clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cleveland Indians: Looking back at the Bartolo Colon trade

How the Tribe pulled off one of the best trades in MLB history.

Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images

After the 2001 season, the Cleveland Indians were one of the most successful MLB franchises of the previous half decade. Even though they had lost in the Divisional Series, they had just completed a stretch of making the playoffs in six of seven seasons.

General manager Mark Shapiro had just taken the reins from John Hart and had dealt superstar Roberto Alomar to the Mets. But the rest of the offseason had consisted of fairly minor transactions.

As the 2002 season unfolded, the Tribe was showing major flaws, and were not their usual dominant selves. At the end of May, they were 4.5 games back of the Twins, and by late June 15, they had slipped into third, 7.0 games off the pace. So Shapiro had to decide whether to cut bait and run, or stand pat and try to make a late run.

He chose the former and surprisingly put the ace of the staff, Bartolo Colon, on the block. Obviously, there would be many suitors for Colon. But the team that jumped to the front of the line was the Montreal Expos. In 2002, the Expos were experiencing their first taste of relevancy in about five years.

But there were also some strong rumors that 2002 could be the Expos final year in Montreal, there were rumors of contraction of the franchise. Owner Jeff Lurie was not the most upfront of business guys when it came to the franchise either.

With the team just 6.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves and 5.0 back of the Arizona Diamondbacks, general manager Omar Minaya made the bold decision to go for it all. He wanted an ace for his staff and was willing to empty the farm system to do it.

Shapiro played his hand perfectly, nabbing Baseball America's No. 20 prospect from that spring (Brandon Phillips) and two other highly touted prospects (Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore), both of whom would crack Baseball America's Top 30 the next two springs. The teams also swapped Tim Drew for Lee Stevens in the deal.

The trade did work temporarily for the Expos as Colon was very good in the back half of 2002. But unfortunately for the Expos, the rest of the roster faltered in the second half. They ended up a full 19 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the East and 12.5 games behind the Giants for the Wild Card. The Expos franchise did get a reprieve in the offseason for the contraction, so Minaya sent Colon to the White Sox, trying to replenish the farm system. But the haul of Jeff Liefer, Rocky Biddle, and Orlando Hernandez would pale in comparison to the Lee/Sizemore/Phillips triumvirate.

Drew ended up spending most of his time in Triple-A before becoming a free agent for the 2004 season. He did make it with the Braves briefly but was out of baseball by 2009.

The only major league piece the Indians received at the time was Stevens. He played the second half of 2002 with the Tribe and then just 18 games with the Indianapolis Indians (Brewers Triple-A affiliate) in 2003 before retiring. Phillips would go on to become a superb major league second basemen. Unfortunately, it wasn't with the Tribe because for some reason he and Eric Wedge never "clicked."

As for Lee, he almost appeared to be a bust before breaking out in 2008, winning the Cy Young and then also being dealt to the Phillies in 2009 for current starter Carlos Carrasco. Sizemore probably would have ended up being the best of the lot had it not been for injuries. From 2005 to 2008 he was one of the most dominant players, offensively and defensively, in the league until his maladies made him a shell of his former self.

The final totals on the deal:

Expos

Bartolo Colon

G

GS

IP

WHIP

K%

BB%

LOB%

bWAR

FIP

fWAR

2002

17

17

117.0

1.316

14.8

7.8

75.0

2.4

3.70

2.2

Tim Drew

G

GS

IP

WHIP

K%

BB%

LOB%

bWAR

FIP

fWAR

2002

7

1

16.0

0.875

15.6

3.1

47.6

0.1

2.90

0.5

2003

6

1

8.3

2.308

6.5

17.4

50.6

-0.6

9.61

-0.3

Total

13

2

24.2

1.378

11.8

9.1

49.3

-0.5

-

0.2

Indians

Grady Sizemore

G

PA

2B

HR

SB

BA

OPS

OPS+

bWAR

wRC+

fWAR

2004

43

159

6

4

2

246

739

97

1.1

96

1.0

2005

158

706

37

22

22

289

832

123

6.6

123

5.6

2006

162

751

53

28

22

290

907

133

6.6

132

7.9

2007

162

748

34

24

33

277

852

123

5.5

129

6.4

2008

157

745

39

33

38

268

876

133

5.9

131

7.4

2009

106

503

20

18

13

248

788

110

2.2

109

2.1

2010

33

140

6

0

4

211

560

58

-0.4

55

-0.3

2011

71

295

21

10

0

224

706

96

0.1

94

0.2

Total

892

4047

216

139

134

269

830

120

27.5

-

30.3

Cliff Lee

G

GS

IP

WHIP

K%

BB%

LOB%

bWAR

FIP

fWAR

2002

2

2

10.1

1.355

13.6

18,2

85.7

0.6

4.12

0.1

2003

9

9

52.1

1.166

21.0

9.5

65.8

0.5

4.35

0.7

2004

33

33

179.0

1.503

20.1

10.1

70.2

0.3

4.97

1.1

2005

32

32

202.0

1.218

17.1

6.2

72.0

2.5

3.79

3.8

2006

33

33

200.2

1.405

14.6

6.6

70.6

2.0

4.73

2.3

2007

20

16

97.1

1.521

14.9

8.1

62.5

-0.8

5.48

0.1

2008

31

31

223.1

1.110

19.1

3.8

78.3

6.9

2.83

6.7

2009

22

22

152.0

1.303

16.7

5.2

79.1

4.3

3.25

3.9

Total

182

178

1117.0

1.312

17.4

6.8

72.5

16.2

-

18.7

Brandon Phillips

G

PA

2B

HR

SB

BA

OPS

OPS+

bWAR

wRC+

fWAR

2002

11

36

3

0

0

258

762

105

0.3

105

0.2

2003

112

393

18

6

4

208

553

48

-0.3

44

-0.8

2004

6

24

2

0

0

182

523

40

-0.2

38

-0.3

2005

6

9

0

0

0

000

000

-100

-0.2

-100

-0.2

Total

135

462

23

6

4

206

556

48

-0.4

-

-1.1

Lee Stevens

G

PA

2B

3B

HR

BA

OPS

OPS+

bWAR

wRC+

fWAR

2002

53

172

7

1

5

222

772

77

0.3

74

-0.6

Net Result:

The Tribe definitely wins this transaction as well. By a landslide [insert your own adjective].