher, third baseman,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 1998.

[8] Rick Hummel, “Cards trade Stottlemyre, Clayton to Texas for pitcher, third baseman,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 1998.

[9] Johnny Paul, “Real Deals For Rangers, Astros,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 1, 1998.

[10] “Cards trade Stottlemyre, Clayton,” Belleville News-Democrat, August 1, 1998.

[11] J. Douglas Foster, “New acquisitions elated to join Rangers for a drive to playoffs,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 2, 1998.

[12] Rick Hummel, “Cards trade Stottlemyre, Clayton to Texas for pitcher, third baseman,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 1998.

[13] Jim Reeves, “Rolls Royce is driving key in this deal,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 1, 1998.

[14] J. Douglas Foster, “New acquisitions elated to join Rangers for a drive to playoffs,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 2, 1998.

[15] Bernie Miklasz, “Cards GM salvaged some future options in trade with Texas,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 2, 1998.

[16] Bernie Miklasz, “Cards GM salvaged some future options in trade with Texas,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 2, 1998.

[17] Rick Hummel, “Cards trade Stottlemyre, Clayton to Texas for pitcher, third baseman,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 1998.

[18] Rick Hummel, “Cards trade Stottlemyre, Clayton to Texas for pitcher, third baseman,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 1998.

[19] Rick Hummel, “Cards trade Stottlemyre, Clayton to Texas for pitcher, third baseman,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 1, 1998.

[20] Jim Reeves, “Rolls Royce is driving key in this deal,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 1, 1998.

Verified by MonsterInsights