Trade Retrospective: Randy Johnson


Finishing up the review of last week’s trade retrospective about the 1989 trade of Mark Langston to the Expos, I’ll be discussing the 1998 trade of Randy Johnson from the Mariners to the Astros. Johnson was traded on July 31, 1998 to the Houston Astros for P Freddy Garcia and John Halama, and IF Carlos Guillen.

The Background

On July 31st, the Mariners were mired in another slump, 11 games under .500 and 10 games out in a poor division. Randy Johnson had made his last start as a Mariner on the 28th, pitching a complete game loss where he struck out 12 batters and only allowed 4 runs. Unfortunately for him, the Mariners only gave him 3 runs, in spite of having a lineup that included 4 hitters with OPS over .900 on that day (Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, David Segui). Johnson was a free agent at the end of the season, and was widely expected to be moved.

The Astros were in a much better place. As they entered play on July 31st, they had a 64-44 record, and were 3.5 games ahead in the NL Central. They had a brutally good lineup, with 5 players having OPS above .850 at this point in the season (Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Carl Everett, Derek Bell, Moises Alou). Their starting rotation was fairly solid, with Mike Hampton leading the way.

The Moving Pieces

Johnson slotted in for his normal turn in the rotation, bumping the modestly effective Pete Schourek to the bullpen for the remainder of the season.

Freddy Garcia was sent to AAA Tacoma where he was slotted into the starting rotation.

Carlos Guillen was also sent to AAA Tacoma, where he was the starting 2B for the remainder of their season. He also was called up for a cup of coffee in September of 1998.

John Halama was actually traded as a player to be named later, and not until October 1st. He finished the regular season with the Astros with their AAA affiliate in New Orleans, after having started the season in the rotation for the Astros.

What Happened Next

Randy Johnson really appreciated his move to the National League, and received consideration for the Cy Young award in spite of only pitching 2 months in the National League. He posted a 10-1 record, a 1.28 ERA, and 116 strikeouts in only 84 innings (11 starts), helping lead the Astros to clinch their division. In the postseason, he matched up against the Padres’ Kevin Brown in Game 1, and lost in spite of striking out 16 batters over 8 innings. He started game 4 also, and had another solid outing (6 IP, 8 K, ER), but still took the loss. Unfortunately, the Astros’ postseason ended here, as they lost the series 3-1 to the Padres.

The Net Moves

Astros – First Level

  • Randy Johnson was everything that the Astros hoped for, going 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA and 116 strikeouts in only 84 innings. After their defeat in the playoffs, Johnson filed for free agency, and eventually signed a contract with the Diamondbacks.
  • The Astros received two compensation draft picks for losing Johnson, which they used to draft minor leaguers Mike Rosamond and James Perez. Neither of these players ever made it to the Major Leagues, and both were out of the Astros system by 2003.

Mariners – First Level

  • Freddy Garcia spent from 1999-2004 with the Mariners, going 76-50 with a 3.89 ERA, 1.299 WHIP and 819 strikeouts in 1096 1/3 IP. He was dealt to the White Sox in 2004 along with C Ben Davis for IF Mike Morse, C Miguel Olivo, and OF Jeremy Reed. I discussed some of the effects of this trade as a part of my retrospective about Ken Griffey Jr.
  • Carlos Guillen was with the Mariners from 1999-2003, slotting in as their starting shortstop for a majority of the time. In 488 games, he hit a respectable .264/.335/.383 while playing solid defense. On 1/8/2004, he was traded to the Tigers for minor leaguer Juan Gonzalez (not the former MVP), and IF Ramon Santiago.
  • John Halama spent the 1999-2002 season with the Mariners. He posted a 41-31 record wit ha 4.46 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 130 games (85 starts). He became a free agent after the 2002 season, and no compensation was received for him.

Mariners – Second Level

  • Ramon Santiago was a backup with the Mariners for the 2004 and 2005 seasons, playing in only 27 games and posting a .170/.291/.191 line. He was released on 11/18/2005.

Overall Reactions

This to me is one of those trades that worked out pretty well for both teams. The Astros knew that they were likely just renting Randy Johnson for a stretch run, and he pitched beyond their wildest expectations. It would have been interesting to see if they could have gotten further in the playoffs, as Johnson showed in 2001 that he can carry a team on his back in a postseason. The Mariners I thought did pretty well, as they got a top-tier starting pitcher in Freddy Garcia, and a solid if not amazing shortstop in Carlos Guillen.

Next week’s trade retrospective will be about the trade that brought 2-time MVP Juan Gonzalez to the Motor City.

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