Trade Retrospective: Marlins Firesale Edition Part 4

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. You can find Part 1 of the series here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here. This part covers the trades made during the 1998 season.

The Trades

May 14, 1998 – The Marlins acquire C Mike Piazza and 3B Todd Zeile from the Dodgers for OF Gary Sheffield, C Charles Johnson, OF Jim Eisenreigh, OF Bobby Bonilla, and P Manuel Barrios
May 22, 1998 – The marlins acquire P Geoff Goetz, OF Preston Wilson, and P Ed Yarnall from the Mets for C Mike Piazza

The Moving Pieces

In Los Angeles, Sheffield, Johnson, and Bonilla were all slotted into the starting lineup, with Eisenreich providing a bat off the bench.

In New York, Piazza became the middle of the order bat and catcher that the team desperately needed.

In Florida, Todd Zeile was slotted in as the starting 3B, Preston Wilson was sent to AAA Charlotte, and Ed Yarnall was sent to AA.

What Happened Next

In Los Angeles, Sheffield led the team’s offense with a .316 batting average and 16 homeruns in just 90 games that season. Johnson finished the season in LA with a .217 batting average and 12 homeruns. Eisenreich provided a good bat off of the bench, and Bonilla would play in 72 games for the Dodgers, hitting just .237 with 7 home runs down the stretch.

In New York, Piazza helped the team with his production, hitting .348/.417/.607 in 109 games with 23 home runs and 76 runs batted in.

In Florida, Zeile went on to play in 66 games for the Marlins before being traded to the Ranger prior to the trade deadline. He hit .291 with 6 homeruns for the Fish.

The Net Moves

NY Mets – First Level

  • Mike Piazza spent the next 8 seasons in Flushing, and made 6 All Star teams. He won 4 Silver Slugger awards, and hit 220 homeruns with a .296 batting average. He left via free agency after the 2005 season, and the Mets received no compensation for him.

Florida – First Level

  • Ed Yarnall was included in the trade to the Yankees that acquired Mike Lowell for the Marlins. He spent just 1/2 a season with the Marlins in the minors, posting a 2-0 record in 2 starts with a 2.93 ERA.
  • Todd Zeile played in just the 66 games with the Marlins before being traded to the Rangers for two minor leaguers, Daniel DeYoung and Jose Santo.
  • Geoff Goetz was in the Marlins’ organization from 1998 to 2002, never reaching a level higher than AA. He has since bounced around, and played in the independent leagues in 2006 before retiring.
  • Preston Wilson was with the Marlins for 4 seasons, posting a .262/.333/.473 line with 104 homeruns and 329 runs batted in. He was traded on November 16, 2002 along with Charles Johnson, Vic Darensbourg, and Pablo Ozuna to the Rockies for P Mike Hampton and OF Juan Pierre.

Dodgers – First Level

  • Manuel Barrios made 1 appearance with the big club in 1998, his last season in the Majors. He was out of the organization after that year.
  • Gary Sheffield would spend the 1998 season and the next 3 with the Dodgers, making 2 All Star teams and hitting .312 with 129 homeruns and 367 runs batted in. He was traded by the Dodgers on January 15, 2002 to the Braves in exchange for OF Brian Jordan, P Andrew Brown, and P Odalis Perez.
  • Charles Johnson would spend only the remainder of the 1998 season in LA before being traded to the Orioles via the Mets. The Dodgers received C Todd Hundley and minor leaguer Arnold Gooch in return.
  • Jim Eisenreich would play in 75 games as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement in 1998, and would retire at the end of the season.
  • Bobby Bonilla played only the 1998 season in the city of Angels, and was traded to the Mets after the season for P Mel Rojas.

Florida – Second Level

Dodgers – Second Level

  • Brian Jordan spent 2 seasons in L.A., hitting .289 with 24 home runs and 108 runs batted in. He left via free agency following the 2003 season and signed with the Rangers.
  • Andrew Brown spent 2 seasons in the Dodgers’ minor league system before being sent to the Indians to complete the trade which acquired Milton Bradley from the Indians.
  • Odalis Perez spent parts of 5 seasons pitching in the Dodgers’ rotation, posting a 45-40 record with a 3.94 ERA. He was traded to the Royals as a part of a package to acquire Elmer Dessens.
  • Todd Hundley spent the next 2 seasons playing part time for the Dodgers, posting a .284 batting average in 2000. He left via free agency after the 2000 season, and no compensation was received.
  • Arnold Gooch would not play in the Major leagues, and actually never pitched for the Dodgers’ organization either.
  • Mel Rojas would pitch only 5 innings for the Dodgers before being traded to the Tigers for a package of minor leaguers.

Florida – Third Level

  • Ricky Nolasco remains with the Marlins and has posted a 54-36 record with a 4.45 ERA in 716 innings.
  • Sergio Mitre spent 2 seasons with the Marlins and posted a 6-13 record in 34 starts. He was released by the Marlins after the 2008 season, which he had missed with an arm injury.
  • Reynel Pinto is currently in the Marlins organization, and has jumped between AAA and the Majors for most of his seasons. He has a 8-10 record with a 3.62 ERA in 231 innings pitched.

Overall Reactions

The Marlins were clearly trying to dump as much payroll as possible, as they gave up a lot of players to get the All-Star catcher Piazza in return. But the part that really seemed strange even then was that they team flipped him after playing just 5 games for the Fish. The winners of this trade clearly have to be the Mets and the Dodgers, if for no other reason than the Marlins didn’t really get a lot of production out of any of the players they received except for Juan Pierre and Ricky Nolasco. Piazza became an even bigger star in New York, and the Dodgers would get a lot of production out of Gary Sheffield in his time there.

After looking back on the trades, it becomes pretty clear that the Marlins were essentially trying to gather as many players as they could for the players that they got rid of. They say there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect, and the bulk of these trades tend to bring that point home.  So many of the prospects that they acquired through these trades did not turn into Major Leaguers, and while they did get the pieces for the next championship run, overall these trades still look pretty bad for the Marlins in hindsight.


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