Desperate for a power-hitting right fielder and feeling the sting of the defection of free-agent Jack Clark, the Cardinals stunned nearly everyone when they traded second baseman Tommy Herr, a stalwart of their three pennant-winning teams of the 1980s, to the defending World Series champion Twins 25 years ago.
On April 22, 1988, Herr was dealt to Minnesota for outfielder Tom Brunansky. The trade was announced after the Mets beat St. Louis, 4-0, dropping the Cardinals’ record to 4-11.
Joe Durso of the New York Times wrote, “It stunned Herr and his teammates as they came into the locker room. Herr was asked to step into manager Whitey Herzog’s office, where he received the news from Herzog and Dal Maxvill, the Cardinals’ general manager.”
Said Herr: “Sure, I’m shocked. I’ve loved my years as a Cardinal and it’s hard to say goodbye.”
Herr had played 10 seasons (1979-88) with the Cardinals, batting .274 with 1,021 hits in 1,029 games. He was the starting second baseman on the pennant-winning clubs of 1982, ’85 and ’87. He was an all-star in 1985 when he placed third in the National League in both RBI (110) and doubles (38). Herr ranked among the top three second basemen in the league in fielding percentage six times.
“It’s not an easy thing trading a great ballplayer and a fine gentleman,” Maxvill said to the Associated Press.
Three factors prompted the trade:
_ The Cardinals lacked power. Their top run producer, Clark, had signed with the Yankees after the 1987 season. Jim Lindeman, the Opening Day right fielder, was headed to the disabled list because of back spasms. The Cardinals were averaging 2.8 runs per game. Brunansky, who had hit 20 or more home runs in six consecutive seasons (1982-87) for the Twins, provided a much-needed power source.
“The deciding factor was our (poor) run production,” Maxvill said to the Associated Press. “Brunansky can help.”
_ The Cardinals feared Herr would depart for free agency. Herr was in the final season of a four-year contract. After losing reliever Bruce Sutter and Clark to free agency, the Cardinals were determined to get value in return for Herr before he could depart.
“I could see the writing on the wall,” Herr said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “but I didn’t think it would happen this soon.”
Said Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez, who played with Herr on the 1982 World Series champion Cardinals: “If they had Clark, Tommy Herr’s on the team.”
_ The Cardinals had a replacement for Herr. Luis Alicea, a first-round selection of the Cardinals in the 1986 draft, was promoted from Class AAA Louisville to replace Herr at second base.
“We think we have a fine young man who is ready to be an everyday player here in Alicea,” Maxvill said to United Press International.
Twins general manager Andy MacPhail told the Associated Press he contacted Maxvill about a trade. The Twins were seeking a left-handed batter for the top of their order. Herr, a switch-hitter, fit the need.
MacPhail said Maxvill first asked about third baseman Gary Gaetti and outfielder Kirby Puckett.
“I told him I wouldn’t trade Gaetti and that my house would be burned to the ground if I traded Puckett,” MacPhail said.
The Twins had defeated the Cardinals in a seven-game World Series in October 1987. Now, six months later, they were swapping position starters.
“I’m proud of the accomplishments I’ve had here,” Herr said to the Associated Press. “I wanted to play my whole career here. That dream has gone. It’s been a good time. Maybe I’ll be back and manage this ballclub.”