Randy Smith’s Losing Bet

Nine years ago today the Tigers swung a blockbuster trade for the ages — one Tigers fans are trying to forget.
On Nov. 2, 1999, the Rangers sent outfielder Juan Gonzalez, pitcher Danny Patterson and catcher Gregg Zaun to the Tigers for pitchers Justin Thompson, Alan Webb and Francisco Cordero, outfielder Gabe Kapler, catcher Bill Haselman, and infielder Frank Catalanotto.

Sound like a ripoff? That’s not the half of it.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and see how that worked out for both teams since the day of the trade:



  • 2000 (Detroit): 115 G, .289, 22 HR, 67 RBI
  • 2001-05 (CLE, TEX, KC): .302, 72 HR, 262 RBI


He never played in Detroit. On March 7, 2000, the Tigers sent him to the Royals as part of a conditional deal. Think the Tigers could’ve used him behind the plate during those pre-Pudge seasons? Me too.

  • 2000-2008 (KC, HOU, COL, TOR): .254, 62 HR, 336 RBI


  • 2000-04 (Detroit): 10-11, 6.17 ERA*, 5 saves (*Bloated by a 15.00 ERA in just three innings pitched in 2002. Without it, his Detroit ERA would be 3.97.)



Poor J.T. He never could rebound from shoulder injuries that began to plague him in Detroit. He didn’t pitch in Texas until 2005 when he appeared in two games, surrendered four earned runs and two homers. He signed with the Brewers after that season and retired on June 20, 2006.

  • Career line: Five seasons, 36-43, 4.02 ERA, 428 K


According to Baseball-Reference.com, Webb never appeared in the majors.


  • 2000-08 (TEX, MIL, CIN): 31-31, 211 saves, 4.00 ERA


  • 2000-06, ’08 (TEX, COL, BOS, MIL) .279, 54 HR, 291 RBI


By the time of this trade, Haselman was nearing the end of his 13-year career. He broke in with the Rangers in 1990, played three seasons (’92-’94) with the Mariners, three with Boston, a return engagement with the Rangers, one year in Detroit, back to Texas, and then his final season in 2003 with the Red Sox.

  • 2000-03 (TEX, BOS): .265, 12 HR, 69 RBI


  • 2000-08 (TEX, TOR): .295, 66 HR, 384 RBI

From the moment I saw this trade announced on ESPN’s crawl I knew it was not going to work out well. How could it?

First, the Tigers were giving up far too much youth for essentially one player: Gonzalez who, on his best day, was a moody enigma. Second, as Ian reminded me, then-GM Randy Smith was allegedly shaping the Comerica Park Tigers to be a pitching-defense-and-speed club. Acquiring a plodding slugger doesn’t fit into that scheme — particularly when CoPa was dubbed Comerica National Park for its expansive dimensions. And third, everything in the universe had to align with unrealistic precision for Gonzalez to even half-consider signing with the Tigers after the 2000 season.

It’s painful to see how the kids Detroit traded away blossomed in the Texas heat. Personally, the one player that hurt the most was Catalanatto. If ever a hitter were designed for Comerica Park, it was Cat.

Kapler could’ve been a good role player throughout this decade, Cordero could’ve been they type of closer the Tigers now seek via trade or free agency.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Perhaps those are the three words that best sum up this trade.

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Randy Smith’s Losing Bet

  1. This trade ended up being a wash all the way around. A lot of hot air for nothing. I remember how I felt the day after this trade went down though. I was still in high school and pulled into the parking lot the same time as my good friend and we almost hugged in excitement. The excitement did not last long.


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