Deadline Deals of Days Done: 07/04/87
Now, back to July 4, 1987. I’m not sure why this trade always stuck out to me. Maybe it was because it was done on a holiday; maybe because it involved two division rivals. Whatever it was I remember this deal almost as if it was yesterday.
At the time of the trade the Giants were 39-40. This deal would spark them to mount an incredible run, going 51-32 down the stretch and winning the NL West crown. Ultimately they would fall in seven to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS.
On July 4th the San Diego Padres dealt LH starter Dave Dravecky, LH reliever Craig Lefferts and 3B Kevin Mitchell to San Francisco in exchange for former All-Star 3B Chris Brown, RHP Mark Grant, LHP Keith Comstock and LHP Mark Davis.
It’s funny; even after all this time I’m not sure what motivation the Padres had to make this deal. I suppose the main draw was Brown, who had been an All-Star the previous season and racked up an OPS+ of 120 as a Giant. He’d also posted a 6.0 WAR (according to Baseball Reference) combined in 1985 and 1986. At 25, it was fair to assume Brown had several productive seasons in front of him.
Davis and Grant had both been selected in the first-round of their respective drafts. Comstock was basically just a throw-in. He was 31 at the time of the trade and had made all of 19 big league appearances.
Dravecky had won 53 contests in parts of six seasons with the Padres and had an ERA of just 3.12. Lefferts was one of the better LH relievers in the NL and had made a league-high 83 appearances in 1986. Mitchell, who was originally acquired by San Diego in the Kevin McReynolds blockbuster, had a very good rookie season with the world champion 1986 Mets. He posted an OPS+ of 124 and finished third in rookie of the year voting. He struggled with the Friars in the first half of 1987, posting an OPS+ of just 91 in 217 PA.
So, how did this deal work out for everyone? Mitchell would post an OPS+ of 141 in 298 Giants PA and slugged 15 HR. He would win the MVP award in 1989 after blasting 47 HR, driving in 125 runs and finishing with an OPS+ of 192. He also qualified for two All-Star teams in five seasons with the Giants and was worth 19.4 WAR.
Dravecky would win seven of his twelve decisions down the stretch with the Giants and posted a 3.20 ERA. He was also worth two wins to the Giants in little more than half of a season.
In 1988, a tumor was discovered in his pitching arm. He underwent treatment and eventually made his return to the Giants in August of 1989. Just when it seemed he was getting his playing career back on track, Dravecky broke the humerus bone in his pitching arm. While recovering, Dravecky suffered a second break in his arm when rushing the mound to celebrate the Giants pennant win over the Cubs. While reviewing the x-rays, a doctor noticed a mass in his arm. It was determined that his cancer had returned and Dravecky was forced to retire from baseball. Ultimately the cancer would force the amputation of his arm.
Lefferts was a key piece of the Giants pen and would save 35 games for San Francisco. He posted sub-3.00 ERA’s in each of his two full seasons in San Francisco.
All told, the trio posted a WAR of better than 23 as members of the Giants.
Meanwhile, things didn’t work out quite so well for the Padres. Brown posted a disappointing .611 OPS for the Padres in a year-and-a-half before being traded to Detroit in October of 1988. He would play his last big league game in May of the following year.
Davis was a little bit better for San Diego. He saved 74 games with the Friars, including a league-high 44 in 1988 when he won the NL Cy Young award. He was also a two-time All-Star as a Padre. Davis would sign a rich free agent deal during the winter of 1989 with Kansas City but was never the same pitcher.
Comstock was a below replacement-level pitcher in parts of two seasons in San Diego.
Grant was a sub-4 ERA pitcher as a spot-starter and reliever with the Padres. He won 17 and lost 18 in parts of four seasons. He’s probably best known now as the Padres color analyst on Cox Channel 4.
From a pure value perspective, this was a bad beat for the Friars. The Giants received more than 23 wins above replacement from the trio of Mitchell, Dravecky and Lefferts. The Padres got just 9.5 WAR combined from the four players they acquired.
In hindsight, this was probably a deal the Padres shouldn’t have made. They might have been better off giving Mitchell more time to prove himself in San Diego. Then again, if we hadn’t made this deal we wouldn’t have the colorful color commentary of Mark Grant to humor us through some bad and boring Padres baseball this year.