Injuries proved to be too much for the then-defending World Series champions. Just days after the season ended, General Manager Walt Jocketty was fired and replaced by John Mozeliak. Just months into his tenure as GM of the Cardinals, Mozeliak made a deal that lives on in Cardinals history.
Jim Edmonds was 37 years old and entering the final year of his contract, and the Cardinals needed to find a way to bounce back into contention. Rick Ankiel had returned to the Major Leagues as a hitter and was set to ultimately take a starting job in the outfield.
Sadly, there just wasn't a fit for Edmonds anymore. On December 14, 16 years ago to the date, Mozeliak made an unpopular move, trading away the fan favorite to the San Diego Padres. In exchange, the Cardinals got St. Louis native and future World Series hero David Freese.
Remembering a swap of Cardinals legends
Freese was a top prospect in the Padres system before ultimately being traded to St. Louis. He would make his MLB debut on Opening Day in 2009 before securing the starting third base job by 2010.
But at the time, it didn't take the sting out of losing Edmonds. The future Cardinals Hall-of-Famer played a key role in the Cardinals' runs to the World Series in 2004 and 2006. He even hit a walk-off home run in the NLCS against the Astros and made a spectacular diving play to keep the Cardinals afloat in Game 7.
Needless to say, it was a tough day in Cardinal Nation. Nobody knew it at the time, but this would work out just fine for the Cardinals.
By 2011, Freese had entrenched himself as the starting third baseman and played a key role in the team's comeback from 10.5 games in the Wild Card race. Not unlike Edmonds, Freese began to shine in the postseason.
It all started with a four-RBI performance in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Phillies, a game the Cardinals won to stave off elimination before advancing to the NLCS.
All Freese did from there was earn NLCS and World Series MVP honors as the Cardinals completed their magical run. He hit .321 with five home runs and 21 RBI in the postseason. He even tied Game 6 with a triple when the Cardinals were down to their last strike and later won it with his own walk-off homer. Once again, the Cardinals were World Series champions, and it was thanks in large part to this trade.
In the end, it was a swap of Cardinals legends. Without it, the Cardinals would have been nowhere to be found in the 2011 World Series. Saying goodbye to Edmonds wasn't easy, but Freese made Cardinals fans forget all about it in 2011, becoming a legend in his own right, all while playing for his hometown team.