The Cleveland Indians have made a number of great deals with the Seattle Mariners in recent years. We got Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Perez, Ezequiel Carrera for Russell Branyan, and—if you go back far enough—Omar Vizquel for Reggie Jefferson and Felix Fermin.
But there’s another deal that might actually have been the best of all, and today is its day-versary. Two thousand days ago this week, the Indians sent Ben Broussard to Seattle for Shin-Soo Choo and a player to be named later.
It was July 26, 2006, and the Indians were in big trouble. Cleveland had entered the year looking like a real contender, but 99 games into the season the Indians found themselves in fourth place in the AL Central, 11 games under .500 (44-55) and 22.5 games behind the division-leading Tigers.
Broussard, then 27, was in the midst of a career year for the Tribe. The left-handed first baseman was hitting .321 with 13 homers, 46 RBI, and an .880 OPS (125 wRC+) after roughly a half-season’s worth of games, making him an attractive piece of trade bait. The Mariners (48-52) weren’t doing that much better than the Indians, but in the then-extremely weak AL West they were only three games out of first place even though they were below .500.
The centerpiece of the return package was Choo. Then just 24 years old, Choo had an impressive minor-league resume—he had an .893 OPS at Triple-A Tacoma and had twice made Baseball America‘s Top 100 prospects list—but he’d struggled in his brief MLB experience, hitting .069 in parts of two seasons with Seattle.
Two days later, the Mariners came to Cleveland and Choo made his Indians debut. The newest member of the Tribe hit his first big-league home run against his former employer to give Cleveland a 1-0 win. The rest, as they say, is history.
In addition to Choo, the Indians got left-handed pitching prospect Shawn Nottingham as the player to be named later in the deal. Nottingham struggled as he moved up in the minors and posted a 5.19 ERA in two years at Double-A Akron. He was traded to the Pirates in 2009 and never reached the majors.
As for Broussard, he more or less ceased to be an effective player as soon as he landed in Seattle. He hit just .260/.311/.413 while playing subpar defense at premium positions and was below replacement level (-0.8 fWAR, -1.1 bWAR) in his year-and-a-half with the Mariners. A miserable cup of coffee with the Rangers in 2008 (he hit .159 with a .493 OPS) was the last chance he got in the major leagues.
It wasn’t heralded as a blockbuster deal at the time, and it certainly wasn’t as lopsided a deal as the Bartolo Colon for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips deal of 2002. But as we recognize its 2,000th day-versary, it’s fair to say the Choo trade worked out to be one of the best deals of Mark Shapiro’s tenure as GM, if not in franchise history.