Trade Retrospective – Frank Viola to the Mets


On July 31, 1989, the Minnesota Twins traded Frank Viola to the New York Mets for Rick Aguilera, Tim Drummond, Kevin Tapani, David West and Jack Savage.

The Background

The Twins’ pitching staff in 1988 was lead by the AL Cy

Young

winner, Frank Viola. Viola went 24-7 with a 2.64 ERA in his 6th season with the Twins. He had also been the World Series MVP in 1987 during the Twins’ world championship run. However, it appears that Viola wasn’t exactly ecstatic about how the Twins had been treating him. From the Baseball Library’s article about Viola:

Viola’s humble and enthusiastic approach to the game earned him tremendous popularity in Minnesota. However, Twins fans were greatly offended when his agent wrote a “trade-me-or-pay-me” letter to Twins management in 1989. Local hero Kent Hrbek attacked Viola in the press and third baseman Gary Gaetti chimed in with his negative feelings regarding Viola’s contract demands.

Viola signed a 3 year contract after the 1988 season, but appears to have remained unhappy with being in Minnesota.

On July 31st, the Mets were in the midst of a 7 game losing streak and were only 3 games over .500. They sat 7 games out of the NL East race, but had been right in the middle of the race prior to the losing streak. They had also lost staff ace Dwight Gooden to an injury after his July 1st start, and had struggled to replace him.

The Moving Pieces

In New York, Viola slotted into the rotation in Gooden’s spot and started two days after the trade.

In Minnesota,

  • Rick Aguilera was slotted into the rotation spot vacated by the trade of Viola.
  • Tim Drummond was sent to the Twins’ AAA affiliate in Portland, where he was used out of the bullpen.
  • Kevin Tapani had been in the Mets’ rotation, but was sent to Portland as well, where he was used in the starting rotation.
  • David West went to Minnesota, and started his stint there in the bullpen before being placed in the starting rotation in late August.
  • Jack Savage was actually a player to be named later, and was not sent to complete the trade until after the season.

What Happened Next

Viola helped an already strong pitching rotation for the Mets, but while it was strong enough to finish 2nd place, they lost out on the postseason to the Chicago Cubs. Viola finished with a 5-5 record with a 3.38 ERA in 12 starts.

In Minnesota, Aguilera went 3-5 with a 3.21 ERA in 11 starts for the big club. Drummond had a late season call up, appearing in 8 games and posting a 3.86 ERA over 16 1/3 innings pitched. Tapani also had a call up, posting a 2-2 record in 5 starts with a 3.86 ERA as well. West went 3-2 with a poor 6.41 ERA in 10 appearances (5 starts) for the Twins.

The Net Moves

Mets – First Level

  • Frank Viola made 2 All-Star appearances with the Mets in the 3 season he was there, and finished 3rd in the 1990 Cy
    Young

    award voting. He posted a 38-32 record with a 3.31 ERA and 387 strikeouts in 566 1/3 innings pitched. After the 1991 season, he left via free agency, signing with the Red Sox. The Mets received two compensation picks for losing Viola, which they used to draft Chris Roberts and Jon

    Ward

    .

Twins – First Level

  • Rick Aguilera was converted to relief after the 1989 season, and had 4 straight seasons of 30+ saves for the Twins. During the 1995 season, he was traded by the Twins to the Red Sox for minor leaguers Frankie Rodriguez and J.
    J. Johnson

    .

  • Tim Drummond was with the Twins through 1991, but only pitched in the Majors through 1990. He posted a 3-5 record with a 4.35 ERA in relief for the Twins, and it is unclear how he left the organization. He surfaced in 1992 with both the Reds and Orioles in the minor leagues, but did not pitch in the Majors again.
  • Kevin Tapani became one of the anchors of the Twins’ rotation for years, posting a 75-63 record with a 4.06 ERA in parts of 7 seasons. On 7/31/1995, he was traded to the Dodgers with reliever Mark Guthrie for Ron Coomer, Greg Hansell, Jose Parra, and Chris Latham.
  • David West was with the Twins through the 1992 season. He was not anything massively impressive overall, posting a 15-18 record with a 5.33 ERA splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. He was traded to the Phillies on 12/5/1992 for Mike Hartley.
  • Jack Savage appeared in 17 games for the Twins in 1990, posting a 8.31 ERA. He spent the 1991 season in the minors with the Twins, but appears to have retired after that.

Mets – Second Level

  • Chris Roberts spent the entirety of his career in the minor leagues, reaching as high as AAA with both the Mets and Athletics. Unfortunately, that was his peak. Player left on the board with that pick:
    Shannon

    Stewart

  • Jon
    Ward

    did not sign with the Mets. Player left on the board with that pick: Johnny Damon.

    Twins – Second Level

    • Frankie Rodriguez went 25-32 over 4 seasons with the Twins with a 5.20 ERA. He was selected off of waivers by the Mariners on 5/26/1999, netting no compensation for the Twins.
    • J.
      J. Johnson

      was in the Twins’ minor league system until 1998, getting as high as AAA with the team, but never playing for any organization in the Majors.

    • Ron Coomer became a regular for the Twins, even appearing in an All-Star game for the team in 1999. In 676 games, he hit 77 HR, 364 RBI, and hit .278. After the 2000 season, he was granted free agency, and signed with the Cubs.
    • Greg Hansell was with the Twins for 1996, appearing in 50 games as a reliever. He posted a 5.69 ERA, and was selected off of waivers by the Red Sox after the 1996 season.
    • Jose Parra spent the rest of 1995 and 1996 with the Twins, posting a 6-10 record with a 6.77 ERA. He left the Twins after the 1997 season as a free agent.
    • Chris Latham played in 63 games spanning 3 seasons for the Twins, hitting only .152. He was traded on 12/7/1999 to the Rockies for
      Scott

      Randall.

    • Mike Hartley went 1-2 in 53 appearances with the Twins in 1993. He was granted free agency after the 1993 season, and no compensation was received.

    Overall Reactions

    The Twins initially seemed to do pretty well on this trade, getting quality value out of both Rick Aguilera and Kevin Tapani along with the partial values of the other 3 players. While the Mets got a couple of excellent seasons from Viola, they probably would have been better off long term if they had kept the players involved. The trade gets even better for the Twins when they acquired regular 3B Ron Coomer for moving Tapani to the Dodgers in the 1995 season. Definite win for the Twins.

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