Determined to reconstruct their bullpen, the 1965 Cardinals acquired the closer they needed, but gave up an ace to get him.
Woodeshick became the closer for the 1965 Cardinals and pitched effectively.
Cuellar developed into an all-star for the Astros, mastering the screwball and curve and paving his way to becoming a Cy Young Award winner with the Orioles.
Seeking a stopper
Barney Schultz and Ron Taylor had been the top relievers for the World Series champion 1964 Cardinals. Schultz had a team-high 14 saves and a win, all after his call-up from the minors in August 1964. Taylor had eight saves and eight relief wins.
Cuellar also had been a useful reliever for the 1964 Cardinals. Overall, his record that season was 5-5 with a 4.50 ERA. As a reliever, though, Cuellar was 3-0 with four saves and a 2.53 ERA in 25 appearances.
Red Schoendienst, who replaced Johnny Keane as Cardinals manager, went into the 1965 season with Schultz and Taylor as his top two relievers. Cuellar was sent to Class AAA Jacksonville and placed in the starting rotation.
Schultz and Taylor struggled early with the 1965 Cardinals. Schultz gave up runs in five of his first six outings. Taylor yielded runs in three of his first four appearances. The Cardinals lost five of their first six games.
Through June 14, 1965, the Cardinals were in seventh place at 28-30. The bullpen had accounted for only five saves: two apiece by Schultz and Bob Purkey; one by Taylor.
Also, the Cardinals had only one left-handed reliever, 20-year-old rookie Steve Carlton.
The experienced left-handed relievers sought by Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam were Ron Perranoski of the Dodgers and Woodeshick. Perranoski had led the NL in appearances in 1962 and 1963 and had posted 14 saves or more each season from 1962-64. Woodeshick had led the NL in saves in 1964, with 23.
Promoting Cuellar from the minors was an option the Cardinals rejected, even though the left-hander had compiled a 9-1 record and 2.41 ERA in 15 games.
Instead, Howsam offered Cuellar in trade talks. The Astros wanted him, but insisted on Taylor, too.
“Ron Taylor was in demand,” Schoendienst told The Sporting News. “Houston wouldn’t make the trade without him.”
Said Taylor: “I had no hint of a trade.”
Howsam agreed to send Cuellar, 28, and Taylor, 27, to the Astros for Woodeshick, 32, and Chuck Taylor, 23. The Cardinals assigned Chuck Taylor to Jacksonville, where he began his second stint in the St. Louis system. Signed by the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1961, Chuck Taylor and outfielder Jim Beauchamp were dealt to Houston in February 1964 for outfielder Carl Warwick.
After acquiring Woodeshick, the Cardinals called up rookie right-hander Don Dennis from Jacksonville. Woodeshick and Dennis replaced Schultz and Taylor as the top Cardinals relievers. Schultz remained on the team, but in a low-profile role.
“This deal makes our staff well-balanced,” Howsam said.
Initially, the trade appeared to favor the Cardinals.
Woodeshick was as good as expected. He had seven saves and a win in July when the Cardinals had a NL-best 17-10 record. Overall, Woodeshick was 3-2 with 15 saves and a 1.81 ERA for the 1965 Cardinals. Left-handed batters hit .154 (10-for-65) against him, with no home runs.
Dennis helped, too, with six saves and a 2.29 ERA.
For the 1965 Astros, Cuellar was 1-4 and Taylor was 1-5.
By 1967, the trade looked a lot different.
Orioles, Mets benefit
Woodeshick was 2-1 with two saves and a 5.18 ERA for the 1967 NL champion Cardinals. He pitched a scoreless inning in the 1967 World Series and was released after the Cardinals won the championship. In three seasons with St. Louis, Woodeshick was 7-4 with 21 saves and a 2.67 ERA.
Cuellar was 16-11 for the 1967 Astros. He pitched two scoreless innings for the NL in the All-Star Game. After the 1968 season, Cuellar was traded to the Orioles. He won the 1969 American League Cy Young Award, compiling 23 wins, a 2.38 ERA and five shutouts. He helped the Orioles win three consecutive pennants (1969-71) and a World Series title (1970) and four times won 20 or more in a season.
Ron Taylor was traded to the Mets before the 1967 season and revived his career, with eight saves and a 2.34 ERA that season. Like in 1964 for the Cardinals, Taylor was a stellar reliever for the 1969 Mets, helping them win their first World Series championship versus Cuellar and the Orioles.
Chuck Taylor made his big-league debut with the 1969 Cardinals. In three seasons with St. Louis (1969-71), he was 16-13 with 11 saves and a 2.99 ERA.
Previously: The top 5 Cubans to play for the Cardinals