Past Trade Review: Robin Ventura

CC Sabathia vs. The Red Sox
Four Yankees heading to Arizona Fall League (so far)
(AP)

The dust had barely settled after the end of the 2001 World Series, but the Yankees knew they were already going to have to replace several key pieces of the roster in the offseason. Everyone knew that Paul O’Neill was retiring and it was no secret that the aging Tino Martinez was going to be pushed aside as the team prepared to go all out for free agent Jason Giambi, but Scott Brosius’ retirement seemed to catch everyone off guard. By no means was he great, but he was a steady third baseman and suddenly the Yankees had an empty spot at the hot corner.

That’s when something unusual happened. The Yankees and Mets actually got together for a trade, a rare exchange of legitimate big leaguers. On December 7th, two weeks after Brosius called it a career, the Yankees shipped David Justice across town in exchange for Robin Ventura. Justice had been acquired a year-and-a-half earlier for some minor leaguers, a deal that worked out tremendously in 2000. The Amazins’ were set to acquire Roberto Alomar and shift Edgardo Alfonso to third, so they had a spare part and the pieces of the trade puzzle fell into place.

Ventura, 34 at the time, was coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons, a .237/.359/.419 effort in 2001 and .232/.338/.439 in 2000. His glovework at third was second to none though, and the Yankees were just looking for a short-term stopgap until Drew Henson was ready to take over the position for the next decade. Don’t laugh, Baseball America ranked Henson as the ninth best prospect in baseball just a few weeks after the trade, one spot ahead of some kid named Mark Teixeira. The Yankees only needed a band-aid third baseman, and that’s exactly what Ventura was.

Batting fifth behind Bernie Williams and ahead of Jorge Posada on Opening Day, Ventura drew a walk in four trips to the plate. It was an unspectacular debut, but he made his mark in pinstripes in the following weeks. Ventura hit a solo homer two days later, the only run of the game in the team’s first win of the 2002 season. He hit a three-run homer the very next day, chipping in three of the team’s four runs in the win. Another homer followed four days later. Then another. And another and another and another. Before you knew it, Ventura had gone deep six times in the team’s first 14 games and a dozen times in their first 39 games. That was more than half of his season total (21) from the year before.

Ventura cooled off a bit after that but remained productive, hitting .240/.372/.419 with 15 homers the rest of the way to finish the season at .247/.368/.458 with 27 homers, the third highest total of his then-14-year career. The left-handed power he provided was a nice compliment to righty Alfonso Soriano and the two switch-hitters, Bernie and Posada. Ventura made the All-Star Team for the second time in his career and for the first time in a decade. The Yankees lost to the Angels in the ALDS, though Ventura doubled twice and drove in four runs in the final two games of the series.

With Henson not developing as hoped in 2002, the Yankees kept Ventura around in 2003 but had him platoon at third with Todd Zeile. Seriously. Ventura went on another April homerun binge (five in the team’s first 16 games), but his power started to disappear and his season batting line bottomed out at .236/.326/.386 on July 11th. His defense also deteriorated as well, and the Yankees had a bonafide hole at third base on their hands.

The fixed that hole at the trade deadline, sending two minor leaguers and cash to the Reds for Aaron Boone. The 30-year-old was hitting .273/.339/.469 with Cincinnati at the time and was obviously going to play third base everyday in New York. Ventura was a man without a job, but Brian Cashman managed to flip him to the Dodgers just before the deadline. In return for a declining player everyone knew he had to move, Cashman received Bubba Crosby and Scott Proctor, two young players that proved to be useful (to varying degrees) in pinstripes.

Ventura never really had a signature moment with the Yankees, at least not that I remember, but he was certainly a solid contributor on a 103-win team in 2002. All told, he hit .249/.359/.433 with 36 homers in 888 plate appearances in pinstripes, and he retired the season after the trade. As for Justice, he never actually played for the Mets. They traded him to the Athletics a week after acquiring him, getting relievers Mark Guthrie and Tyler Yates in return. Justice hit .266/.376/.410 as Oakland’s DH in 2002, and retired the following offseason. It was a deal with little impact for both sides, but Ventura bridged the gap between three very significant players in recent Yankees history – Brosius, Justice, and Boone.

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CC Sabathia vs. The Red Sox
Four Yankees heading to Arizona Fall League (so far)
  • Dino Velvet

    I thought the reason Brosius retired was because he didn’t think the Yanks would resign him and he didn’t want to play for anyone else at age 36.

  • Dan

    This is totally off the top of my head, but I vaguely remember Ventura jumping on the tarp to catch a pop foul which to me epitomized his time in pinstripes. Zero clue as to when or any significance it had but it’s a great example of the glove while he was around.

  • IRF

    Robin Ventura had such an underrated career. He was like a healthy Eric Chavez.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      And since Chavez—at the time of the trade, turning 23 and in the midst of the healthiest stretch of his career—was easily a better fielder than Ventura, I’d like to amend Mike’s comment, because it sounds cooler this way:

      [Ventura’s] glovework at third was second to one, though.

      • IRF

        What about Scott Rolen? Does that mean Ventura was second to two?

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Shut up, dude, you’re harshing my buzz.

  • art vandelay

    makes you think … if boone never hurt himself where would arod have ended up ?

    you never wish injury on someone, but damn did that offseason injury of boone really help the yanks. heh.

    • the Other Steve S.

      ARod was headed to NY. Boone would not have prevented that.

      • https://twitter.com/TheRealJeromeS Jerome S.

        Yeah, you’re probably right. When a guy like A-Rod hits the market like that, you take him and ask questions later.

        • http://RAB Nuke LaDoosh

          I wish Hank would have asked a few more questions the second time around (2007) – or at least let some “baseball people” in on the talks.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

        Maybe eventually, but at the time that Boone hurt himself he wasn’t though. The trade talk came out of a need.

    • Brian S.

      But A-Rod’s chokism caused the Yankees to lose for the next half decade! It was a curse in disguise!

      /WFAN’d

  • https://twitter.com/TheRealJeromeS Jerome S.

    Let’s not forget, this was all part of the remarkable confluence of events that led to A-Rod being the Yankees third baseman from 2004 to 2017. Lowell was traded, Henson never panned out, Boone broke his leg in a pickup basketball game… it was like fate wanted the Yankees and A-Rod to meet.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      ARod’s life is the sum of the remainder of an unbalanced equation inherent to the programming of the Matrix. He is the eventuality of an anomaly, which despite my sincerest efforts I have been unable to eliminate from what is otherwise a harmony of mathematical precision. While it remains a burden assiduously avoided, it is not unexpected, and thus not beyond a measure of control, which has led him, inexorably, here.

      • The Fallen Phoenix

        Does that make Scott Boras or Brian Cashman the Architect? I’m a little confused.

        • http://RAB Nuke LaDoosh

          my brain hurts

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona

        I’m NOT playing Words With Friends with you.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Yesterday on RAB, I wrote the word “trebled” when the less arcane “tripled” would have easily sufficed.

  • Rey22

    I always liked Ventura, even if his Yankee career was unspectacular.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      I, on the other hand, had a unwarranted dislike for him. A couple of close Met fan friends loved him, so I just couldn’t like em.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

    As for Justice, he never actually played for the Mets. They traded him to the Athletics a week after acquiring him, getting relievers Mark Guthrie and Tyler Yates in return. Justice hit .266/.376/.410 as Oakland’s DH in 2002, and retired the following offseason.

    I can’t wait to see the epic phonecall that resulted in this awesome trade and Justice’s subsequent exhilarating 2002 season re-enacted in all its dramatic glory in Moneyball.

    I bet it’s way more interesting when Brad Pitt and Royce Clayton do it.

  • http://myspace.com/bksmalls Smallz

    I miss Bubba Crosby =(

    That top 100 prospects link can probably keep me busy all day.

    • http://RAB Nuke LaDoosh

      Anyone else been a subscriber to Baseball America for the duration of the prospect lists? I started subscribing right around late ’88 or early ’89. Shortly after subscribing, I moved to Durham, NC for a couple of years, and the magazine is headquarted there.

      • http://myspace.com/bksmalls Smallz

        I was 3 in 88 guy

        • http://RAB Nuke LaDoosh

          you didn’t subscribe until you were what, 5?

  • Jorge

    My mother-in-law still loves Bubba Crosby and probably believes he’d be an upgrade in the outfield now.

    My favorite footnote to the whole Ventura>Boone>ARod progression will always be Mike Lamb.

    • http://myspace.com/bksmalls Smallz

      He was like Brett Gardner. But, not good haha

  • http://RAB Nuke LaDoosh

    Drew Henson, Bam Bam Meulens, Ruben Rivera, Wily Mo Pena…certainly lots of reasons to fight the prospect hugger mentality.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Alfonso Soriano, Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, Hector Noesi… certainly lots of reason to embrace the prospect hugger mentality.

      • http://RAB Nuke LaDoosh

        Percentages say “don’t hug”. You could name EVERY major leaguer and argue for hugging. That said, when you have a prospect and he has value, you only trade to receive back value (and minimize risk associated with the unknown.)

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          Percentages say “don’t hug”.

          Do they? Or do the percentages say “Most prospects fail, so stockpile a shitload of them and hug them all, and see what wheat separates itself from the chaff”.

          Teams that don’t prospect hug–ever–have to buy all their talent, and that’s an expensive and inefficient way to do business, even for the richest team in baseball. Which is why every organization hugs its prospects and always has.

          —————–

          “Prospect huggers” is such a boversimplified term anyway. Everybody at RAB that has ever been accused of prospect hugging would gladly trade away numerous quality prospects in the right deal.

          • CS Yankee

            …with the exceptions being Montero or Golson.

            /monteroisdinero’d

            • Brian S.

              What is so special about Greg Golson? It was a great throw and he’s fast and all, but come on.

          • http://RAB Nuke LaDoosh

            General statements can sometimes be taken for absolutes. When I say don’t prospect hug, I’m not saying don’t develop prospects and I’m not saying don’t hold onto some prospects.
            I see it this way:
            “most prospects fail, stockpile a shitload of them but don’t hug them, see what separates from the chaff, be willing to trade them for proven Major League talent when the opportunities present themselves.” Your last paragraph has it.

  • CC’s Belly

    Boy does this tommiejohnwhatever guy believe he knows everything.

    • Mickey Scheister

      He’s so wise. Like a miniature Buddha, covered in hair. But really, dude makes sense. Ted Nelson on the other hand…

  • Tom

    The most memorable moment of Robin Ventura’s career was when he charged Nolan Ryan after a HBP and Ryan took him in a headlock and repeatedly punched him. Ventura was with Chicago then, but definitely one of the best fights I can remember. Ryan was 46 at the time.