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The catcher position is frequently the weakest hitting position on the field, next to the pitcher. But for the Los Angeles Dodgers during the mid-1990s, catcher Mike Piazza was their star hitter.
A 62nd-round pick in 1988, Piazza was fantastic for the Dodgers from the get go. From his rookie year in 1993 through the 1997 season, Piazza hit at least .318 every year and averaged 33 home runs and 105 RBI during that span.
However, toward the beginning of the 1998 season, Piazza reportedly asked for a contract extension worth the upwards of $100 million. The Dodgers offered Piazza a seven-year, $84 million contract, which he rejected.
Still 29 years old and very much in his prime, Piazza was traded on May 15th, 1998. The Dodgers sent Piazza and third baseman Todd Zeile to the Florida Marlins for Manuel Barrios, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich, Charles Johnson and star outfielder Gary Sheffield.
While Sheffield was a great hitter, he was not quite as productive nor consistent as Piazza. Perhaps most importantly, Sheffield was not a catcher, so the Dodgers had to play guys like Charles Johnson, Todd Hundley, Chad Kreuter, Paul Loduca and Angel Pena behind the plate over the next several years, none of whom were comparable to Piazza.
Making matters even more frustrating for Dodger fans, Los Angeles signed 34-year-old pitcher Kevin Brown to a seven-year deal after the season worth $105 million.