November 17, 1933: The Reds trade Red Lucas, one of the best pitchers and pinch hitters in Reds history, along with reserve outfielder Wally Roettger, to the Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Adam Comorosky and infielder Tony Piet.
Lucas was a Reds Hall of Famer who’s probably not as well known today because he played on some truly rotten Reds baseball teams. He was probably the “Mario Soto” of his day, being one of the best pitchers in the league on one of baseball’s worst teams. However, there were two huge differences in Soto’s and Lucas’s perfomrances. Soto was a strikeout pitcher who struck out as a many as 274 in a season (258 innings). Lucas “pitched to contact,” never striking out more than 72 in a season (270 innings). Soto walked 3.4 batters/nine innings for his career, Lucas walked 1.6/nine innings. Another difference was that Lucas was an exceptional hitter with a lifetime batting average of .281 (85 OPS+) with 190 rbi in 16 seasons. Soto’s career batting average was .132 (-12 OPS+) with 24 rbi in 12 seasons.
Lucas’s win-loss percentage regularly exceeded his team’s performance. As a Red, Lucas was 109-99, a .524 won-loss percentage from 1926-33. The Reds during these eight years posted a .441 winning percentage. Lucas’s best season was 1929 when he went 19-12 with a 3.60 ERA (127 ERA+) and led the league with 28 complete games and a 1.204 WHIP. He finished sixth in MVP voting, finishing second amongst pitchers (there was no Cy Young Award at the time), as he was second in games won and fifth in ERA. For his career, Lucas was 157-135 with a 3.72 ERA (107 ERA+). As a hitter, Lucas batted .300 for the Reds with a .735 OPS (97 OPS+). As a pinch hitter, Lucas was 114 for 437, a .261 batting average.
Lucas didn’t walk away quietly from the Reds. He played five seasons for the Pirates, going 47-32 with a 3.77 ERA. Against the Reds, he was a whopping 14-0 during those five seasons and 33-32 against the rest of the league. As for the other principals in the deal, Roettger played 47 games with the Pirates and was done. Comorosky played two seasons for the Reds, one as a starter, batting .256 with two homers (71 OPS+). Piet became the Reds starting third baseman for 1934 and hit .259 with one homer (75 OPS+) before being sold to the Chicago White Sox.
Charlton was part of the Reds 1990 “Nasty Boys” bullpen and had become a co-closer with Rob Dibble in 1992. Charlton was selected to the 1992 all-star team and finished the season 4-2 with a 2.99 ERA and 26 saves. Coupled with Dibble’s 3-5, 3.07 ERA and 25 saves, the Reds had quite a combination out of the bullpen. With both relievers expected to make about $2.5 million in salary for 1993, the Reds decided to stick with Dibble and deal the lefty Charlton to the Mariners for one of baseball’s most feared sluggers at the time, Kevin Mitchell.
Mitchell had won the 1989 NL MVP Award when he hit .291 with a major league leading 47 homers and 125 rbi. He followed up that season by batting .290 with 35 home runs in 1990 at age 28. However, he only played more than 100 games in a season once more in his career. He played 113 games in 1991 for the Giants, batting .256 with 27 homers before being dealt to the Mariners, where he hit .286 with nine homers in 99 games. He was then dealt to the Reds for Charlton.
Mitchell then went on a two-year tear for the Reds, turning in two powerful hitting seasons for the Cincinnati squads. In 1993, Mitchell batted .341 with 19 homers with a .986 OPS (159 OPS+) in 93 games before getting hurt. He was even better in 1994, batting .326 with 30 homers and a 1.110 OPS (185 OPS+) in 95 games in the strike shortened season before filing for free agency. In those two seasons with the Reds, Mitchell batted .333 with 49 home runs and a 1.048 OPS (172 OPS+). In 1994, Mitchell set the Reds single season club record in slugging percentage (.681), OPS (1.110) and in at bats per home run (10.3). He had the third highest OPS+ rating in Reds history (185), behind Joe Morgan’s 1976 (186) and record holder John Reilly’s 1884 (190).
Mitchell signed to play in Japan for what is said to have been the highest paying contract in Japanese history. He hurt his knee, but there were questions about the severity of the injury and Mitchell left the team for two months to come back to the United States for treatment. He returned to the US to play 1996-98, but a series of injuries and off-field troubles caused him to play for four teams over that time with mixed success. He returned to the Reds at the end of 1996 and hit well again for the Reds, batting .325 with six homers in 37 games (1.026 OPS), but didn’t show up for a series against the Pittsburgh Pirates when he had a viral throat infection and the Reds suspended him. Filing for free agency at the end of the season, Mitchell batted .153 in 20 games for the Cleveland Indians in 1997 and .228 for the Oakland A’s in 1998 before retiring. For his career, Mitchell batted .284 with 234 home runs (142 OPS+).
As for Charlton, he hurt his arm his first year in Seattle and underwent Tommy John surgery. Charlton missed all of 1994, but came back to pitch seven more seasons with six different teams (including two games for the Reds) with mixed results. For his career, Charlton was 51-54 with a 3.71 ERA (112 ERA+) and 97 saves. With the Reds, Charlton was 31-24 with a 3.14 ERA (121 ERA+) and 29 saves.
Unfortunately for the Reds, 1992 was also Dibble’s last effective season as arm injuries limited him to a 1-4 season with a 6.48 ERA in 1993, Dibble’s last year pitching for the Reds. Jeff Brantley became the Reds closer in 1994. However, it turns out the Reds may have had one other minor league closer option. See below….
Benavides had been a reserve middle infielder for the Reds (.246, one homer in 98 games) who played two more major league seasons after being drafted from the Reds. In four major league seasons, Benavides hit .253 with four homers.
Sanford had been a 32nd round amateur draft pick for the Reds who had dominated the low minors, going 50-26 in his first five minor league seasons with strikeout rates in excess of 10/nine innings. In his first major league game, Sanford pitched seven innings of two hit baseball, allowing one unearned run, walking one and striking out eight as the Reds defeated the San Diego Padres, 1-0. It was his only Reds win as a lack of control hindered further progress and the Reds left him unprotected for the expansion draft. After going 1-2 for the Reds in 1991, Sanford pitched 22 more major league games and finished his career 2-4 with a 4.81 ERA.
Hoffman was probably the least known Red taken in the expansion draft and became an almost certain future Hall of Famer. Drafted as a weak hitting shortstop in 1989, Hoffman switched to pitching in 1991 and had had only mixed success at the AAA level (4-6, 4.27 ERA, 32 walks, 63 K’s in 65 innings) when the Marlins selected him in the expansion draft. Making the Marlins squad out of spring training, Hoffman pitched in 28 games (2-2, 3.28 ERA) before being traded to the San Diego Padres in a trade for Gary Sheffield.
The Padres struck gold as Hoffman became baseball’s all-time saves leader with 601 through the 2010 season. In 18 major league years, Hoffman is 61-75 with a 2.87 ERA (141 ERA+), 601 saves, and has struck out 1133 batters in 1089 innings, allowing only seven hits per nine innings for his career. He has finished in the top six in Cy Young Award voting four different times, placing second twice.