Cards, Padres swap costly veterans

By Jim Callis

August 2, 2001

Ray Lankford won’t have to return to the Cardinals after all. Lankford bolted the team on Tuesday because he said it didn’t respect him, and St. Louis traded him (and $2.83 million to offset his future salary) to the Padres on Thursday for Woody Williams. Both players had to clear waivers before the deal was finalized, because it came after the July 31 deadline.

Lankford, 34, does have his faults. He’s hopeless against lefthanders (.205 with 22 strikeouts in 44 at-bats this year after batting .135 against southpaws in 2000) and make inconsistent contact (105 whiffs in 264 at-bats). His contract is an albatross, as he’s due $7.6 million in 2002 and either $7.5 million or a $1 million buyout in 2003). That said, he can be useful. Though he’s batting just .235-15-39 in 91 games, he has a more-than-solid .863 on-base plus slugging percentage against righthanders. The Cardinals had relegated Lankford to their No. 4 outfielder behind J.D. Drew, Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols, which prompted his decision to walk out on the club. He’ll probably fit into a platoon with Rickey Henderson in left field in San Diego, with Bubba Trammell dueling Mike Darr for playing time in right.

Williams, 34, fits the profile of a crafty lefthander except for the small fact that he’s righthanded. But he’s a smart finesse pitcher who throws an array of average pitches—fastball, curveball, cutter, changeup—for strikes. An aneurysm was discovered in Williams’ armpit last year, but he had surgery and returned to go 7-6, 3.30 in the second half. Before that he hadn’t missed a start in the previous three seasons. He has gone 8-8, 4.97 in 23 starts in 2001, striking out 102 in 145 innings. His biggest problem has been the longball, as his 28 homers surrendered rank second in the majors behind Curt Schilling (29). Williams will make $7.25 million next year.

The Cardinals have several teams to leapfrog to get back in the National League wild-card race, but they dealt an unhappy player at logjammed position to address their need for starting pitching. The Padres may benefit as well, as they added a potentially productive bat to their lineup.