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Yankees Trade Partner History: St. Louis Cardinals

The two organizations with the most World Series trophies have made a couple significant swaps over the past century.

American League Wild Card Game: Oakland Athletics v. New York Yankees

The two winningest franchises in MLB history have hooked up for 26 trades going all the way back to 1906. From superstars to prospects who didn’t pan out, there’s a lot of history here and unfortunately it’s not particularly bright for the Bombers. Let’s look at a couple of the most famous — and one recently infamous — deals between the Cardinals and the Yankees.

Best Trade

July 29, 2018: The Yankee trade Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos to the Cardinals for Luke Voit and international bonus slot money.

In 2018, the Yankees swung a deadline deal with St. Louis that sent the relatively little-known Voit over to the Bronx, packaged with international bonus pool money for a pair of relievers. He made an immediate impact, announcing his arrival by racking up 1.6 fWAR, a jaw-dropping total for just 39 games. Even with defensive concerns, Voit’s 14 bombs in such a short amount of time immediately made him a valuable piece of the lineup as New York locked down a playoff spot.

In 2019, Voit’s bat continued to smooth over his lack of defensive flexibility, and he put up a 126 wRC+ in another strong showing before a sports hernia curtailed his campaign. Then in the shortened and admittedly fluky 2020 season, Voit led the majors with 22 home runs in 60 games. For three seasons, he provided steady power and run producing — something any team would gladly surrender two relievers to acquire.

Foot injuries began to take their toll and Voit’s bulky frame didn’t hold up well past 2020. He was adequate with the bat in an injury-shortened 2021, but the inability to stay on the field led New York to acquire Anthony Rizzo at the Trade Deadline, supplanting Voit. The Yankees moved on from him after that season with the infield and DH spot growing crowded, but his contributions over parts of four seasons in New York cashes this in as the most favorable Yankees-Cardinals trade of all time.

Shreve didn’t last long in St. Louis. Gallegos planted himself firmly into the Cardinals bullpen mix upon arriving in 2018, and five years later, he’s still a productive piece for them. He’s a valuable player, no doubt, but a power bat and middle-of-the-order presence for a few seasons is much more difficult to come by than a solid reliever, and the Yankees came out on top here.

Most Overlooked Trade

April 11, 1954: Yankees trade Emil Tellinger, Bill Virdon, and Mel Wright to Cardinals for Enos Slaughter.

It’s not often we find an inner-circle Hall-of-Famer on this list, and that brings us to the 1954 trade for Slaughter, in which the Yankees gave up Bill Virdon, Emil Tellinger, and Mel Wright. They needed to make a splash to get over the hump, and competing in a breakneck AL pennant race made them reach for the 38-year-old Slaughter, who didn’t have much of an impact beside a few pinch-hits here and there. It must’ve been odd seeing the venerable veteran Slaughter in such a small role.

The Yankees cut Slaughter loose early in 1955, but got him back late in ‘56 to replace the beloved Phil Rizzuto, who was released into retirement. Slaughter stayed on the team until 1959 when he retired, and outside of a dead-cat bounce year in a reserve role in ‘58, he was only an average hitter (though he did have a .940 OPS in the ‘56 Fall Classic). Throwing their hat in the ring with Slaughter not once but twice was ill-advised on the field and off; Slaughter had a well-earned reputation for being a virulent and vocal racist who once personally gashed open Jackie Robinson’s leg with his spikes, and it had taken the Yankees too long after Robinson’s debut to integrate anyway.

Tellinger never made the majors, and Wright didn’t have much career success. Virdon, meanwhile, came into his own in St. Louis immediately and won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1955. He followed it up with MVP votes in 1956, then spent the rest of his career with the Pirates, racking up a total of 19.6 rWAR. (He later managed the Yankees as well from 1974-75.) For those keeping score at home, that’s 17.9 more than Slaughter.

Worst Trade

October 21, 1981: Yankees trade Willie McGee for Bob Sykes.

Cardinals Willie McGee Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

It’s difficult to imagine a more awful trade than this, one of the worst under George Steinbrenner. The 1981 debacle in which the Yankees sent prospect Willie McGee to the Cardinals for pitcher Bob Sykes lives on as one of the worst in team history. Sykes was sent to the minors and never threw a pitch for the Yankees.

Over in St. Louis, McGee prowled the outfield for eight solid years in Cardinal red, amassing 17.9 WAR and 246 stolen bases with Whitey Herzog’s crew, who immediately won the next year’s World Series in addition to two more NL pennants. McGee made four All-Star teams and won the NL MVP award in 1985. After a 17-year career in other locales with a swan song back in St. Louis, he retired in 1999, a three-time batting champion and slam-dunk team Hall of Famer. Brutal, George.

Weirdest Trade

August 2, 2022: The Yankees trade Jordan Montgomery for Harrison Bader.

The most recent trade between these two historic franchises is one of the most maligned of the last few years among Yankees fans. Jordan Montgomery, a home-grown lefty sinker baller, acquitted himself nicely since debuting in 2017, accumulating almost 10 WAR as a consistent middle-of-the-rotation option with weapons to get lefties and righties out. In 2021, his last full year in pinstripes, he put up 3.2 fWAR in thirty starts. Durability and run prevention are the name of his game, and he does it well.

The deadline trade for Bader came out of the blue — Monty’s name came up sparingly in trade rumors that season. The logic in the immediate sense was that Montgomery wouldn’t start a playoff game for the Yankees, so resources were better spent on the center fielder Bader.

As often seems to happen, Brian Cashman got ahead of himself, and the consequences negatively impacted the subsequent season too. The Yankees rotation flopped and Bader’s subpar 2023 reinforced the magnitude of this mistake, especially as Montgomery helped bring the Texas Rangers a World Series title. Bader was placed on waivers and claimed by Cincinnati to end the short, misguided narrative of the trade.

Other Trades of Note

February 23, 1954: Yankees sell Vic Raschi to Cardinals for cash.

This was a straight sale, so less interesting, but Yankees general manager George Weiss picked the right time in making the hard decision to bid adieu to Raschi. Although the righty was easily a Top 100 Yankees and essential to their early-’50s dynasty, he’d logged nearly 1,500 innings for the Yankees over a period of seven seasons and was about to turn 35. Weiss sold him to the Cardinals for $85,000, and his decline started to undeniably show almost immediately in St. Louis. He had a subpar 1954 and retired after a disaster of a showing in 1955. The current value of that $85,000? A cool million bucks.

December 8, 1966: The Cardinals trade Charley Smith to the Yankees for Roger Maris.

By the end of ‘66, the former home run king had grown even more tired of New York than he was during the championship years and considered early retirement. The Cardinals arranged for a trade with the Yankees and convinced Maris to keep playing. The rejuvenated right fielder generated 5.9 rWAR across his final two seasons and got a pair of World Series appearances for his trouble, winning one in 1967.

World Series: St. Louis Cardinals v Boston Red Sox, October, 1967 Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Previously in the Trade Partner History series

Oakland Athletics
Full list to date