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. (Part 1 is here.)
November 21, 1996: Traded Dustin Hermanson to the Florida Marlins. Received Quilvio Veras.
|*Hermanson was traded March 26, 1997, with Joe Orsulak by the Marlins to the Montreal Expos for Cliff Floyd.|
This trade is tough to evaluate because Hermanson never pitched for the Marlins. The table above shows only Veras’ contribution with the Padres and Hermanson’s with the Expos during that same time period. From a value standpoint, the Pads did very well in this deal.
|*With Florida only.|
I guess you’d say that the Expos got the worst of these two trades, but even they did okay. Hermanson made 122 starts over four seasons for Montreal and was quite effective for most of that time.
December 6, 1996: Traded Scott Sanders to the Seattle Mariners. Received Sterling Hitchcock.
I hated this trade when it happened. I really thought Sanders was a serious breakout candidate who might supplant Andy Ashby as the staff ace. I didn’t know much about Hitchcock except that his ERA was too high and he wasn’t Sanders.
As it turned out, Sanders got hit early and often with the Mariners (65.1 IP, 6.47 ERA) and ended his first AL season in Detroit. Little did we realize at the time that Sanders was very near the end of his career.
Hitchcock, on the other hand, enjoyed a fair measure of success with the Padres, compiling a 4.40 ERA in 672 2/3 innings over five seasons. He appeared to be on the verge of taking another step forward after a strong 1999 campaign, but injuries kept that from occurring — he was sort of a left-handed version of Adam Eaton.
Hitchcock bounced around for a few seasons, eventually returning to San Diego in 2004. Injuries forced him to retire late that season, at the ripe old age of 33.
For whatever else he may have accomplished in his career, Hitchcock will be remembered fondly by Padres fans for his fantastic post-season run in 1998. In four starts against the Astros, Braves, and Yankees, he went 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA, fanning 32 in just 22 innings.
December 16, 1996: Traded Willie Blair and Brian Johnson to the Detroit Tigers. Received Joey Eischen and Cam Smith (minors).
The final trade of Towers’ first full season as GM of the Padres didn’t turn out so well, but you could hardly fault his logic. Blair was a journeyman right-hander whose list of comparables through age 30 includes the likes of Miguel Batista, Jay Witasick, Amaury Telemaco, and Russ Springer — useful but replaceable.
Only problem is, Blair didn’t get the memo and had a career year in Detroit, winning 16 games and posting an ERA+ of 110 over 175 innings. He made the most of his opportunity, signing a huge contract with the Diamondbacks in December 1997.
The signing worked out better for Blair than it did for Snakes, and Arizona dumped him on the Mets after just 23 starts. Blair returned to Detroit in a December 1998 trade for Joe Randa and hung on for a few more years before fading away following a forgettable 2001 season.
Johnson enjoyed a fine 1997 campaign, only it wasn’t with the Tigers. After 45 games in Detroit, the former Stanford quarterback was dealt to the Giants for fellow backstop Marcus Jensen. In San Francisco, Johnson saw the greatest success of his career, hitting .279/.333/.525 in 179 at-bats for the Giants. He played one more year there before making stops in Cincinnati, Kansas City, and Los Angeles and then hanging up the proverbial spikes.
For the Padres? Eischen never pitched so much as an inning for them. He was flipped three months later to the Reds for a player to be named later, who turned out to be Ray Brown. No, not that Ray Brown. Not that Ray Brown either. Yep, that Ray Brown.
San Diego had nothing to show for Blair and Johnson. What makes the trade defensible is that nobody could have seen Blair having anywhere near the kind of value he ended up having, even for just one season. It was a sensible move that didn’t work.
Hey, these things happen.