Twenty years ago today, the Los Angeles Angels traded gold glover Jim Edmonds to the St. Louis Cardinals for Kent Bottenfield and Adam Kennedy.
One of the most difficult seasons for Angels fans to watch from afar was Jim Edmonds 2000 campaign with the St. Louis Cardinals. Having spent the majority of his final season in Anaheim recovering from torn ligaments in a shoulder that had chronic symptoms which were ignored until the week before the season began, Edmonds first go-around with the Red Birds turned into an MVP-caliber performance.
The center fielder, who was traded to St. Louis twenty years ago today, had his most productive season to date in home runs (42), RBIs (108), runs scored (129), on-base percentage (.411), and slugging percentage (.583) during his first year wearing a different shade of red.
After endless trade rumors, with many insiders sending him to the Yankees countless times over the winter, Edmonds was finally moved to St. Louis less than two weeks before the start of the 2000 season. Although General Manager Bill Stoneman told Edmonds he was no longer being shopped, the trade came as no surprise to anyone reading the tea leaves, as Edmonds was set to become a free agent the following summer.
Twenty years later, it’s hard not to look back at everything Jim Edmonds accomplished after leaving Anaheim, and wonder what if the trade had never happened? What if the local kid ended up staying home? Perhaps wishful thinking, but there’s no way to ignore the lopsided results that followed.
Edmonds was a three-time All-Star in St. Louis, who continued to dazzle fans with his defensive prowess, winning six more Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger Award in 2004, and World Series championship in 2006.
Meanwhile, Kent Bottenfield proved his 18-7 record from the season before was a mirage. The veteran starter pitched to a dismal 7-8 record with a 5.71 ERA before the Halos traded him four months after acquiring him in a deadline-week deal for slugger Ron Gant.
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For fans, persistent rumors that Edmonds was disliked in the Angels clubhouse are often lost in review of his resume on the field. He was consistent, put his body on the line to catch damn near everything that was hit his way, and before opting for surgery in 1999, he was part of an Angels rebuild that was playing the franchise’s most exciting baseball since the mid-eighties.
While Bottenfield was a complete bust, Adam Kennedy tried his best to salvage value from the Edmonds deal. The Riverside native developed into a pretty good second baseman, his best season coming in 2002, when he hit .312/.345/.449, and won the ALCS MVP; his Game 5 heroics is arguably the best postseason performance in Angels history (next to Tim Salmon in Game 2 of the World Series). Kennedy hit three home runs on that day, helping the Angels advance to their first World Series in franchise history.
Sometimes trades can work out for both teams—after all, the Angels finally won their elusive championship a few years after dealing Edmonds with Kennedy playing a crucial role. But if you talk to Cardinals fans, they will never forget this trade as the one that helped set their franchise on a prolonged run of success, which included six postseason appearances, five National League Championship series, two World Series, and their own championship in 2006.
Edmonds might have (probably would have?) walked after the 2000 season, the Angels might have never found the intricate piece Kennedy became as part of that 2002 team, and keeping Edmonds might have worked out worse than trading him. Twenty years later, it’s hard to say what chain reactions would have happened had Edmonds remained in Anaheim.
In the end, the Angels got their championship, Edmonds turned into a Cardinals Hall-of-Famer, and we are left still talking about this deal today.