Robert C. Modra

Tribe Memories: Three trades that wrecked the 70's

The winter meetings are almost here and with that the hot stove season is about to really heat up. As we get set for all of the news and rumors to flow our of Washington DC, the IBI's Richard Foderaro takes a trip back in time to remind us of three offseason trades that didn't work out for the Indians...

This is a very exciting time of the year. No, I don't mean holiday shopping and decorating. But it is time for the Baseball Winter Meetings. This is when the hot stove gets warmed up.  Usually there are signings of the high profile free agents and blockbuster trades. It's when we all get the pencil and paper out to write up potential lineups with the new additions on it.

All team executives make trades with the best intentions. Unfortunately, many trades are made today with the respective talent of the players being only a side issue. The dollars on the contract are the big issue. While sometimes they have to “sell low” due to an impending free agency, they all hope to receive at least potentially equal or better talent.

Only with hindsight can we see the success or failure of trades. The Tribe made a gamble with the Andrew Miller trade. They traded potential for a sure thing. Andrew Miller virtually guaranteed the playoffs for the Indians. Clint Frazier “could be” a star for the Yankees. Right now we would say the Indians won that trade. But in a few years, who knows?

Some trades have been down right disasters for the Indians. They sent good young talent out of town for just some warm bodies. Here are three trades that made the 1970's miserable for Indian fans.

1.) 11/27/72 – Indians send Graig Nettles and Jerry Moses to the Yankees for John Ellis, Jerry Kenny, Charley Spikes, and Rusty Torres

Graig Nettles came to the Indians from the Twins in 1969 as a 25-year old.  At that time Nettles was inconsistent in the field and clueless with a bat. The Indians coaches worked with him tirelessly and turned him into an outstanding fielder. Nettles also turned out to have a power bat. Nettles hit 71 homers for the Tribe in three seasons. Nettles wound up with a 22-year career in the major leagues. With the Yankees he was a frequent All Star and Gold Glove winner.

The centerpiece of the return from the Yankees was Charley Spikes. He was the Clint Frazier of that deal. The “Bogalusa Bomber” was a 22-year old right-handed power hitting outfielder. Charley started strong hitting over 20 homers in both ‘73 and ‘74. He then tailed off sharply. The Tribe traded him in '77 and he was out of baseball by 1980. Rusty Torres was a speedy center fielder, but he never batted higher than .205 for the Tribe. John Ellis was a serviceable catcher and utility player that wound up with a 13-year career.

This trade was engineered by former tribe GM Gabe Paul. He resigned and joined the Yankees shortly after the Nettles trade. But that's just a coincidence.

2.) 4/26/74 – Indians send Chris Chambliss, Dick Tidrow, and Cecil Upshaw to the Yankees for pitchers  Fred Beene, Tom Buskey, Steve Kline, and Fritz Peterson

Chris Chambliss was the first overall pick in the 1970 draft. He was AL Rookie of the Year in 1971. He was a first baseman with a good bat, but not a lot of power. Tidrow had been a number two starter for the Indians and wound up with a very serviceable career winning 100 games.

The Tribe received two starters and two relief pitchers in the deal. The Yankees were desperate to deal Fritz Peterson as he was involved in a scandal with a teammate’s wife. The other players were nothing remarkable. The most memorable thing I can remember about Tom Buskey was that I saw him literally fall off the mound.

This trade was engineered by Phil Seghi.

3.) 3/30/78 – Indians send Dennis Eckersley and Fred Kendall to the Red Sox for Ted Cox, Bo Diaz, Mike Paxton, and Rick Wise

Eckersley was drafted in the third round by the Indians in 1972. He made his MLB debut at age 20 and moved from the pen to the starting rotation. In 1977 he pitched a no-hitter against the Angels. He became a 20-game winner for the Red Sox. Later in his career he reinvented himself as a closer and became the dominant closer of the 90's. He was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004.

Wise and Paxton were briefly effective as starting pitchers for the Tribe. Bo Diaz became a good defensive catcher. But the centerpiece of the trade was third baseman Ted Cox. He was the Red Sox top draft pick in '73 and was progressing nicely through the Red Sox system. He had a very good year at AAA Pawtucket in 1977. He was a can't miss prospect that missed by a mile. He played two seasons for the Indians before they had seen enough. He “slugged” 5 homers over two seasons and never batted higher than .233 in a season.

Hindsight is always 20/20. It would have been great to have Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss and Dennis Eckersley play the bulk of their careers in Cleveland. But the worst part was that the players received in return did not equal the potential of what was lost.

Let's wish Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff good luck as they head for the winter meetings.


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