On July 31, 2000, the Padres and Cardinals swung a trade deadline deal that sent Heathcliff Slocumb and prospect Ben Johnson to San Diego in exchange for catcher Carlos Hernandez and minor league utilityman Nate Tebbs. The swap is little more than a footnote in team history, though it could’ve been a far more legendary trade had Johnson been replaced with another prospect who was on the Padres’ radar — Albert Pujols. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch details the intriguing history of that would-be deal, and how the Cardinals front office had to make a decision between including Pujols (a famously unheralded 13th-round pick in the 1999 draft) or Johnson, a much more highly-touted fourth-rounder from that same draft. Pujols showed so much promise in his early pro career, however, that the team ultimately decided to move Johnson and speak more time evaluating a potential hidden gem. “I really didn’t want to give up Ben, either, but that’s why you always have your top guys scout your own system,” said Walt Jocketty, then the Cardinals’ general manager. “You have to know your own, like Pujols. There was no way we could trade him. No way, just based on what our guys had seen in a short period of time. They said, ‘I think he’s going to be something special – or has a chance to be.’ When I saw it myself, it was obvious.”
Here’s more from around the baseball world…
- Even with Rich Hill on the IL for an undetermined period of time, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman isn’t planning to make starting pitching a particular focus at the trade deadline. “I don’t see it being an area where we spend a lot of energy,” Friedman told reporters, including Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. “Could that change? Of course. But I don’t expect it right now. We don’t expect it to be an area of need.” In fact, Friedman didn’t think his team had any obvious weak spots, which perhaps isn’t a surprise given the Dodgers’ league-best 54-25 record. Instead, the front office will look out for “impact players,” since such additions are “what moves the needle in October.”
- In an interview on “The Front Office” on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (audio link), Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto reiterated that his trade deadline efforts will be directed towards moving veteran players. Younger and more controllable members of the Seattle roster are less likely to be moved, since they are part of what Dipoto hopes “is a very quick turnaround” within 12-18 months. “Some of the guys that we do have here that attract the most trade attention, particularly guys like Mitch Haniger, they’re critical to our growth. So at some point, you do have to build around something,” Dipoto said.
- With Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio now in the majors, speculation is swirling in Toronto about when Bo Bichette could make his Blue Jays debut. A consensus top-12 prospect in the sport prior to the season, Bichette has a .256/.316/.453 slash line and three homers over 96 Triple-A plate appearances in 2019, while missing over six weeks due to a fractured hand. As a result, Jays GM Ross Atkins told Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith that Bichette still needs a bit more seasoning in his first stint at the Triple-A level. “We’d really like to see some time in triple-A and have him get his legs under him and have a good strong foundation before we have that discussion [about a promotion],” Atkins said. For comparison’s sake, Nicholson-Smith notes that Biggio had 174 PA and Guerrero 162 PA for Triple-A Buffalo before getting the call to the Show.