10 years ago, the White Sox made a pair of trades that resulted in them getting one of the biggest names in baseball without giving up anything of serious value. On Jan. 15, 2003, they turned various bits of nothing much in particular into Bartolo Colon, a pitcher coming off a 20-win season.
The Sox made two trades that day, only one of which involved Colon, but the non-Colon trade was instrumental in setting up the Colon deal. The non-Colon deal came first.
It was with the Yankees. New York had a valuable starting pitcher in Cuban defector Orlando Hernandez. A solid part of New York’s rotation from 1998-2000, Hernandez had plowed through back-to-back injury plagued seasons since then. In 2002, he went 8-5 in 22 starts – though with a fine 3.64 ERA. Despite being in his mid-30s, Hernandez still had some value as a pitcher, though not worth as heavy a price as he would’ve cost a few years earlier.
The Sox knew what they were willing to pay for him: major league reliever Antonio Osuna and aging prospect Eddi Candelario. Osuna was coming off a fine 2002 campaign where the 29-year-old posted a 3.86 ERA in 59 appearances. It was a nice return to form after a 2001 season that saw just four appearances for him due to injury. Candelario was just a throw in, a 24-year-old starting pitcher who had done well in Double-A but gotten killed in Triple-A in 2002.
So the Sox turned a reliever and a marginal prospect into Hernandez. Clearly his injuries and age had diminished the package the Yankees were able to get for him.
Then again, maybe the Yankees just didn’t talk to the right teams. Because White Sox GM Kenny Williams immediately received a much more impressive haul of Hernandez.
Liefer was a back-up player who wasn’t that bad at baseball but wasn’t that good at it either. Biddle was a young failed starting pitcher trying to make a go of it as a reliever. Nunez was a minor leaguer who never made the majors.
When you look at it, this was an impressive day of trading for Chicago boss Kenny Williams. None of the four guys he gave up did much. Liefer played 79 games over the next three years with four teams before moving on with his life. Biddle spent two years in Montreal as a reliever before bouncing out of baseball. Candelario never made the majors. Osuna had two nice remaining years in the bullpen—but only one with New York. Yet those are the four players Williams began the day with that he turned into Colon.
Heck, even Hernandez would be a dud for Montreal. He never played for them. Instead, he injured his arm, missing all of 2003. Frankly, the story of this piece could easily be not how good a job Chicago did trading, but how poorly the Expos did. Hernandez returned to New York in 2004, and then helped the White Sox claim the 2004 world title.
Colon, meanwhile, had a nice season for the Sox, though not a great season. His record of 15-13 wasn’t the superstar performance Chicago hoped for. Colon was starting to show signs of the arm wear that would eventually derail his career as his strikeout total wasn’t nearly what it had been a few years ago.
Colon helped the Sox, but they improved by just five games, from 81 to 86 wins. So the trade helped, but the grand prize of October glory remained beyond their grasp. Still, it was an impressive bit of wheeling and dealing by White Sox GM a decade ago today, on Jan. 15, 2003.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim through things.
2,000 days since Jose Mesa pitches in his 1,000th game.
5,000 days since Florida State University junior Marshall McDougall has the game of a lifetime. After an early single, he homers in each of his next six at bats in a 26-2 win over Maryland. Oh, he also has 16 RBIs.
25,000 days since Charlie Grimm manages his 1,000th game. His record: 580-416.
1885 The Union Association decides to disband after one failed season.
1888 The Texas League organizes.
1891 Ray Chapman is born. He’s most famous as the only big league batter to die due to a beaning (this happens in 1920).
1913 William H. Locke buys the Phillies and becomes team president.
1917 Christy Mathewson’s younger brother Henry commits suicide at age 31.
1920 Steve Gromek, one of the greatest and longest-lasting swingman pitcher in baseball history, is born. He pitches for 17 year, making his only All-Star team at age 34 in his 14th campaign.
1934 The Red Sox sign aging pitcher Herb Pennock.
1935 The Red Sox sign outfielder Bing Miller, who the A’s released the day before.
1936 Horace Stoneham becomes president of the Giants, succeeding his late father, Charles. He’ll run the team for 40 years.
1936 IRS figures for 1934 reveal that the highest paid man in baseball last year was Branch Rickey, who took home a salary of $49,470.
1937 Former third baseman Eddie Foster dies at age 49. He played exactly 1,500 games as an infielder, primarily for the 1910s Senators. He led the league in at bats three times and games once.
1942 FDR gives Judge Landis the go-ahead to keep baseball’s normal schedule despite wartime constraints on the domestic economy.
1943 Mike Marshall is born. He is the only pitcher to appear in over 100 games in a season.
1944 The Cubs sign amateur free agent Roy Smalley.
1947 Jimmy Sheckard, star player for Tinker-Evers-Chance Cubs and arguably deserving of Cooperstown enshrinement himself, dies at age 68.
1949 Bobby Grich, sabermetric darling, is born.
1956 Rance Mulliniks, longtime Blue Jay, is born.
1957 Brooklyn extends their lease on Ebbetts Field for five years. They won’t be in Brooklyn for most of it, but that’s not yet clear on January 1957.
1958 The Yankees sell TV rights to their games to WPIX-TV for a then-ungodly sum of money: $1,000,000.
1959 Red Sox GM Joe Cronin gets approves from a screening committee to become the next American League president, succeeding the outgoing Will Harridge.
1959 The Texas League institutes a radical rule change – a pitcher can automatically signal an intentional walk instead of throwing the four balls.
1969 Delino DeShields, infielder, is born. He leads the league in triples in 1997 and in strikeouts in 1991.
1973 The Indians sign 16-year-old Pedro Guerrero to a professional contract. He’ll become a star in the mid-1980s as a Dodger.
1980 Matt Holliday is born.
1988 Former Cy Young Award winner La Marr Hoyt is sentenced to one year in prison for violating parole on drug charges.
1988 The Yankees sign free agent John Candelaria.
1990 The Tigers sign free agent Cecil Fielder, who played in Japan the last few seasons. With Detroit, Fielder becomes a star slugger and the first player in over a decade to belt over 50 homers in one season.
1992 The US Attorney’s office decides to charge Steve Howe with a misdemeanor rather than a felony for attempting to buy a gram of cocaine for $100.
1998 The Cubs sign free agent reliever Rod Beck.
1998 The Yankees sign veteran outfielder Tim Raines as a free agent.
2004 Gus Suhr dies at the ripe old age of 98. Suhr was one of those players who was really nice in his prime but had pretty much nothing outside of it. As Pirates first baseman in the 1930s, he led the league in games played three times in a five year stretch where he basically never took a day off.
2008 The Atlanta Braves announce that after 42 seasons they are cutting ties to their Richmond minor league affiliate.
2009 The Dodgers release what’s left of Andruw Jones.
2011 Tampa Bay signs Kyle Farnsworth, one of those pitchers with a million dollar arm, but ten cent head.