Red Sox: What if Heathcliff Slocumb never got traded?
What if the Boston Red Sox never traded Heathcliff Slocumb to the Seattle Mariners for Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe in 1997?
Heathcliff Slocumb made his major league debut in 1991 and had only recorded two saves before the 1995 season. In 1995, Slocumb converted 32 saves out of 38 opportunities. He spent time in Chicago, Cleveland and Philadelphia before getting traded to the Boston Red Sox before the 1996 season began.
In 1996, Slocumb posted a 5-5 record with a 3.02 ERA and recorded 31 saves in 39 chances. He also recorded 88 strikeouts in 83 1/3rd innings. He also walked 55 batters. While those numbers won’t strike anyone as a lock down closer, the Mariners were willing to trade for him the following season.
In 1997, Slocumb converted 17 of 22 save chances and had a 0-5 record with a 5.79 ERA. He also walked 34 batters, struck out 36, and had allowed 30 earned runs in 46 2/3rd’s innings. Who in their right mind would jump at this guy thinking he’s the answer?
The Mariners needed a closer. Norm Charlton wasn’t getting the job done anymore and they needed a quick fix. He only converted 14 of 25 save opportunities. His last game coincidentally as the closer was against the Red Sox on July 30th when he allowed 3 runs, 2 earned on 3 hits in 1 1/3rd innings and walked 3.
The Trade: Slocumb for Lowe & Varitek
Slocumb would end up being a suitable solution for their ninth inning issues, converting 10 out of 11 save chances for Seattle. He also posted an 0-4 record with a 4.13 ERA. Wasn’t great but, he did his job and was able to get the Mariners into the postseason.
For Slocumb, the Sox received a then struggling Derek Lowe, who had a 6.96 ERA, and minor league catcher Jason Varitek.
Varitek displayed signs of power and looked like he could be good but he was already 25 years old. The Mariners thought that it was possible that he’d peaked and that his best years were now behind him.
We cannot forget that in 1996, just one year and one day prior, the Sox sent Jamie Moyer to Seattle for Darren Bragg. Everyone remembers how that turned out. No way could the Red Sox get nailed twice for making bad trades at the deadline right? Something had to give. The Mariners thought that they could go 2-for-2 in trades against the boys from Beantown. Let’s just say it wasn’t the same as the ’96 move. For multiple reasons. We’re going to take a deep look at why this trade was a huge mistake for one of these teams in 1997.