I’ve got to hand it to those in charge of the Miami Marlins. When you talk about making fire-sale moves to slash payroll, and trading an organization’s top talent out of town at an epic rate, those in charge in South Beach truly take the cake.
Remember when the Marlins seemed to be everybody’s “sexy” pick to make the postseason before last year began? Because I do. And honestly, people had good reason to think that way last Winter. The franchise appeared primed for a postseason run after they had just splurged in Free Agency during that offseason and acquired All-Stars in the forms of Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle, and Jose Reyes to bolster their already seemingly stacked roster of Hanley Ramirez, Giancarlo Stanton, Omar Infante, Anibal Sanchez, and Josh Johnson. And the future really seemed bright when they had 2005 World Series winner Ozzie Guillen at the helm as they moved into a new taxpayer funded ballpark.
Sadly, the 2012 season began, and the Marlins tanked and underperformed. From Ozzie’s ridiculous Castro comments, to the poor production from their high-payroll players (namely Bell), the Marlins slogged their way through a disastrous year. Then when it became evident that their fancy new franchise “window dressing efforts” failed, they began to unload their payroll and overall talent starting beginning last Summer.
Overall, the franchise traded Infante, Sanchez, Ramirez during the regular season, and traded Bell once their 69-93 campaign was mercifully over with. Sadly for Fish fans, the organization saved their most gut-wrenching salary dump moment for November when they traded Buehrle, Reyes, Johnson, starting Catcher John Buck, and the team’s versatile “Swiss Army Knife” Emilio Bonifacio to the Blue Jays and received little to nothing in return.
After that move, the Marlins have shaved $146.5 million dollars off of their franchise’s payroll, and are a shell of what they once were now that their most talented players have left town. But it was after the Toronto deal when I began to look back and honestly began to feel awful for the dedicated Marlins fans out there.
Why you may ask? Well, as myself and other Padres fans who remember the late-1980’s and early 1990’s, San Diego’s brass had their own version of salary purging and piss-poor trades also.
1989-1993: “The Era of the Talent Dump”
How bad was it? Well, let’s just take a look at some of the top-tier talent who the Padres jettisoned out of town beginning all the way back in 1989:
In December of that year, the Padres appeared to have made a solid move as they sent Catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., Second Baseman Carlos Baerga, and Outfielder Chris James to the Indians for the power-hitting Joe Carter who led the A.L. in RBI’s in 1986. Alomar Jr. was blocked at Catcher by All-Star Benito Santiago, and Baerga was blocked as well by Sandy’s brother and All-Star Second Baseman Roberto, so the Padres used some of their best prospects to fill a need at the big league level.
The Padres however felt like a change was needed the following off-season as they unfortunately traded Carter after his only season in San Diego and Roberto Alomar to the Toronto Blue Jays for All-Stars Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez in December of 1990. After the 1992 campaign, one in which Alomar and Carter led the Jays to the World Championship, San Diego shipped Fernandez (who was an All-Star in 1992) to the Mets for two Minor League prospects and forgettable Starter Wally Whitehurst.
As bad as the trades before were, nothing could prepare us fans for what happened in 1993 when kerosene was doused on the Padres’ Summer “fire-sales.” First, the Padres traded Gary Sheffield, who won the 1992 Batting Title, to the Marlins for a then-unkown Trevor Hoffman. That trade looks somewhat better in hind-sight due to the fact that Hoffman gave the Friars so many great years, but it still was a ridiculous move all things considered.
Nevertheless, Hoffman’s acquisition will never replace the fact that the Padres traded 1992’s N.L. Home Run leader in the form of McGriff to Atlanta for three prospects who never played in the Major Leagues, or had brief and forgettable stints at professional baseball’s highest level as I discussed in a previous post from the Fall.
I hate to drudge up bad memories for the Friars’ faithful, but here is just a quick recap of the players who the Padres allowed get away from their organization through trades and salary-dumping moves from 1989-1993:
- A 2nd Ballot Hall of Famer in Roberto Alomar.
- Borderline Hall candidates in Fred McGriff and Gary Sheffield.
- 1993’s World Series hero, a 5x All-Star, and a guy with 396 Home Runs in Joe Carter.
- A 4x All-Star Shortstop in Tony Fernandez.
- A 6x All-Star & 1990’s A.L. Rookie of the Year Catcher in Sandy Alomar Jr.
- A 3x All-Star Second Baseman in Carlos Baerga.
First of all, let me state that the Padres were not gutted of their best talent (not named Tony Gywnn) in quite the same short period of time that the Marlins have been. Plus, it was the “Sheffield & McGriff” moves which were the real “salary-purging” transactions. The others moves were simply bad trades to begin with, and the fact that they ended up with little in exchange for Alomar & Carter after they dealt both Fernandez and McGriff no more than 2.5 years later makes me cringe to this day.
Yet in spite of the window of time being shorter between each organization’s salary and player movement frenzies, I would say that the Padres jettisoned more talent than Miami did in terms of the quality of the players they sent away over the 1989-1993 span as I illustrated in the list above this section. Furthermore, I can at least feel your pain Marlins fans, because I know that Friars fans my age and older know exactly what it is like to see your favorite team rid itself of a large amount of their most important players.
Padres Fans: How well do you remember these aforementioned trades? Which ones hurt the most? Of the 7 best in bold above, who was your favorite player?
Stats & Contract Information Courtesy of: Baseball Reference