Monday we asked Mariners fans to cast their vote for the best in-season trade in franchise history. Now, we’d like the same feedback on the worst in-season trade. Given the Mariners’ 15-year slog from franchise inception to their first .500 record (longest in pro sports history), and a current playoff drought that dates to 2001, many bad in-season trades (and bad off-season trades) have been consummated.
After culling through the damage (face masks became necessary early in the exercise), the following represent the best samples of the club’s historic swap slop. Cast a vote and leave a comment.
A — Aug. 18, 1986, SS Spike Owen and OF Dave Henderson to Boston for RHPs Mike Brown, Mike Trujilo, SS Rey Quinones and OF John Christensen: None of the Seattle additions amounted to much, Quinones lasting the longest (2½ seasons). Henderson played eight years after leaving Seattle, became a first-time All-Star in 1991, and reached the World Series four times (1986 with Boston, 1988-90 with Oakland). Owen played nine years with four teams after exiting the Mariners. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was so livid about the deal that in a burst of hyperbole called it “the robbery of the century.” Added Steinbrenner: “The Mariners probably just handed the pennant to the Red Sox.” Indeed, after acquiring Owen and Henderson, Boston won the American League pennant.
B — May 21, 1995, INF Wilson Delgado and LHP Shawn Estes to San Francisco for RHP Salomon Torres: The Mariners made Estes their 11th overall pick in the 1991 amateur draft, but he never rose out of their minor league system, reaching as high as A Appleton of the Midwest League before Seattle sent him to the Giants. Estes had a 13-year major league career, won 101 games and made an All-Star team (1997). Torres compiled a 6-11, 6.01 ERA record in Seattle from 1995-97. The Mariners waived him April 18, 1997.
C — Aug. 29, 1996, 1B David Arias to Minnesota for 3B Dave Hollins: One of the great trading gaffes in Mariners history went undetected for years. When it finally came to light, it was such a forehead-slapping revelation that it left Mariners fans everywhere gaping in disbelief. Figuring they needed another bat in order to reach the postseason for a second consecutive year (even though they had Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner and Alex Rodriguez), the Mariners agreed to send a PTBNL to the Twins for the veteran Hollins, who did his part, hitting .351 with 25 RBIs in 28 games. Even with that, the Mariners failed to reach the postseason. One month after the season, Hollins departed in free agency, signing with the Angels. To complete the deal, the Mariners sent (Sept. 13, 1996) to the Twins 1B/DH Arias. It took Arias four years to reach the majors. By the time he did, he had changed his name to David Ortiz. That was 420 home runs ago.
D — July 31, 1997, RHP Derek Lowe and C Jason Varitek To Boston For RHP Heathcliff Slocumb: As the deadline approached, Mariners GM Woody Woodward moved to shore up the club’s most glaring weakness, a bullpen that had consistently failed to hold a lead. For reasons known only to Woodward and his therapist, he fixated on Slocumb, who had an 0-5 record, five blown saves and a 5.79 ERA as Boston’s closer. Slocumb saved 13 games for Mariners over parts of two seasons (1997-98), but never could get his ERA under 5.00. As a starter and reliever, Lowe won 176 games, saved 86 others and made two All-Star teams. Varitek logged 15 years as the Red Sox catcher, made three All-Star teams, won a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger and a World Series ring.
E — July 31, 1998, LHP Randy Johnson to Houston for RHP Freddy Garcia, LHP John Halama and SS Carlos Guillen: Depending on your point of view, this could also be construed as one of the best deals in club history. Johnson, the franchise’s best pitcher, departed as a malcontent but then produced the best years of his career, winning four Cy Young Awards, a World Series co-MVP, and certifying himself a Hall of Famer. Garcia developed into Seattle’s staff ace, made two All-Star teams and won an ERA title (2001), but never came close to duplicating Johnson’s post-Seattle feats. The main crime involved Guillen, whom the Mariners literally gave away to Detroit just as he was evolving into an All-Star.
F — June 30, 2006, INF Asdrubal Cabrera to Cleveland For 1B/PH Eduardo Perez: One of many moves that came back to haunt the Mariners, this transaction by GM Bill Bavasi sent a future All-Star and every-day infielder out of Seattle for a 36-year-old non-starter. Perez played in 43 games for the Mariners and hit .195 in what amounted to his swan song in the major leagues.
G — July 26, 2006, OF Shin-Soo Choo and LHP Shawn Nottingham to Cleveland for 1B Ben Broussard: Broussard hit 15 home runs in the two seasons in spent in Seattle. Choo hit .300 or better three times after leaving Seattle with 84 home runs for Cleveland and Cincinnati. In the first game Choo played after Seattle traded him (July 28), he hit a solo homer off Felix Hernandez to give the Indians a 1-0 win.
H — July 30, 2011: RHPs Doug Fister and David Pauley to Detroit for LHP Charlie Furbush and OF Casper Wells: The trade has become Fister for Furbush. Fister has won 26 of his 57 starts for the Tigers in his three seasons with them, Furbush has a 10-13 mark as a short reliever for the Mariners.