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August deals involve prospects too

by Alan Schwarz
August 12, 2004

NEW YORK—OK, the Mets traded Scott Kazmir and Matt Peterson. Both the Dodgers and Marlins dealt Bill Murphy. But this won't be the last time that prospects get traded, even this season.

Even after the so-called July 31 trading deadline, minor leaguers can get swapped once all-important veterans clear waivers. History proves it.

The following are the top 12 minor leaguers (or major leaguers for only a smattering of games) traded in August since 1980. Did they wind up mattering? Let's just say that these deals ain't Ron Rightnowar for Nikco Riesgo . . .

And Away They Go

12. Tommy Greene (1990): With young pitchers Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery and Pete Smith already in the fold, the Braves considered Greene expendable and added him into the Dale Murphy trade with the Phillies for reliever Jeff Parrett. Greene had only two good years for the Phillies before injuries hit, but one of them was a 16-4, 3.42 effort for their 1993 pennant-winners.

11. Kevin Bass (1982): A switch-hitting outfielder with developing power, Bass was the top prospect the Astros received from the Brewers for Don Sutton. Sutton won key games for Milwaukee down the stretch, but Bass turned into a fine offensive force in the Astrodome through the mid-80s.

10. Johnny Ray (1981): The Astros wanted Scrap Iron (Phil Garner) for the playoff push, but didn't give up scrap to get him. Ray immediately blossomed into a top second baseman for the Pirates, twice leading the National League in doubles.

9. Jason Bay (2003): While the Padres got their man last year in all-star Brian Giles, the price looks to have been quite steep. Bay has blossomed into one of the NL's top rookies this season with the Pirates, who also got fine young lefthander Oliver Perez in the deal.

8. Jose Mesa (1987): A struggling starter in the Blue Jays system who was leading the Southern League with 112 earned runs, Mesa joined the Orioles in exchange for veteran pitcher Mike Flanagan. Mesa remained ineffective for the O's; it wasn't until the Indians made him a reliever in 1994 that he developed into one of the majors' top closers.

7. Roberto Hernandez (1989): No one particularly cared when Hernandez, a midrange Class A prospect with ERAs in the sixes, was dealt with Mark Doran from the Angels to the White Sox for outfielder Mark Davis. But they sure did when Hernandez developed into one of the American League's top relievers for Chicago's strong teams of the mid-1990s.

6. Tim Belcher (1987): Belcher, the No. 1 overall pick in the June 1983 draft, had already been property of the Twins and Yankees before the Athletics swapped him to the Dodgers in return for lefty reliever Rick Honeycutt. He became a bullpen force for several A's pennant winners, but Belcher wound up with 146 career wins and helped the Dodgers to their 1988 championship.

And Now, The All-Stars

5. Jay Bell (1985): Just one year removed from being the No. 8 pick in the draft, Bell was the main young player the Indians acquired for sending veteran Bert Blyleven to the Twins. Blyleven helped Minnesota to the 1987 World Series title, while Bell did little for the Indians. They later traded him for fellow shortstop Felix Fermin to Pittsburgh, where Bell became a strong part of the Pirates' 1990-92 division champions.

4. David Ortiz (1996): Ortiz had just hit .322-18-93 in the Class A Midwest League at age 20 when the Mariners swapped him to the Twins for veteran plug-in Dave Hollins. He never fully blossomed with Minnesota but has become an MVP candidate the last two years with the Red Sox. As for the Twins, they outsmarted the Mariners again the following August, getting future 17-game winner Joe Mays for Roberto Kelly.

3. Moises Alou (1990): Needing help down the stretch, the Pirates sent Alou—a .300 minor league hitter who hadn't shown much power—and fellow prospects Scott Ruskin and Willie Greene to Montreal for veteran lefty Zane Smith. Although Alou became an all-star for the Expos, the move did pay off for Pittsburgh: Smith went 6-2, 1.30 as the Pirates won the NL East, and he won 16 games the following year.

2. John Smoltz (1987): In one of the most oddly even trades ever, the Tigers got exactly what they wanted: veteran Braves starter Doyle Alexander, who went 9-0, 1.53 down the stretch to win Detroit the AL East. So too did the Braves, who turned Smoltz, a 4-10, 5.68 Double-A prospect at the time, into one of our era's top starters and now closers. Interestingly, 1987 was the second straight summer Detroit traded a future top starter: The previous August they dealt Ken Hill for backstop Mike Heath.

1. Jeff Bagwell (1990): Red Sox fans forget how their team got what it wanted in this deal—a reliever (Larry Andersen) to help them get to the playoffs—and instead focus on the cost: future MVP Bagwell. Bagwell had just won the Double-A Eastern League batting title, but as a third baseman he was blocked by Wade Boggs, Tim Naehring and Scott Cooper and was deemed expendable. "It was one area where we could afford to lose a player," GM Lou Gorman said at the time. "If we win the pennant with Andersen, the deal is worth it."

You can reach Alan Schwarz by sending e-mail to alanschwarz@baseballamerica.com.

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