The Art Of The Deal: Dissecting Trader Jim
[October 30th] -- From October 16th 1992, when he became the youngest general manager in baseball, to July 26th 2003, when he was fired by the Reds, Jim Bowden made 101 trades in 10 seasons, an average of 10 a year. While the baseball world knows him as "Trader Jim," no one has ever broken down those 101 trades to see if the "boy GM" helped or hurt The Reds.
Let's do that now. Many of the trades sent minor leaguers to another club in return for minor leagers, none of which made an impact with either club. The vast majority of his trades were of this type. We'll look at the "name" trades that Bowden made.
1] 11-3-92 -- Paul O'Neill and Joe DeBerry sent to the Reds for Roberto Kelly. Roberto Kelly had just come off a .272-10-66 season for the Yankees, and Paul O'Neill had hit 95 homers over four seasons with the Reds. O'Neill went on to be an integral part of the Yankees' championship run, and Roberto Kelly bounced around the major leagues until retiring in 2000.
2] 11-17-92 -- Norm Charlton sent to the Mariners for Kevin Mitchell. Charlton had saved 26 games with the Reds in 1992, and Mitchell had an off-year with the Mariners after coming to Seattle from the Giants the previous season. Charlton was a very "iffy" reliever for the Mariners during the mid 1990's while Mitchell batted .341 and .326 with a combined 49 homers in his two years with Cincinnati.
3] 11-2-93 -- Bobby Ayala & Dan Wilson sent to the Mariners for Bret Boone and Erik Hanson. Wilson became the starting catcher for the Mariners for more than a decade and Ayala was one of the few credible relief pitchers that the Mariners had in the 1990's. Hanson played one uninspired year with the Reds and Boone showed traces of brilliance but was traded to the Braves before fully blossoming.
4] 5-11-95 -- C.J. Nitkowski, David Tutle & Mark Lewis traded to the Tigers for David Wells. Nitkowski is still bouncing around the league ... Mark Lewis had a few "low-level" productive years in the major leagues. David Wells won six games for the Reds before being traded again
5] 12-26-95 --David Wells traded to the Orioles for Curtis Goodwin and Trovin Valdez. Wells went on to become one of baseball's best pitchers and Goodwin became a seldom used backup outfielder. Valdez never made it to the major leagues.
6] 5-27-97 -- Chuck McElroy traded to the Angels for Lee Smith. McElroy never did much in the major leagues, either before or after the trade. Smith was at the end of his career, and didn't help the Reds at all. He retired two years later.
7] 3-30-98 -- Dave Burba traded to the Indians for Sean Casey. Casey has been the starting first baseman for the Reds since the trade, and Burba won 56 games over the next four seasons with the Indians and the Rangers.
8] 7-4-98 -- Jeff Shaw traded to the Dodgers for Paul Konerko and Dennys Reyes. Shaw was an average middle reliever for the Dodgers until his retirement in 2001 ... Reyes is still in the league today as a borderline reliever. Korerko was traded before making an impact in the league.
9] 11-10-98 -- Bret Boone and Mike Remlinger traded to the Braves for Denny Neagle, Rob Bell and Michael Tucker. Neagle has not had a quality season since the trade .. Rob Bell has a career ERA near 6.00. Tucker did a good job for the reds as a platoon right fielder. Remlinger has been a "stud" reliever for several teams since the trade, and Bret Boone became one of the best 2nd baseman in the league.
10] 11-11-98 -- Paul Konerko traded to the White Sox for Mike Cameron. Cameron has had some decent years in the major leagues, but his bat has never quite caught up to his outstanding glove. Kornerko is today one of the best slugging first baseman in all of baseball.
11] 2-2-99 -- Reggie Sanders, Damian Jackson and Josh Harris traded to the Padres for Greg Vaughn and Mark Sweeney. Vaughn hit 45 homers for the Reds before signing with the Devil Rays ... Mark Sweeney has been a utility player during his career. Reggie Sanders has battled injuries during his career but is still producing in the major leagues. Jackson just signed with the Nationals & Josh Harris never made it to the major leagues
12] 2-10-2000 -- Brett Tomko, Mike Cameron, Antonia Perez and Jake Meyer to the Mariners for Ken Griffey Jr. The "mother" of all trades -- Griffey has never been healthy during his five years with the Reds. Tomko continues to pitch in the major leagues, but barely. Cameron did well with the Mariners before signing a free-agent contract with the Mets. Perez and Meyer have yet to make an impact in the "bigs."
13] 3-21-2001 -- Drew Henson and Michael Coleman traded to the Yankees for Wily Mo Pena. Henson is now with the Dallas Cowboys, and Coleman had a "cup of coffee" or two with the Red Sox. Pena has had several productive years with the Reds
So, out of 101 trades, there was only thirteen that had any real impact on either the Reds or the team Bowden traded with. The great majority of his trades were of the "Cary Ammons for Donnie Sadler" variety. Looking back over his 10+ seasons as the Reds' general manager, it becomes apparent that he really didn't have much of an impact. None of the transactions won the team a pennant they otherwise wouldn't have won, and none of the transactions buried the Reds for a few seasons until they could recover.
I guess it goes back to the old saying, that "it's the quality and not the quantity that counts."