Kevin Towers: Deals of 1995-96, Part 1

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).

Roberts for Joyner
Player Win Shares
1996 1997 1998 1999 Total
Roberts 8 6 14
Joyner 16 21 22 7 66
Difference +52

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).

Casanova, Lewis, and Nieves for Bergman
Player Win Shares
1996 1997 Total
Casanova 2 2
Lewis 5 5
Nieves 9 10 19
Det total 26
Bergman 4 4
Difference -22

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.

Ausmus and Cedeno for Flaherty and Gomez
Player Win Shares
1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 Total
Ausmus 7 7
Cedeno 1 1
Det total 8
Flaherty 7 11 18
Gomez 9 7 15 6 1 38
SD total 56
Difference +48

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.

Florie, Newfield, and Villone for Vaughn
Player Win Shares
1996 1997 1998 Total
Florie 4 4
Newfield 6 1 4 11
Villone 3 4 7
Mil total 22
Vaughn 3 7 30 40
Difference +18

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…

38 Responses »

  1. Another 2B option down…Nomar signs a 2 year deal with the Dodgers…

  2. It’s gonna be the Todd Walker experience at 2B. I can feel it. Still holding out hope for Durham…has anyone seen or heard of what he’s looking to sign for?

    Still a whole lot o’ that $30MM in payroll room left…maybe enough for Schmidt or Zito?

  3. I think the Pads will sign Loretta to play 2B, It would be a great PR move.

  4. Clayton-

    Durham has been quoted as saying he wants 2/18. I’d be all over that deal in this market. He’s my top choice at 2B as well.

    In other news, it looks like we’re running out of LF options as well, particularly if the Alou to the Mets rumors are true.

  5. Also, this is really fun Geoff. It’s good to remember a time when I couldn’t wait to see Melvin Nieves put on the Padres uniform. That time lasted about a week and a half.

  6. I don’t think I would squwak too much if Todd Walker plays most of the 2B next year. I really think his offensive skills should play decently for us. The big problem becomes finding a bat to hit in the middle of the order for LF. We are not going to give Lee $100mm and the other FA options out there don’t seem to offer much.

    The only solutions seem to either bide our time in 2007 and try for a hitter in 2008 or to go the trade route this winter for Burrell or Crawford ( I will dream of Manny for about 30 seconds….ahh that felt nice).

    Unfortunately, all the trade routes will get more expensive after this Soriano debacle. Me thinks Pat the Bat will not be as cheap as he was just 7 days ago.

  7. As more and more time goes by without getting that “big bat” type the more I think it’s really possible that Jake Peavy will be pitching somewhere else next season. With all the F bats signed or not worth what they want I am begining to really think that the only way for the front office to get what they want is trading an arm and the most likely would seem to be Peavy.

  8. Adam Dunn is also available for trade, but it seems like it would cost us Peavy. Don’t know if that makes much sense with Dunn’s definsive skills (or lack thereof) and his DH like body.

  9. Frank Catalanotto signed a 3yr/$13mm deal with the Texas Rangers. Not bad for a part-time, non-power hitting OF.

  10. 9.

    You mean his Will Farrell like body!

    I can just see it now…

    Since Adam Dunn went to Texas and Brian Giles’s skin color matches Texas’s burnt orange they quickly hit it off and everyday in the locker room on the way to the showers they re-inact the “streaking” scene from Old-School.

  11. RE 9

    I would love Dunn’s bat, but not his glove. And we can’t park him at 1st, b/c AG is not usable anywhere else either. I think Dunn is destined for the AL…why an AL team like Baltimore hasn’t snatched him up to DH for them is beyond me. Dunn would hit 60 HRs playing half his games in Camden Yards.

    Pat B. is the only decent option as far as I can see w/o giving up major value in return. Would love to trade Giles for Burrell, straight up, plug PB in RF and re-sign Dave Roberts. Doubt that will happen, unfortunately.

  12. Piazza seems to be being courted by his hometown phillies.

  13. I’m really anxious to see how things play out. I wish we’d sign someone soon!

  14. Or, the front office could completely sign somebody we haven’t thought about and it’ll be a crazy four way deal kinda thing.
    Wouldn’t that be a hoot?

    Ah, I’d take Manny for LF. OK, enough now.

    Good job, Geoff. I wish you and the family and everybody here a very pleasant and relaxing Thanksgiving. Unless a big trade broke out, then we can all run to the closest computer with internet access and type away. : )

  15. If Rosenthal is right and Pierre signs with the Dodgers and for as much as 5 yr/$45 mil, then Ned Colletti is flat out first in line for the inaugural Bruce Bochy Proven Veteran Award. That’s a lot of $$ for being a prodigious singles hitter, as some scribe – Bay Area guy talking about Giants-Pierre rumors, IIRC — put it recently

  16. If we can’t find that “impact” bat for LF then do we go back to pursuing Piazza?

  17. Re: 16 I have a feeling that the pads told Piazza how much they would be willing to give him next year and said hey if you want to be a DH for more money then take if not we’d love to have you back.

  18. If L.A. is seriously signing Pierre then I think they have got to be positioning themselves for a big trade. With Nomar stuck at 1st for another 2 years they are either going to put Looney or Kemp in the outfield which makes me think 1 of them are going to get traded. Both of those guys look like studs. If I were a Dog’er fan I’d be kinda pissed about Pierre. He’s terribly over-rated IMO and they already have a better hitting version of him at SS in Furcal. Hopefully they move Kemp or Looney because those guys look like they could be major pain in our asses for a long time!

  19. I am incredibly excited that the Dodgers are close to signing Pierre. Wow. Excellent news. More and more I’m glad our front office is competent and calm enough to not do stupid things like signing Juan Pierre to a big contract and giving Soriano 8 years.

  20. 19.

    I agree with you. We all obviously want something big to happen soon but stuff like makes some teams seriously look like idiots! The Cubs might have a real good team for a couple of years though. Soriano, Ramirez and Lee are going to be a tough lineup and as always if there pitchers can stay off the DL they might be scary. Once all those guys #’s start to decline that payroll is going to be crippled!

  21. Juan Pierre makes Soriano look like a $17M/year player.

  22. 5/45 for Pierre? Wow. Talk about throwing the $$ around.

    I’m starting to wonder where our big LF bat is coming from. I’m hoping it’s not C. Lee. I’m not a huge Burrell fan, either, but if we can get the Phils to pay some of his salary, then . . . giddyup!

    I refuse to talk about the Bonds possibility. I’m hoping that if I no longer acknowledge it, it will just go away.

  23. Anybody hear the Manny Ramirez talk on 1090 today-who would the Padres be giving up?

  24. 22: Burrell’s deal really isn’t that bad because it isn’t long.

  25. “Stealth” free agents (bargains) according to Joe Sheehan of BP:

    Tony Armas Jr.
    Miguel Batista
    David Dellucci
    Tomo Ohka
    Randy Wolf
    Gregg Zaun

    All six guys are interesting for one reason or another. I wouldn’t mind seeing any of them in a Padre uniform in ’07.

  26. I’d take Wolf and Armas and call the rotation finished

  27. I’d take wolf, too. Not so sure about Armas.

    I like Dellucci a lot — he can hit.

  28. Manny talk was just brainstorming on part of Smith and Werndl. Or is there an actual official rumor floating?

  29. I liked both Ohka and Armas Jr. when I saw them pitch. Armas Jr. has had some arm problems since, though, so I’m not sure if he still has the same stuff. Wolf should draw lots of interest.

    Delucci has been pretty successful everywhere he has been, but he usually seems to be a spare part rather than a starter. I wouldn’ t mind seeing him as a spare part on the Pads.

  30. 29: How about as the Lefty half of a platoon? I love platooning…

  31. 30: I think we already have the lefty part of a platoon. Put Sledge with Alou. Sledge gets all the tough righties and any other games necessary to keep Alou fresh and injury free.

  32. Re platooning

    I know it’s tautological, but platooning seems to work when it works. Some players adjust well to it and others don’t. Understandably, many hitters say they need to play on a daily basis to maintain a consistent stroke and eye for pitches. Dellucci would be ideal for a platoon, as he’s used to that role and has performed well. Who(m) he platoons with and whether that player can be consistently good in a part-time role is the bigger question. Sledge had some good at-bats last year and other times looked completely lost. I doubt he would be good in a platoon role, and at this point in his career, he needs at-bats more than anything. That’s why they kept sending BJ down. Cust and Branyan would probably fare better, primarily because they draw walks and have switched roles in their careers. Agents (and most players) hate platooning, especially come arbitration time.

  33. Alou is going to the Mets. That is more than 24 hours old.

  34. 33: I guess that depends on when you start counting. SI had it posted at 7:30 pm last night, which is 3:30 am here in Kuwait, and I saw it at 12:30 pm after I read your post. Seems like less than 24 hours to me, but I’m still trying to figure out the time change from PST. ;-)

  35. Re 29

    Why do you love platooning? Except in rare cases (catchers, for instance), doesn’t it imply that the player is not good talented enough to be a full-time starter or is one-dimensional (i.e. can only hit righties or lefties or has an offensive or defensive defiency)? While platooning can be cheaper, it can also take up an extra roster spot, and I’m not clear if it gives the manager more or fewer options. Maybe you see some positives that I’m missing.

  36. Re 30 I meant

  37. 35: The production you can get from a platoon will often be comparable to that of players you don’t have available to you. You don’t lose a roster spot because you need bench guys anyway.

  38. 34:

    You are probably talking about the story where it became official. They were close to a deal about 24 hours before that.