For the final month of the season, I’ll be posting a slightly different set of trade retrospectives. In 1997, the Marlins, under owner Wayne Huizenga, won the whole thing, taking the World Series in 7 games in a walk-off victory over the Cleveland Indians. The team had assembled quite a collection of talented players, with Edgar Renteria, Bobby Bonilla, Moises Alou and Gary Sheffield anchoring the lineup and Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Livan Hernandez, and Robb Nen anchoring the pitching staff. However, the team was for sale, and had been prior to the championship. From Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun, on the morning after the victory:
The Marlins are in danger of being dismantled. Owner H. Wayne Huizenga put the club up for sale last summer and — even though the Marlins reached the World Series — figures to decrease the payroll this winter.
Well, it didn’t take all that long, and the pieces started falling pretty quickly. These posts will not be just surrounding 1 trade, but rather the whole of the work related to this firesale. Part 1 will cover the trades made in November 1997
November 11, 1997 – The Marlins acquired Mark Johnson, Manuel Barrios and Oscar Henriquez from the Astros for OF Moises Alou
November 18, 1997 – The Marlins sent Kurt Miller to the Cubs as a part of a conditional trade
November 18, 1997 – The Marlins acquired Jesus Martinez from the Diamondbacks for OF Devon White
November 18, 1997 – The Marlins acquired Mike Pageler, Mike Villano and Joe Fontenot from the Giants for CL Robb Nen
The Moving Pieces
In Houston, LF Moises Alou was slotted in to the middle of the lineup and starting in left field.
In Chicago, P Kurt Miller was sent to AAA Iowa, where he was slotted into the starting rotation for the team.
In Arizona, OF Devon White was slotted in to the starting CF role.
In San Francisco, CL Robb Nen was immediately placed into the closer’s role for the Giants.
In Florida, P Manuel Barrios was sent to AAA Charlotte to work as a reliever. Oscar Henriquez made the big club out of Spring Training in 1998 as a reliever. P Mark Johnson was sent to AA Portland in the Eastern League, where he worked in the starting rotation. P Mike Pageler was also sent to AA Portland, where he worked as a reliever out of the pen. P Mike Villano was sent to AAA Charlotte, where he was to work out of the starting rotation.
What Happened Next
In Houston, Moises Alou had what was probably the best season of his career. He hit .312/.399/.582 with 38 homeruns, 124 runs batted in and 11 stolen bases. He finished 3rd in the NL MVP voting that year, won his second career Silver Slugger award, and was named to the NL All Star team.
In Arizona, Devon White was slotted into the starting center field spot for the expansion Diamondbacks, and into the top of the order. He hit 22 homeruns and stole 22 bases while representing the Diamondbacks in the All-Star game in 1998.
In San Francisco, Robb Nen was an All-Star in his first season, posting 40 saves and striking out an excellent 11.2 batters per 9 innings.
In Iowa, Miller went 14-3 with a 3.81 ERA over 167.2 IP prior to getting a callup to the big club late in September.
In Miami, Oscar Henriquez started the season in the bullpen for the Marlins, but pitched extremely poorly. He posted an 8.55 ERA in 20 appearances before being sent back to AAA Charlotte. Joe Fontenot made 8 starts for the Marlins from May to July before being sent back to the minors for good. He went 0-7 with a 6.33 ERA in 42.2 IP.
In Charlotte (Marlins’ AAA affiliate), Manuel Barrios went 2-0 with a 3.70 ERA in 18 appearances (1 start) before being called up to the big club. Mike Villano went 3-5 with a 7.69 ERA in 13 appearances (10 starts) for Charlotte.
In Portland, Mark Johnson went 5-14 with a 3.62 ERA in 142.1 IP in 1998. He spent the whole season in Portland. Mike Pageler spent the 1998 season in the bullpen in Portland, posting a 5-5 record with a 4.62 ERA and 13 saves in 76 IP.
The Net Moves
Houston – First Level
- Moises Alou was in Houston for 4 seasons, but missed the 1999 season due to injury. In 421 games, he hit .331/.403/.585 with 95 homeruns and 346 runs batted in. He was an All-Star twice (1998, 2001), and finished in the top 20 of MVP voting all 3 seasons he played. He left the Astros via free agency after the 2001 season, and was not offered arbitration and as such was not eligible for free agent compensation.
Chicago – First Level
- Kurt Miller pitched for the Cubs organization through the 1999 season, when it appears that he retired following that season.
Arizona – First Level
- Devon White played 1 season in Arizona, posting a .279/.335/.456 line with 22 homeruns, 85 runs batted in, and 22 stolen bases. He was an All-Star in his season in the desert, and left via free agency following the 1998 season. The Diamondbacks received 2 picks in the 1999 draft for the loss of the free agent, which they used to draft P Casey Daigle and P Jeremy Ward.
San Francisco – First Level
- Robb Nen spent 5 seasons in the city by the Bay, making 3 All-Star teams and finishing as high as 4th in the Cy Young voting. He went 24-25 with a 2.43 ERA and 206 saves in 378.1 IP, and helped the team reach the World Series in 2002. He retired after the 2002 season due to injuries.
Florida – First Level
- Manuel Barrios made 2 appearances with the Major League club, throwing 2 2/3 innings. He was included in a large trade to the Dodgers I will be reviewing in Part 3.
- Oscar Henriquez finished out the 1998 season in the minors before being traded to the New York Mets for C Jorge Fabregas on 11/20/1998.
- Mark Johnson only spent the 1998 season with the Marlins’ organization. On February 1st, 1999, he was traded with Todd Noel and Ed Yarnall to the Yankees for 3B Mike Lowell.
- Jesus Martinez never pitched an inning for the Marlins’ organization, instead being included in a trade with the Reds later in Spring Training 1998.
- Mike Pageler never made it to the show, spending 1998-2000 seasons with the Marlins in the minor leagues.
- Mike Villano never made it to the show either, spending 1998 and part of 1999 with the Marlins before finishing the season with the Mets. It is unclear to me how he got there.
- Joe Fontenot only got those 8 starts in the Majors, and was sent back to AAA for the remainder of 1998 and all of 1999. It appears he was out of baseball at that point, at the age of 22.
Florida – Second Level
- Mike Lowell spent part of 1999 in the minors before becoming a fixture in the Marlins lineup midseason. He was with the team through the 2005 season, but not before making 3 All Star teams and winning a Silver Slugger award. He hit .272/.339/.462 with 143 HR and 578 RBI in his time there. He was a part of the Josh Beckett trade during the 2005 offseason.
- Jorge Fabregas spent 82 games as the backup catcher for the Marlins, posting a .206 batting average with 3 homeruns. He was released by the Marlins on August 26, 1998.
Wow, these ones didn’t turn out good at all. With the exception of Mike Lowell, there were NO players that amounted to much of anything for the Marlins. There was saved money in salaries clearly, but it’s hard to believe that they were this unlucky with regard to picking out pitching prospects. Clearly it seems that they should have gotten lucky on at least one of them, but they clearly didn’t. Mike Lowell definitely was the pick of this bunch for the Fish.
For the other teams, the Diamondbacks got something they really needed in a veteran presence in the lineup. The Giants really stabilized the back end of their bullpen by bringing in Nen, and he was as solid as they come during his time there. Even the Astros did well to get Alou while he was on the upswing. For this first set of trades, the Marlins lost.
The next post in this series will be up next Saturday, and will cover the rest of the trades made prior to January 31st.