Ten years ago today: the Dontrelle Willis acquisitionBy
On this day in 2002 the Marlins made a rather intriguing trade, one that changed the shape of their organization for many years to come. Although it wasn’t a complete slam-dunk win for the Fish the package received would help net them a World Series victory the following year and, less importantly, reeled in some additional prospects in 2007.
Chris Jaffe over at the Hardball Times recaps the eventful day in 2002, claiming it to be one of the more memorable trades in Marlins history. Ten years ago today the Fish acquired reliever Julian Tavarez, minor leaguers Ryan Jorgensen & Jose Cueto and, the real gem of the trade, Dontrelle Willis. Although the Cubs haul of the deal wasn’t nearly as impressive, they did received some talent in Matt Clement and our good old six-fingered friend, Antonio Alfonseca.
The following year, Dontrelle Willis would end up with the Rookie of the Year crown while also netting another piece of hardware, a World Series ring. Although it’s unclear whether or not Willis’ impact was a prime reason for their triumphant campaign, he was worthy of 3.3 wins while posting a FIP of 3.45 as a lefty in a right-handed hitter friendly then Pro Player Stadium. After four more seasons of baseball with the Marlins, Willis was shipped to Detroit along with Miguel Cabrera in a trade that’s now notoriously viewed as one of the worst in recent history. He now finds himself skipping from organization to organization attempting to somehow stick with a big league club.
Ryan Jorgensen and Jose Cueto would end up never impacting a major league team, but Julian Tavarez, the fourth player in the deal, certainly did. Before parting ways with the Marlins the following off-season, Tavarez almost posted a full win from the back of the rotation. He was effective as a reliever for a majority of his career, up until he retired after the 2009 season. Meanwhile, the Cubs side of the deal featured reclamation project Matt Clement who, until the conclusion of the 2005 season was one of the better starters in baseball.
In his first season donning Cubs pinstripes Clement posted 4.4 wins. The following two years, he posted a combined 6.0 wins. His strikeout and walk totals were also extremely decent and he wasn’t too lucky on balls in play. He was a solid acquisition for the Cubs and remained a rock even after he was shipped to Boston. Injuries and all would derail the rest of his career after the 2006 season but his teams benefited from his success while it lasted.
The trade almost surely helped the chances of these two teams reaching the world series in 2003. It was more or less coincidental that they met with each other, but the qualities of the two teams improved once the trade was made. The Marlins still had a fantastic team, especially with the likes of Josh Beckett, Derrek Lee, Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Lowell and A.J. Burnett, among others, but the acquisition of the D-Train a year earlier surely helped their chances a ton.