Looking back at the Bartolo Colon trade

On June 27, 2002, the Cleveland Indians traded their ace Bartolo Colon to the Montreal Expos. The team was in a rebuilding phase and wanted to look towards the future of the organization. 

Colon was 10-4 with a 2.55 ERA at the time of the deal and Montreal was in the hunt for a playoff spot and looking for that missing piece. 

He went 10-4 with a 3.31 ERA with the Expos after the trade, marking him a 20 game winner for the first of two times in his career. However, Montreal finished 83-79 on the season and didn’t make the playoffs. 

Colon is still remarkably pitching in the major leagues at the age of 44. He’s currently on the disabled list for Atlanta and this season he’s 2-7 with a 7.78 ERA.

The Expos also got pitcher Tim Drew in the deal from Cleveland. He was very mediocre for them going 1-2 with a 6.20 ERA in 13 games pitched.

On the Indians side of the deal, they landed first baseman/outfielder Lee Stevens and three prospects. Stevens appeared in 53 games for Cleveland in what turned out to be his final season in the major leagues. He hit .222 with five home runs and 26 runs batted in. 

Good thing that wasn’t the only thing Cleveland got in the deal.

The three prospects in the deal were

  • Pitcher Cliff Lee
  • Outfielder Grady Sizemore
  • Second baseman Brandon Phillips

Two of the three were core pieces for the Indians during the mid to late 2000s while the other had to unfortunately leave Cleveland to find success in the majors.

Brandon Phillips spent four seasons with the Indians organization, only one of which was over 100 games with the major league team. He hit .206 in 135 games played between 2002 to 2005. Traded to Cincinnati before the 2006 season, Phillips began to show his true potential as a major league player. 

In 11 seasons as a member of the Reds, Phillips hit .279 with 191 home runs and 851 runs batted in. He was a three time All-Star, four time Golden Glove and a Silver Slugger award winner. This past offseason, he was traded to Atlanta which paired him up with Colon. 

Cliff Lee made his big league debut with the Indians in 2002. He won 14 games in 2004 and 18 in 2005 and it looked like the Indians had a pair of arms with Lee and C.C. Sabathia for the future. Lee tapered off in 2006 and it got so bad in 2007 that he wasn’t even on the playoff roster when the Indians got within one game of the Workd Series.

2008 was a comeback year for Lee though. He went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA. He was an All-Star and won the Cy Young award for the American League. In his final year with the Indians in 2009, he went 7-9 with a 3.14 ERA before being traded to Philadelphia. His career record with the Indians was 83-48 with a 4.01 ERA.

He had continued success during the remainder of his career with Philadelphia, Seattle, Texas and once again in Philadelphia before injuries ended his career. He was elected to three more All-Star game appearances and a career record of 143-91 with a 3.52 ERA. 

Trading Lee however helped the Indians acquire another pitcher to help build the foundation for the future in Carlos Carrasco although injuries continue to hamper his and the Tribe’s potential.

Grady Sizemore didn’t make his debut with the Indians until 2004 but it didn’t take long to show how much talent he had. 

From 2005-2008, Sizemore was one of the best players in all of baseball. He hit .281, collected 619 hits, 153 doubles, 107 home runs, 325 runs batted in and 115 stolen bases. He also collected three All-Star appearances, two Golden Gloves and a Silver Slugger award. This was all before he hit 27 years old and he was a mega superstar in the making. 

2009 was another season where he produced with 18 home runs and 64 runs batted in but only played in 106 games while dealing with groin and elbow injuries. The 2010 season limited him to just 33 games before undergoing micro fracture surgery in his knee. He returned in 2011 and played in 71 games and hit ten home runs but just couldn’t stay healthy. He never played for the Indians again following the 2011 season.

He attempted a comeback in 2014 with the Boston Red Sox. He also spent time with Philadelphia and Tampa Bay before retiring after the 2015 season. He’s currently an advisor in the Indians developmental program. 

This trade is one of if not the biggest trade in franchise history. You can look at deals like the CC Sabathia/Michael Brantley and the Joe Carter/Sandy Alomar & Carlos Baerga deals and those were big trades to help the club but this deal helped the Indians during the mid 2000s but with trading Lee for Carrasco and how well Carlos has performed so far, it shows that this trade fifteen years later still has a great effect on this organization to this date. 


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