Friday, July 31, 2015

First Reigning Cy Young Award Winner Traded At The Deadline July 31, 1989

On This Day in Baseball History July 31, 1989: Minnesota Twins ace and reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Frank Viola was traded to the New York Mets for Rick Aguilera, Tim Drummond, Kevin Tapani, David West and Jack Savage.

While the trading of ace pitchers during the in-season trading period isn't rare, this transaction between the Twins and Mets marked the first time that a reigning Cy Young Winner was traded the following season after winning the award. Since the 1989 trading deadline deal that sent Viola to the Mets, only two reigning Cy Young Award winners have been traded the following season after winning the award.

In 2007, C.C. Sabathia was the American League Cy Young Award winner with the Cleveland Indians. He would be traded to the Milwaukee Brewers during the 2008 season for Rob Bryson , Zach Jackson, Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley where he would go 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA down the stretch helping to catapult the Brewers into the postseason.

In 2008, as with C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee was the American League Cy Young Award winner with the Cleveland Indians and he would be traded by the deadline with Ben Francisco during the 2009 season to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson. Lee would go 7-4 with a 3.39 ERA as the Phillies would lose to the New York Yankees in their bid to repeat as World Series Champions.

As for Frank Viola? His trade to his hometown team didn't prove to be as successful as he would have wanted. Viola went 5-5 with a 3.38 ERA down the stretch for the Mets in 1989. He would finish third in the 1990 NL Cy Young race by posting a 20-12 record with a 2.67 ERA. Though Viola was an All-Star for the Mets the following season, Viola would finish with a disappointing 13-15 record. Viola would become a free agent at the end of the season and sign with the Boston Red Sox for the 1992 season.

The Twins on the other hand would fare better in the deal. Both Rick Aguilera and Kevin Tapani were pivotal players in the Twins' march to becoming World Series Champions in 1991. Aguilera would save 42 games for Tom Kelly's Twins while Tapani would go 16-9 with a 2.99 ERA.

With the trading deadline looming, I don't think we'll see reigning Cy Young Award winners Corey Kluber or Clayton Kershaw being moved from their respective teams. But as we've seen in recent days, big name pitchers like Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels and David Price can be moved for the right price. Any guesses on who else gets traded by the deadline?

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco

For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Frank Viola's career statistics from Baseball
- Click Here to access Rick Aguilera's career statistics from Baseball
- Click Here to access Kevin Tapani's career statistics from Baseball
- From Left Field: Only 3 Teams Have Traded A Reigning Cy Young Winner by Jim Mancari from the Mets Merized Online blogpage dated November 15, 2012