Yesterday was the deadline for teams to protect players from the Rule 5 draft by adding them to the 40-man roster. But with those additions come removals. Oft-injured Jacoby Ellsbury was the most prominent roster casualty as he was let go by the Yankees. In a much quieter move, the Cardinals designated Dominic Leone for assignment. Leone was eligible for arbitration and the move wasn’t a complete shock as Leone struggled last season, but in a very important side note, Leone’s release ends the Kent Bottenfield trade chain, which began two decades ago and includes some of the most memorable moments and moves in Cardinals history.
For those unfamiliar with the Kent Bottenfield trade chain, or Kent Bottenfield himself, the big righty played for five teams from 1992 to 1997 bouncing between the rotation and in 364 innings accumulated 0.1 WAR. As a free agent after the 1997, the Cardinals signed him to a one-year deal with a team option. After putting up decent numbers between the bullpen and the rotation, the team moved Bottenfield to a starting role full-time in 1999 and he had his best season, putting up 2.3 WAR in 190.1 innings. Fortunately for the Cardinals and his trade value, Bottenfield’s average 4.75 FIP wasn’t known back then, and his 3.97 ERA and 18-7 win-loss record made him look great. Which led to…
In March 2000, the Cardinals packaged Bottenfield with prospect Adam Kennedy for Jim Edmonds. While Adam Kennedy was the better player for the Angels, the trade is remembered on the Cardinals side for turning a mediocre reliever into a legitimate trade piece for an incredible talent in Edmonds. The Cardinals locked Edmonds up long-term and during his eight seasons with in St. Louis, he put up more than 40 WAR and helped the team to a championship in 2006. From 2000-2005, Edmonds’ 40.1 WAR ranked third in the game behind only Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez.
After the 2007 season, the Cardinals moved Edmonds to the Padres, and received an older prospect in Freese, who was 24 and hadn’t advanced past High-A; he was blocked in San Diego by Kevin Kouzmanoff. Freese was good for the Cardinals after his debut, but the St. Louis native will always be remembered for Game Six of the World Series in 2011 when his triple kept the redbirds in the game when down to their final strike, before walking the game off with a homer in extra innings.
After the 2013 season, the Cardinals wanted to make room for Kolten Wong at second base, which meant moving Matt Carpenter to third. With Freese the extra piece, the World Series hero went to Los Angeles and played pretty well. Peter Bourjos was installed as the starting center fielder for a couple weeks but wasn’t able to stay healthy or get enough playing time to show off his skills; the Phillies claimed him off waivers in December 2015. Grichuk showed promise with power and good athletic ability in the outfield, but wasn’t much better than average overall; the Cardinals opted to upgrade in left field with Marcell Ozuna.
Connor Greene was a hard thrower who couldn’t find the strike zone; the Royals claimed him off waivers after the 2018 season. That left Leone as the last hope to keep the Kent Bottenfield chain going. After a below-replacement-level season, Leone had no trade value and the Cardinals thought others merited a spot on the roster. The chain is broken.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.
This is so cool! I’ve often wondered what the longest trade chain in history was? Like, I dunno, can you link Babe Ruth to Buddy Biancalana or someone?
The Brewers chain in that Grantland piece — which started with drafting Mark Loretta in 1993 — is still active. Jean Segura, acquired at the end in 2012, was traded in 2016 for Aaron Hill, Chase Anderson, Isan Diaz and cash. And Diaz was traded in 2018 for Christian Yelich (who will probably keep the spot in Milwaukee through at least 2022).
There’s a few WAR in that progression. An easy 250+ from Loretta, Nelson Cruz, Carlos Lee, Francisco Cordero, Jake Odorrizzi, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Zack Greinke, Segura and Yelich. (And … -1 over the course of more than 4,200 Yunieski Betancourt plate appearances.)
I too was going to post that Grantland article. Not sure about the longest ever, but with David Wright retiring the longest active streak is Corey Kluber who can be traced back to 6/7/77 when they drafted Jerry Dybzinski.
The Ringer did one earlier this year for the NBA and the longest active streak there is only 3 days shorter, dating to 6/10/77 when the Sonics (later Thunder) drafted Jack Sikma.