Jul 29, 2009
Is this the Results of the Worst Trade Ever?
Dateline: Offseason before 1982 season.
Ivan DeJesus has been a light hitting shortstop for the Cubs. This has been the norm of the time since we are still just emerging from the mindset of the dead hitter's zone of the '60s. The shortstop's first job is to catch the ball and turn the double play. DeJesus fit that mold in a manager's eye, though he had an average to below average fielding %
The Phillies have had Larry Bowa as their shortstop for many years (since 1970). He is a polarizing player, loved by fans and teammates and also hated by other teammates and opponents. He is now on the downside of his career, aged 35 years old. He is also light hitting, but his fielding % is always high.
The Phillies were forced into dealing the hotheaded Bowa after he called out the management in the papers for refusing to give him the contract he wanted. Enter the Cubs and their GM Dallas Green (coincidentally the manager of the 1980 Phillies).
He wanted the surehandedness of Bowa and in return offered the younger DeJesus. But the deal wouldn't go through without another player; after all, DeJesus was 7 years younger.
Green had an intimate knowledge of the Phillies' organization at the time. And he was the one who requested the little known third base prospect of Ryne Sandberg. With the Phillies trading Bowa, they considered Sandberg as a shortstop replacement, but they didn't think his glove would translate there. They already have Mike Schmidt at 3rd, Manny Trillo at 2nd, and Garry Maddox in center. Sandberg was sufficiently blocked from any regular playing time in Philadelphia.
Ah, but how did he become the supporting player in this deal? Even without Sandberg, considering talent and potential team contribution, the Phillies would be receiving the short end of the deal. In the Bill James 1982 baseball abstract, Bowas was the 9th ranked shortstop while DeJesus was the 22nd ranked shortstop. All the statistics at this time show this deal would favor the Cubs (AVG, RBI, Fielding %).
The Phillies are desparate to trade Bowa and pull the trigger anyway, bringing in the ineffectual DeJesus and giving away the volatile Bowa with the raw Sandberg, who at the age of 21 already had more hitting ability than either of the two shortstops.
Update:The Cubs did not realize their heist until halfway through the 1982 season when they shifted Sandberg from 3rd to 2nd, where he won a Gold Glove as early as 1983 and began his HOF career.
How did such a trade come to pass? This was not a win now trade or salary dump trade. Shouldn't there be an equal exchange of talent? Even in the metrics of the time, the Phillies would have lost the trade without Sandberg.
What trades of the present day from your team bring the same tinges of regret and "did they really see these guys play before"?