You look back at it and say you traded Randy Johnson, that’s usually not a good way to start a conversation.”
About a half-hour into Dave Dombrowski’s first Q&A as the Phillies’ president of baseball operations, he was asked about trades he’s regretted throughout his four-decade career leading clubs.
Yep, Dombrowski was the first-year Expos GM who traded Johnson, Brian Holman and Gene Harris to the Mariners in May 1989 for Mark Langston and Mike Campbell.
At the time, Johnson was an intriguing lefty who struggled to throw strikes. (I still remember my dad’s stories about drafting him as a rookie in his primitive late-80s fantasy baseball league.)
Some forget, but it took years until The Big Unit got his control issues in check. He walked 5.7 batters per nine innings in his first five seasons.
“You’re saying jeez this guy’s a bum, why did we hire him?” Dombrowski joked. “The game was a lot different. And we didn’t regret it at the time because Randy wasn’t quite there, we had an owner who wanted to win, and we got Mark Langston, who was the best pitcher in the National League that particular year, led the league in earned run average, he pitched great for us. We ended up not re-signing him, we got a couple of draft choices, one of them was Rondell White.
“It was a situation where if you look back, jeez, how could you trade Randy Johnson? But he was actually the third guy in our order because Gene Harris and Brian Holman were ranked ahead of him at that particular time.”
The Suarez trade
Believe it or not, the Johnson trade wasn’t even the first Dombrowski referenced when discussing regrets. It was the Eugenio Suarez deal in 2014.
That year, the Tigers sent Suarez and former first-round pick Jonathon Crawford to the Reds for Alfredo Simon, a one-time Phillies farmhand.
Simon had just unexpectedly had an All-Star season, going 15-10 with a 3.44 ERA for Cincinnati. Suarez had just completed his rookie year in Detroit and was behind Nicholas Castellanos at third base.
“It was not a justifiable trade afterward. It was not a good trade,” Dombrowski said. “We needed a starter making that type of money and we figured Suarez was behind our other infielders and we had some depth there.”
Simon had a 5.05 ERA in his lone year with the Tigers. Suarez has hit 158 homers with an .829 OPS in six seasons with the Reds.
Marlins rebuild trades (after the 1997 World Series)
- Got nothing for Moises Alou, Robb Nen, Livan Hernandez or Devon White.
- But ... he got Mike Lowell for nothing, Brad Penny for Matt Mantei, A.J. Burnett for Al Leiter, and Matt Clement for Mark Kotsay. More here on Dombrowski's best moves.
2002: Traded Mark Redman to Marlins for Rob Henkel, Nate Robertson and Gary Knotts
An insignificant return for a pitcher who had his best season the next year and made 91 starts with a league-average ERA the next three.
2007: Jair Jurrjens for one year of Edgar Renteria
Renteria had one mediocre season in Detroit. Jurrjens over the ensuing four years went 47-32 with a 3.34 ERA in 108 starts with the Braves.
- David Price (7 years, $217M)
- Nate Eovaldi (4 years, $68M)
- Miguel Cabrera extension through age 40 (8 years, $248M)