March 29, 2004  

Date Team Gets From For
Nov. 15
COL 3B Troy Glaus
OF Juan Encarnacion
PHI OF Magglio Ordonez
Jan. 17 BRK OF Darin Erstad
SP Rick Reed
SP Kenny Rogers
RP Jose Jimenez
STP C Mike Lieberthal
3rd Round (OF Tim Salmon)
Jan. 25 CAR RP Jose Mesa PHI
5th Round (SS Rafael Furcal)
Feb. 1
HAR OF Andruw Jones VAN 3rd Round (forfeited)
10th Round
(SS Jose Valentin)
Feb. 1
HAR DH Frank Thomas STP 8th Round (RP Shigetoshi Hasegawa)
Feb. 23
Feb. 23
NWK SP Andy Pettitte
STP OF Cliff Floyd

The first trade of the 2004 season was made Dec. 28, when the Phoenix Dragons sent C Jorge Posada to the Stanhope Mighty Men for OF Bernie Williams and RP Joe Borowski. Time will tell who came out ahead on that exchange, but with 20/20 hindsight, let's take a look back at the deals of the 2003 season.

There were 16 trades made in 2003 -- six before Opening Day, 10 during the season -- involving 18 picks and 36 players. Harrison led the league with five trades, while Hillsborough and Phoenix didn't make any. 

This year ranked right in the middle of the pack in terms of the number of deals struck this season. Out of the 12-year trading history of the league, 2003 ranks sixth for number of trades, fifth for number of players traded, sixth for number of picks dealt and sixth in terms of players plus picks (54). In fact, last year was the second-quietest in terms of trades over the last six years.

Three teams linked up twice last year: Arkansas and Vancouver, Carolina and Philadelphia and Harrison and Stanhope.

Literally and figuratively, the mid-season deal that sent Mike Piazza from Hoboken to Newark was the year's biggest: It was a "nine item" swap, with five players and four draft picks changing hands. It was tied for the most players involved, and had more than twice as many picks involved than any other trade. Two "six item" trades were tied for second-biggest -- one involving five players and one pick, the other four players and two picks.

Let's take a look at the six preseason deals in detail. (Note that MLB stats, to differentiate from DMBL stats, are given in italics.)

Preseason Trades

Nov. 15: Columbia gets 3B Troy Glaus and OF Juan Encarnacion; Philadelphia gets OF Magglio Ordoñez.

Magglio OrdonezThe first trade of the year made headlines, with two young stars swapping uniforms. OF Magglio Ordoñez had arrived in Columbia two years earlier, acquired from Stanhope for SP Rick Reed (who, coincidentally, would be dealt in the year's very next trade, made two months later). Ordoñez, an All-Star in 2000, had been a solid if unspectacular player for the ever-rebuilding Rattlesnakes, who desperately needed depth. The Endzone Animals, meanwhile, were also looking for their first-ever .500 season, so they were in rebuilding mode themselves and were only too happy to land the 28-year-old Ordoñez. Glaus was a fan-favorite and had been an All-Star in 2001 and 2002, but his all-or-nothing approach to hitting (career .243 BA, .520 SLG) was wearing thin, and the Animals was looking to move a third baseman with Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen already on the roster. Perennial prospect Juan Encarnacion came along as a throw-in.

Ordoñez's numbers with Philly weren't great (.262, .795 OPS), though he did play in every game, slammed 40 doubles and 30 homers and joined the All-Star team as a last-minute replacement when Newark's Manny Ramirez went on the D.L. a few weeks before the game. Glaus did his usual damage in Columbia (.240, 26 HR, 76 RBI) and also played in every game; Encarnacion flopped (.111, .270 OPS in 36 AB). All three players were protected following the 2003 season, but whereas Ordoñez will again likely be a key component in Philly's lineup (MLB 2003: .317, .926 OPS), the Rattlesnakes still aren't sure what they have in Encarnacion (MLB 2003: .270, .759 OPS, 19 HR, 19 SB) and the luster continues to fade on Glaus (MLB 2003: .248, .807 OPS in 91 G). That makes this trade a win for Philadelphia

Jan. 17: Brooklyn gets OF Darin Erstad, SP Rick Reed, SP Kenny Rogers and RP Jose Jimenez; Stanhope gets C Mike Lieberthal and Newark's 2003 3rd Round Draft Pick (OF Tim Salmon).

Rick ReedFor the third straight year, the small-market Bean Counters traded quality for quantity, giving up one of their best players in exchange for a package of B-level talent that would add depth to the rebuilding franchise. This year's trade bait was Mike Lieberthal, who -- despite missing all of 2002 due to a knee injury -- was still regarded as one of the DMBL's better-hitting catchers (MLB 2002: .279 BA, .792 OPS in 476 AB). Though the logic behind the deal may have been sound, the execution proved to be questionable as none of the four players Brooklyn received for Lieberthal could be considered a prospect, and all four were released following the season. None of them provided much immediate help, either: Kenny Rogers pitched just once, Jose Jimenez never got out of Triple-A and Darin Erstad was one of the weakest-hitting every-day outfielders in baseball (.267, .619 OPS in 671 PA). Rick Reed had the best season of the four, and he proved to be little more than a replacement-level innings eater (13-12, 4.89 ERA, 12.3 R/9).

As if that weren't enough to tip this deal in Stanhope's favor, remember the Bean Counters also gave up a third-round pick; the Mighty Men used it on OF Tim Salmon, who would play every day and out-hit Erstad by a wide margin (.291, .866 OPS). Indeed, even Lieberthal out-hit Erstad (.277, .694 OPS). Making this trade all the more lopsided was the fact that Stanhope was unlikely to protect any of the four players they gave to Brooklyn, so in essence they got Lieberthal and a third rounder for nothing. This trade will be remembered as a big win for Stanhope.

Jan. 25: Carolina gets RP Jose Mesa; Philadelphia gets a 2003 5th Round Draft Pick (SS Rafael Furcal).

Steve GuttenbergThe DMBL's version of Steve Guttenberg, everyone agrees that Jose Mesa is a star but no one is quite sure why. Despite a lengthy track record of failure -- he began the 2003 season with a career 6.79 ERA and 1.90 WHIP over 343.3 IP -- Carolina became the fourth DMBL team to anoint him as their closer. To get him, they gave up a fifth-round draft pick, which Philly used to bring back SS Rafael Furcal. At the time, most prognosticators called it a steal of a deal for Endzone Animals. "Five years from now," acclaimed baseball columnist Philip Page wrote, "Furcal will be just about to start his run of peak seasons as the best shortstop in the Morris Division, and Mesa will be the answer to the trivia question, 'What was the dumbest move in Carolina Mudcats history?'"

In fact, this swap did turn out to be a steal of a deal -- for the Mudcats. Mesa proved to be one of the best closers in baseball last year, and was voted to his first All-Star team. He finished the year with a 3.23 ERA and 11.6 R/9 over 69.2 IP, ranking fifth in relief points (67), fourth in saves (35) and fifth in save percentage (.833) and helped Carolina to their third playoff appearance in their seven-year history. After the season, Mesa was allowed to walk as a free agent, so the deal netted the Mudcats a one-year wonder -- but what a year it was.

Furcal, meanwhile, had an absolutely horrendous season for the Endzone Animals, hitting an anemic .205 (.546 OPS) and posting a miserable .927 fielding percentage at shortstop as Philly stumbled to a ninth-place finish. As if that weren't bad enough, it was later disclosed that Furcal was actually two years older than the date on his birth certificate. Even so, that means Furcal is just 25 years old, and his numbers can only improve this year as Philly's starting shortstop (MLB 2003: .292, .352 OBP, 25 SB, 2 CS).

In the end, the deal is slightly in Carolina's favor because they get the added satisfaction of having proved so many people wrong, but both teams have to be happy with the way it worked out.

Feb. 1: Harrison gets OF Andruw Jones; Vancouver gets a 2003 3rd Round Draft Pick (forfeited and returned to Harrison) and a 2003 10th Round Draft Pick (SS Jose Valentin).

Andruw JonesIn mid-2001, Vancouver acquired 24-year-old OF Andruw Jones from the Kentucky Hillbillies in exchange for OF Shannon Stewart and 1B Sean Casey in a classic "one A for two Bs" exchange. This trade worked out well for both teams: Jones put up huge numbers for the Fisters (.336, .987 OPS in 91 games), helping them to their fifth Morris Division title and seventh World Series appearance, while Casey and Stewart each played a huge role in getting the newly-christened Tijuana Banditos into the playoffs in 2002. But Jones struggled the following season (.267, .746 OPS) and eventually saw his playing time reduced to platoon partner and defensive replacement. There also were rumors around Vancouver that Jones was a bad apple in the clubhouse, and that his birthdate might be off by a year or three. Finally, the player who made Ken Griffey Jr. expendable was himself dealt, sent to the last-place Rats for the first picks in the 3rd and 10th rounds.

In the end, they didn't even get that much for him: Vancouver Owner Yaro Z. Zajac failed to file the necessary paperwork with the commissioner's office -- and, yes, Zajac also is the DMBL commissioner. The filing snafu led to the first pick in the third round being returned to Harrison. A chagrined Zajac realized his mistake in time to get the 10th round pick, but had to settle for SS Jose Valentin, who had a forgettable year (.233, .708 OPS) for Vancouver. Slightly taking the sting out of this blunder is that Jones wasn't much better for Harrison (.239, .716 OPS) and after the season would be traded again, this time to Brooklyn (now Westwood) in a package that landed the Rats young pitchers Kip Wells and Kyle Lohse.

Ironically, the player the Rats took with the 3rd pick was OF Alex Sanchez, who was released in June -- and immediately signed by the Iron Fist in what may have been an attempt by the front office to save face by claiming they "got their third-round pick back after all." Nobody was impressed by the symbolic move and Sanchez was released after struggling for 11 games (.194 BA, .459 OPS).

When all is said and done, this convoluted swap has to be considered a win for Harrison if only because they wound up getting Jones for a 10th round pick.

Feb. 1: Harrison gets DH Frank Thomas; Stanhope gets a 2003 8th Round Draft Pick (RP Shigetoshi Hasegawa). 

Frank ThomasHarrison's second trade of the day also proved to be a shrewd one: If the first one turned out to be Andruw Jones for a 10th rounder, this trade landed them Frank Thomas for free! The Big Hurt, a lock for the DMBL Hall of Fame (before the 2003 season, he had a .300 BA, .937 OPS and 274 HR in his nine-year career), had ruptured his triceps muscle playing badminton in the off-season and several doctors told him he'd never play baseball again. But the Mighty Men took a flyer on the slugger and he spent the entire 2002 season working out at their state-of-the-art rehab facility in Hackettstown. A day after trainers gave him the green light to return to the diamond, Thomas -- without ever having worn the Mighty Man uniform -- was dealt to Harrison for an 8th round pick, which Stanhope used to take RP Shigetoshi Hasegawa. But the Mites waived Hasegawa before the start of the regular season and the Rats promptly claimed him. In theory, it's as if the Rats had never traded their 8th rounder, as they wound up with the player taken with that pick. (It's the same maneuver Vancouver would use in June to "take back" Alex Sanchez).

Thomas, meanwhile, formed the right-handed half of an effective DH platoon with Fred McGriff, hitting .273 with an .850 OPS vs LHP. Now fully recovered, Thomas is eager to prove he still ranks among the league's most dangerous hitters (MLB 2003: .267 BA, .390 OBP, .562 SLG). And although Shiggy pitched poorly for the Rats last year (5-13, 3 SV, 4.87 ERA, 15.3 R/9), he developed a funky new delivery playing wiffleball in the off-season and enters 2004 as a key member of Harrison's bullpen (MLB 2003: 1.48 ERA, 9.9 R/9).

So Harrison gets two keepers out of the deal while Stanhope has nothing to show for it; that has to go down as another big win for the Rats

Feb. 23: Newark gets SP Andy Pettitte; Stanhope gets OF Cliff Floyd.

The final trade of the 2003 preseason was struck on Draft Day between two Hanover Division arch-rivals, each team giving up surplus talent for a needed commodity. For the Sugar Bears, the surplus was -- as usual -- hitting, and the need was -- as usual -- starting pitching. Fourth on the outfield depth chart behind Bobby Abreu, Chipper Jones and Manny RamirezCliff Floyd was certainly someone the team could let go if it would bring back a quality starter for a rotation that was Randy Johnson and four question marks.

Andy PettitteStanhope, meanwhile, had one of the deepest and youngest rotations in baseball with Matt Clement, Damian Moss and Kerry Wood, plus veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, so Andy Pettitte was expendable if he would bring back a left-handed slugger who could balance out the heavily right-handed lineup (b class="boldtext">Derek Jeter, Mike Lieberthal, Mike Lowell, Tim Salmon and Alfonso Soriano) and could take advantage of "Todd's Terrace," the short right-field porch in Stanhope Stadium where Todd Helton has deposited numerous hanging breaking balls over the last several seasons.

The deal was made the old-fashioned way, with Stanhope owner David Landsman slipping a handwritten note to Newark owner Butch Garretson moments before the start of the 2003 draft. Garretson read it, scratched something out and wrote something in, and passed it back. And that was that. With no lawyers, agents or contracts to muddy the process, the deal was approved with a nod and sealed with a handshake.

Both teams got what they were looking for, though neither player had a spectacular season. Pettitte posted an impressive .684 winning percentage (13-6) for the Sugar Bears, but was limited to just 24 starts due to various injuries. He will again anchor Newark's starting rotation this season (MLB 2003: 21-8, 4.02 ERA, 12.0 R/9). Meanwhile, Floyd hit a solid .297 (.873 OPS) with 36 2B, 18 HR and 85 R for Stanhope and again will be a fixture in Stanhope's lineup this year, though he's always a candidate for the Disabled List himself (MLB 2003: .290, .376 OBP, .518 SLG in 365 AB). With each team giving up a player they couldn't use and getting back one they needed for 2003 and beyond, this trade goes down as a win-win.

In our next issue: The year's 10 remaining trades, with swaps of
Mike Piazza, Derek LoweKen Griffey Jr., Mike Sweeney, Derrek Lee, Carlos Beltran and many more!

Chris Nabholz was the subject of one of the league's most controversial trades on Dec. 12, 1991, when the Austin Outlaws southpaw was dealt to the Scranton Sparrows for unspecified "future considerations." The cantankerous owners couldn't agree on adequate compensation and ultimately the trade was resolved through arbitration, with Scranton getting Austin's 5th and 15th round picks in 1993. Trades for "future considerations," players to be named later, cash and so on were banned after this trade. Nabholz now lives in Pottsville, Pa., where he helps coach the local high school team and at baseball camps. Click Here for past articles.