This Date In Transactions History Rumors

This Date In Transactions History: Roger Clemens

Of all the dramatic things Suzyn Waldman has ever seen, the comeback of Roger Clemens ranks pretty highly.  On this date in 2007, the Rocket appeared in George Steinbrenner's box at Yankee Stadium during the seventh-inning stretch as the Bombers faced the Mariners.  Clemens told the rabid crowd over the PA system, "Thank y'all. Well they came and got me out of Texas, and I can tell you its a privilege to be back. I'll be talkin' to y'all soon."

The return marked Clemens' fourth return from retirement, enough to make even the most indecisive boxer or professional wrestler roll his eyes.  Coaxing the hurler out of the Lone Star State wasn't cheap either as he inked a deal worth the pro-rated portion of $28,000,022 (the "22", of course, for his jersey number).  That worked out to $18.7MM in total, good for roughly $4.7MM per month and $1MM per start.  The contract also included a "family plan" clause that excused Clemens from traveling with the club for trips in which he was not scheduled to start.

It wasn't hard to understand why the Yankees would back up a Brink's truck for his services – the club was in desperate need of pitching and Clemens had posted a 2.40 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 across parts of the last three seasons in Houston.  The 44-year-old's final return from retirement wasn't quite as sharp.  Clemens made 17 starts and one relief appearance in the regular season and registered a 4.18 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9.  The Rocket was then shut down for the final few weeks of the season as he was bothered with a left hamstring injury.

Clemens' first start in the postseason proved to be his final of the year and his career.  In Game 3 of the ALDS against the Indians, the right-hander aggravated that same hamstring in the third inning and was pulled by manager Joe Torre.  The severity of the injury led the Yankees to pull him from the playoff roster, leaving him ineligible until the World Series.  Unfortunately for Clemens & Co., the Yanks didn't make it beyond the ALDS as Cleveland wrapped up the series in four games.  Clemens' final go-round in the majors wouldn't net him a third championship ring, but it did add to his overall net worth.  According to Baseball Reference, the Rocket made nearly $151MM over the course of his 24-year big league career.


This Date In Transactions History: Herb Washington

Most of us are familiar with the story of Archibald Graham, the New York Giants outfielder who appeared in just one game in 1905 — without making a plate appearance — before moving on to other endeavors in life. For this distinction, "Moonlight," as he was nicknamed, was immortalized in W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe and later its film adaptation, Field of Dreams.

Graham's story was exhumed and canonized by those stories, for sure, but it hasn't been entirely unique. Here's an even weirder one: former Athletic Herb Washington. Notice I didn't include a position to describe Washington — because he didn't have one. Despite playing in a whopping 105 Major League games with Oakland in 1974-75, Washington never made a plate appearance, played in the field or threw a pitch. He was a so-called "designated runner," used exclusively as a pinch-runner.

Washington was a decorated sprinter as a student-athlete at Michigan State University, and despite not having played baseball since he was a high schooler in Mississippi, his blazing speed apparently made him fit for the Major Leagues in the eyes of eccentric Oakland owner Charles O. Finley. Thus, Washington would parachute into games and, often times, attempt to steal bases.

The only problem was, Washington wasn't terribly good at it. Sure, he swiped 31 bags in his 105 games, but that was in 48 attempts — good for an underwhelming 65% success rate. Stolen-base profiency is still a topic of debate, but most research shows that a 65% success rate won't add much, if anything, to your team's chance of winning — not exactly what Finely had in mind when he signed the speedster. Most notably, Washington was picked off first base late in Game 2 of the 1974 World Series, the only game of that series that Oakland lost. 

Finley and the A's had apparently seen enough of Washington on this day in 1975, because they released him from his contract. Perhaps they weren't over the pickoff, or maybe they just realized a precious roster spot wasn't best spent on a designated runner. Nevertheless, Washington didn't sign elsewhere and thus never appeared in the big leagues again, cementing his place among baseball history's many oddities.

Let us ease his pain.


This Date In Transactions History: Billy Martin

George Steinbrenner believed that April is not too soon to fire a manager, apparently. Because on this day in 1985, the late owner dismissed skipper — and Yankees legend — Yogi Berra after a sluggish 6-10 start, in favor of Billy Martin, another former Yankees great. Martin's intensity was in, and Berra's ease and charm was out.

Martin's hiring marked his fourth stint as Yankees manager — and there would later be a fifth, incredibly. But for all the on-again-off-again drama, the move worked. The notoriously fiery Martin reversed the Bombers' fortunes, guiding them to a 97-64 finish in the old AL East, although that was only good enough for a second-place finish behind the frontrunning Blue Jays, as the Wild Card(s) didn't exist back in that Stone Age. Subtract Berra's 6 wins and 10 losses from that final record, and you're left with an impressive 91 wins and 54 losses under Martin's stewardship — 37 games over .500.

Of course, we now know managers only influence their teams' records so much, excepting for absurd ineptitude, and it's worth mentioning that Martin had plenty of talent on his roster. The 1985 Bombers had a few star-caliber players in Rickey Henderson, Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield, as well as a handful of strong complementary types like Willie Randolph. The big three combined for 20.4 WAR, according to FanGraphs, while the pitching staff was led by Ron Guidry (5.1 WAR) and a strong bullpen.

Despite the relative turnaround, things didn't end well for the Yanks. Martin's confrontational style got the best of him during a disappointing September stretch run, when was involved in an off-field fight with pitcher Ed Whitson that resulted in Martin suffering a broken arm.

With his Yankees having fallen short of the postseason, Martin's antics were difficult for Steinbrenner to digest, and he was once again fired in the offseason. Of course, Martin would return again, in 1988, his final year as a manager before his death on Christmas Day in 1989.



This Date In Transactions History: Dock Ellis

On this date in 1977, the the Athletics traded Mike Torrez to the Yankees for Dock Ellis, Larry Murray, and Marty Perez.  If you don't remember Ellis' stint with the A's, you're probably not alone.  The enigmatic right-hander wound up spending just two months in Oakland.

Nearly seven years after throwing his storied no-hitter, Ellis was the centerpiece of the three-player package headed cross-country.  The 32-year-old hurler wasn't able to find his groove with the Athletics, however, posting a 9.69 ERA in seven starts totalling 26 innings.  The A's, figuring that Ellis had jumped the shark, promptly sold him to the Rangers.

Ellis, however, got back on track in Texas in a big way.  In 22 starts and one relief appearance, Ellis turned in a 2.90 ERA with 4.8 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9.  The right-hander stayed on with the Rangers until the summer of 1979, when he was dealt to the Mets.  Ellis brought everything full circle later in the year when his contract was purchased by Pittsburgh, allowing him to retire as a Pirate.

Meanwhile, Torrez became part of Yankees lore despite only spending the 1977 season in pinstripes.  The right-hander earned two complete-game victories in the club's six-game World Series over the Dodgers and even caught the final out to seal the deal.  Torrez went on to pitch for another five seasons and change, four of which were spent with the rival Red Sox.


This Date In Transactions History: Graig Nettles

There are a number of reasons why a club might trade a former All-Star.  Most of the time, it has more to do with production than a player's literary work.

On this date in 1984, the Yankees completed their trade of third baseman Graig Nettles to the Padres when they chose minor leaguer Darin Cloninger as the player to be named later to go with left-hander Dennis Rasmussen.  Reportedly, George Steinbrenner secured a sneak preview of Nettles' book, "Balls", which was highly critical of the Yankees owner.  While Steinbrenner was happy to jettison the third baseman across the country, Nettles was also quite satisfied with the deal.  The veteran pushed for a trade to the Padres in the past but had his request denied.

While Nettles' book was largely responsible for the timing of the trade, the deal also made sense from a baseball standpoint.  The 39-year-old signed a two-year, $1.8MM deal in '83 but was already being moved into a timeshare at his position.  The Yankees traded for the Indians' Toby Harrah and shifted Roy Smalley from shortstop back to third base, moves that Nettles admitted made him uneasy.

Even at his advanced age, Nettles had plenty of quality baseball left.  The veteran hit .228/.329/.413 in his first year in San Diego and earned his sixth career All-Star selection in 1985.  Nettles would wrap up things up with the Montreal Expos in 1988 after 22 major league seasons.  The San Diego native hit .248/.329/.421 with 390 homers over his career.


This Date In Transactions History: Pedro Martinez

The 2003 season ended in heartbreak for the Red Sox, whose hopes of capturing their first World Series since 1918 were dashed in Game 7 of the ALCS, when Aaron Boone channeled his inner Bucky Dent and inherited a new nickname: Bleepin'.

You certainly couldn't blame Pedro Martinez for the Red Sox's shortcomings that year, though. Boston's longstanding ace was worth nearly 7.9 wins above replacement across 186 2/3 innings, pitching like a guy who really wanted his $17.5MM contract option picked up for the next season. Thing is, his option had already been exercised — on this day in 2003.

That's right: Boston picked up Pedro's option — the highest single-season salary for a pitcher in MLB history — about seven months prior to what would have otherwise been a November deadline. In addition to the usual risks (injury, decline) of exercising an option before it's necessary, consider that Martinez would turn 32 later that year and had already taxed his slender frame for nearly 1,900 career innings.

While we could debate the process, the result must be considered a success for Boston. The Red Sox rebounded from the disappointment of 2003 to finally capture that elusive World Series title in 2004, sweeping the Cardinals. Martinez did, in fact, begin a steady decline in 2004 (at least relative to his mid-career production), but the beginning of his decline phase was still worth an excellent 5.7 wins above replacement — or $17.7MM, according to fangraphs. Talk about an even exchange.

The Red Sox allowed the legend to walk via free agency after 2004 in a surprisingly unsentimental move for a team that was all too eager to keep one of the most popular players in franchise history only a year and a half earlier. They apparently knew that it's better to burn out than it is to rust, as the Mets absorbed the brunt of Pedro's iron-oxide accumulation in the form of a four-year contract from 2005-08.

That bold decision proved prudent, as did the bold move the Red Sox made on this date in 2003.


Leap Day In Transaction History

Like the rest of you, I resent leap years. An extra day of winter, an extra day of waiting for Opening Day, an extra day before I can start wearing my "It's March!" shirts without getting strange looks… the whole idea is infuriating.

That must be why, when it comes to baseball transactions on this day, the results are so unimpressive. Sure, many of the marquee free agents have signed by this point in the offseason, but that alone cannot explain the black hole February 29 has been for adding useful talent.

Just within the past few years, teams have added valuable players like Pedro Feliciano and Chan Ho Park on February 28 and Bruce Chen and Chad Durbin on March 1. By contrast, consider: just two players signed on Leap Day since 1980 have provided positive value to their new teams that season.

Infielder Ramon Martinez signed with the Dodgers on February 29, 2008, but he didn't get into a single game before Los Angeles released him in July. He ultimately played a few games with the Mets, but the only addition last Leap Day did not prove fruitful for his team.

No one at all signed on February 29, 2004. Can you blame them?

Back on February 29, 2000, San Diego signed the left-handed reliever Alberto Castillo. Just a month later, the Padres released him. Castillo didn't reach the Major Leagues until 2008.

But back in 1996, Don Slaught broke the mold of failure, as he broke so many molds as a player. Sold by the Angels to the Reds, Slaught didn't let the curse of 29 stop him, posting a .313/.355/.428 line and catching 71 games, first for the Angels, then for the White Sox.

However, it was Alan Mills who truly holds the record for most productive player acquired on February 29, a record that stands alongside accomplishments like Cy Young's 511 wins Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, and Matt Franco's single-season record for pinch-hit walks. The New York Yankees sent Mills to Baltimore for pitchers Francisco de la Rosa and Mark Carper.

What did Mills do in Baltimore? He pitched so well, you'd swear he was acquired on February 28. A 10-4 record, 2.61 ERA and a pair of saves in a swingman role makes Alan Mills the king of the February 29s.

Interestingly, Mills tried to recreate this magic by signing with Tampa Bay in February 2004- a leap year. But he did so on the 16th and, unsurprisingly, failed to make the club.

Sadly, recent reports indicate that Ivan Rodriguez will not become the latest high-profile member of this exclusive club. But pay close attention to today's MLBTR stories. Like Haley's Comet, you'll be seeing something that doesn't happen very often in our lifetimes, and works out even less of the time.


This Date In Transactions History: Bernie Williams

Icon_15585003It's tough to imagine Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera wearing something other than a Yankees' uniform, and for a long time the same was true for Bernie Williams. The former batting champ and five-time All-Star spent his entire career in pinstripes, but he came very close to joining an AL East rival during the 1998-1999 offseason.

Williams, who had just turned 30, hit .339/.422/.575 with 26 homers during the 1998 season, batting cleanup for a 114-win team. He'd hit .323/.406/.551 with 76 homers in 400 games over the previous three seasons, and was a hot commodity on the free agent market. ESPN's Buster Olney, then with The New York Times, reported that Williams rejected a five-year, $60MM contract offer from New York in mid-November, one year after they offered him a five-year, $37.5MM extension.

The Red Sox, looking to make a splash after winning 92 games but finishing 22 back in the AL East, offered Williams a six-year contract worth $90MM according to Olney. The Yankees had turned their attention to Albert Belle, who was coming off a 49-homer, .328/.399/.655 season with the White Sox. He was two years into a five-year, $55MM deal with Chicago, but a clause in his contract ensured that he would remain one of the three highest paid players in baseball. When the White Sox declined to give him a raise to meet the clause, Belle became a free agent and the Yankees' Plan B.

Williams and agent Scott Boras gave the Yankees a chance to match Boston's offer, and 13 years ago today he agreed to return to New York on a seven-year, $87.5MM contract. It was one of the largest contracts in baseball history at the time, right behind Mike Piazza's seven-year, $91MM deal with the Mets. Belle wound up with the Orioles to the tune of $65MM over five years. Williams hit .298/.386/.480 during the life of the contract, helping the Yankees to four pennants and two World Series titles.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.


This Date In Transactions History: Colby Lewis

357110601021_Rangers_at_Rays The Rangers and Tigers kicked off their ALCS matchup tonight, but that's not the only thing tying these two teams together. Our Transaction Tracker shows that GMs Dave Dombrowski and Jon Daniels have gotten together for four trades, most notably the Gerald Laird swap. A seven-year-old waiver claim is the more interesting transaction though; on this date in 2004, the Tigers claimed Colby Lewis off waivers from the Rangers.

Lewis, slated to start Game Three for Texas on Tuesday, was little more than a failed prospect back then. He made three starts in 2004 before requiring rotator cuff surgery, and he'd pitched to a 6.83 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 5.6 BB/9 in 176 2/3 innings for the Rangers before Detroit claimed him. The Tigers got nothing, literally zero innings, out of Lewis in 2005 (majors and minors) because of the shoulder, then he spent the majority of 2006 in Triple-A before making two late season appearances in the big leagues.

That is the extent of Lewis' career with the Tigers, just three innings across two appearances. The team granted him free agency after the season, and he soon caught on with the Nationals. The 2007 calendar year saw the right-hander spend time with the Nats, Athletics, and Royals, but he didn't do enough to stick around. Lewis then headed to Japan and pitched very well for the Hiroshima Carp in 2008 and 2009, putting himself back on the map.

Lewis' performance with the Carp earned him a two-year deal worth $5MM with the Rangers prior to last season, the team that originally drafted him in 1999. The Tigers claimed him seven years ago today hoping he'd realize his potential and help a pitching staff that had just allowed the third most runs in the league. It took a trip to Japan before Lewis figured things out, and in a few days he'll start for the team that waived him and against the team that claimed him.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.


Padres Claim Andrew Carpenter

The Padres claimed right-hander Andrew Carpenter off of waivers from the Phillies, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer (on Twitter). Philadelphia's 40-man roster now includes 39 players.

Carpenter, 26, made six relief appearances for the Phillies this year, but he has spent most of the season at Triple-A, where he has a 1.79 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 60 1/3 innings. Carpenter has a 36.5% ground ball rate in limited MLB action over the course of four years, so it's not surprising that the Padres are intrigued by what he can do in Petco Park, especially given his strong minor league stats.

Padres GM Jed Hoyer has been aggressive in terms of waiver claims this week. San Diego claimed Jeff Fulchino from Houston yesterday and claimed Jeremy Hermida from Cincinnati Wednesday.