Today is Bartolo Colon’s 47th birthday, and I think I join just about every baseball fan in hoping that “Big Sexy” can fulfill his goal of making it back to the majors for one more go-around. While that extra year would be a nice bonus, Colon has already established an incredible legacy over his 21 MLB seasons, with a list of memories ranging from his 2005 AL Cy Young Award to perhaps the most popular home run of the decade. Colon has accomplished so much since he first broke into the bigs with the Indians at age 24….and yet though it has been close to 18 years since he last donned a Cleveland uniform, the Tribe continues to benefit from Colon’s time with the franchise.
Let’s flash back to 2002. After establishing himself as a solid member of the rotation during his first five seasons, Colon was on pace for his lowest ERA yet, as he had posted a 2.55 mark over his first 16 starts and 116 1/3 innings of the 2002 campaign. (Even if a 3.75 FIP indicates that Colon was perhaps somewhat fortunate to manage that 2.55 ERA.) The downside was that that the Indians were struggling, as the club was preparing for a rebuild after its long run of winning seasons and frequent playoff appearances from 1994-2001. That made Colon expendable, and the righty was dealt to the Montreal Expos in a blockbuster trade near the end of June.
While Colon pitched well for the Expos, they came up short in their bid for the postseason in what ended up being their third-to-last year in Montreal. With the Expos controlled by Major League Baseball at the time and rumors swirling that a new owner would likely move the team, then-general manager Omar Minaya decided that a bold move was necessary to try and reinvigorate both Montreal fans and potential local investors.
As such, Minaya threw all caution to the wind in sending a four-player package of Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, and Lee Stevens to Cleveland in exchange for Colon’s services. The veteran Stevens (who didn’t play in the big leagues again after the 2002 season) was something of a throw-in, but let’s look at the other three Expos prospects obtained….
Phillips: The second baseman didn’t break out and reach his All-Star form until after he was dealt to the Reds in April 2006, though indirectly, Phillips helped the Indians land Chris Perez. Phillips went to Cincinnati for righty Jeff Stevens, who was dealt in December 2008 as part of a three-player package (that also included Chris Archer) to the Cubs for Mark DeRosa. Cleveland sent DeRosa to the Cardinals in June 2009 for a player to be named later and Perez, who recorded 124 saves and reached two All-Star games over his four-plus seasons with the Tribe.
Sizemore: The Indians received a more direct contribution from Sizemore, as the center fielder soon blossomed into one of the game’s better all-around players. Sizemore hit .281/.372/.496 from 2005-08, with the fourth-most fWAR (27.3) of any player in baseball during that four-year stretch. Unfortunately for both Sizemore and the Indians, injuries curtailed what was looking like a special career, and Sizemore played only 419 games total from 2009-15.
Lee: The southpaw’s 182-game tenure in Cleveland had its ups and downs, though he saved the best for last with an outstanding 2008 season. Lee won the AL Cy Young Award by leading the league in ERA (2.54), ERA+ (167), BB/9 (1.4), and HR/9 (0.5), while also tossing 223 1/3 innings.
He continued to pitch well into the 2009 season, which leads us to the next offshoot of the Colon trade: the deal that sent Lee to the Phillies at the 2009 trade deadline. Cleveland picked up another four-player package, this time consisting of Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, and minor league righty Jason Knapp. Baseball America ranked Carrasco, Donald, and Marson within their top 100 prospects list prior to the 2009 season, and Knapp made the 2010 list, though Knapp never ended up reaching the big leagues. Marson ended up playing 261 games in the Show (253 as a part-time catcher for the Indians), hitting .219/.309/.299 over a career that stretched across six seasons.
The other two pieces of the trade went on to become noteworthy parts of Cleveland baseball history…
Carrasco: The man they call “Cookie” is still on the Tribe’s roster, evolving from prospect to a stalwart member of the rotation. Beyond his contributions on the field, Carrasco has become a popular leader both in the Indians’ clubhouse and around the sport, as witnessed by the outpouring of support he received last season while battling (and ultimately returning from) a leukemia diagnosis.
Donald: After posting a .672 OPS over 603 plate appearances and 170 games with the Indians from 2010-12, Donald never again played in the Majors. Since perhaps his most memorable baseball moment was his (ahem) infield single to break up Armando Galarraga’s would-be perfect game in June 2010, you may wonder why Donald merits a “noteworthy” designation.
In short, it’s because Donald was part of one of Cleveland’s most memorable trades of the decade. Granted, nobody refers to the three-team deal between the Indians, Reds, and Diamondbacks in December 2012 as “the Jason Donald trade” given the other big names (namely Shin-Soo Choo and Didi Gregorius) involved. That said, given the complexity of such multi-team swaps, perhaps the whole negotiation would have fallen apart if the Tribe hadn’t agreed to send Donald to Cincinnati.
Even if Donald didn’t play a headline role in the exchange, the main point is that the Indians received another four-player package on their end of the trade: Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers, Bryan Shaw, and Drew Stubbs. Albers pitched well out of the Tribe’s bullpen in 2013 before departing in free agency. Stubbs only spent one year in Cleveland before being traded to Colorado in December 2013 for Josh Outman, who gave the Indians 24 2/3 relief innings of 3.28 ERA ball before being swapped to the Yankees for cash considerations. Looking at the other two names…
Shaw: The biggest bullpen reinforcement of the group, Shaw became a workhorse of a setup man from 2013-17. Three times a league-leader in appearances during that five-year stretch, Shaw posted a 3.11 ERA, 8.4 K/9, and 2.8 K/BB rate over 358 2/3 frames in Cleveland.
Bauer: The right-hander was no stranger to controversy over his six-plus seasons with the Indians, though he developed from solid starter to an ace in 2018, posting a 2.21 ERA over 175 1/3 innings and finishing sixth in AL Cy Young voting. Somewhat similar to Lee’s situation, Bauer continued to pitch well enough into the next season that he became part of a major pre-deadline trade.
This three-team swap is a bit fresher in our memory banks, but as a reminder, the Padres, Reds, and Indians combined on a blockbuster that saw Bauer go to Cincinnati while top Reds outfield prospect Taylor Trammell went to San Diego. The other five players involved in the trade all went to the Indians: Yasiel Puig, Franmil Reyes, and prospects Logan Allen, Scott Moss, and Victor Nova.
The “Wild Horse” has already come and gone from Cleveland, as Puig departed for free agency and was still looking for a new team prior to the league-wide transactions freeze. Acquired to help offset salary and add some pop to the ever-shifting Tribe outfield, Puig hit pretty well during his brief stint with the Indians, slashing .297/.377/.423 over 207 PA, though he managed only two home runs (as opposed to his 22 in 404 PA with the Reds). Nova is a 20-year-old rookie ball prospect, while MLB Pipeline ranks Moss ranks 18th among all Indians prospects and projects him as a possible back-of-the-rotation starter if he can harness his control. As for the other two…
Allen: Going into 2019 as a consensus top-100 prospect in baseball, Allen badly struggled at the Triple-A level last year. His hopes at a rebound have been hampered the possibility that the minor league season could be canceled entirely, though Allen could potentially find a role on the 20-player taxi squad backing up an expanded 30-player Cleveland roster. The southpaw was badly hurt by home runs last season, so the Tribe hope that getting more used to the livelier ball will help Allen get back on track.
Reyes: The 24-year-old slugger got off to a slow start after the trade to Cleveland, but recovered to hit .237/.304/.468 with 10 homers over 194 PA in an Indians uniform. Reyes will now have to cut down on the strikeouts and become a bit more of a well-rounded hitter in order to fully unlock the hitting potential that is clearly evident from his power numbers.
So to recap, trading Colon in 2002 has led to five current members of the Indians organization. Over those 18 years since the Expos trade, dealing Colon also directly and indirectly led to a Cy Young Award winner (Lee), another starter with at least one Cy Young-caliber campaign (Bauer), two relievers who delivered consistent results over multiple seasons (Shaw and Perez), four years from an MVP candidate (Sizemore), and other small contributions from a host of other players. This group all contributed to at least one of the Tribe’s five postseason appearances from 2007-18, and the club now hopes that Carrasco, Reyes, Allen, and company can call be part of Cleveland’s next playoff team.
That adds up to at least two windows of contention, and who knows if future trades or transactions could spin some of those current players on the roster into even bigger contributors down the road. While the Indians have already gotten so much in return from that 2002 deal, as with seemingly all things involving Bartolo Colon, you never know when another delightful surprise could emerge.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
Was such a weird trade.
Believe it was baseball’s last ditch effort in Montreal.
The organization itself had no business trading for Colon.
Interesting way to look at this trade will be look at what Montreal received back when they traded Colon to the Chicago WS and include the short period of time he pitched with the Expos.
Doubt it was on the level of Lee, Phillips and Sizemore.
They got El Duque from the Yankees and Jeff Liefer and Rocky Biddle from the White Sox. Not awesome.
Indeed. Hernandez never pitched an inning for them, Leifer was soon out of baseball and probably would have been non tendered, Biddle was serviceable,at times, but could have been non tendered, as well. I think the Expos got Tim Drew, who was a pretty decent prospect, at the time, along with Colon, for what it’s worth.
wild bill tetley
Montreal and the media was delusional thinking they could be a playoff team in 2002 which is why the deal went down. Some believed an ace like Colon would put them over the top. It didn’t despite Colon pitching very well.
Yankees continue to benefit from Babe Ruth trade
I loved him here in Texas. I know it’s not the best looking stats but that guy is just a helluva lot of fun.
I think all of us fans got a kick out of him.
Wow, great article to show how one trade had an amazing ripple effect.
yeah its crazy…there’s a lot of talent in that ripple effect….affect or effect?! I never get that one right lol
You got it right.
Julio Franco's Birth Certificate
I still vividly remember the night that deal went down. Sports radio in Cleveland was blowing up for probably two weeks straight. We got who? Grady Sizemore? Brandon Phillips? A guy named Cliff Lee? Is this some kind of joke?
At least we got Lee Stevens who can sub in for Jim Thome at 1st base and DH a bit.
HAHA, wow were those reactions wrong. And Mark Shapiro made his entire career in baseball off of that single trade, despite being a horrendous GM the rest of the time.
Mark, I get the impression the market is softening for Rincon.
Local sports radio consistently have the worst takes imaginable. I feel like sports intelligence has went up as terrestrial radio slowly dies. Less commenters on here who regurgitate what they hear on their local station
And to me Shapiro blew it when they couldn’t find a way for Phillips to crack the roster and gave him away to Cindy to watch him be a star for them.
wild bill tetley
Phillips didn’t walk enough.
– Shapiro & the gang (paraphrasing)
Wedge didn’t like him and buried him. Somebody that has that kind of talent is obvious, and to not be able to make their team even as a utility man when out of options is inexcusable.
Wedge and Acta……two dark chapters in Tribe history, Acta especially.
At least Acta was brought in to deal with a young roster and develop them to get them to the next level. Wedge was given much better talent and squandered it.
Phillips somehow didn’t have enough talent to make the team in 2006 even as a backup, but got traded as he wasn’t going to clear waivers and somehow batted .276 with 17 dingers, 75 RBIs and swiped 25 bases for Cincy. That tells me all I need to know about their talent at talent evaluation.
Chief Wahoo Lives
I disagree on the “Acta especially” part. Wedge had more talent to work with than Acta did. Wedge was horrible. And as was mentioned above, it was Wedge that was pushing for Phillips to be traded. It was said that Phillips had an attitude problem, which I agree with. But Wedge had just as bad of an attitude. A less stubborn and arrogant manager than Wedge might have gotten through to Phillips?
I may be off, but I believe Phillips might have been getting frustrated with his role, he got 11 games, then a good look with 112 games, then only 6 and another year of 6. So three seasons after getting 112 games he couldn’t even break camp with the team? Traded in April and put up a very good year in Cincy. Phillips bears some ownership there, but this one falls mostly on the manager IMO.
Man, this was a great chance to name the article “Big Sexy’s Big Return”…
Omar Minaya’s tenure with the Expos should be a documentary subject, he crushed that team just as much as lack of fan support and municipal support did.
I guess it makes sense when you consider that MLB owned the team so other owners had no issue with pilfering all their talent.
Omar has a scouting background, but during his GM tenures, he has routinely traded away his farm. Some have worked, some have not. I think, as another person mentioned, his biggest sin was the meager return he got back when flipping Colon. To be fair, Montreal at that time was broke, and he had been given indications that they were going to be contracted. Even, though, that seems fairly remote, especially in hindsight.
Some pretty good moves by the Indians. Baseball in Montreal was doomed by the 1994 strike. Montreal who had the best record in the NL at the time of the strike missed out on playoff revenue the franchise desperately needed for future funding of the team. Not only that but the city missed out on the chance for a new stadium, Olympic stadium was ment for the Olympics not baseball and the owner then sold the players on the team in 1995-1996 similar to what happened to the Marlins after they won the World Series in 1997, but the Expos would have held together had they been given the chance and won the world series in 1994. That team was great had a lot of future World Series winning players on it. Watch a whole documentary on YouTube called the Colorful Montreal Expos. Good watch if you want to know what really happened. I believe one day there will be baseball in Montreal again. The people there love it, it just was never given the right recipe to floriush. They needed funding and a proper stadium to go with there excellent player development and drafting.
The one about the 1994 Expos is decent. It gives a little bit more of a backstory
Talks about Ellis Valentine, Gary Carter and the late 1970’s and early 1980’s Expos.
They never had the revenue. It was for a multitude of reasons. #1 it is a hockey town. There is a sense of community about their hockey team because it is their identity #2 Maybe played a much larger role at that time and it was the exchange rate
They were talking in Canadian dollars and paying in American.
Today it is much closer but late 1970s to early 1990s it wasn’t
If the Toronto Blue Jays weren’t coming off of back to back WS it may have been different.
Montreal wants to maintain the image they are superior to Toronto. Goes back to why they identify with their hockey team to almost a fanatical level.
wild bill tetley
They were doomed a few years earlier when parts of their stadium started falling and they could not secure a new stadium. Considering what went down in 1993 with the Braves running down the Giants, we aren’t sure if Montreal would have won the division. They would have certainly played in the postseason that year.
Fair enough about the Braves, although, personally, I don’t think they would have. A lot of talent on that team were entering their primes. A young Pedro Martinez was the number three starter on that team, which says something.
Olympic stadium was ment for the Olympics not baseball
It was truly and epically awful. Made ven worse by the fact that they were drawing like 17,000 fans. So you would sit there, in this tiny crowd, in a stadium designed to hold maybe 85,000.
However, there is a fun side to the Big O story. One of the NYMs groupies claimed that either Strawberry or Sid Fernendez exposed themselves to them in the locker. They so show up at a hearing of some sort, and the groupie’s lawyer is telling the judge how it happening in Olympic Stadium., with dates and all the gory details.
By a strange and fortunate coincidence, that also happened to be the weekend that part of the Big O ceiling fell in, and the games had to be played at Shea Stadium. The groupie’s lawyer walked away stuttering, saying it really happened, and they needed to amend some of the details. Needless to say, he and the case disappeared.
Don’t forget phony birth certificate, experimental surgeries and multiple families. Ah yes, Big Sloppi, what a fun guy, we should all marvel at watching such a poor excuse for a “professional athlete” wobble around the field…
I’m sorry….I guess I didn’t realize this story was about Big Papi. Or any other story in the last 5 or so years, but some people just can’t let things go and force it every chance they get. Good thing you weren’t born in 1900 or we’d still be hearing about the Black Sox in every other comment thread
You are sorry, because nobody is talking about Big Papi. We’re clearly talking about Big Sloppi Bartolo Colon.
do an Adrian Gonzalez trade thread! that padres rangers trade is something NO ONE talks about.
Or the Adrián González trade from Boston to LA, where the big boys could get out from under bad contracts instantly, while smaller market teams would be crippled for years.
Johan should have won that CY…
Now that Bartolo is out of pro sports, is Tom Brady the oldest North American athlete in a team sport?
Or is there a kicker, punter or reliever I have forgotten (or never knew) about?
Iron Mike seems to be making a comeback.
Iron Mike is now tarnished metal Mike
Adam Vinatieri is 47. He is a free agent now, so he may retire if nobody signs him.
What a great read, Mark! Thanks for the stroll down memory lane, and for making all of the trade connections.
This is the perfect article to show how the Indians still continue to operate, in their making shrewd trades to stay consistently competitive.
Even though there in a salary dump we’ll see how it affects the 2020-21 season…Need some SP, middle RP, I would say they miss the playoffs and miss the wild card. Good thing they have one of the better Mgr’s in baseball that makes a difference.
Need some SP? Starting pitching is the strength of the Cleveland Indians. Bieber, Clevinger, and Carrasco for their top 3 starters. Civale and Plesac, both who pitched well in 2019 in their first exposure to MLB, to fill out the rotation. Cleveland will definitely be a playoff contender in 2020 if there is a season.
Such a great read! Keep this going! As an Orioles fan, is there any you can do from their perspective? Thanks.
I used to curse this trade as severe malpractice by MLB. The Expos team that moved to Washington had been ravished and the minor league system took years to be rebuilt. However, this worked out in a perverse way for Nationals fans. The callous neglect of the Expos is the reason there even is a team in Washington for me to love. Strangely, too, no matter how bad that trade was, every move that led to the current situation resulted in the Expos/Nationals winning the World Series before Cleveland.
As mentioned, Choo was the centerpiece of that amazing deal for Bauer, Shaw and Albers. Russ Branyan was drafted by the Indians in the 7th round of the draft. Branyan was eventually traded to Cincinnati for Ben Broussard. Then Broussard was sent to Seattle for Choo. It is amazing the amount of value the Indians were able to generate largely from a 7th round draft pick.
Gave you a like for mentioning Ben Broussard.
He is someone I am familiar with.
Had nice career in the game and enjoying life today.
Not the only time they pulled off highway robbery around that time either. Moves like minor signing Casey Blake turning fair regular and eventually being flipped to the Dodgers for Carlos Santana, or fair catcher Einer Diaz sent to Tex for Travis Hafner. They are a fascinating team to look into the transaction history of, and it’s not just from their landing and developing of pitchers like Kluber and Clevinger
Kluber is a good one too… Indians trade Willie Blair and Eddie Taubensee to the Astros for Kenny Lofton. Lofton has an amazing run with the Indians and is eventually traded for David Justice and Marquis Grissom. Justice is traded for a package including Jake Westbrook. Westbrook was eventually the centerpiece of the deal that brought Kluber to Cleveland.
So for Blaire and Taubensee they got 10 years of Lofton, a year of Grissom, 4 years of Justice, 9 years of Westbrook, and 9 years of Kluber – all of which made at least 1 AS team except Grissom who wasnt an AS that year, and all of which also had an important role in a WS appearance except Westbrook
Hard to argue with those results. Maybe that Lofton trade deserves an article itself
Trade trees are fun and so is Bartolo
Chief Wahoo Lives
Like I mentioned in a different thread, I’d love to see a Joe Carter trade tree.
It runs deeper if you try checking the Jorge Orta free agent signing instead.
Chief Wahoo Lives
I remember Jorge Orta on the Indians, but I didn’t remember him being involved in the Joe Carter trade between the Indians and Cubs.
The other players that I remember being involved in the Indians/Cubs trade were….
Don “The Rock” Shulze
Possibly Otis Nixon?
And maybe one or two others?
Was Orta part of that trade?
Orta is how the Indians got Sutcliffe. So he is basically how that whole line of trades began
Chief Wahoo Lives
Oh, OK, I didn’t remember that it was Orta that the Indians traded to get Sutcliffe. I was pretty sure that Orta was already gone from the Indians by the time that Sutcliffe was traded to the Cubs.