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, and this part covers the trades made through the start of Spring Training (approximately February 1st, 1998)
December 15, 1997 – The Marlins acquired 1B Derrek Lee, P Rafael Medina and Steve Hoff from the Padres for SP Kevin Brown.
December 18, 1997 – The Marlins acquired Fletcher Bates and Scott Comer from the Mets for RP Dennis Cook
December 19, 1997 – The Marlins acquired P Eric Ludwick from the Athletics for IF Kurt Abbott
The Moving Pieces
In San Diego, Kevin Brown was slotted into the top of the starting rotation for the Padres.
In New York, Dennis Cook was moved into the back end of the bullpen for the Mets.
In Oakland, Kurt Abbott was slotted into a bench role for the Athletics.
In Florida, 1B Derrek Lee was immediately slotted in as the starting 1B for the Marlins. P Rafael Medina made the starting rotation out of Spring Training as well. Steve Hoff was sent to the Marlins High-A affiliate in Brevard County. OF Fletcher Bates was sent to AA Portland to start there.
What Happened Next
In San Diego, Kevin Brown immediately helped to stabilize the starting rotation of the Padres, and had another great season for the team.
In New York, Dennis Cook went 8-4 with a 2.38 ERA in 73 relief appearances for the Mets in 1998.
In Florida, Rafael Medina struggled in the rotation, going 2-6 in 12 starts with a 6.01 ERA, and split time between AAA and Miami in 1998. Steve Hoff was traded after posting a 5-8 record with High-A Brevard County. Derrek Lee was an average rookie 1B, hitting .233 with 17 homeruns for the Fish in 1998. P Scott Comer was sent to Single-A Kane County to be in their starting rotation. P Eric Ludwick was also slotted into the Major League rotation at the start of the 1998 season.
The Net Moves
San Diego – First Level
- Kevin Brown helped lead the Padres to their most recent World Series appearance on the strength of an 18-7 campaign with a 2.38 ERA. He finished 3rd in the NL Cy Young award voting, and left via free agency after the 1998 season. The signing netted the Padres two compensation picks, which were used to select Vince Faison and Casey Burns. Neither player made the Majors.
NY Mets – First Level
- Dennis Cook would spend the next 3 1/2 seasons in New York, posting a 25-13 record out of the bullpen with a 3.86 ERA. On July 27, 2001, he was traded with Turk Wendell to the Phillies in exchange for Bruce Chen and Adam Walker
Oakland – First Level
- Kurt Abbott played in a whopping 35 games for the Athletics before being traded to the Rockies for a player to be named later. That player ended up being minor leaguer Ara Petrosian.
Florida – First Level
- Rafael Medina spent 2 seasons in Florida, splitting time between AAA and the Majors. He posted a 3-7 record with a 5.96 ERA over 90 2/3 innings. He was claimed off of waivers by the Braves on December 6, 1999
- Steve Hoff spent part of the 1998 season with the Marlins’ High-A affiliate, posting a 5-8 record in 15 starts with a 4.11 ERA. He was traded to the Cubs on July 31, 1998 along with Felix Heredia for Justin Speier, Kevin Orie, and Todd Noel.
- Derrek Lee spent 6 seasons in Florida, posting a .264 batting average with 129 home runs. He was traded on November 25, 2003 to the Cubs for 1B Hee Seop Choi and Mike Nannini
- Fletcher Bates never played in the Majors, spending 2 seasons in the Marlins organization (both at AA). His better season was 1998, when he hit .274 with 11 homeruns and 19 stolen bases.
- Scott Comer never played in the Majors either, spending 3 seasons in the Marlins organization and reaching AA at his highest point. It appears he was out of organized baseball at the age of 23.
- Eric Ludwick went 1-4 with a 7.44 ERA in 13 appearances for the Fish in 1998, and was drafted by the Tigers in the minor league portion of the rule 5 draft on 12/14/98.
NY Mets – Second Level
- Bruce Chen spent parts of 2 seasons with the Mets, posting a 3-2 record with a 4.62 ERA in 12 games (11 starts). On April 5, 2002, he was traded with Luis Figueroa and Dicky Gonzalez to the Expos for Phil Seibel, Scott Strickland and Matt Watson.
- Adam Walker never played in the Majors, and was with the Mets organization until his retirement in 2003. He only appeared in 13 games for the Mets’ minor league teams.
Florida – Second Level
- Hee Seop Choi was widely considered to be a bust, playing in just 95 games for the Marlins before being traded to the Dodgers with Brad Penny and Bill Murphy for Juan Encarnacion, Paul LoDuca, and Guillermo Mota on 7/30/2004.
- Mike Nannini spent 2004 with the Marlins AAA affiliate, posting a 9-10 record with a 5.29 ERA. He spent the following 4 seasons bouncing around the minors, never pitching in the Major leagues.
- Justin Speier pitched in 18 forgettable games for the Marlins in the 1998 season, and was traded to the Braves on April 1, 1999 for Matthew Targac.
- Kevin Orie appeared in 125 games over 2 seasons with the Marlins through 1999, hitting .258 with 12 homers. On November 12, 1999 he was sent to the Dodgers as a part of a conditional deal which appeared to return nothing.
- Todd Noel went 2-2 with a 5.30 ERA in 1998, and was with the Yankees following the 1998 season. He never appeared in the Majors either.
Florida – Third Level
- Paul LoDuca appeared in 182 games in parts of 2 seasons in that stint with the Marlins. He his .283 in 1999 with 6 homeruns and 57 runs batted in. On 12/5/2005, he was traded to the Mets for minor leaguers Gaby Hernandez and Dante Brinkley.
- Guillermo Mota was included in the trade which sent Josh Beckett to the Red Sox.
- Juan Encarnacion was in Florida through the end of the 2005 season, and hit .287 with 16 homeruns in 2005 for the team. After the season, he left via free agency, and it appears that the Marlins received no compensation.
There were some productive players that the team received, and definitely got some solid years out of 1B Derrek Lee, the prize of the trade that moved Kevin Brown. That said, almost without fail, the rest of the players they received were not particularly good for the Marlins. Paul LoDuca and Juan Encarnacion are the only ones who stand out as being remotely useful to the team, and Guillermo Mota‘s best use for the Marlins was including him to acquire Hanley Ramirez for the current team.
To me, the winners out of this group had to be the Padres, simply because Brown was the piece that helped to get them over the top in the National League and win the pennant in 1998. Unfortunately for them, they ran into the buzzsaw that was the 114 win New York Yankees.
The next post in this series will be up next Saturday, and will cover the rest of the trades made prior to the start of the 1998 season.