by hatomama ~ November 13th, 2008 at 2:18 pm
When Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek were dealt from the Mariners in a deadline deal at the close of July 1997, everyone’s focus was on the highly controversial trade of Jose Cruz Jr. to Toronto for relievers Mike Timlin and Paul Spoljaric. M’s fans may or may not remember Cruz’s profile as a budding superstar who was supposed to complete an All-Star outfield with Buhner and Griffey and finally provide a steady hand in left for the Kingdome fans. But Raul Ibanez isn’t the only former Mariner catcher over whose potential impact on the late ‘90s Mariners fans can wonder about this offseason. After getting Jamie Moyer from the Red Sox in a steal of a trade in July 1996, the Mariners more than compensated Boston by trading Lowe and Varitek the next year for Heathcliff Slocumb.
The funny thing is that the trade so regretted in Seattle and environs for the past decade almost didn’t happen. Woody Woodward had been talking with Dan Duquette, the Red Sox general manager, about the trade, but with the trading deadline of midnight Eastern time just minutes away, Woodward said, “I thought the deal was not going to come down. At the very end, he [Duquette] called back.” The deal was done by midnight. It’s hard to believe now, but Woodward was talking about Cruz and the trade with Toronto, not Varitek and Lowe and the trade with Boston, when he said, “You could say we were damned if we do and damned if we don’t because we gave up some real quality. But we’ve got a shot this year and we’ve got to go for it.”
At the time, Slocumb had registered a 1.47 ERA and 11 saves in 19 games with Boston since June 14, and the Mariners were looking to make the most of their 1997, so they felt it was worth giving up two players they recognized as top prospects in order to shore up their bullpen. Of course, Slocumb had a 5.79 ERA for the year with Boston; he gave up two runs, two hits, and two walks in his last appearance for the Red Sox on July 31. That game and his 0-5 record weren’t good signs, and he wound up 0-9 for the entire season. Slocumb gave the Mariners a total of 96 bullpen innings before going to the Orioles in 1999. I’m going to detail the all-too-short Seattle careers of Lowe and Varitek in another post. But for now, I’ll just reprint a quote in 1997 from Jeff Nelson, who’d left the Mariners after the 1995 season and was in the middle of the second of four World Series-winning years with the Yankees.
Nelson said: “I was there when they were looking for a left fielder for all those years, and they finally find one, and they trade him away. Seattle gives away too much of their talent for the guys they get. They got rid of Jose Cruz Jr., who was going to be a great player for them. He could be another Alex Rodriguez.
“Then they get rid of Varitek and Lowe for Slocumb. Lowe was going to be a good starter for them. He’s a young guy, and Varitek was their No. 1 pick. For a team that doesn’t have a lot in their organization anyway, to get rid of some of their key prospects, that’s tough to do. I don’t care if they’re trying to win or not. What are they going to do next year? To lose a player like Cruz is tough, and I’m sure a lot of their players feel the same way.”