Obviously I'm going to touch upon the two prospects sent to the Mariners. Mainly because they both came in this huge lot of cards sent to me last year by San Jose Fuji. Plus it gives me a good time to dive back into the 1990's world of Yankees prospecting.
One of the two players that were sent to Seattle was Sterling "Octo" Hitchcock.
Hitchcock is largely forgotten nowadays but he was a name in the early 90's. Drafted out of high school, Hitchcock was selected by the Yankees in the ninth round of the 1989 MLB Player Draft. Sterling was a pretty big deal for the Yankees back in the day as he was the seventh best Yankees prospect in 1990 according to Baseball Americam and even made a few top 100 prospects lists. But more than that, he was a fast mover who put up pretty good numbers in the minors (a 9-1 W-L record in rookie ball) and he threw a no hitter in 1990 as part of the Greensboro Hornets. The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers lists Hitchcock's arsenal as including a fastball, a "split finger" fastball, a sinker and a slider. Although there were rumors here and there that he also had a change-up at one point. In an interview with Fine Magazine, Hitchcock himself explained that his fastballs were around 89-91 mph. In the same interview Hitchcock stated that the splitter is what he himself considered his best pitch.
Hitchcock made his MLB debut in 1992 as a late September callup, fresh off of a season where he performed relatively well in double-A. Hitchcock was one of the new up-and-coming youngsters as part of the Yankees' then rebuild, something that the Yankees had difficulty handling. To the point where Hitchcock even voiced his frustrations with Yankees management and their reluctance to really give the young callups a better look/more development time in the big leagues. A sentiment I probably would've agreed with if I was alive/cared about baseball in The Boss era.
Still, after spending 1993 and 1994 up-and-down between triple-A and the big leagues (with a short lived stint as a reliever tossed in to make things extra weird), Hitchcock managed to stay with the big league club in 1995. He was a full time starter and had his moments like when he threw a complete game shutout against the Orioles (the first of his career and the first Yankees shutout of the 1995 season). He also pitched in the game that cliched the Wild Card Game for the Yankees. Overall he put up double digit wins and was worth 2.2 WAR in 1995 and even made two appearances in relief in the 1995 ALDS after the David Cone trade pushed him out of the rotation.
Then Hitchcock was sent to the Mariners in the 1995-96 offseason as part of the Tino Martinez trade described at the start of this post. Hitchcock managed to find his groove in Seattle, or at least managed to be clear of mind from having to compete in a jam packed rotation where one slip up means you're headed back to triple-A.
But Hitchcock was on the move again as he was traded to the San Diego Padres in the 1996-97 offseason for Scott Sanders. Hitchcock's first season in San Diego was fair overall but a bit underwhelming, to the point where he was moved back to the bullpen after the Padres acquired Mark Langston. But 1998 would be a special year for both Hitchcock and the Padres. Hitchcock's regular season was okay but Hitchcock's postseason performance saw him back in the rotation and going up against the likes of Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, beating them en route to a National League Championship and an NLCS MVP award. Hitchcock made one start in the 1998 World Series against the Yankees (and David Cone ironically), in which he lost. The Padres were swept by the Yankees in the series as their dynasty officially took off.
Hitchcock had one more good season in San Diego but around the turn of the century injuries started to take their toll on Hitchcock. In 2000 he underwent Tommy John Surgery and was never quite the same. The Padres eventually traded Hitchcock to the Yankees who used him more as a reliever. Hitchcock had another chance to win a World Series ring with the Yankees in 2001 but unfortunately that wasn't meant to be. Hitchcock was later traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003 (in the trade that brought over future Yankees minor league coach/manager Justin Pope). Hitchcock gave baseball one more shot with the Padres in 2004 but he called it quits not long after.
The other prospect sent to Seattle in the Tino trade was Russ Davis.
Another notable name if you followed the Yankees farmsystem three decades ago, Davis was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 29th round (29th!) of the 1988 MLB Player Draft. Drafted out of high school Davis' development was slow but steady. As best I can gather, Davis always had some scouts and fans in the know high on his offensive potential from draft day, but he really put himself on the prospect map around 1990 when he swatted 16 dingers with a .730 OPS in 137 games in high-A. For a 29th rounder he was starting to generate a bit of buzz as a future power hitting slugger. Baseball America had Russ Davis as the 9th best Yankees prospect in 1991. 1991 was a bit of a step back for Davis who struggled a bit in double-A, but in 1992 he managed to come back strong and hit 22 dingers. His continued growth in triple-A in 1993 made him a desirable asset. 1993-94 was all about Davis-mania, the high point undoubtly being when Kin started to collect him Around this time rival GM's brought up Davis' name in potential trades with the Yankees (most notably for something called an Andy Benes), but the Yankees managed to keep their third base prospect. 1994 was when it was really looking as though Davis would be on the cusp of a big league callup as excitement filled the air in Spring Training. It was technically true as Davis did make his MLB debut in 1994 for a brief four game cameo. By 1995 the Davis hype died down a bit, to the point where the Montreal Expos picked Fernando Seguignol over him in the John Wetteland trade (Seguignol would later go on to have a pretty nice career in Japan BTW and is now the Marlins' Director of International Operations). At the time Davis was blocked at third base by Wade "Chicken Man" Boggs, and first base was Don Mattingly's (whenever he wasn't hurt), but he still managed to get 40 MLB games on his resume in 1995.
Then Davis was sent to Seattle. A move was fairly inevitable as Boggs wasn't going anywhere (again, I probably would've disliked how The Boss ran things). Davis had a chance to be a starting third baseman on a MLB team but a broken leg and ankle injury took away half of his 1996 season. In 1997 he returned strong and hit 20 dingers alongside the likes of Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez but another ankle injury ended his 1997 prematurely.
Although there was a lot to like about his bat, it was becoming a bit easier to see why the Yankees kept him in triple-A for more seasoning. His bat projected to do fine as a big leaguer but his glovework and defense at the hot corner left a bit to be desired. Russ did his best to improve his defense, but it still led to hecklers bringing it up and getting on his nerves. It certainly didn't help when the Mariners tried him out in the outfield. Still, Davis was a serviceable 3B/1B/DH type (I think Seattle has a fetish for those types TBH) good for another 41 dingers in 1998 and 1999 combined. He even hit the first dinger at Safeco field in 1999.
In 2000 the free agent Davis signed with the San Francisco Giants where he did his best but he still put up relatively down year. Davis and the Giants gave it one last shot in 2001 but halfway through he was released and Davis hung up the spikes for good after that.
As for the Yankees, well, you should all be pretty familiar with what happened to three that came to the Bronx (or at least two of them).
Tino Martinez went on to be the Yankees' 1B for the bulk of the dynasty until the team
Jeff Nelson went on to be a good reliever for the Yankees and proved to be a key cog in a bullpen that already had an unfair advantage with names like Wetteland and Mariano Rivera thrown in. He's still considered enough of a fan favorite to have Yankees cards here and there :P.
Jim Mecir didn't do a whole lot. By 1997 he found himself on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and retired in 2005. But he was mentioned a lot in Moneyball (the book).
Looking back on this trade, it's pretty clear that the Yankees won it. That said the Mariners got some decent production out of Davis and Hitchcock for the time they were there too. Rumor has it that the prospects SEA wanted back were going to either come down to Hitchcock or Andy Pettitte, had Seattle taken the latter I think we'd be looking at a different outcome altogether. Still, Hitchcock managed to carve out a decent career for himself and managed to make himself a part of an important part of Padres history. Davis still has his fair share of fans from his time as a Mariners masher.
The 90's era of prospecting interests me because what appears to be the underlying truth is that everyone was horrible at it. I mean it's not like things are more "guaranteed" now, but I think it's fair to say the Yankees are better at it now than they were, say, before 2012 :P. Actually I think it's a fact that most teams are better at scouting and developing now than they've ever been before. Teams have access to so much more technology, information and data of both the quantitative and qualitative variety that it's not out of the realm of possibility for a nothing to turn into a something. In a way it's amazing that the Yankees managed to get the Core Five (with a few supporting guys here and there) with the system at all. But of course the damn Yankees get everything they want, don't they ;). Except Luis Torrens *cries*.
So big thanks to The Lost Collector for inspiring a pretty fun post, and big thanks to San Jose Fuji for sending the awesome cards. I'm sure that there'll be future installments of these 90's prospect reviews as time goes on. Lots of great cards are scanned and ready thanks to Fuji.
As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).