Mar
11

Past Trade Review: John Wetteland

By

It might be hard to believe for some younger fans, but there was a time when the Yankees didn’t have Mariano Rivera around to close things out in the ninth. Righty Steve Farr saved 78 games in three years as the Yanks’ closer, but the 36-year-old was allowed to walk as a free agent following the 1993 season, the worst of his career (4.21 ERA, 1.53 WHIP). He was out of the game less than 12 months later. Farr was replaced by another Steve, lefty Steve Howe. Howe picked up 15 saves for the 1994 Yankees, though he was always a question mark because of an off-the-field life plagued by cocaine addition.

With some of his best young players approaching the majors, then-GM Stick Michael went looking for an upgrade at the back end of his bullpen. As luck would have it, the Expos were looking to sell off their closer, 28-year-old John Wetteland, because of financial reasons. Wetteland had racked up 105 saves with a 2.32 ERA and 10.8 K/9 from 1992-1994, and was slated to earn $7.375M over the next two seasons, absurd money for a reliever at the time.

Three days after the strike was officially over, the Yankees sent outfield prospect Fernando Seguignol to Montreal in exchange for Wetteland. The Yanks got their end-game ace, and the Expos got a little breathing room under the budget. At the time of the trade, Seguignol had yet to appear in a full season minor league, and had just hit .289-.335-.432 in 73 games for Short Season Oneonta of the NY-Penn League. The switch hitter had big time power potential, but defensive concerns meant he was probably going to have to move to first base eventually.

Seguignol certainly fulfilled that power potential, clubbing 69 homers in the next four seasons before making his big league debut in 1998. Unfortunately for him and the Expos, all that power came with the big caveat of high strikeouts and low walk totals. He would bounce back and forth between the minors and the majors for the next three years, ultimately hitting .251-.305-.451 with 17 homers in 366 at-bats in a Montreal uniform. He became a free agent after the 2001 season, and ended up re-signing with the Yankees. Seguignol spent the next few years as a Triple-A masher, though he made an eight plate appearance cameo in the Bronx during the 2003 season.

Now 35-years-old, Seguignol spent some time in the Tigers’ system and in Japan after leaving the Yanks’ organization for a second time. Although he was on Panama’s provisional roster for the 2009 World Baseball Classic, he did not play and has been out of baseball for over a year now. Surely, the Expos would have liked a little more of a return for their star closer.

The Yankees, meanwhile, got exactly what they wanted. Wetteland owned the ninth inning in the Bronx during the 1995 season, saving 31 games with a 2.93 ERA and a 9.7 K/9. Unfortunately the postseason wasn’t as kind to him as the regular season was. After allowing three runs in 4.1 innings during Games One and Two of the ALDS against the Mariners (both Yankee wins), Wetteland entered the eighth inning of Game Four with the score tied at six. Nine pitches later, the bases were loaded following a walk, a single, and a hit batter. The dangerous Edgar Martinez – .327-.464-.595 that year – stepped to plate and worked the count like he always did before giving the Mariners the lead with a grand slam. The Yankees lost the game and eventually the series, and then-manager Buck Showalter didn’t even bother to use Wetteland in the deciding Game Five despite there being obvious situations to use him.

With his Game Four collapse still on everyone’s mind, Wetteland again dominated as the Yanks’ closer in 1996. He saved 43 games with a 2.83 ERA and a 9.8 K/9, earning his first All Star Game berth in the process. Of course, no one cared about the regular season, everyone wanted to see him do it in October. He saved three games in seven appearances during the ALDS and ALCS, though his five walks in nine innings were a bit worrisome.

After the Yankees fell behind the Braves 2-0 in the World Series, Wetteland threw a scoreless ninth to preserve the win for David Cone in Game Three, and he again shut the door in Game Four after the rest of his bullpen mates bailed out the awful Kenny Rogers. His two out save in Game Five was an afterthought following the epic Andy Pettitte-John Smoltz matchup, but the Yankees returned to New York a game away from their 23rd World Championship thanks to three saves in three days from their All Star closer.

Wetteland entered the ninth inning of Gave Six with a two run lead to protect, though the inning was a little more stressful than most cared for it to be. He struck out 19-year-old phenom Andruw Jones to start the frame, but Ryan Klesko and Terry Pendleton put a pair of runners on with back-to-back singles. Former Yankee Luis Polonia struck out for the second out of the inning, but Marquis Grisson singled in a run and put the tying run in scoring position with one swing of the bat. With the lead down to just one run, Wetteland ran the count full against Mark Lemke, and on the seventh pitch of the at-bat he got him to pop-up harmlessly to third baseman Charlie Hayes in foul territory. The Yankees were World Champs, and the big-time closer they traded for just two seasons earlier had been named World Series MVP thanks to his four saves in five days.

Montreal needed to move Wetteland because they couldn’t afford him, and the Yankees were happy to take him in exchange for an A-ball prospect. Although his Game Four meltdown during the 1995 ALDS left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth, Wetteland delivered in Year Two of his Yankee tenure. He would sign a four year, $23M contract with Texas prior to the 1997 season, allowing a young setup man named Mariano Rivera to take over the closer’s role. This deal was a clear win-win, except both wins went to the Yankees. Sorry, Expos fans.

Photo Credit: Roberto Borea, AP

Categories : Days of Yore
  • http://www.yfsf.org AndrewYF

    I always thought it was a gutsy move, letting Wetteland leave. The Yankees had to know Rivera was much more valuable in a retro ‘fireman’ role. Did the Yankees have any interest whatsoever in keeping him around?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Not that I remember, but I could easily be wrong. 4/23 for a closer entering his 30′s is pretty ridiculous, especially back then.

      • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

        and after reading the above it seems he was from the krod mold of making things interesting at the end of games, which had I not been 12 prob would’ve given me ojeda

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          Oh yeah, I was 13-14 at the time, and I fondly remember Wetteland walking the tightrope seemingly every time he pitched.

        • Yankeegirl49

          Oh it gave it to us for sure….he NEVER made it easy, but got the job done more times than not.

        • http://iheartrerun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/rerun.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          Yup, all kinds of this. Wetteland did the job for the Yanks, but it often wasn’t pretty. So not only was the guy looking at big money and staring down his decline phase, but he had his issues even before getting to those negatives. (This isn’t to say he wasn’t good, just agreeing with why it wasn’t so hard to let him walk when the Yanks did.)

        • Jeremy

          I have the same recollection of Wetteland always making things interesting in the ninth. But Wetteland’s numbers tell a different story.

          1995: 0.880 WHIP (!)
          1996: 1.178 WHIP

          Combine those stats with Wetteland’s sub-3 ERAs and high K/9 rates, and we’re not exactly looking at another Todd Jones here. Maybe that exruciating ninth inning of Game 6, our last collective memory of Wetteland in action, left us with the impression that he was a bit less dominant than he actually was.

          • http://iheartrerun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/rerun.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            I think the problem you’re identifying is a matter of dealing with a fanbase that is used to Mariano Rivera. When I said, above, that Wetteland had his issues, I should have been more clear… It’s not that he was so flawed, but just that he was, like, NOT Mariano Rivera. He was an elite closer, no doubt… But I think any closer, non-Mo division, in that situation (entering his 30s, big contract, cheap young Mo waiting in the wings), should get his walking papers. It’s not that Wetteland was bad, necessarily, it’s just that the situation made it pretty easy to let him walk because he was mortal and not Mo-like.

          • Klemy

            Those numbers are surprising to see again. I was 23 at the time and I seemingly remember him in trouble quite a bit as well.

            I think it was more a case of him having several games where he’d blow guys away, but then have short stretches where he had men in scoring position a lot.

            But yeah, those numbers were really solid. He was by no means the comfort of Mo to watch though, because he labored through some innings.

        • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

          What is “ojeda”?

          • http://iheartrerun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/rerun.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            A funny baseball-related way to say “agita?”

            • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

              I never saw “Aida” but hear Madonna was pretty hot in that role. Before she became a Skelatar.

              Is this what you’re referring to?

              • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

                evita?

                • http://iheartrerun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/rerun.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                  Forget it, he’s rolling.

                • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

                  I’m still mad the Koreans bombed Pearl Harbor.

            • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

              yes haha i meant agita not bobby ojeda

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

    I was just a kid in 1995 (9-years old), but even then I remember cursing Buck for not using Wettland in Game 5.

    Still, good to see the Expos being the Expos. Strange to think the Natinals may end up being pretty good in a few short seasons. I wonder if their fanbase still curse Claude Brochu and Jeffrey Lauria. Do fans of what were the Expos root for the Nats, or is it a Sonics-like situation?

    Fun fact: Olympic Stadium in Montreal wasn’t paid off until 2006. Talk about teh lulz.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      The Expos were actually pretty good back then. 255-183 from 1992-1994.

      • Klemy

        Yeah, and ’94 was particularly great for them. It’s sad that the season never continued, because NY and Montreal were headed for a possible match up.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      Fun fact: Olympic Stadium in Montreal wasn’t paid off until 2006. Talk about teh lulz.

      I blame socialized medicine and PM Brian Mulroney’s death panels.

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

        Could have also gone with exorbitant armor-plated Mountie costs.

    • rbizzler

      The Nats will be good in spite of their ownership and management. Lucking into Strasburg and then Harper doesn’t really take much skill or foresight. Rather, it takes gross incompetence in the form of Austin Kearns getting many AB’s, anything Jim Bowden and a Latin America kickback scandal that allowed them to finish with the worst record in baseball two years straight. All while milking the DC taxpayers for a publicly funded stadium and then refusing to pay rent to the city for said stadium.

  • Rose

    It’s just fate that the Yankees let John Wetteland go after the 1997 season and it just so happens that Mariano Rivera discovers (or starts using what he’s discovered) his patented cutter in the 1998 season…

    And the rest is history…

    • http://iheartrerun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/rerun.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Not really just fate… I think it had more to do with Rivera sporting a 239 ERA+ in 1996 and Wetteland getting old and looking for one last big contract, making the decision pretty painless. (And Wetteland left after ’96, not ’97.)

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

        Exactly. And discussing the possibility of there even being a thing as “fate” is a subject of tremendous debate.

        It’s more…hey, we have an awesome cost-controlled guy that could actually out-perform Wettland, who, by the way, is making absurd money and isn’t nearly good enough to justify it.

        There’s no fate here. We made the smart baseball decision. Mariano figuring out the amazing cutter is just great, plain ‘ol luck. Plus him being God and all (this, unlike fate, is not up for debate).

        • Rose

          I think you misunderstood. I’m not saying that John Wetteland was let go and Mariano Rivera was given the job BECAUSE of fate. I used “fate” loosely basically as a shorter way of saying “isn’t in funny” or “wouldn’t you know” kind of thing. Whether or not fate exists wasn’t really what I was getting at. And I certainly wasn’t using it as the reason why the Yankees made their decisions.

          I was basically saying…isn’t it funny how the Yankees let him go and Mariano Rivera immediately picks up his dynamic pitch?

          Which I was then told didn’t even happen because Wetteland was let go the year before…so the whole thing doesn’t make any sense anyway.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

            Huh.

            Maybe “eerie” is the word you should have chosen.

            Yeah… eerie.

            • http://iheartrerun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/rerun.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

              :: head explodes ::

              • http://iheartrerun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/rerun.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                :: starts eating chicken wings through exposed and bleeding throat-hole ::

                • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

                  To “start” eating chicken wings, doesn’t that imply that at some point you stopped?

                • http://iheartrerun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/rerun.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                  Heh, good point.

                  :: starts continues eating chicken wings through exposed and bleeding throat-hole ::

          • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

            Gotcha. It’s all http://www.quenchpad.com/home/...../gravy.jpg (SFW), baby.

          • http://iheartrerun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/rerun.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            You said something… People responded to what you wrote… But you really meant something different than what you wrote, which was inaccurate anyway…

            I just got the chills. Deja vu.

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

    I knew Steve Howe had a troubled life, but I had no idea he a) claimed he was better because he converted to Evangelical Christianity b) Was killed when, while on methamphetamine, his pickup truck rolled over.

    Some tragic stuff on the fringes of the Yankee ascension.

    • Januz

      Steve Howe like many athletes and entertainers have had very troubled lives (Brittney Murphy and Corey Haim being the latest examples of this). I really believe that the pressure to perform, and the income they make, are thr primary (Although not exclusive reasons for this).

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

        Well, actually–

        (You know what? No. Let’s just not say anything. This will only get weirder and weirder if it develops into an actual tangential conversation. Back away, Tommie… back away.)

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

        (I’m in a bubble.)

      • http://iheartrerun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/rerun.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Somehow this is related to the Big Ten and college football television contracts.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

          And hockey.

          • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

            And a 7-year old kid in the DR we should sign in IFA.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

              And nested parentheticals (and RANDOMLY capitalized words (for added EMPHASIS)).

        • http://iheartrerun.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/rerun.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          (Sorry about the meme/joke, Mike… Once in a while we have to have our fun, though.)

          • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

            (SORRY about the meme/joke, Mike…) Once in a while we have to have our FUN,) though.)

            FTFY

            But seriously, I’m done.

    • Thomas

      Mood for a Day is one hell of a guitar solo, though.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

    The dangerous Edgar Martinez – .327-.464-.595 that year – stepped to plate and worked the count like he always did before giving the Mariners the lead with a grand slam. The Yankees lost the game and eventually the series, and then-manager Buck Showalter didn’t even bother to use Wetteland in the deciding Game Five despite there being obvious situations to use him.

    /boverreaction?

    Wetteland, 1995:
    Opening Day to August 4 – 39 appearances, 40.0 IP, 2.02 ERA, .173/.223/.309 against, 21 saves, 2 blown saves
    August 5 to August 24 – 8 appearances, 8.1 IP, 9.72 ERA, .333/.400/.576 against, 1 save, 4 blown saves
    August 25 to season end – 13 appearances, 13.0 IP, 1.38 ERA, .114/.114/.182 against, 9 saves, 0 blown saves

    Yes, he had a hiccup in August, and yes, he allowed runs in all three ALDS appearances (Games 1, 2, and 4), but still, you’re not going to give the ball to him at all in Game 5?

    /MondayMorningQuarterback’d

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Yeah, pretty much. If I remember correctly, Showalter went from Cone to Rivera, then brought in Jack McDowell in extras.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        Yep. He used Mo for two outs.

        http://tinyurl.com/ygsv43x

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

          I mean, I could kinda understand it if Wetteland had been bad in all three postseason appearances (he had) and he had also been bad during the end of the regular season, but Wetteland was friggin-lights-out in September down the stretch.

          Seems like a little bit of an overreaction to a super-small 3-game sample size. Wetteland probably should have still gotten the ball in Game 5, IMHO.

          • Klemy

            That it did (seem to be an overreaction). That night I very clearly remember my anger that Buck didn’t use Wetteland. I cursed up a storm at the TV, even more so after Jack imploded.

  • http://nytimes.com Gardimentary

    It’s rough being the guy told to take walk so Mariano could step in.
    Just imagine what it’s going to be like following him?

    I don’t envy Mariano and Jeter’s replacements.

    • Thomas

      Wetteland took a 4 year $23M deal to leave. I am pretty sure he was fine leaving.

    • radnom

      Jeter’s replacement will be fine, especially if it isn’t someone super hyped up (like a big FA signing).

      The next closer of the Yankees will be held to some pretty unrealistic standards.

  • TheZack

    “Of course, no one cared about the regular season, everyone wanted to see him do it in October.”

    Not to be picky Mike, but this line is just flat out wrong. In 1996, EVERYONE cared about the regular season. Its not like the Yankees ran off with the division, and they had just made it back to the postseason for the first time in awhile the season before and lost in heartbreaking style.

    In 1996, the recent “the regular season doesn’t matter” entitled fan line didn’t really exist. At least not in its overblown, overstated way. Thankfully.

    • Klemy

      I think he was talking more about caring how Wetteland performed in the playoffs, because when the ’95 season ended, there were some people who were saying he couldn’t handle the postseason. I think his statement was fine.

  • http://twitter.com/riddering Riddering

    It might be hard to believe for some younger fans, but there was a time when the Yankees didn’t have Mariano Rivera around to close things out in the ninth.

    Storytime with Old Man Axisa, yes! This is one of my favorites.

    Using Google to look into whether Seguignol’s star shined bright or the Expos were just really keen to shed payroll I came across this gem of an article which covers the deal in the post-1994 baseball climate: http://tinyurl.com/yfnl6e3

    The budget may have changed and optimism over divisional titles may be more widespread these days but one thing remains the same: the Yankees always get their man, even when the Red Sox want him too.