I already mentioned the 2002 season and this is another one of those moments for me. The Montreal Expos were being considered for contraction in 2002. Teams were making lists of which Expos players and prospects they would take in a draft at the end of the season.
But a funny thing happened on the way. The Expos were contending. On June 27, they were 41-36 and 6.5 games behind the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves and five games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks who were holding on to the Wild Card. General Manager Omar Minaya needed something to boost the team’s chances and traded for the most prized pitcher on the market – Bartolo Colon.
The trade has become infamous. Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore went the other way and is mentioned among the most lopsided trades in baseball history. However, Minaya has said that they thought the team was going to fold. What good would those prospects do in a dispersal draft?
The Expos weren’t done yet. On July 11, they acquired Cliff Floyd, Wilton Guerrero, Claudio Vargas and cash from the Florida Marlins for a player to be named later (Donald Levinski), Graeme Lloyd, Mike Mordecai, Carl Pavano and Justin Wayne. At this point, the Expos were still six games out of the Wild Card at this point. But the trade was pretty much a disappointment although Vargas was a surprising success after the trade.
Floyd went only 11/57 for the Expos, for a line of .208/.263/.415. The Expos fell way behind in the playoff race and cut their losses. They then flipped Floyd to the Boston Red Sox for pitchers Seung Song and Sun-Woo Kim.
But what I remember from these trades is that people were talking about Montreal again. I remember I was in Plattsburgh, NY shortly after the Floyd trade and Minaya was talking to ESPN on Pardon the Interruption. There was a buzz around the team – something that was only a preview of what was to come just the next year.
I mentioned that I was at the game where Colon beat the Expos less than a week before the trade. No one would have thought he would be playing for the Expos. The trade didn’t work out – the Expos obviously didn’t make the playoffs that year – but Colon was pretty good for the Expos. He was 10-4 (matching his mark in Cleveland and finishing 20-8 on the year) with a 3.31 ERA.
Perhaps the worst part of the Colon trade was what the Expos received once they flipped him to the Chicago White Sox in the off-season. They traded him and a prospect for Orlando Hernandez, Jeff Liefer and Rocky Biddle. Liefer never got it going with the Expos, Biddle became a decent closer and relief pitcher and Hernandez, who would join his brother Livan, never threw one pitch for the Expos due to injuries.