Possible strike doesn’t deter Cardinals

By Jim Callis
August 29, 2002

Despite a strike deadline looming just one day away, the Cardinals decided to make a further push for the postseason with a trade on Thursday. St. Louis, which saw its lead in the National League Central over the Astros trimmed to 2 ½ games during the afternoon, acquired Jamey Wright from the Brewers in exchange for minor league outfielder Chris Morris and a player to be named later.

Wright, a 27-year-old righthander, never has lived up to the promise that made him a Rockies first-round pick in 1993. But the Cardinals are desperate for starters for the back end of the rotation, and Wright made sense because he came at little cost. Milwaukee also will pick up a significant portion of the remainder of Wright’s $4.25 million salary for this season, after which he’ll become a free agent. Wright throws a sinker, slider, curveball and changeup. His pitches have plenty of life, but he has never been able to command them enough to find consistent success. He issues too many walks and pitches behind in too many counts, then gets punished by hitters. Wright has gone 5-13, 5.35 in 19 starts this year, allowing 115 hits and 63 walks while fanning 69 in 114 innings. He missed much of the first two months of the season with rotator-cuff tendinitis, but has gotten stronger as of late, posting a 2.62 ERA in five August outings. For his career, he has gone 48-67, 5.18 in 170 big league games.

Morris, 23, was a 15th-round pick out of The Citadel in 2000. He’s only 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, but he can run with almost anyone in the minors. He led NCAA Division I with 84 steals in 94 attempts in 2000, and he topped all minor leaguers with 111 swipes in 135 tries last year. This season at high Class A Potomac, he ranks third in the Carolina League with 55 steals in 74 attempts. But he’s only hitting .249-0-38 in 119 games, with a mediocre on-base percentage (.348) and an even worse slugging percentage (.299). Whether he’ll ever be strong enough at the plate to warrant big league playing time is in question. Despite his speed, his outfield defense isn’t a significant strength.

September 11 update: The Cardinals sent Mike Matthews to the Brewers as the player to be named. Matthews, 28, has emerged as a dependable lefty reliever since St. Louis acquired him from Boston in the August 1999 Kent Mercker trade. Matthews doesn’t throw hard, but his slider has helped him limit lefthanded hitters to a .164 average and three homers in 189 at-bats in his two-plus seasons in relief. He has gone 2-1, 3.89 in 43 appearances in 2002, and has a 5-5, 3.99 mark to show for 108 career appearances. He also was activated from the 15-day disabled list, where he had been with a strained right hip flexor, on the day he switched clubs.