Braves acquire Drew in deal with Cards

Updated: December 14, 2003, 11:15 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- Needing run production and a right fielder, the Atlanta Braves were willing to part with pitching and take a chance on J.D. Drew.

What They're Saying
A National League executive's take on the St. Louis-Atlanta trade:
"St. Louis needs pitching. It was salary-driven and they didn't believe that (J.D.) Drew could stay on the field. That's my immediate reaction. The Braves are banking that they can keep Drew on the field for 500 ABs and see what he's finally capable of.

"Put (Drew) in a good situation with those guys who've been successful in a winning program and give him a little bit of a fresh start. His tools have always been very evident. The question with him is, can he stay on the field? (Eli) Marrero covers the Braves at catcher, and they might be able to replace the pitchers they lost from within (their system). Obviously, the key is Drew. Everything depends on what happens to him. Nobody knows because he's never played 150 games (in a season).''

A National League scout's reaction to the trade:
"(Adam) Wainwright has a chance to be a No. 2 or 3 starter. He's 6-8 and has a great arm. Ray King is a very usable left-handed pitcher. He can pitch every day. (Jason) Marquis is short for a right-hander. How many short pitchers have you seen have success in the big leagues? But I tell you what: He has a good arm and he's a good athlete. He's lost a lot of confidence, though. (Cardinals pitching coach) Dave Duncan might be able to do something with him over there in St. Louis. He's a good athlete, fields his position and swings the bat.

"J.D. Drew can play -- if he'll play. He'll be close to home now (he's a native of Valdosta, Ga.). His family and friends will be there. He's not going to give them Gary Sheffield numbers, but if he plays 150 games he'll be close. He'll hit 25 homers, bat .290 and drive in 90-100 runs if he plays. He can even play center field -- but the Braves don't need a center fielder.''
-- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN Insider

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The Braves acquired the oft-injured outfielder from the St. Louis Cardinals along with Eli Marrero on Saturday for former first-round draft picks Jason Marquis and Adam Wainright, and reliever Ray King.

"Adam is our No. 1 pitching prospect and that was tough to do, but under the circumstances we had no choice," Braves general manager John Schuerholz said.

Drew replaces Gary Sheffield, who became a free agent and for weeks has been close to agreement with the New York Yankees.

St. Louis took Drew with the fifth pick of the 1998 amateur draft, but he has been plagued by injuries, never playing more than 135 games in a season. He made five trips to the DL in the last four seasons for a total of 121 days.

Drew, 28, hit .289 last season with 15 homers and 42 RBI in just 100 games. Atlanta's doctors spoke with the St. Louis doctors before the deal.

"He's been a guy that has been touted with all kinds of talent through the years," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "Unfortunately, he's had all kinds of injuries."

"Our biggest concern is that he could have his breakout year," Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said. "It's something we agonized about."

Drew is eligible for free agency after next season and is represented by Scott Boras, whose clients almost always test the market. But he is a Georgia native, and is likely to increase his marketability in Atlanta.

"The fact that he's a south Georgian and still lives in Georgia adds to the equation," Schuerholz said.

Atlanta lost Sheffield and Javy Lopez, who both filed for free agency. Marrero, who can play outfield and catcher, batted .224 with two homers and 20 RBI in just 107 at-bats last season, missing 101 games because of a torn ligament in his right ankle.

"He's capable of stealing 30 bases," Cox said. "I think he'll see a lot of playing time. He's not just a throw-in, we want him."

Marquis, a 25-year-old right-hander, was Atlanta's top pick in the 1996 amateur draft and Wainwright was the Braves' first choice in 2000. He was 0-0 with a 5.53 ERA in two starts and 19 relief appearances last season.

Wainwright, a 22-year-old righty, was 10-8 with a 3.37 ERA in 27 starts for Double-A Greenville last season and probably will start next season at Triple-A.

King, a 29-year-old left-hander, was 3-4 with a 3.51 ERA in 80 relief appearances last season.

"We felt that without pitching, we weren't going to have a chance to improve in the standings next year," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

Several teams had spoken with the Cardinals about Drew, including the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"There were a couple deals we could have done," Jocketty said. "We just felt this was the best overall for us."

Time Warner Inc., the Braves owner, ordered the team to cut its payroll, which was $95 million last season. Drew is eligible for salary arbitration and while Schuerholz is open to a multiyear deal, he isn't counting on it.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press