July 1, 1997
Full Details: Seattle Mariners trade C Jason Varitek, P Derek Lowe to the Boston Red Sox for P Heathcliff Slocumb
In 1997, the Seattle Mariners dealt 23-year-old pitching-prospect Derek Lowe, and 25-year-old catching-prospect Jason Varitek to the Boston Red Sox in return for closer Heathcliff Slocumb.
The move was motivated by a desire to improve a below average bullpen, all in an attempt to fend off the California Angels and Texas Rangers in the West divison.
In 1996, Texas won the West while Seattle fell just short. The Mariners had been sixth worst in baseball for relievers runs per game (5.56), and had saved the third fewest games in the league (34).
Norm Charlton was their closer that season, and he had led the team with just 20 saves, while posting a 4.04 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. Charlton had been a run-of-the-mill drifter for most of his career, and he was 34 at the time.
Also in ’96, the Angels featured Troy Percival at the back end of their bullpen (36 saves), while the Rangers had Mike Henneman (31). Percival was far better than both Henneman and Charlton, and the Mariners figured that bringing in a closer with the good history of Slocumb would be well worth the prospects.
Well, they were wrong. Sort of.
For the remainder of 1997, Slocumb was a reliable option as the Mariners went on to capture the American League West title.
However, they lost 3-1 to the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Division Series. Slocumb was horrendous the rest of his career, lasting just another three seasons, and never saved more than three games in any season.
Ironically enough, Lowe turned into the reliable closer that the Mariners sought in the deal, as he saved 81 games for the Red Sox from 1999-2001.
In 2002, Lowe was converted into a starter. Over the next three years, Lowe went 52-27, with a combined 4.07 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. This includes a 21-win season in 2002. For a sinkerballer during the peak of the steroid era, that’s not too shabby.
And for a time, Jason Varitek was the best catcher in baseball. His blend of offense and game-calling ability made him a force to be reckoned with.
But, most importantly, the trade helped set up the Red Sox World Series championship in 2004, their first in 86 years, as both Lowe and Varitek were key members of the playoff run.