Sunday, December 23, 2007

Batista, Frascatore for Plesac trade

June 12, 1999: Tony Batista is traded by the Arizona Diamondbacks with John Frascatore to the Toronto Blue Jays for Dan Plesac.

I don’t know why this is one of my favorite Jays trades, others come to mind (the Carter and Alomar trade) that were more important in the history of this team. But at the time, I was growing into a more passionate and more intelligent baseball fan (notice I did not say I WAS or am an intelligent fan, just that I was becoming and still am, more intelligent). This transaction came at a time where I lived and died by the team’s win/loss record (I had no girlfriend at the time) and in retrospective, I wish I had access to more information at the time as I knew nothing of Batista or Frascatore. Batista arrived and made an immediate impact, batting 2nd in the lineup in his first game and hitting a home run with that unorthodox swing along with batting in 4 during a 13-4 win by the Jays. Just for good measure, Frascatore came in for a perfect 8th inning of mopup duty. That same day, the Jays announced that their usual starting shortstop, Alex Gonzalez would be out for the season. Frascatore ended the season with an ERA+ of 144 in 37 innings and a VORP of 9.9 while Batista hit 26 home runs, with an OPS+ of 122 and a Value Over Replacement Player of 36.1 in is 98 games with the Jays.

This trade was a clear win for the Jays in it’s first season as it provided them with the shortstop they needed to compete in the AL East as well as what became a reliable reliever by giving up a left-handed specialist reliever. Plesac pitched superbly in his role for the Diamondbacks; 21.7 innings, an ERA+ of 139, VORP of 5.4 and holding left-handed batters to an OPS of .505. However, with the Jays, he was an unneeded asset as they already had Graeme Lloyd, who established a similar ERA+ of 136.

The Jays of course failed to make the playoffs (something that broke my heart then, now it’s a yearly occasion…did I mention that I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time?) In 2000 both Batista and Frascatore regressed while Plesac improved statistically. Batista shifted over to third base and hit 41 home runs, but only got on base 30.7% of the time, establishing an OPS+ of 102 while Frascatore threw 73 innings while only establishing an ERA+ of 93 and a value slightly over that of a replacement player. Plesac somehow became more dominant against RHB than LHB and in 40 innings pitched, his ERA+ was of 152 and his VORP of 6. Following this season, Plesac re-signed with Toronto. However, 2001 was not the season for Batista (271 at bats, 13 home runs, OPS+ of 67 before finally being waived) or Frascatore (16.3 innings, 209 ERA+, waived in May and never heard from again). In retrospect, 2001 should be known as the year the ace made his return as Roy Halladay returned to the Majors.

This trade makes for a great story…so much promise in the beginning, and then in an instant it was gone. The 27 year old Batista found some of his form once arriving in Baltimore and was even named to the 2002 All-Star team. Plesac threw well in his second stint with Toronto before being traded to Philadelphia for Cliff Politte, who like Batista and Frascatore before him showed lots of promise in his first half-season with the Jays only to falter in his second. I don’t know what the morale of the story is, perhaps it is that as a sports fan we should never become too excited about a transaction because anything can and will happen, for better or for worse.

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