Trade Retrospective: Juan Gonzalez


This week’s trade retrospective looks at the trade of 2-time MVP Juan Gonzalez from the Rangers to the Tigers on 11/2/1999. This trade was Gonzalez, P Danny Patterson, and C Gregg Zaun going to the Tigers in exchange for P Alan Webb, IF/OF Frank Catalanatto, P Francisco Cordero, C Bill Haselman, OF Gabe Kapler, and P Justin Thompson.

The Background

The Rangers, after a 95 win season and a 1st round elimination from the playoffs, were looking to cut payroll, and saw an opportunity to potentially move a large portion of salary in Juan Gonzalez. Gonzalez was slated to make $7.5 million, and would be a free agent after the 2000 season.

The Tigers had just fired their previous manager, Larry Parrish, and were looking for some much needed improvement on offense. In addition, they were moving into their new stadium to start the 2000 season, and wanted to make a big splash.

The Moving Pieces

Gonzalez slotted into the heart of the Tigers lineup for the 2000 season, and slated to play RF. Patterson was put into the Tigers bullpen as a reliever, and Zaun was actually traded to the Royals as a part of a conditional trade prior to the start of the 2000 season.

For the Rangers, Frank Catalanotto was to be used as a bench/super utility player for the Rangers. Francisco Cordero was put into the bullpen, Haselman’s spot was to replace Zaun as the backup catcher for Pudge Rodriguez, and Gabe Kapler was penciled in as the starting center fielder. Alan Webb was sent to the minors, but the big loss was Justin Thompson. Thompson was coming off of 3 solid seasons, and had been widely viewed as the centerpiece to the trade. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn rotator cuff early in 2000, and did not make his debut with the team that season.

What Happened Next

The Tigers unfortunately didn’t build a whole lot of offense around Juan Gonzalez, and the team actually played just as bad as the previous year. They finished 79-83, good for 3rd in their division. Gonzalez posted a solid season, but definitely not up to his expected standard. He posted a .289/.337/.505 slash line with 22 HR and 67 RBI in only 115 games. Gonzalez was also vocal in his complaints about how large newly-opened Comerica Park played.

The Rangers fell to a 71-91 record in 2000, and were still lacking pitching behind Kenny Rogers and Rick Helling. The team got some solid production out of their new CF, Gabe Kapler. He posted a .302/.360/.473 line with 14 HR, 66 RBI, and 8 SB. Haselman and Catalanatto were reasonable backups off the bench.

The Net Moves

Tigers – First Level

  • Gonzalez had turned down an 8 year, $140 million dollar extension shortly after being traded to the Tigers. Although he posted a solid season by most standards, it was not the production that they were expecting from him. At one point, the Tigers had a trade in place during this season to send Gonzalez to the Yankees for Ricky Ledee and minor leaguers Randy Keisler and Drew Henson. However, Gonzalez had a full no-trade clause, and would not accept the trade if the Yankees required him to sign a 1 year contract extension first. As a result, he stayed with the Tigers throughout the 2000 season, and left via free agency.
  • Danny Patterson spent the next 5 seasons with the Tigers, posting a 10-11 record with a 4.02 ERA in 183 2/3 IP.
  • It is unclear what, if anything, the Tigers ended up receiving in return for C Gregg Zaun.
  • After Gonzalez signed with the Cleveland Indians, the Tigers received 2 compensation picks. They used these picks to select Mike Woods and Matt Coenen, neither of whom ever played in the Majors.

Rangers – First Level

  • Alan Webb was a minor league journeyman, who only played the 2000 season with the Rangers organization. He was out of baseball by 2005.
  • Frank Catalanatto spent the next 3 seasons with the Rangers, really only as a starter in 2001. 2001 was his best season with the team, as he hit .330/391/.490 with 11 HR, 54 RBI, and 15 SB. He left via free agency after the 2002 season.
  • Francisco Cordero pitched in the bullpen for the Rangers until the 2006 season, when he was traded at the trade deadline to the Milwaukee Brewers for Nelson Cruz and Carlos Lee. He posted a 21-20 record with 117 saves, a 3.45 ERA, and 1.36 WHIP while with the Rangers.
  • Bill Haselman was with the Rangers as their backup catcher up through the 2002 season. He left via free agency, and signed with the Tigers after the 2002 season.
  • Gabe Kapler was with the Rangers until the trade deadline in the 2002 season. He posted a .280/.342/.433 line with 31 HR, 155 RBI, and 36 SB in the time there. He was traded on July 31, 2002 to the Rockies for OF Todd Hollandsworth and P Dennys Reyes.
  • Justin Thompson may be the saddest part of the whole trade, as he never really recovered from his injuries, and was not able to pitch in the Major Leagues for the Rangers until 2005, and only make 2 appearances as a Ranger. He was granted free agency after the 2005 season, and retired part of the way into the 2006 season.

Rangers – Second Level

  • Todd Hollandsworth played in 39 games for the Rangers in the 2002 season, posting a .258/.327/.417 slash line with 5 HR and 19 RBI. He was granted free agency after the season, and signed with the Florida Marlins.
  • Dennys Reyes went 4-3 in 15 appearances . He posted a 6.38 ERA and a 1.795 WHIP, and did not return to the Rangers after the season.
  • Carlos Lee had an excellent portion of a season with the Rangers, hitting .322/.369/.525 with 9 HR, 35 RBI and 7 SB in 59 games with the Rangers. He left via free agency after the 2006 season, signing with the cross-state Houston Astros.
  • Nelson Cruz remains with the Rangers to this date. 2009 was his first full season as a regular player, posting 33 HR, 76 RBI, and 20 SB along with a .260 batting average.
  • The Rangers received two compensation picks for losing Lee, which they used to draft P Blake Beaven and OF Julio Borbon. Borbon is currently on the Major League team, and Beaven remains in the minor leagues.

Overall Reactions

This one was pretty ugly overall. The Tigers thought they were going to get excellent production out of Gonzalez, and hoped to sign him long term. Neither of these came to pass. The Rangers spent that season trying to unload salary and lower costs, only to go out after the 2000 season and spend a quarter of a billion dollars to sign Alex Rodriguez. The Rangers, to me, pretty clearly won this trade. 6 years of Francisco Cordero, 3 years of Gabe Kapler, and the pieces to acquire Nelson Cruz and Julio Borbon. Obviously, the unfortunate thing with this is the amount of people who lost out related to this. There was Gonzalez, and his stubbornness about the fences at Comerica, which cost him well over $100 million dollars. There was Justin Thompson, who unfortunately never was the same once he was traded from the Tigers. Neither team really benefitted immediately from this trade, but the long term effects continue to make this one a winner for the Rangers.

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