One section of the upcoming Ducksnorts book will focus on trades made by Kevin Towers during his tenure as Padres general manager. I’m still in the process of taking inventory of every deal he’s made, and eventually I’ll include his five best and five worst trades in the book, along with analysis of each. For now, however, we’ll just take a quick look at the deals Towers made over his first 14 months on the job.
From the time of his promotion as Padres general manager on November 17, 1995, through the end of 1996, Kevin Towers made 10 trades. Three turned out to be of no consequence (Pedro Martinez for Jeff Barry; Roberto Petagine and Luis Arroyo for Pete Walker and Scott Adair; Mel Rosario for Keith Eaddy). Of the others, five worked out very nicely for San Diego, while two did not.
Following the lead of The Ranger Rundown, I’ve used win shares as the starting point for analysis. Of course, numbers tell only part of the story. With that disclaimer out of the way, here are the deals that made any kind of impact during Towers’ first 14 months as GM:
December 21, 1995: Traded Bip Roberts and Bryan Wolff (minors) to the Kansas City Royals. Received Wally Joyner and Aaron Dorlarque (minors).
The second trade Towers ever made brought former college teammate Joyner from the Royals for an aging and increasingly brittle Roberts. Although Joyner’s days of 20+ homers were well behind him, he hit .291/.376/.429 over more than 1900 plate appearances in a Padres uniform and provided Gold Glove caliber defense at first base.
Roberts, meantime, hit .296/.339/.368 in a little over 700 plate appearances for Kansas City. His ability to get on base, play second base, and stay healthy all deteriorated rapidly, and at the end of August 1997, he was shipped to Cleveland for right-hander Roland de la Maza, whose contribution to the Royals consisted of 2 innings against the White Sox about a month later.
This may or may not make Towers’ Top 5 trades, but it’s probably in his Top 10. Regardless, it was a pretty nice haul for just his second trade.
March 22, 1996: Traded Raul Casanova, Richie Lewis, and Melvin Nieves to the Detroit Tigers. Received Sean Bergman, Todd Steverson, and Cade Gaspar (minors).
Towers’ fourth deal was a clunker. None of the guys he gave up was all that great, so it can’t be considered one of his worst, but the Padres got almost no value in this trade.
Casanova had been snagged from the New York Mets in December 1992 as part of a package for Tony Fernandez. At one time, Casanova was thought to be a bright young catching prospect, but it never really worked out that way (Bruce Bochy and Wiki Gonzalez are among his most similar batters). Lewis was a journeyman reliever, and Nieves was the precursor to Ruben Rivera — a frustrating young talent acquired in the July 1993 Fred McGriff giveaway (supposedly the Padres asked for Ryan Klesko) whose final stint in the big leagues consisted of 147 plate appearances with the Cincinnati Reds at age 26.
Bergman had one decent season and one terrible season in San Diego. His final line for the Padres: 212.1 IP, 5.17 ERA. Steverson didn’t do anything, but he gets bonus points for going to my high school.
Bad? Certainly. Disastrous? Hardly. Forgettable? I’ve already stopped thinking about it.
June 18, 1996: Traded Brad Ausmus, Andujar Cedeno, and Russ Spear (minors) to the Detroit Tigers. Received John Flaherty and Chris Gomez.
Like the Joyner trade, this one turned out very well for the Padres. Ausmus and Cedeno were up-and-coming young talents, while Gomez helped stabilize the shortstop position and Flaherty provided a 1 1/2 years of solid production before being flipped for Andy Sheets, who eventually was flipped for Phil Nevin. That latter trade is a no-brainer for one of Towers’ Top 5; this deal helped set that one in motion and is crucial in its own right.
On the other side, although Cedeno was 26 years old at the time, he played in just 55 more big-league games after the trade. Cedeno was killed in an automobile accident in October 2000, at age 31.
Ausmus, after posting a 105+ OPS with the Padres in 1995 at age 26, has played 11 seasons since and never again broken the 100 OPS+ barrier. He played just 75 games for Detroit before being dealt to Houston the following winter — along with Jose Lima, Daryle Ward, and others — for a package that included Doug Brocail and Todd Jones.
July 31, 1996: Traded Bryce Florie, Marc Newfield, and Ron Villone to the Milwaukee Brewers. Received a player to be named later and Greg Vaughn. The Milwaukee Brewers sent Gerald Parent (minors) (September 16, 1996) to the San Diego Padres to complete the trade.
Weird trade. Despite already having Rickey Henderson in left field, the Padres brought Vaughn over from Milwaukee to provide an offensive spark during the 1996 stretch run. Vaughn struggled mightily, while one of the players shipped to the Brewers, 23-year-old Newfield, hit .307/.354/.508 in 179 at-bats and looked to be a star in the making. As fate would have it, he played his final game at age 25.
Villone was an erratic young left-hander who had been acquired with Newfield exactly one year earlier in a deal that sent Andy Benes to the Mariners. Florie was a right-handed version of Villone, who perhaps is best known for having his orbital bone fractured by a line drive off the bat of Ryan Thompson in September 2000. Among his most similar pitchers are former Padres Carlos Reyes, Mark Grant, and Brian Boehringer.
Vaughn, for his part, bounced back from a disastrous 1996 and 1997 (he actually was traded to the Yankees for left-hander Kenny Rogers in July of that year before George Steinbrenner pulled the plug due to an alleged rotator cuff tear incurred by Vaughn — I was at the game when Vaughn was traded and remember him saying goodbye to all his teammates on the bench before leaving) and ended up hitting 50 homers in support of the Padres’ 1998 NL championship.
Vaughn was traded to Reds after the World Series in a deal that brought Reggie Sanders to San Diego. Sanders would become part of the package that eventually got the previously sought Klesko into a Padres uniform.
Next time: Dustin Hermanson for Quilvio Veras, Scott Sanders for Sterling Hitchcock, Willie Blair and Brian Johnson for Joey Eischen. Please, try to contain your excitement…