Of course, at the time of the trade in 1987, Tony Pena was an amazing catcher. He was consistently worth 3.5 or more wins between 1982-1986 for the Buccos. So when the Cardinals traded for him in the 1986-1987 off-season, they didn't expect Pena to be worth only about 2 WAR total over the next three seasons. Although Pena would actually continue to have a long respectable career, he was never the same after leaving Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, Van Slyke was an okay player with the Redbirds. He'd had decent 1985 and 1986 seasons, producing an average of 3.4 WAR between those seasons. He wasn't an all-star, but he was a plus-defensive outfielder with the speed to steal 30 bases each season. While Mike LaValliere, who actually was traded alongside Van Slyke, was no Tony Pena, he would actually be worth about 2 WAR a season for the next few years. As it would turn out, LaValliere's great on-base skills would make him pretty valuable. Plus, he was a very good defensive catcher. Pena for LaValliere was already a great trade.
Van Slyke, on the other hand, emerged into a perennial All-Star for the Bucs. He would compile 30.9 WAR in the Steel City over 8 seasons. After injuries derailed his 1993 season, he had a very poor season in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. He split 1995 between Philly and Baltimore before retiring for good. Since retiring from playing baseball, he's served as a Major League coach for the Detroit Tigers and the Seattle Mariners. He's also become an author.
While Andy wasn't a Hall-of-Famer, there's no doubt that Cardinals fans certainly are not happy their team made that trade. While he wasn't missed in 1987, there were certainly times afterward where Van Slyke's presence would have been welcomed over guys like Milt Thompson. Still, the Pirates definitely benefited from what was a roster crunch from St. Louis, and they received a player that became a beloved part of their franchise.
To close this little profile out, I leave you with one of his most famous quotes about the long baseball season: “Every season has its peaks and valleys. What you have to try to do is eliminate the Grand Canyon.”
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