Trade Retrospective – Rickey Henderson to the Yankees


On December 5th, 1984, the Oakland Athletics traded OF Rickey Henderson and P Bert Bradley to the New York Yankees for pitchers Tim Birtsas, Jay Howell, Eric Plunk, Jose Rijo, and OF Stan Javier

The Background

Henderson was coming off the 1984 season in which he had been an All-Star, and had hit .293/.399/.458 with 16 HR, 58 RBI, 66 SB and 113 R scored. He was also going to be eligible for the arbitration for the final time, and had been making noise about his impending free agency the following season.

The Moving Pieces

In New York, Rickey Henderson was slotted in as the Yankees’ starting center fielder. He had not really played CF prior, but it was figured that he would have no problem playing out there.

In Oakland, Tim Birtsas was slotted into the starting rotation, Jay Howell was slotted in as the closer and Jose Rijo, Eric Plunk and Stan Javier were all sent to the minors.

What Happened Next

Henderson was everything that the Yankees wanted and more. He finished 3rd in the MVP vote, and lead the league in both runs scored (146), and stolen bases (80), and also had 24 homeruns, 72 runs batted in, and a .314 batting average. He helped lead the Yankees to a 97-64 record, but unfortunately that was only good for 2nd place in the AL East, and a long vacation through October.

Back in Oakland, Tim Birtsas went 10-6 with a 4.01 ERA in 141 1/3 innings pitched. Jay Howell helped to solidify the back end of the bullpen, going 9-8 with 29 saves and a 2.85 ERA in 63 appearances. The Athletics overall did not fare so well, as they finished the 1985 season with a 77-85 record, good for 4th in the AL West.

In Tacoma (the AAA affiliate of the Athletics), Jose Rijo went 7-10 with a 2.90 ERA in 149 innings pitched before being called up to the big club. He posted a 6-4 record with a 3.53 ERA in only 63 2/3 innings pitched there. Eric Plunk split time between AA Huntsville and AAA Tacoma, compiling a 8-7 record overall with a 4.35 ERA in 24 starts.  Stan Javier spent 1985 with the AA Huntsville Stars, hitting .284 with a .418 OBP. He was a bit young for the league, only 21 during the 1985 season.

The Net Moves

Yankees – First Level

  • Bert Bradley never played in the Major Leagues, for the Yankees or any other team.
  • Rickey Henderson spent over 4 seasons with the Yankees. In 596 games, he hit .288/.395/.455 with 78 HR, 255 RBI, 326 SB and 513 R. He was an All-Star all 4 years, and won a Silver Slugger award as well. Rickey was traded back to the Athletics on 6/21/1989 (which will be the subject of next week’s trade retro)

Athletics – First Level

  • Tim Birtsas was with the Athletics from 1985-1987, posting a 10-6 record with a 4.27 ERA in 25 starts (143 1/3 IP). Jose Rijo went 17-22 with a 4.74 ERA in 49 starts (339 2/3 IP), and both were traded on 12/8/1987 to the Cincinnati Reds for OF Dave Parker.
  • Jay Howell was with the Athletics from 1985-1987, serving as the closer for at least part of all 3 seasons. He went 15-18 with 61 saves and a 3.68 ERA in 137 appearances (195 2/3 IP). He was dealt as a part of a 3-way trade between the Dodgers and Mets which netted the Athletics pitchers Bob Welch and Matt Young
  • Stan Javier appeared in 284 games from 1985-1990, hitting .236 with 5 HR and 43 SB. He was dealt to the Dodgers on 5/13/90 for 2B Willie Randolph.
  • Eric Plunk went 16-16 in his time with the A’s, posting a 4.30 ERA over 322 IP. He was actually a part of the trade that brought Rickey Henderson back to Oakland on 6/21/1989 as well.

Athletics – Second Level

  • Dave Parker spent the 1988-1989 seasons with the Athletics, primarily as their designated hitter. In 245 games, he hit .261/.311/.422 with 34 HR, 152 RBI and 99 runs scored. After the 1989 season, he left via free agency and signed with the Brewers. Subject to the compensations rules, the Athletics received draft picks #14 and #36 from the Brewers. They used these picks to take (respectively) Todd Van Poppel and Kirk Dressendorfer.
  • Bob Welch spent the remainder of his career with the Athletics, until 1994. The highlight of his time in Oakland was clearly the 1990 campaign, in which he went 27-6 and won the Cy Young Award. Overall, he went 96-60 with a 3.94 ERA and 677 strikeouts in 1271 1/3 innings pitched.
  • Matt Young spent 1988 with the Athletics, posting a 1-4 record with a 6.75 ERA in 26 appearances. He was unceremoniously released on 11/21/1988.
  • Willie Randolph finished the 1990 season with the Athletics, but was not particularly productive. He hit .257/.331/.318 with a homerun, 21 runs batted in, and 6 stolen bases in 91 games played. He left via free agency after the 1990 season, but was not subject to compensation.

Overall Reactions

This is one of those trades that at least appeared to work out for both teams. While the players the Athletics received didn’t necessarily provide value on their own, they did help to bring back players who would be a major portion of their 1989 World Championship run. In New York, Henderson was exactly as advertised, and showed his elite leadoff skills throughout. The fact that the A’s were able to reacquire Henderson in time for their championship run also netted the Yankees back some solid prospects, which will be written up this time next week.

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One response to “Trade Retrospective – Rickey Henderson to the Yankees

  1. Pingback: Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon to the Rays.... - Baseball - Page 5 - City-Data Forum

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