Eleven years ago today Randy Smith rolled the dice and pulled the trigger on a trade that will be his legacy in Detroit: trading pitchers Francisco Cordero, Justin Thompson and Alan Webb, catcher Bill Haselman, infielder Frank Catalanotto and outfielder Gabe Kapler to the Rangers for righthander Danny Patterson, catcher Gregg Zaun and, the crown jewel of the deal, outfielder Juan Gonzalez.
The strategy both simple and fatally flawed: trade a boatload of young talent for a big-name slugger to play in a cavernous, new ballpark.
Smith doubled-down when he offered Gonzalez an eight-year,$140 million contract. Thankfully, Gonzalez spurned the offer to play for the … Indians.
In case you’ve forgotten, he appeared in 115 games for the 2000 Tigers, hitting .289 with 22 homers and an .846 OPS. After leaving Detroit, Gonzalez appeared in an average of 65 games over the next five seasons — including his one, final hamstring pull in what would be his one, final at bat on Opening Day for the Indians in 2005.
Both of Smith’s big gambles that season — hiring Phil Garner as manager and the Gonzalez trade — failed spectacularly, just like the GM’s tenure in Detroit.
As frustrated as Tigers fans have been with Dave Dombrowski‘s kooky contract extensions and trades, at least he’s made them in an effort to improve the team over the long term. Smith’s trades rarely were more than moving players around — usually to Houston or San Diego — not following a plan.