On December 28, 1994, the San Diego Padres obtained a few key members of the championship 1998 team.
Twenty-six years ago today, the San Diego Padres acquired Ken Caminiti, Andujar Cedeno, Roberto Petagine, Steve Finley, Brian Williams, and a player to be named later (Sean Fesh) from the Houston Astros, for Derek Bell, Phil Plantier, Ricky Gutierrez, Craig Shipley, Doug Brocail and Pedro A. Martinez.
In what was the largest MLB transaction in terms of total players (12) since 1957, the Padres added two significant contributors to the team for the next three seasons. Caminiti and Finley were easily the two best players involved in the deal when it was all said and done. Bell was a legitimate talent in the outfield and had a few good years for the Astros, but he wasn’t the talent that Finley was.
Derek Bell is widely known for his comments regarding “operation shut-down,” a term he used in Spring Training of 2002 to describe what he would do if he had to compete for a major league roster spot. He adamantly claimed he shouldn’t have to compete for a spot on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ roster. The outfielder left the team after making those comments. The Pirates were forced to release him and pay his $5 million salary. Derek Bell never played professional baseball again, and the “operation” comments became his lasting legacy.
Caminiti and Finley were both veterans that brought a sense of stability to the Padres’ roster. The MLB strike of 1994 was over, and the Padres needed to bring in players that could draw people to the stands. Both Finley and Caminiti provided excellent offense but were also stellar fielders at their position. Caminiti made diving grabs and utilized his rocket arm, while Finley seemingly always robbed someone of a home run or base hit. They both were inspiring players to watch for the fans.
The Padres clearly won the trade, and it remains the largest trade in franchise history. Finley and Caminiti were huge contributors, but Andujar Cedeno also paid enormous dividends for the Friars. He played in 120 games in 1995 and then was dealt to the Tigers in 1996 along with Brad Ausmus for John Flaherty and Chris Gomez. The Padres got their steady everyday shortstop in Gomez, and Cedeno was a significant factor in the Tigers parting with Gomez. Cedeno ended his Padres tenure with a .217 batting average in 169 games.
Also coming to San Diego were Petagine and Williams, who played for the Padres in 1995. Williams went 3-10 with a 6.00 ERA in 40 games (six of them starts). He left via free agency after the year and signed with the Detroit Tigers. Petagine played in 89 games (mostly as a pinch hitter) and recorded a batting line of .234/.367/.391 with three home runs and 17 RBIs. The left-handed-hitting first baseman was dealt to the New York Mets in 1996 with Luis Arroyo for Scott Adair and Pete Walker.
The Astros got some talent, but Caminiti and Finley both took their game to a whole new level after leaving the Astrodome. Caminiti won the 1996 National League MVP and was a two-time MLB All-Star for the Padres and a three-time Gold Glove Award-winner. He had a monster year in 1996 when he hit .326 with 40 homers and 130 RBIs while scoring 109 runs and slugging .621 (a franchise record) for the season. He ended his four-year tenure with the Padres with a batting line of .295/.384/.540 and 121 homers with 396 RBIs. He put up a 3.2, 7.6, 4.0, and 2.7 WAR number in those four years. He was probably the best third baseman in the franchise’s history.
Steve Finley was a two-time Gold-Glove Award-winner and made his very first All-Star game as a Padre. He developed power getting away from the spacious Astrodome and had a great year in 1996. Finley hit .298 that year with the Padres, slamming 30 home runs and 95 RBIs while scoring 126 runs and stealing 22 bases. He finished his career as a Padres player in 1998 after the World Series, just as Ken Caminiti did. Finley ended his four-year stint with the Padres with a .276/.334/.458 batting line, and 82 home runs with 298 RBIs. He signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1999 and developed even more power, hitting 34, 35, and 36 home runs in a season as a Diamondback.
Bell was the primary acquisition for the Astros. The outfielder had a very successful major league career after his selection by the Toronto Blue Jays. The Padres acquired him for Darrin Jackson in March of 1993. Bell hit .262 his first season as a Padres outfielder. He also smashed 21 home runs and drove in 72 runs while stealing 26 bases. The next year, Bell was having a great season, but the strike lowered his total numbers. He had a batting line of .311/.354/.434 with 14 homers and 54 RBI’s in 108 games. His value was high, and that is why the Astros decided to part with Caminiti and Finley.
Bell was still only 26 at the time of the trade and seemingly had a higher upside than the 32-year-old Caminiti or the 30-year-old Finley. In his first season as an Astro, Bell had a slash line of .334/.385/.442 and hit eight home runs with 86 RBIs while stealing 27 bases. He was 14th in National League MVP voting. Both Caminiti (.302, 26-94) and Finley (.297, 10-44) had decent numbers in 1995 as well, but each exploded the next year offensively.
Bell finished his five-year run in Houston with a .284/.341/.430 batting line and 74 home runs. He also stole 102 bases and drove in 444 runs. He was a vital member of the Astros’ “Killer Bees” teams of the late ’90s. He teamed with Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, forming a formidable trio in the middle of the Houston Astros’ lineup.
Plantier was supposed to be a massive part of the Astros deal, but they failed to utilize him daily. His power was zapped in the Astrodome as he only hit four home runs in 69 at-bats for the Astros before he was traded back to the Padres in July of 1995 for Rich Loiselle and Jeff Tabaka. Plantier had a monster year in 1993 for the Padres when he hit 34 home runs and drove in 100 runs. It was amazing the Padres reacquired him, but he never duplicated the numbers he reached in 1993.
Ricky Gutierrez was a decent shortstop. The Padres acquired him from the Baltimore Orioles in September of 1992 for Craig Lefferts. He played in parts of five seasons with the Astros, hitting .266 with seven home runs and 132 RBIs in 469 games. His best year in Houston was in 1998 when he hit .261 with two homers and 46 RBIs with 13 stolen bases in 141 games.
Shipley was an Australian native who was a handy utility man. He played in 92 games for the Astros in 1995, hitting .263 with three home runs and 24 RBIs. He left the team via free agency and rejoined the Padres right before the start of the 1996 season.
Brocail was a relief pitcher who was the Padres’ #1 pick (12th overall) in the 1986 draft. He had two seasons with the Astros after the trade in 1994. He appeared in 59 total games for the Astros before moving along to several other major league teams. He returned to the Astros in 2008 as a 41-year-old pitcher. Brocail had a very successful 15-year career in the major leagues and even a stint as a Padres coach.
Martinez and Fesh were a couple of left-handers that changed teams in the deal. The Padres acquired Fesh, but the lefty never made it past Triple-A. Martinez was a nice left-hander, who had a good year for the Padres in 1994. He went 3-2 with a 2.90 ERA and, at the age of 25, looked to have a bright future. However, he was awful as an Astro and was out of professional baseball a couple of seasons later. The Padres really sold high on Martinez, as he, too, was most likely a very appealing part of the deal for the Astros initially.
This trade 26 years ago was a significant move for the Padres’ franchise. The team needed a new direction, and this trade brought the team two very marketable players. Both Caminiti and Finley were fan favorites, and the Friar Faithful will always remember them.