On December 20, 1993, the Cleveland Indians made one of the best trades in Tribe franchise history.
It was exactly 18 years ago today that the Indians sent Reggie Jefferson, Felix Fermin, and some cash to the Seattle Mariners for their slap-hitting shortstop. Neither player was a big loss for the Tribe—they’d combined to be 2.3 wins below replacement level in 1993—but the guy they got back changed the face of Cleveland baseball.
Yes, a child born on the day the Indians acquired Omar Vizquel could now legally buy tobacco products, tattoos, and pet monkeys.
No self-respecting Cleveland fan should need to be reminded of Omar’s greatness, but for those who do: he was one of the greatest defensive shortstops in MLB history and the best fielder to ever wear an Indians uniform.
Watching “Manos de Seda” (“Hands of Silk”) make a diving catch or elude the charging runner to complete the double play was like watching a ballet. He didn’t just make those plays look easy—he made them look effortless.
The Gold Glove award might not have a whole lot of credibility nowadays, but it’s still amazing that Vizquel’s won 11 of them, including nine in a row from 1993-2001—both the second-best marks ever for a shortstop. Baseball-Reference puts Vizquel as the fifth-greatest defensive shortstop of all time.
Jefferson went on to post a 137 wRC+ in 63 games for the Mariners the next year, while Fermin had the impressive distinction of walking more than he struck out throughout his 10-year MLB career. But Omar became an icon in Cleveland, a fan favorite as well as an invaluable piece of the Glory Days teams of the 1990’s.
I think we got the better end of that deal.