Thursday, October 29, 2009
Let us set the stage...
The Montreal Expos are in disarray, they are owned by Major League baseball and there have been ample talks about contracting both them and the Minnesota Twins. The Expos find themselves in the Wild Card race with the opportunity to add Bartolo Colon, one of the best pitchers in baseball, who also happens to be in the 2nd to last year of his contract. Colon with the Indians in the first half of the season was 10-4 with a 2.55 ERA, but the Indians were out of it and looking to build for the future. In an attempt to try to get the Expos into the playoffs Omar Minaya made the splash move for Colon, also acquiring Tim Drew (brother of Stephen and JD) while giving up three prospects and Lee Stevens in the process.
Fast Forward Three Months...
Bartolo Colon absolutely did his job for the Expos. He replicated his 10-4 record he had with the Indians in the first half of the season and pitched to the tune of 3.31 ERA. The problem was the rest of the rotation did not do their jobs. The combination of a young Javy Vazquez, Carl Pavano, Tony Armas Jr., Tomo Ohka and Masato Yoshii were not nearly enough to get the Expos into the playoffs. The Expos finished 19 games back of the Braves for the AL East and 12.5 behind the Giants for the Wildcard.
The Price That Was Paid
At the time of the deal, the purported major piece traded was 2B Brandon Phillips while the two lesser prospects dealt were Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee. The three would have made up a remarkable core for the Expos/Nats to build upon. Phillips after being traded to the Reds has emerged as one of the top 2nd baseman in the National League. In his 2nd season with the Reds he went 30/30 and won the gold glove. Grady Sizemore has been amongst the best outfielders in baseball. Sizemore has made three all star games, has finished in the top 12 of the MVP voting three times, and like Phillips has accomplished 30/30. Lee took awhile to blossom into a stud but in the past two seasons he has emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball, taking home the AL Cy Young in 2008 and proving to be a fantastic postseason asset to the Phillies this season.
So Why is This Trade So Bad?
A rent-a-player happens all the time, you give up some prospects in hopes of getting an impact player and getting into the postseason. The problem was, at the time of the trade, the Expos were already 6.5 back of the division and 4 games out of the Wild Card. The Expos did not have the team to compete even with Bartolo Colon nor the money to keep him in the offseason. Therefore before the 2003 season the Expos dealt Colon in a three team deal to the White Sox for El Duque, Rocky Biddle, Jeff Liefer and Cash, none of whom ever made a significant impact on their franchise. Meanwhile Lee, Phillips, and Sizemore have all gone on to be excellent players for their respective teams.
The Expos were desperate. They were a team that needed to make a playoff push. They made a big splash trade but in the process they set their franchise back almost a full decade by giving up the cornerstones of their future. Trades don't get much worse than this.