Trade Redux: 2002

On June 26, 2002, the Montreal Expos were 41-36 and seven games behind the Atlanta Braves for the lead in the National League East.  They were the surprise team of the season thus far led by Vladimir Guerrero.  The team had a host of young starters including Tony Armas Jr. (24), Tomo Ohka (26), and Javier Vazquez (26).  A 26-year old by the name of Carl Pavano was struggling to round out the rotation and the team knew that if they were to catch the Braves, they would need to solidify the rotation.  Enter the Cleveland Indians.  Armed (pun-intended) with one of the best pitchers in all of baseball at the time, they dangled Bartolo Colon in front of the Expos.

Colon, 27 years old at the time, was 10-4 with a 2.55 earned run average in 116.1 innings pitched.  He had 41.2 VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) according to Baseball Prospectus.  I cannot tell where that ranked at the time, though I presume top five at worst, but it was good enough for 16th in the American League for the entire season of 2002.  The Indians sent the right-hander with Tim Drew to the Expos for uber-prospect Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and Lee Stevens.  Phillips was rated the #1 prospect in the Montreal Expos system at the beginning of 2002 according to Baseball America.  Sizemore ranked third and Lee just missed the Top 10 coming in at 11th.  Drew was chip-in with Colon, but did rate 12th in the Indians minor leagues. 

At the time, the key pieces were obviously Colon and Phillips, and little was known of the other parts outside of veteran Stevens.  Fast forward to 2006 and we have a much different story.  How did things work out for both teams in the 2002 summer deal?

Bartolo Colon
Colon went over to Montreal and nearly matched his early season success from Cleveland.  He posted a record of 10-4 as well as doubling his complete games total to eight in 117 innings pitched.  He 22.9 VORP with the Expos good enough for 31st overall amongst starters with 115 or more innings pitched in the National League.  The Expos eventually faded, despite this and another deal that acquired Cliff Floyd, in their pursuit of the Atlanta Braves.  They finished 19 games back in 2nd place.  Colon was dealt in that offseason to the Chicago White Sox for Rocky Biddle, Orlando Hernandez, and Jeff Liefer. 

Cliff Lee
Lee pitched in three levels with the Indians in that second part of the 2002 including a cup of coffee with the big league team.  All told, including his time with Montreal's AA affiliate in Harrisburg, Lee struck out 159 batters in 156 innings.  The 24-year old's control wasn't excellent with 63 walks, but he showed promise.  His performance was good enough to merit the #3 ranking for the Indians in the 2003 minor league rankings.  In 2003, he pitched just under 80 innings (79.2) in three different levels and while he was able to nearly sustain his strikeout rates dropping from 9.15 to 8.81 per nine, his already poor walk rate shot up from 3.63 to 4.29 per nine innings.  In June, he was called up to the Indians and has been there since.  He pitched nine games with the big-league club and brought his walk rate back down allowing 3.45 per nine, but also dropping his strikeout rate to 7.60 per nine innings.  After an up-and-down 2004, Lee used last season to establish himself as one of the premier lefties in the American League.  He traded in overwhelming strikeout numbers for more control posting a 2.32 walks per nine rate, the lowest in any of his career stops. 

Year Team Name League Age Org. Level W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP BB/9 K/9
2002 Akron East 24 Cle AA 2 1 5.40 3 3 16.67 11 11 10 1 10 18 1.26 5.40 9.72
2002 Harrisburg East 24 Mtl AA 7 2 3.23 15 15 86.33 61 31 31 12 23 105 0.97 2.40 10.95
2002 Buffalo IL 24 Cle AAA 3 2 3.77 8 8 43 36 18 18 7 22 30 1.35 4.60 6.28
2002 Cleveland Indians MLB 24 Cle MLB 0 1 1.74 2 2 10.33 6 2 2 0 8 6 1.35 6.97 5.23
2002 TOTAL         12 6 3.51 28 28 156.33 114 62 61 20 63 159 1.13 3.63 9.15
2003 Kinston Caro 25 Cle A+ 0 0 0.00 1 1 4.33 0 1 0 0 3 4 0.69 6.24 8.31
2003 Akron East 25 Cle AA 1 1 1.50 2 2 12 7 2 2 1 4 13 0.92 3.00 9.75
2003 Buffalo IL 25 Cle AAA 6 1 3.27 11 11 63.33 62 24 23 4 31 61 1.47 4.41 8.67
2003 Cleveland Indians MLB 25 Cle MLB 3 3 3.61 9 9 52.1 41 28 21 7 20 44 1.17 3.45 7.60
2003 TOTAL         10 5 3.14 23 23 131.76 110 55 46 12 58 122 1.28 3.96 8.33
2004 Cleveland Indians MLB 26 Cle MLB 14 8 5.43 33 33 179 188 113 108 30 81 161 1.50 4.07 8.09
2005 Cleveland Indians MLB 27 Cle MLB 18 5 3.79 32 32 202 194 91 85 22 52 143 1.22 2.32 6.37

 

Brandon Phillips
The 2003 season marked the second time that Phillips would head his team's list of minor league prospects, taking the number one spot with the Indians as well.  That was as bright as star would shine with the Indians organization.  He posted a .300/.336/.493 line in 136 games in 2002, but then followed it up with an abysmal .198/.261/.302 line in 146 games between AAA and the majors in 2003.  He spent all but six of his 146 games in 2004 with the AAA team for the Indians and seemed to find himself once again.  Phillips feel off of the top 10 list for Indians prospects at the start of 2004, but had a .291/.331/.410 line and slowly started to once again gain some believers.  It was a short-lived rejuvenation.  Phillips was again sank into mediocrity in 2005 hitting .256/.326/.409 in 112 games with AAA Buffalo last year.  The bandwagon was almost entirely evacuated save for one Wayne Krivsky.  Krivsky, the new general manager for the Cincinnati Reds, acquired Phillips for a PTBNL and some cash.  For now, Phillips's career has experienced a much-needed resuscitation with the Reds.  He has hit .343/.375/.567 with 9.3 VORP in 72 plate appearances.  He certainly didn't deliver the dividends the Indians expected when they dealt Colon that summer.

Year Team Name League Age Org. Level G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
1999 GCL Expos GCL 18 Mtl Rk 47 169 23 49 11 3 1 21 12 3 15 35 0.290 0.352 0.408 760
2000 Cape Fear SAL 19 Mtl A 126 484 74 117 17 8 11 72 23 8 38 97 0.242 0.306 0.378 684
2001 Jupiter FSL 20 Mtl A+ 55 194 36 55 12 2 4 23 17 3 38 45 0.284 0.404 0.428 832
2001 Harrisburg East 20 Mtl AA 67 265 35 79 19 0 7 36 13 6 12 42 0.298 0.333 0.449 782
2002 Buffalo IL 21 Cle AAA 55 223 30 63 14 0 8 27 8 2 14 39 0.283 0.321 0.453 774
2002 Ottawa IL 21 Mtl AAA 10 35 1 9 4 0 1 5 0 0 2 6 0.257 0.297 0.457 754
2002 Cleveland Indians MLB 21 Cle MLB 11 31 5 8 3 1 0 4 0 0 3 6 0.258 0.343 0.419 762
2002 TOTAL   21     143 554 71 159 40 1 16 72 21 8 31 93 0.287 0.325 0.475 830
2003 Buffalo IL 22 Cle AAA 43 154 14 27 7 0 3 13 7 3 12 22 0.175 0.247 0.279 526
2003 Cleveland Indians MLB 22 Cle MLB 112 370 36 77 18 1 6 33 4 5 14 77 0.208 0.242 0.311 553
2003 TOTAL   22     155 524 50 104 25 1 9 46 11 8 26 99 0.198 0.256 0.302 763
2004 Buffalo IL 23 Cle AAA 140 551 88 163 34 4 8 50 14 11 44 56 0.296 0.353 0.416 769
2004 Cleveland Indians MLB 23 Cle MLB 6 22 1 4 2 0 0 1 0 2 2 5 0.182 0.250 0.273 523
2004 TOTAL   23     146 573 89 167 36 4 8 51 14 13 46 61 0.291 0.331 0.410 788
2005 Buffalo IL 24 Cle AAA 112 465 79 119 24 1 15 46 7 5 39 90 0.256 0.326 0.409 735
2005 Cleveland Indians MLB 24 Cle MLB 6 9 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0.000 0.000 0.000 0
2005 TOTAL   24     118 474 80 119 24 1 15 46 7 5 39 94 0.251 0.315 0.401 870

 

Grady Sizemore
Though hardly a throw-in, Sizemore, as I mentioned, didn't come over with nearly as much acclaim as Phillips.  He hit the majors at age 18 and immediately made a splash in rookie league with a .293/.380/.376 line and 16 stolen bases in 55 games.  That was good enough to give him #6 spot in Montreal's 2001 rankings.  What was true then in true now.  His weaknesses, as noted by Baseball America's Michael Levesque, were: "Sizemore has average arm strength and still displays some stiffness in his throwing stroke because of his football background. Montreal officials believe it will smooth out with time. He has trouble catching up to anything up in the strike zone."  In 2001, he balanced out his 92 strikeouts with 81 walks, excellent for a 19-year old.  He put up .268/.383/.335 totals in A-ball.  That performance, as I noted earlier, was good enough for 3rd overall in the Expos organization.  He played in High-A ball for both the Expos and then the Indians and was able to once limit the damage of his strikeouts with a 1.03 K:BB ratio.  Sizemore started 2003 as the 7th rated prospect in Cleveland's farm system, but he was the third ranked prospect from the Colon trade behind Lee and Phillips.  That was the first season that Sizemore started to exhibit some power with 50 of his 151 hits going for extra bases including 13 home runs.  He went .304/.373/.480 in AA that season.  That gave him the top spot in the Indians system to start 2004 and he delivered.  In 102 AAA games, Sizemore posted a .288/.361/.440 line including 40 extra base hits.  That earned him a 43-game stint with the big league where he scuffled a little bit, but still went .246/.333/.406.  From there, Sizemore enjoyed last year's breakout season going 20/20 with 22 home runs and stolen bases.  He hit .289/.348/.484, but did strikeout 132 times with only 52 walks.  He is off to fine start this season, but is averaging over a strikeout per game with 27 in 26 games. 

Year Team Name League Age Org. Level G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
2000 GCL Expos GCL 18 Mtl Rk 55 205 31 60 8 3 1 14 16 2 23 24 0.293 0.380 0.376 756
2001 Clinton Midw 19 Mtl A 123 451 64 121 16 4 2 61 32 11 81 92 0.268 0.383 0.335 718
2002 Brevard County FSL 20 Mtl A+ 75 256 37 66 15 4 0 26 9 9 36 41 0.258 0.351 0.348 699
2002 Kinston Caro 20 Cle A+ 47 172 31 59 9 3 3 20 14 7 33 30 0.343 0.451 0.483 934
2002 TOTAL         300 428 68 125 24 7 3 46 23 16 69 71 0.292 0.358 0.402 760
2003 Akron East 21 Cle AA 128 496 96 151 26 11 13 78 10 9 46 73 0.304 0.373 0.480 853
2004 Buffalo IL 22 Cle AAA 102 423 75 122 24 8 8 51 16 10 42 72 0.288 0.361 0.440 801
2004 Cleveland Indians MLB 22 Cle MLB 43 138 15 34 6 2 4 24 2 0 14 34 0.246 0.333 0.406 739
2004 TOTAL         145 561 90 156 30 10 12 75 18 10 56 106 0.278 0.336 0.431 767
2005 Cleveland Indians MLB 23 Cle MLB 158 640 111 185 37 11 22 81 22 10 52 132 0.289 0.348 0.484 832

It is interesting to go back and see how things have shaken out in a big-time deal. Obviously, the Indians got the better of it long-term, but the Expos knew they were sacrificing some future earnings for immediate gains. The odd part is the significant gains for the Indians came from the secondary sources of the trade while Phillips fizzled out with the Indians. It also goes to show you how uncertain the art of prospecting can be. Sizemore and Lee weren’t spares by any means, but no one would’ve forecasted their futures to be brighter than Phillips’s and now both sit on the cusp of stardom. This is one of several trade reviews I have planned for the site. I think it is both fun and interesting to look back and gauge how things turned out against the perception of the trade at the time it was made.

References:
Baseball America
Baseball Cube
Baseball Prospectus
Retrosheet

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