The Best Trade in Red Sox History

When Dan Duquette’s name is run through the mud, as it often is in Boston, I like to kindly remind people that he was responsible for two of the most important deals in the team’s history. Both of which would eventually bring the World Series back to Boston — long after he was gone.

Duquette is maligned for his handling of Roger Clemens and Mo Vaughn, for his backing of Carl Everett and for failing to deliver a championship in Boston. He was often unfairly scapegoated, but that is sometimes just how it goes in the city.

Regardless of what people say or think  of Duquette, he orchestrated two of the greatest trades in Red Sox history.

Trade #1 – July 1997 - The Red Sox deal Heathcliff Slocumb to the Seattle Mariners for Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek.

Trade #2 – November 1997 - The Red Sox deal Carl Pavano and a PTBNL (Tony Armas Jr.) to the Montreal Expos for Pedro Martinez.

John Levesque, a Seattle columnist made a great point in 2004;

Blame it all on Dan Wilson.

If Wilson hadn’t established himself as the Mariners’ No. 1 catcher in the mid-1990s, Jason Varitek would likely be squatting behind the plate for the Mariners, not the Boston Red Sox.

By July of 1997, the Red Sox were out of playoff contention and in desperate need of pitching and catching. Conveniently, the Seattle Mariners were positioning themselves for an AL West division title. Seattle’s ‘Achilles heel’  had been their bullpen. It had failed them many times throughout the ‘97 season.

The Mariners had just left Fenway Park after a three-game series with the Sox in July and Seattle VP Woody Woodward had a good look at Red Sox closer Heathcliff Slocumb. Woodward felt that Slocumb could solidify the Mariners bullpen and he let Dan Duquette know he wanted to trade for the Red Sox closer. (Thank you, Woody.)

Slocumb was not very well-liked in Boston as he had spent more time on the mound with a blow torch and gasoline lighting fires, rather than putting them out. Boston was happy to move Slocumb. Duquette told Woodward he wanted two of Seattle’s minor leaguers, Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek. Neither Lowe or Varitek were top prospects at the time and Seattle agreed to pull the trigger.

Obviously in hindsight, this was a fleece job. The Red Sox acquired their future ‘rock’ behind home plate in Varitek — a guy who is renowned for handling pitching staffs and managing games. Varitek has caught more games than anyone else in team history. Derek Lowe on the other hand was also a star in Boston and one of the few pitchers in major league history to win 20 games in one season and save 40 games in another. Don’t forget; Lowe won the clinching games in each round of the 2004 playoffs. The ALDS, the ALCS and the World Series all have W’s with Lowe’s name attached.

Slocumb was out of Seattle in 1998 and out of baseball in 2000.

Duquette: +1

The second of the two greatest trades in Red Sox history landed Boston one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. Pedro Martinez ranks among the best in Red Sox history. He is in the pantheons of greats with Cy Young, Roger Clemens and Lefty Grove.

All it took to get him was Carl Pavano, Tony Armas Jr. and some positioning on the New York Yankees.

In an interview with Baseball Prospectus, former Montreal Expos GM Jim Beattie discussed the trade of Pedro to the Red Sox.

I talked to Pedro and he said, “I’m not going to sign an extension with the club unless you can sign some other players to support me.” And we couldn’t. We could afford—maybe—Pedro, but we couldn’t afford other players, so we decided that we were going to trade him, and now was the time to trade him. We did some prospecting to see who was available, and the idea for us was that we wanted the best young pitching that was not arbitration eligible. We wanted players who would give us a couple of years before arbitration. It was either one year in the big leagues, or on the verge of being in the big leagues; the best young pitching in the minor leagues. We had some position players coming along, we thought, so we wanted to add some promising young pitching to our roster.

Montreal needed exactly what Boston had. The Yankees feverishly tried to get Pedro from the Expos, but in the end, would not give Beattie what he asked for. Beattie was known to have been playing a game of hardball with the rest of the league. He would not allow teams any time to work on extension with Martinez and Pedro only had one year left on his deal. Any team willing to meet the lofty demands of the Expos would also assume the risk that Martinez might not sign a long term deal.

Beattie eventually opted for the deal with Boston, seeing Pavano and Armas Jr. as good prospects who would project as front-end starting pitchers for the organization. It was rumored that Beattie had demanded that the Yankees fork over pitcher Ramiro Mendoza, catcher Jorge Posada and two minor leaguers, outfielder Rickey Ledee and third baseman Mike Lowell.

Good thing they didn’t.

Pedro was the most dominant Red Sox pitcher many of us have ever seen wear the Red Sox uniform. He set records, captivated Boston, dominated opposing hitters, made us laugh and won a World Series with the Sox. He was so amazing that if he gave up three runs or struck out less than seven hitters in a game, fans asked what was wrong.

Although the Lowe/Varitek trade would account for a complete fleecing and probably would rank as the #1 trade in a lot of situations, I think you give the edge to the trade for Pedro. Never has there been a greater trade in the team’s history.

So there you have it. Two of the best transactions in Red Sox history. Maybe next time we will look at the worst trades in Red Sox history. Everyone knows about the Babe Ruth deal to the Yankees, but there are plenty more to talk about. We’ll give you the rundown without spending the first 600 words on Ruth.

Stupid Harry Frazee.

Dan Duquette: +2

Categories: Boston Red Sox

5 Responses to “The Best Trade in Red Sox History” Subscribe

  1. went9 October 20, 2010 at 1:31 PM #

    In this day and age, it’s hard to believe that Pedro, Tek, and Derek Lowe were all still on the same team seven years later to win it all. Those are three huge blocks in the foundation of a championship. Your post nail it.

    Go Sox in ’11

    • Darryl Johnston October 20, 2010 at 3:15 PM #

      Yeah, no question. Just thankful it all worked out!

  2. Mr Punch October 20, 2010 at 5:20 PM #

    Duquette's #1 single-year performance was not however 1997 but 1995, when he took the Sox from 4th to 1st. His Plan A was to make deals to sign Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa and John Wetteland if they were declared free agents post-strike; he then went to Plan B, with O'Leary, Canseco et al., and made the perfect trade at the deadline to get the closer (Aguilera) he needed.

  3. Eric Hazoury October 20, 2010 at 9:04 PM #

    When the worst trades in Sox history come out, we all know Jeff Bagwell will be on there. Trading a future first ballot HoF’er and, according to Bill James, one of the best 5 first basemen in history for a few months of a reliever. That one hurt. When he was traded he was the best player in all of AA and GM Lou Gorman had never seen him even play.

  4. Eric Hazoury October 20, 2010 at 9:09 PM #

    Other things to thank Dan Duquette for: Hanley, Youkilis, Nomar, Manny, Damon