Trades Are Coming But No Firesale Is Imminent
Whether you agree with the decision to fire Josh Byrnes or not, something needed to be done to change the culture of losing that is taking hold of this organization. The Byrnes termination is certainly not going to be the only move made by the club in the coming weeks but it was the first and sets the stage for the moves that are bound to come. The team, according to CEO Mike Dee, is looking to bring in the new GM as soon as possible in advance of the July 31st, non-waiver trade deadline just in time to start making deals.
Fans already expecting the Friars to sell of as many marketable assets as feasible before the deadline are even more sure today since the incoming executive likely won’t have ties to the players he will ultimately inherit. In fact, the term “fire sale,” is making the rounds in terms of what is to come from the Padres. But if you think any combination of trades the Friars could possibly make would actually constitute a “fire sale,” you are sadly mistaken. Let’s travel back in time to maybe the ugliest period of Padres baseball (I know, there are many to choose from) and remind those fans of what a real fire sale looks like.
Back in the summer of 1993 (hard to believe it’s already been more than two decades) the Friars were in the midst of a horrid 61 – 101 season. In June of that year the club fired GM Joe McIlvaine (are you picking up on the symmetry?) and replaced him with Randy Smith, currently the Padres vice president of player development ironically. Before July was over Smith consummated three separate trades that practically gutted the roster of all recognizable talent with the notable exception of Tony Gwynn. Let’s review those trades individually to see why they collectively have gone down in history as “The Fire Sale.”
June 24, 1993 – Padres ship 3B Gary Sheffield along with LHP Rich Rodriguez to Florida for RHP Jose Martinez, RHP Andres Berumen and RHP Trevor Hoffman.
Sheffield nearly won the Triple Crown in his first season with the Friars in 1992, leading the NL in batting (.330), finishing third in HR (33) and placing fifth in RBI (100). He also finished third in MVP voting that year. At just 23 it appeared Sheffield was just reaching his immense potential and the Friars looked to have a young star in their fold.
Of course Sheffield would go on to have a Hall-of-Fame worthy career despite his accomplishments being tainted by rumors of performance enhancing drug use. He finished his playing career with an OPS of .907 and more than 500 HR.
The saving grace with this trade was that the Friars at least received Trevor Hoffman, who would go on to cement his place in Friars history as one of its most popular players. Hoffman, almost a lock to one day reach Cooperstown himself, broke the career saves mark and held it until the immortal Mariano Rivera took it from him.
July 18, 1993 – Padres deal 1B Fred McGriff to Atlanta for OF Vince Moore, OF Melvin Nieves and RHP Donnie Elliot.
In 1992 when Sheffield nearly won the Triple Crown, it was McGriff who would lead the NL in HR. He also finished third in RBI with 104. After the trade he helped Atlanta track down yet another playoff berth and would go on to have a tremendous career; one that may fall short of the Hall but not by much.
The only value the Padres got out of the trade was Trevor Hoffman’s changeup. Donnie Elliot actually taught the pitch to Trevor while the two were briefly teammates. Melvin Nieves did practically nothing in the major leagues and Vince Moore never even made it to the bigs.
July 26, 1993 – Padres send LHP Bruce Hurst and RHP Greg Harris to Colorado for C Brad Ausmus, RHP Andy Ashby and RHP Doug Bochtler.
Hurst was a prized free agent signing during the winter of 1988 and in parts of five seasons with the Friars the veteran southpaw won 55 games and posted a solid ERA of 3.56.
Harris split six seasons pitching in the Friars rotation and coming out of the bullpen and finished his Padres career with an ERA under three with 41 victories.
This deal actually worked out real well for the Friars. Ausmus turned into an excellent big league catcher, winning three gold gloves and making the AL All-Star squad in 1999.
Ashby would be a rotation stalwart for several seasons and was the Friars #2 starter in 1998 when the club made it to the World Series.
Bochtler was a decent reliever for the Friars for a couple of seasons.
If we want to extend the fire sale back a little further, during the winter of 1992 the Padres shipped off SS Tony Fernandez, who had been acquired with McGriff in a blockbuster deal with Toronto for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar (Still upsets me to think about it), to the Mets for OF DJ Dozier and RHP Wally Whitehurst.
Fernandez’s best years were behind him even when the Friars traded for him but he was still a pretty good regular SS at the time they got rid of him. Dozier, a former NFL RB who probably should have stuck to that sport, did nothing. Whitehurst was a mediocre pitcher for several ML seasons as a member of the Mets, Padres and Yankees, won eight games for the Friars in parts of two seasons.
Not that the Padres were world beaters in 1992, finishing 82 – 80, but they had some All-Star caliber talent in Sheffield, McGriff, Fernandez and Hurst. When things turned south to start the ’93 season, ownership mandated a selloff of many of the team’s established players to save a few bucks. These moves left the Friars devoid of practically any proven MLB talent with the exceptions of Gwynn and pitcher Andy Benes. They probably would have tried to move Gwynn if they thought they could have gotten away with it but that would likely have killed the Padres as a viable business in this town.
If the Padres decide to sell off what “proven” ML talent they have now, what exactly might we be looking at? They could move Chase Headley but he has had one-half of an excellent season, a few decent ones and that’s it. He’s not a premium talent along the lines of Sheffield or McGriff, who were both legit, middle-of-the-order sluggers.
Carlos Quentin may, and I emphasize the word may, hold some appeal to an AL team in search of power but his injury troubles and the remaining year on his contract don’t make him much of an asset. Despite his presence in the middle of the Friars lineup when he is healthy, he’s no Sheff or Crime Dog.
Seth Smith has been the one guy hitting well at all for the Friars. But this is the same guy many thought the Padres overpaid for when sending reliever Luke Gregerson to Oakland to get him. Again, a decent major league player but no one is ever going to make a case he belongs in the Hall unless he has a visitor’s pass in hand.
Huston Street was an All-Star last year and has an excellent shot to be the team’s lone representative this year as well. Still, he’s a reliever and they aren’t exactly heavily prized in today’s day and age.
Even if the Padres moved all of those players, it hardly compares to the exodus of talent we saw depart the franchise in 1993. In 1993 we witnessed a true fire sale. Whatever happens this summer can’t measure up to that. What we may see in the coming weeks might qualify as a “barely burning embers sale,” relative to what the Padres did 21 years ago but it’s far from a fire sale.