July 31, 2017

20 Years Ago, A Trade

July 31, 1997: The Seattle Mariners traded pitcher Derek Lowe and catcher Jason Varitek to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Heathcliff Slocumb.

Grant Brisbee, SB Nation:
With the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to point and laugh at the Heathcliff Slocumb trade because it didn't work out. The Mariners got an erratic reliever for a season and a half, and the Red Sox got Derek Lowe, Jason Varitek, and two World Series championships. But that's not entirely fair. There's some context to explore. While it seems devastating in retrospect that the Mariners traded a future franchise catcher and a pitcher who made an All-Star team as both a reliever and a starter, and it seems inconceivable that they traded them for a closer with a 5.79 ERA who had allowed 95 baserunners in 46.2 innings, it's not like ...

Actually, there's no way to gloss over that part. Literally 95 baserunners in 46.2 innings. Holy moly.

But there's still context to explore. ...
A little more than three weeks after the trade, the Red Sox were in Seattle. On August 25, Slocumb came out of the Mariners' bullpen with two outs and a man on first in the eighth inning. Seattle was up 8-7. Slocumb allowed a single to Wil Cordero and Mike Benjamin went first to third. Then Slocumb allowed a single to Troy O'Leary, which scored Benjamin and tied the game. Slocumb also threw a wild pitch before striking out Scott Hatteberg.

In the ninth, Slocumb walked Jeff Frye. Darren Bragg bunted Frye to second and Slocumb intentionally walked Nomar Garciaparra. John Valentin promptly singled to left, scoring Frye and giving Boston a 9-8 lead. And that was the final score.

(That was part of a four-game stretch in which Slocumb allowed 10 hits, 5 walks, and 7 runs in only 5.1 innings. But ignoring those four appearances, Slocumb pitched pretty well for Seattle: a 2.35 ERA in 23 innings. Which is light years better than he did in Boston that year. In 49 games before the trade, opposing batters had a .422 OBP.)

Lowe made eight relief appearances in September 1997. Boston lost all eight of those games, as Lowe blew two saves and was charged with two losses. Varitek made his major league debut on September 24, 1997, his only game that year. He singled as a pinch-hitter and caught one inning.

Jason and I had been together since 1995 with the Port City (NC) Roosters. It really helped to go to a new organization with someone you knew. ... [GM] Dan [Duquette] said all the right things and then told me he was especially excited because the team needed "A big left-handed pitcher." I didn't have the heart to tell him I am right-handed! When I told Jason he said, "That's nothing. He thinks I'm a short, fat guy, who is a good catcher, but can't hit. Jason and I start laughing when anybody talks about what a great move that was by the Red Sox.

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