Monday, July 1, 2013
Best deadline deal ever: Red Sox
By Evan Brunell
Special to ESPN.com
Over the next month, we're going to present 30 deals in 30 days: the best trade deadline deal ever made for each team. We'll start with a trade that eventually helped end a curse.
THE TEAM: Boston Red Sox
THE YEAR: 1997
THE SITUATION: Just two years removed from a division title, the Red Sox were hoping to reverse a third-place finish in their follow-up to winning the division. Unfortunately for Boston, their starting pitching wasn't anywhere near capable of standing up to the task, with three out of the five main starters finishing with ERAs no lower than 5.38. (In fact, this very issue would motivate the team to trade for Pedro Martinez following the season.) At six games under .500 on the day of the trade deadline, Boston was very much out of the playoff chase and needed to cash in its chips to make another go of it in 1998.
THE TRADE: Coming off two straight years of 30-plus saves and ERAs below 3.00, closer Heathcliff Slocumb had struggled through 1997, walking as many batters as he was whiffing. However, the Mariners, just half a game ahead of the Anaheim Angels in the AL West, desperately needed a closer. Norm Charlton, the incumbent, would finish the year with a whopping 7.27 ERA, 14 saves and 11 blown saves. The Mariners sent young pitcher Derek Lowe -- who had already debuted with Seattle -- and catching prospect Jason Varitek (the team's first-round pick in 1994) in exchange for Slocumb. Urban legend has it that the Red Sox asked for Lowe OR Varitek and Mariners general manager Woody Woodward accommodated the Red Sox with both.
THE AFTERMATH: The Mariners would go on to win the division before losing in the ALDS to the Baltimore Orioles, but Slocumb contributed only 0.6 WAR (FanGraphs version) to the Mariners over his 1 1/2 seasons with the team. Lowe became a successful closer and starter for the Red Sox, playing a pivotal role on the 2004 World Series champion squad by registering the win in every playoff series' clinching game. Varitek, meanwhile, ended up being the first Red Sox captain since Jim Rice in 1989 and broke Carlton Fisk's record for most games caught in a Red Sox uniform en route to 15 seasons as a Red Sox lifer. In total, Lowe and Varitek gave Boston a whopping 45.3 WAR in return (and Lowe has gone on to register an additional 21.3 fWAR since departing Boston).
--Evan Brunell, Fire Brand of the AL