Shaping the Rangers: #19 Scott Fletcher

Lone Star Dugout continues with the 20 biggest player moves to impact the Rangers with a look at the 1985 trade that brought Scott Fletcher, the first million dollar athlete in club history, and Edwin Correa to Arlington.

November 25, 1985: The Rangers trade infielder Wayne Tolleson and pitcher Dave Schmidt to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Edwin Correa and infielder Scott Fletcher.

In the grand scheme of things, Wayne Tolleson and Dave Schmidt were two players who never really amounted to much in the Rangers' organization.

Tolleson, who is a cousin of minor league pitching coordinator Rick Adair, was known throughout his career primarily as an average offensive player and an above-average defensive player. After playing in 14 games for the Rangers in 1981 and 38 in 1982, Tolleson saw action in 134 ballgames in 1983 and finished the season with a .260 average, 3 home runs, 20 runs batted in and a commendable 33 stolen bases.

Schmidt, who broke into the big leagues with the Rangers in 1981, saw most of his success come later in his career as a member of the Baltimore Orioles. The righty was servicable during his time in Texas, and in five seasons as a reliever and occasional starting pitcher, owned a respectable earned run average of 3.18 and picked up the save in 26 ballgames.

But in the fall of 1985, former general manager Tom Grieve began to strike up some dialogue with flamboyant ex-White Sox GM Ken "Hawk" Harrelson. Among the initial trade proposals was a deal that involved more than ten players from the two teams.

As it turned out, that deal never quite came into fruition.

But another one did.

After some negotiating, Harrelson and Grieve struck a cord that would involve sending a prized possession from Puerto Rico named Edwin Correa, along with an everyday shortstop bumped from his role in Scott Fletcher to the Texas Rangers.

In Correa, the Rangers received a promising young righthander who had been involved in professional baseball since the age of sixteen. Not only had he finished off a 13-3 season for Single-A Appleton in the White Sox organization, but he had already won a major-league start, beating the Mariners 3-2 on the final day of the 1985 season.

Correa was also a Seventh Day Adventist, and often took issue with pitching on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons.

He would go on to spend the next season and a half in the starting rotation for the Rangers, compiling a 15-19 record and a 5.10 ERA over 47 starts. But it was Correa's 1986 season that left the Rangers collective mouths drooling with anticipation of the future.

That year, as a 20 year-old rookie, Correa finished with a 12-14 record and led the Rangers with 189 strikeouts. His 8.41 ratio of strikeouts per nine innings was good for fourth among American League pitching. But not everything was coming up roses. Correa also struggled with bouts of extreme wildness, walking six batters in a game five times. In one game, a 5-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox on May the 18th, Correa issued eight free passes.

Nevertheless, it was an enticing year for Correa and the Rangers, and the following season began with an equally large amount of promise shown from the young pitcher. Correa came within five outs of a no-hitter in his fourth start of the 1987 season against the Yankees, losing it on a Willie Randolph single with one out in the top of the eighth. But towards the middle of May, Correa began to complain about shoulder pain and indicated that his arm may be in need of a rest.

It made sense: With 202 innings under his belt the year before, Correa had logged more time on the mound than at any other point in his blossoming career.

But things were much worse than that.

On July 9th, a bone and CAT scan administered by team physician Mike Mycoski revealed a stress fracture in his right shoulder. Even more disturbing, the X-rays revealed that Correa had been pitching with the injury for about eight weeks, likely causing the damage to his pitching shoulder to be much worse than originally feared.

Correa left the Rangers organization in 1989, and actually took several stabs at a comeback within the Dodgers organization – one as recently as 1997. But it was on that July morning in 1987 that Edwin's Correa season ended and his career never recovered.

The main cog in the deal, however, was Scott Fletcher, then a twenty-seven year who had been the everyday shortstop for the White Sox when they won the American League West in 1983. But after the arrival of Ozzie Guillen via a trade with the Padres the following year, the scrappy Fletcher was left without a home in the infield. In his final year on the South Side, he finished with barely 300 at-bats.

But But Fletcher had talent, and Grieve saw it.

Upon his arrival in Arlington, the Rangers quickly inserted the native Floridian into their infield for the 1986 season, and Fletcher didn't disappoint. He hit .300 for the season, led the Rangers with 34 doubles, and won American League Player of the Month honors for July thanks in part to a 19-game hitting streak.

The 1987 season brought more of the same as Fletcher led all regulars in batting with a .287 average and drove in 63 runs. But two years later, Fletcher, who had never made more than $575,000 to that point in his career, found himself in a position to become much richer.

In 1989, a shortage of shortstops around the major leagues left players like the 29-year old Fletcher in high demand, and a bidding war for his services quickly developed. Former Philadelphia Phillies General Manager Lee Thomas set the ground rules by stating that the only way to get the prized possession to leave Arlington was to offer significantly more than the Rangers, and he upped the ante by making the first offer of more than $1 million a year to the infielder.

Thomas later raised the bar even higher by reportedly offering somewhere in the neighborhood of $4.05 million for three years. But in the end, an agreement struck by Tom Grieve and Fletcher's agent, Richie Bry, called for the shortstop to receive $1.2 million in 1989 and a guaranteed $3.9 million over three years, along with a club option for a fourth year in 1992.

Grieve would later go on to say that resigning Fletcher was a key component to the building process that lay ahead. The contract, signed on the final day of November 1989, made Scott Fletcher both the highest-paid player in Texas Rangers history and the highest paid athlete in Dallas/Fort Worth history.

A wealthier Fletcher would remain the Rangers' starting shortstop into the month of July. But with a .239 average and 22 RBIs in 83 games, there was a quiet sentiment that his performance with the Rangers had declined as a result of his record contract. By the end of that month, he was dealt back to the White Sox along with a relatively unknown outfielder named Sammy Sosa in another team defining deal.

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