You’d be forgiven if you forgot the exact date, but today marks the anniversary of a pretty pivotal trade in the Indians’ history:
On this day in 2000 Indians traded David Justice to NY for Ricky Ledee, Zach Day & Jake Westbrook. In 2010 Kluber was acquired for Westbrook
— Cleveland Indians (@tribeinsider) June 29, 2014
David Justice was in the middle of a good season in 2000 (21 HRs, 1.9 rWAR), particularly when you look in hindsight and realize he would be done after the 2002 season. The Indians themselves were in the middle of a disappointing season (by that era’s standards), and were 40-37 after a loss on June 29, 2000. The reasoning behind the Indians’s motives were simple: the playoffs weren’t guaranteed (and they’d later finish five games behind the division-winning Chicago White Sox, and a half-game behind the Seattle Mariners for the only Wild Card spot, despite finishing with a 90-72 record, better than any team in the AL East and fourth-best in the entire American League). In addition, Ricky Ledee was eight years younger, and many teams felt he had the chance to be an up-and coming outfielder in the American League.
In reality, it was the two “throw-in” pitchers who brought more to the Indians, as Ledee was openly upset over the Yankees trading him and never performed well
the rest of the year for the rest of the month the Indians had him, as he was flipped less than a month later to the Texas Rangers for 1B David Segui (fun fact, Segui had been traded to Texas in a three-team deal in spring training that year, which saw the Montreal Expos sending Brad Fulmer to the Toronto Blue Jays, and future former Indians Lee Stevens – he of the Bartolo Colon deal fame – to los Expos).
RHP Zach Day never pitched for the Indians, but he was traded at the deadline in 2001 for OF Milton Bradley. Bradley was a destructive headcase, but had arguably his best years in Cleveland, and was later traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for OF Franklin Gutierrez, a productive part-time player for Cleveland, before being traded in a three-team deal to Seattle which saw the Indians acquire RHP Joe Smith, who was solid for the Indians in relief before leaving this offseason via free agency (the Indians also acquired INF Luis Valbuena in that trade, but let’s try not to remember that).
RHP Jake Westbrook did pitch for the Indians, and quite well, before beginning to break down due to injuries in 2008. Still, even then, Westbrook did the Indians one last solid, and went to the St. Louis Cardinals in another three-team trade, which saw the San Diego Padres acquire onetime-Indians OF Ryan Ludwick from the Cards, and the Indians getting RHP Corey Kluber from the Padres.
Oh, and we haven’t even mentioned how Justice was originally acquired by the Indians – along with OF Marquis Grissom in exchange for Indians Hall of Famer (and doubter of the modern playoff system) Kenny Lofton and LHP Alan Embree. Lofton was acquired by the Indians (along with Dave Rohde, who’s main position is oddly listed as “pinch hitter”) for RHP Willie Blair and CA Eddie Taubensee. Cleveland picked up Taubensee off waivers but if you really wanna trace this trade tree to its roots, Blair was acquired in exchange for RHP Alex Sanchez, who’s main claim to fame is he was the PTBNL in a trade for LHP Bud Black. Edit: I apparently read incorrectly, thanks to Russell Carleton for pointing out my error. The Indians traded Pat Tabler in June of 1988 for Black, Tabler was acquired for INF Jerry Dybzinski, whom the Indians drafted in the 15th round in 1977.
There’s been a lot of moving parts and surprises along the way, but even in 2014, the Indians are still reaping the benefits of trading David Justice.