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What Could Have Been

Earlier this morning, Baseball Nation published an article I wrote about the circumstances surrounding the trade that sent Jason Varitek from the Mariners to the Red Sox in 1997. As it happens, also this morning, Alex Speier wrote a much better and more thoroughly-researched article on the same topic. This is all happening because Varitek is about to announce his retirement, and while it might seem like a waste of time to explore something that happened so many years ago, that's a pretty lame perspective, history-hater.

The Varitek and Derek Lowe trade is widely considered one of the biggest mistakes in Mariners franchise history, but tucked within Speier's piece is a nugget indicating how this all might have been avoided:

Seattle still wanted Slocumb, but was initially unwilling to trade two prospects for a reliever. Duquette made a one-for-one offer of Slocumb for Cloude, but the Mariners wouldn't move the young pitcher [...]

That's Ken Cloude. The Red Sox wanted to trade for Cloude, while the Mariners wanted to give them Lowe. Eventually, just in front of the deadline, a compromise was reached, which looks nothing like a proper compromise today.

From one angle, this was terrible on the Mariners' part. Varitek developed into a regular catcher, and Lowe developed into an effective closer and an effective starter, while Cloude developed into a guy whose arm hurt a lot of the time. Cloude didn't throw a Major League pitch after turning 25. His career ERA was 6.56.

But back then, Cloude was a hard-throwing 22-year-old generating a strikeout an inning in double-A. Varitek was a decent 25-year-old catching prospect in Tacoma. Lowe was a decent 24-year-old pitching prospect in Tacoma. Varitek and Lowe had value, but you could argue that Cloude had more value, and so you could argue that the Mariners did better dealing the first two than if they had dealt the third.

Of course, we're going way back in time, so I don't know just how highly Cloude was thought of. And the issue here isn't only what the Mariners gave up - it's also what the Mariners got, which was an unspectacular reliever. You could argue that the Mariners did better trading Varitek and Lowe for Slocumb instead of Cloude for Slocumb, but those weren't the only two options. Hindsight doesn't make trading value for Slocumb at all look very bright.

Anyway, something to think about. Trades are funny.