16. Two for one
1914 – TED CATHER/POSSUM WHITTED – ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
On May 25, 1914, St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Ted Cather had a .352/.364/.426/.790 line, good for third in the NL. He also had a history of fighting with teammates. Utility man Possum Whitted played just 20 games for the Cardinals and batted .129/.129/.161/.290.
That May afternoon, the Cardinals lost – coincidentally to the Braves – a fight involving Cather ensued and this trade began to take shape.
Braves manager George Stallings introduced platooning to his everyday lineup. He had to — his whole outfield hit left-handed with ugly same-sided splits.
He knew about the fight and the Cardinals’ desire to get rid of Cather. On June 29, Stallings convinced the Cardinals to take starting pitcher Hub Perdue (2-5 with a 5.82 ERA at that time) for Cather and to send Whitted along as well.
Stallings wanted Cather, but Whitted proved to be the Ender Inciarte of the package. No longer resigned to gathering splinters on the bench, Whitted played more often and improved significantly at the plate.
By year’s end, he’d replaced Wilson Collins‘ 257/.297/.257/.554, .273 wOBA, 60 wRC+ and -0.3 fWAR line with a .261/.326/.376/.703, 103 OPS+ line, .339 wOBA, 101 wRC+ and 1.0 fWAR.
His defense proved so good that, by season’s end, he played somewhere in almost every game.
Cather made a tremendous difference to left-field offensive impact, replacing Jim Murray‘s .232/.277/.304/.581 line, .282 wOBA, 65 wRC+ and -0.7 fWAR with a .297/.338/.400/.738 115 line, .353 wOBA, 110 wRC+ and 0.3 fWAR
Together, Cather and Whitted provided a two-win (by WAR values) boost to the lineup and Whitted’s versatility allowed Stallings to platoon at multiple positions.
If Whitted was ‘Inciarte 2017,’ the Cather/Joe Connolly combo was the equivalent of what Adam Duvall/Nick Markakis could be: a platoon in right field that allows Markakis to rest and be the best player he can be.
Oh, and those 1914 Boston Braves roared back, turning around a 69-82 season from 1913 and won 94 games in 1914 … and they swept the World Series over the Philadelphia Athletics.
We’ll hear a lot more about this special team later on.
Next: This trade shows what happens when a manager gets mad at one of his best hitters and forgets that his job is to win games.