Trade Retrospective – Mark Mulder to the Cardinals


On December 18th, 2004, the St. Louis Cardinals acquired SP Mark Mulder from the Oakland Athletics for P Dan Haren, P Kiko Calero, and C/1B Daric Barton.

The Background

From my writeup on the Hudson trade, which occurred only 2 days before this trade: The Athletics were coming off another good season, which unfortunately ended without a berth in the postseason despite being tied for the AL West division lead with 3 games to go and the other team in the lead, the Angels, coming in for the last 3 games. The Angels took the first 2 games, and clinched the division. With a 91-71 record, the team was now forced to start looking at the hard fact that one of their aces, Tim Hudson, would be eligible for free agency after the 2005 season, and the team was highly unlikely to be able to afford the ace.

Moving Hudson had not been an entirely huge surprise, but the idea that they would move Mulder, who was 2 years from free agency still, seemed unlikely at best.

The Cardinals had just been to the World Series in 2004, but were swept by the Red Sox despite winning 105 games and having 4 starting pitchers with 15 or more victories during the season. The team really appeared to be in need of someone to take the ball in Game 1, and again in Game 7 if necessary.

The Moving Pieces

In St. Louis, Mulder was put into the top of the rotation along with an already excellent group which included Chris Carpenter, Matt Morris, and Jeff Suppan.

In Oakland, Haren was called upon to replace Mulder in the starting rotation, with Calero slotting into the back end of the bullpen. Barton, only 19 years old, was sent to High A Stockton to start the 2005 season.

What Happened Next

The Cardinals were extremely happy with the results that they got from Mulder in 2005, as he posted a 16-8 record with a 3.64 ERA. The team itself returned to the playoffs after winning 100 games and the NL Central crown, but were eliminated from the playoffs in the NLCS by the Houston Astros.

The Athletics were in a semi-rebuilding mode, going 88-74 in 2005 and finishing 2nd to the Angels again. Dan Haren was a key cog in this machine, as he went 14-12 with a 3.73 ERA. Kiko Calero provided a lot of value in the bullpen as well, making 58 appearances and posting a 3.23 ERA over 55 2/3 innings pitched. Barton continued to hit extremely well, posting a .317 batting average with 13 homeruns and 89 runs batted in between High-A and AA.

The Net Moves

Cardinals – First Level

  • Mark Mulder spent parts of 5 seasons with the Cardinals before retiring due to injuries. Unfortunately, the 2005 season was his last good season, and finished his time in St. Louis with a 22-18 record, a 5.04 ERA, and 166 strikeouts to 114 walks in 319 innings pitched. He last pitched in a major league game in 2008.

Athletics – First Level

  • Daric Barton is currently with the Athletics, having made his debut in 2007. In 318 games, he has hit .259/.360/.395 with 21 homeruns and 117 runs batted in. He is currently the starting 1B for the Athletics.
  • Kiko Calero spent from 2005-2008 with the A’s, and posted some solid relief innings for the team. He went 8-8 with 4 saves, a 3.96 ERA, and 147 strikeouts in 159 innings pitched. He was released on June 27, 2008.
  • Dan Haren was clearly the top prize of this trade, and spent 2005-2007 with the team. He made 1 All-Star team, starting the game in 2007 in San Francisco. During his 3 seasons, he went 43-34 with a 3.64 ERA, 531 strikeouts and 153 walks in 662 2/3 innings pitched. After the 2007 season, Haren was traded to the Diamondbacks along with P Connor Robertson for P Brett Anderson, Greg Smith and Dana Eveland, OF Carlos Gonzalez and Aaron Cunningham, and 1B Chris Carter. This particular trade will be discussed in a future trade retrospective.

Overall Reactions

This one pretty much instantaneously became a winner for the Athletics, as Haren and Calero both turned into valuable members of the teams they were on. Even if Mulder had stayed healthy, the fact that Haren was able to be traded later on for so many key players so soon after acquiring him makes this one a clear victory for the Athletics. The fact that Mulder almost immediately became injury prone just further elevated the victory by the Athletics on this one. Looking at this trade, all 6 of the players that the Athletics received for Dan Haren have either played with the team, or were used to acquire other pieces who are currently with the team. For Cardinals fans, this clearly becomes a case of what might have been. Mulder had been very good prior to the onset of his injuries, and was well on his way to become one of the game’s great starting pitchers. It is unfortunate that he was not able to continue to play, but that is also a part of the game as well.

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