Here's a guest post courtesy of Tim Chalberg, from Mariners Musings Enjoy!
As the trade deadline looms, the Mariners obviously made their biggest move at the start of the month, when they sent Cliff Lee to the Rangers for a quartet of prospects. It is fair to call it one of the more prominent trades in franchise history.
The Mariners have come up both winners and losers in previous deadline deals. I like the M's end of the Lee deal, but it is too early to say if it turned out to be good or bad.
Here is some of the competition that the Lee deal faces. I present to you the worst and best deadline deals the Mariners have ever made:
The Worst: July 31, 1997 – Mariners acquire RHP Heathcliff Slocumb from the Red Sox for C Jason Varitek and RHP Derek Lowe
Let's start with Slocumb; he had over 30 saves in 1995 and 1996, sporting ERAs in both years around 3.00. By traditional numbers, he looked fine, but the wheels started to come off in 1997, to the tune of a 5.79 ERA with only two fewer walks than strikeouts at the time of the trade. Looking beyond Heathcliff's ERA (or watching him in person for that matter), Slocumb always struggled to throw strikes, and didn't counteract that with an eye-popping strikeout rate.
His split-finger was a swing-and-miss type of pitch, but hitters often felt no need to expand their strike zone with his questionable control. Still, despite the obvious signs the Slocumb wasn't a strong rebound candidate; M's GM Woody Woodward bit the bullet, and put some trust in him.
In Woodward's defense, Slocumb was added to one of those epic mid-'90s Mariners bullpens. Although Heathcliff wasn't that great, he was 1 of 20 pitchers used in relief by the 1997 Mariners, which says plenty about the talent level of that bullpen. It should be noted that Slocumb did rebound down the stretch in 1997. In Seattle the rest of the season, as the closer, Heathcliff got about a strikeout an inning, and his ERA went down nearly a couple runs. However, Slocumb showed his true colors again in 1998, and was gone by the end of the season.
In the end, the deal sort of worked for three months. The price was excessive, to say the least. Derek Lowe, who made his MLB debut for the 1997 Mariners (and was ineffective in his nine starts), did not take long to establish himself as an All-Star caliber pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Jason Varitek was still a prospect in the Mariners system, but went on to become the next Red Sox captain, ending up with some All-Star selections of his own along the way.
What makes this far and away the worst deal in M's history though is the story behind how it happened. The trade happened literally minutes before deadline, and apparently Woodward was working the phone lines really hard. He ended up with too many irons in the fire, and as everything fell apart, he came back to Heathcliff Slocumb. Rumors leaked out that the Red Sox were asking for Derek Lowe or Jason Varitek, and it was the Mariners that came back offering both of them. Needless to say, it didn't take long for Boston to agree to the deal.
The best: July 30, 1996 – Mariners acquire LHP Jamie Moyer from the Red Sox for OF Darren Bragg
The Mariners needed pitching in 1996, a common theme throughout the 1990s. Bragg had become a fairly dependable outfielder, but seemed expendable with Jose Cruz Jr. coming through the system. Plus, it's just not a traditional M's ballclub without a question mark in left field, right?
Moyer wound up having a highly successful 10-year run with the Mariners, establishing himself as a leader in the local community, and a fixture in the Mariners record books. Bragg did not go on to similar success with the Red Sox. At the time, it seemed like the trade would be one of those types where it would wind up being a win-win, but in the end it was a steal for the Mariners.
One noteworthy side story to this trade is that then-GM Woody Woodward, the same architect of the Slocumb deal, not only had the smarts to acquire Moyer, but also to keep him. A day after acquiring Moyer, the M's acquired veteran southpaw Terry Mulholland from the Phillies. Both Mulholland and Moyer were free agents at the end of the 1996 season, and Seattle only had enough cash to keep one of them moving forward. Jamie Moyer outperformed Terry Mulholland down the stretch in 1996, the Mariners decided to keep Moyer over Mulholland, and the rest is history.
The Mariners have come up big winners and losers at previous trade deadlines. It is hard to trade a player the caliber of Cliff Lee and end up somewhere in the middle on a trade. Here is hoping history looks upon this most recent deadline deal favorably when it is all said and done.