On July 31, 2004, as a part of a massive 4 team trade, the following happened:
Chicago Cubs acquired SS Nomar Garciaparra and OF Matt Murton
Minnesota Twins acquired minor leaguer Justin Jones
Boston Red Sox acquired 1B Doug Mientkiewicz and SS Orlando Cabrera
Montreal Expos acquired SS Alex Gonzalez and minor leaguers Francis Beltran and Brendan Harris
The Red Sox had previously tried to move Garciaparra after nearly acquiring Alex Rodriguez from the Rangers, so it wasn’t really a huge surprise that he might get moved during the 2004 season. He was due to be a free agent after the 2004 season, and the Sox were hoping to improve their team overall.
The Cubs were 56-48 at the trade deadline, and over 10 games out of first place. They were, however, in the wild card race, being only 2 games back of that at the time. They had been running the offensive (in a bad way) shortstop Ramon Martinez out there every day, and clearly were in need of an upgrade.
The Twins were looking to cut salary, and had a top prospect ready to take over the first base job in Justin Morneau.
Montreal, which occupies the National League East basement, is rumoured to be on the move to several cities, including Washington, Northern Virginia, Las Vegas, Norfolk, Va., Portland, Ore., and Monterey, Mexico.
The Moving Pieces
In Boston, Nomaah was gone, but the Red Sox had found an able replacement in free agent to be Orlando Cabrera, and had a solid backup first baseman in Dougie Baseball. GM Theo Epstein had this to say about the trade at the time:
“We lost a great player in Nomar Garciaparra, but we’ve made our club more functional,” Epstein said. “We weren’t going to win a World Series with our defense.”
In Chicago, Nomaah had arrived with the hopes that the Cubs would be able to return to the playoffs for a second straight season, something that they had not done in a very long time. From GM Jim Hendry (via SI.com article):
“I think he will bring a ton to the table and a presence on the field and off,” Hendry said. “You never go to work thinking he’s going to be available.”
The Twins got the salary relief that they were looking for, and were able to plug in Morneau as the everyday first baseman. Strangely, the Twins were actually hosting the Red Sox on the day of the trade, and Mientkiewicz actually played against the Twins in that game. From Mientkiewicz (via SI.com article):
“It’s a little awkward right now, but I think it’s better for everyone,” he said. “The situation over there was a rough one. They gave me an opportunity in the big leagues, and what the Twins are all about is they give the young guys chances.”
The Expos were able to get 3 solid, if not amazing players or prospects in return for Cabrera.
What Happened Next
The Red Sox, helped by acquisitions Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz among many others, won the World Championship in 2004 without the services of Nomar Garciaparra. In Chicago, the Cubs ended up with an 89-73 record, good for only 3rd place in the NL Central and out of the playoff picture. The Twins
The Net Moves
Red Sox – First Level
- Orlando Cabrera hit .294/.320/.465 with 6 homeruns for the Red Sox, and left via free agency after the season. He netted the Red Sox two compensation draft picks, which they used rather well: Jacoby Ellsbury was drafted with the first pick, and Jed Lowrie with the other.
- Doug Mientkiewicz hit .215/.286/.318 with 1 homerun and caught the final out of the World Series. He was traded on 1/27/2005 to the Mets for minor leaguer Ian Bladergroen.
Twins – First Level
- Justin Jones was a reasonable prospect for the Twins, in spite of only being 19 years old when he was acquired. He had been the #56 prospect according to Baseball America, and posted his best season with the Twins in 2005, going 7-3 with a 3.01 ERA at High-A. He was no longer with the organization after the 2006 season, spending 3 seasons with the Nationals. It appears he retired after the 2009 season.
Cubs – First Level
- Nomar Garciaparra hit .297/.364/.455 with 4 homeruns and 20 runs batted in for the Cubs in 2004, and resigned with the team as a free agent after the season for a 1 year contract. In 2005, he hit .283/.320/.452 with 9 homeruns and 30 runs batted in over 62 games due to injuries. He left via free agency, and no compensation was received for him.
- Matt Murton spent from 2005 to 2008 with the Cubs, posting a .294/.362/.448 line with 28 homeruns and 104 runs batted in over 308 games. He was one of the players included in a trade that netted the Cubs pitchers Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin from the Athletics.
Expos/Nationals – First Level
- Alex Gonzalez was only with the Expos for 35 games, posting a .241/.289/.383 line before being traded as a part of a conditional deal to the Padres. It doesn’t appear that any compensation or players was received for Gonzalez.
- Francis Beltran made 11 appearances for the Expos in 2004, with a 7.53 ERA in 14 1/3 innings pitched. He missed the 2005 season due to injury, and spent the 2006 season in the minors for the Nationals. He left via free agency after the 2006 season.
- Brendan Harris appeared in 41 games from 2004 to 2006 with the Expos/Nationals as a bench player. He was included in the trade that netted the Nationals OF Austin Kearns, IF Felipe Lopez, and P Ryan Wagner from the Reds.
Red Sox – Second Level
- Jacoby Ellsbury is currently with the organization, but still recovering from broken ribs this season. To date, he has hit. 295/.347/.412 with 20 homeruns, 128 runs batted in, and 131 stolen bases in just over 3 seasons. He has lead the American League in steals twice, with 50 and 70 respectively.
- Jed Lowrie is also with the Red Sox still, but has not had nearly the success that Ellsbury has. In 116 games over 3 seasons, he has hit .236/.316/.370, and is essentially viewed as a bench/role player for the Red Sox at this point. A change of scenery might be good for him, as there is no place on the field for him to play with SS Marco Scutaro and 2B Dustin Pedroia manning the middle infield spots long term.
- Ian Bladergroen spent 2005 and 2006 with the Red Sox in the minors, but was in independent ball from then onward.
Cubs – Second Level
- Rich Harden pitched well down the stretch of the 2008 season, going 5-1 with a 1.77 ERA and 89 strikeouts over 71 innings. He was also with the Cubs in 2009, but injuries derailed parts of both seasons for him, as he went 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 141 innings. He left after the 2009 season via free agency, and signed with the Texas Rangers. No free agent compensation draft picks were received.
- Chad Gaudin went 4-2 with a 6.26 ERA in 24 relief appearances for the Cubs down the stretch, and was not tendered a contract after the season.
Expos/Nationals – Second Level
- Austin Kearns played for the Nationals through the 2009 season, and posted a .242/.346/.376 line with 34 homeruns and 159 runs batted in over 390 games. He was not tendered a contract after the 2009 season, and became a free agent.
- Felipe Lopez was with the team through the trade deadline in 2008. He hit .250/.320/.344 with 49 steals in his 3 seasons there. He was released on July 31, 2008 by the Nationals.
- Ryan Wagner was with the Nationals through the 2008 season, posting a 3-5 record with a 5.05 ERA in 40 appearances. He is currently out of organized baseball.
This is one of those trades that is extremely hard to dissect. Clearly, the Red Sox did well with these acquisitions as they were able to win the 2004 World Series. Throw in the fact that they used one of the draft picks they received for Cabrera to draft potential All-Star Jacoby Ellsbury also helps out a lot with them potentially winning the trade. The Cubs didn’t get quite what they needed, but did get solid production from Nomar when he was healthy, and also ended up netting them Rich Harden for 1 1/2 seasons by moving the other player in the deal, Matt Murton. The Twins, sadly, look like they did the worst in the trade, but accomplished what they wanted to in clearing a spot for prospect Justin Morneau. Even the Expos did alright with this trade as they used one of the pieces in that trade to help facilitate the theft of Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez from the Reds. Overall, I would rank them in this order: Red Sox, Expos, Cubs, Twins. But I think that all the teams ended up accomplishing what their goals were for this trade.