This Date In Transactions History Rumors
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.
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.
It'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.
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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.
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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.
This time last year, the Major League home run leader appeared to be on the trade block and teams were asking about his availability daily. The Giants, Phillies, White Sox and Tigers all inquired on Jose Bautista, and while the talk intrigued front offices and fans alike, it didn’t faze Bautista.
"That wasn’t something that bothered me too much,” he told MLBTR. “By now, I don’t think any trade rumors bother me. It’s always somewhat intriguing to know that you’re involved in talks.”
Twelve months later, the MLB home run leaderboard looks similar - Bautista tops it with 31 home runs - but the right fielder turned third baseman no longer hears himself mentioned as a trade candidate. Bautista, who has switched organizations six times in his career, obtained some stability over the winter, signing a five-year, $64MM extension with the Blue Jays.
On this date seven years ago, long before the multiyear contracts and home run titles, the trade talk turned to reality for Bautista, who was traded twice on July 30th, 2004. The Royals sent him to the Mets, who flipped him to the Pirates, the organization that drafted and developed him. Bautista was on the field for batting practice when he was told to go inside.
“I just thought it was a routine call into the office to talk about something else,” he recalled. “They told me straight up ‘all right, we’ve got some good news and bad news, which one do you want first?’ I was like ‘give me the bad news first and then give me the good news.’ They said ‘well the bad news is we just lost you, we just traded you away. The good news is you’re going to your original team and you’re going to have a lot of opportunities.”
Then a rookie Rule 5 pick who had already suited up for the Orioles, Rays and Royals in the first three months of the 2004 season, Bautista says getting traded so often early on in his career was disorienting at times.
“There’s always a little bit of ‘what the hell am I doing wrong that people don’t want me,'" he said. "At the same time, you’re going somewhere where people do want you. Mixed bag of feelings, but ultimately it was the best thing that happened to me at that point in my career.”
Seven years later, Bautista doesn't have to pack his bags or hear his name in trade rumors. It’s now time for him to experience this summer’s trade deadline in another way - as an observer.
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When the Twins claimed a shortstop off of waivers on this date in 2008, they probably wouldn’t have guessed that Sergio Santos would go on to become a closer for their division rivals. Yet that’s exactly what’s happened since Minnesota claimed Santos from the Blue Jays three years ago.
Santos, selected in the first round of the 2002 draft by the D’Backs as a shortstop, arrived in the Toronto organization late in 2005, when the Blue Jays sent Orlando Hudson and Miguel Batista to the D’Backs for Troy Glaus. The Twins then claimed Santos on May 16th, 2008, before he had ever pitched in a professional game. After Santos posted a .242/.279/.374 line in the minors, the Twins let the infielder go.
Later in the offseason the White Sox signed Santos and within months, he was on the move again. The White Sox traded Santos to San Francisco late in Spring Training on the condition that the Giants would find him an everyday job in Triple-A. Unable to provide Santos with a regular role, the Giants sent him back to Chicago less than two weeks later.
Once the 2009 season began, Santos began the transition to the mound, as Yahoo's Jef Passan explained last year. The right-hander posted an 8.16 ERA through 28 2/3 innings for four different White Sox affiliates and allowed 37 hits and 20 walks, while striking out 30.
By 2010, Santos had graduated to Chicago's 'pen. He posted a 2.96 ERA in 51 2/3 innings with 9.8 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 as a rookie. Armed with a 95 mph fastball, Santos has posted similar numbers through 19 frames this year. He has yet to allow an earned run and he has 10.4 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9 as Ozzie Guillen’s most effective reliever - almost certainly not what the Twins were envisioning when they claimed the former shortstop off of waivers on this date in ’08.
With the amateur draft coming up in just over three weeks, we've spent most of our time here at MLBTR covering the first round. Quality players come from every round though, and there's perhaps no more famous example of a late-round pick turning into gold than Mike Piazza. The Dodgers selected him in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft as a favor to Tommy Lasorda, who was a friend of the Piazza family and godfather to Mike's brother Tommy.
Piazza moved from first base to catcher in the minor leagues at Lasorda's behest, and he hit his way to the big leagues less than four years later. After a brief cup of coffee in 1992, Piazza opened the 1993 season as the Dodgers' starting catcher, and hit a robust .318/.370/.561 with 35 homers as a 24-year-old. He won the Rookie of the Year award unanimously, and finished ninth in the MVP voting.
Over the next four seasons, Piazza hit .342/.409/.590 with an average of 33 homers per year, being named to the All-Star team and winning the Silver Slugger Award each year. He never finished lower than sixth in the MVP voting during that time, finishing as the runner up in 1996 (Ken Caminiti) and 1997 (Larry Walker). Piazza was a star of the first order, but contractual issues began to surface.
Scheduled to become a free agent after the 1998 season, talks about a contract extension between Piazza and the Dodgers went nowhere. Furthermore, Peter O'Malley and Terry Seidler were in the process of selling the team to FOX. Afraid that they were going to lose their star to free agency and not have anything to show for it, Los Angeles took a drastic step.
Thirteen years ago today, the Marlins and Dodgers pulled off a seven-player swap that sent Piazza and Todd Zeile to Florida in exchange for Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich, and Manuel Barrios. To say the trade wasn't well-received in Southern California would be an understatement.
Piazza's time with the Marlins as short lived, very short lived in fact. He had five hits in five games with them before being traded to the Mets for Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnall, and Geoff Goetz. Piazza spent parts of eight years with the Mets before moving to the Padres and Athletics late in his career. He retired as a .308/.377/.545 career hitter with 427 home runs to his credit, unquestionably the best hitting catcher in baseball history (min. 1,000 games caught).
We see players traded right before reached free agency every season, but it's not often a player of Piazza's caliber is involved, and he was traded twice in one week.
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The "player to be named later" is one of baseball's many transactions quirks. They must be named within six months of the trade, but are often agreed upon by the two teams long before that. Sometimes the November 40-man roster freeze gets in the way, sometimes it's because a player just signed his first professional contract and isn't eligible to be traded yet (a player can not officially be traded until a year after he signs his first contract). Sometimes it's just a placeholder, a piece of the puzzle the two clubs will figure out later.
Currently part of the Royals organization, Joaquin Arias knows what being a PTBNL is like. The Yankees signed him out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old back in 2001, giving him a $300K signing bonus. They then watched him hit a respectable .300/.338/.394 with 12 walks and just 16 strikeouts in 218 plate appearances with their rookie level Gulf Coast League affiliate the following year. He impressed the Yankees enough that they bumped him up to their Low-A affiliate in 2003, when he was still just 18. Arias hit just .266/.306/.343 in 520 plate appearances that year, but he dazzled scouts with "plus-plus range and speed" to go along with "outstanding bat speed and raw power" according to Baseball America.
Unfortunately for Arias, he would never advance further in the Yankees' system. Seven years ago today, the Rangers officially acquired him from New York as the player to be named in the Alex Rodriguez trade. Texas chose Arias from a pool of five prospects that included Robinson Cano and current Astros' reliever Jose Valdez. At the time, Arias was ranked as the fourth best prospect in the Yankees' system by Baseball America while Cano ranked sixth and Valdez placed 21st.
Arias climbed the minor league ladder steadily after the trade, making his Major League debut in 2006. He bounced back and forth between Triple-A and the minors for the next few seasons, not sticking in the big leagues for good until he was out-of-options in 2010. Overall, he hit just .286/.322/.279 in 242 career plate appearances for the Rangers before being traded to the Mets for Jeff Francoeur last summer. Although his career has been unremarkable thus far, Arias will always be able to say that he was traded for one of the greatest players in baseball history, even if he had to wait a few weeks to be included.
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The Cubs' rotation has run into some bad injury luck early this season, with both Andrew Cashner (shoulder) and Randy Wells (forearm) now on the disabled list. The former was a first round pick that spent just one full season in the minors, the latter an unheralded 38th round pick that spent parts of six seasons in the minors before getting to the big leagues. If it wasn't for a transaction that took place three years ago today, one of them wouldn't even be in the organization.
Wells, now 28, was originally drafted as a catcher out of Southwestern Illinois Community College in 2002, but the team moved him to the mound in late 2003 even though he'd never pitched in high school or college. He posted a 4.43 ERA in 107 2/3 innings the next season (Single-A), then was even better in 2005 (2.87 ERA in 106 2/3 IP at Single and Double-A). Baseball America didn't consider him much of a prospect though, and it wasn't until 2007 that Wells got some attention.
In his second crack at Triple-A, Wells made nine starts and 31 relief appearances for the Iowa Cubs in 2007. Although his 4.52 ERA was hardly noteworthy, he did strike out 9.5 men per nine innings. That's what caught the eye of the Blue Jays, who selected Wells with the 11th pick of the 2007 Rule 5 Draft. He made the team out of Spring Training in 2008, though he appeared in just one game with them (scoreless inning with one walk).
Apparently that was all Toronto needed to see. Nine games into the season, the Jays designated Wells for assignment, making room on both the 25-man and 40-man rosters for left-hander Jesse Carlson. After toiling in limbo (and on waivers) for a week, Wells was returned to the Cubs on April 16th as per Rule 5 Draft protocol. He made four relief appearances in Chicago later that year, and has pitched to a 3.67 ERA in 60 starts (365 2/3 innings) in the two years since.
Wells is a true player development success story, a guy that changed positions (more like vocations, really) as a professional and climbed the ladder one step at a time. He was ranked as one of his organization's top 30 prospects just once by Baseball America, when they placed him 22nd in Toronto's system prior to the 2008 season. Wells may be hurt now, but he's done some fine work for the Cubs over the last few years. The only reason they have him around though is because the Blue Jays cut ties with him three years ago today.
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