Swapping Stories: The Carl Everett Trade of 2003

July 1, 2003: Texas trades outfielder Carl Everett and cash to the White Sox for two or three players to be named later; Texas selects righthanders Frankie Francisco and Josh Rupe and outfielder Anthony Webster on July 24, 2003.

General managers in baseball and every other sport are usually judged by how their trades work out. Like a starting pitcher’s win-loss record, a GM’s trade ledger is generally a reasonably objective measure for his success. But like a pitcher’s wins and losses, it’s not always fair to use trade results to define a GM’s success.

First, there’s far more to the job.

Second, there’s a lot more to making a trade than two GM’s drawing it up and shaking hands.

The first half of the Rangers’ 2003 season was ugly. The club had its worst June in franchise history, losing 20 times and falling back in the division at one point by 22 games. It was Buck Showalter’s first season as Rangers manager, and very little was going right. General Manager John Hart pinpointed a handful of marketable veterans on his roster, and resolved to get a head start on the trading market.

Hart made four trades that July, getting younger in three of them. The first of those deals was made on July 1, with Texas sitting at 32-49. The White Sox were 40-42 but winners of seven out of ten, and on that Tuesday the club made trades for Mets second baseman Roberto Alomar and for Everett, shipping three prospects to New York and three more – or maybe just two – to Texas.

Trading Everett made obvious sense for the Rangers. He had rebounded after two poor seasons to get off to a terrific start, piling up 18 home runs and 51 RBI in the first half, and was on an expiring contract that was paying him $1.5 million every month. Texas was also ready to take a look at Laynce Nix in center field.

The easy part was deciding to capitalize on Everett’s productivity. Deciding on who to accept in return was the challenge.

The White Sox and Rangers agreed on a list of eight prospects from which Texas could choose two or three to complete the deal, and as consideration for allowing them to add Everett right away, the White Sox permitted Texas to scout the eight players for a few weeks before having to decide which to take.

At the time, current Rangers bullpen coach Dom Chiti was a Special Assistant to Hart. The two had been together, first with Baltimore, then with Cleveland, and then with Texas, since 1982. Chiti, along with Senior Advisor Tom Giordano and Special Assignment Scout Rudy Terrasas, spent three weeks watching International League, Southern League, Carolina League, and South Atlantic League games to build on the reports that the organization already had on AAA righthander Felix Diaz, AA lefthander Corwin Malone and righthander Enemencio Pacheco, High A righthanders Frankie Francisco and Wyatt Allen and second baseman Ruddy Yan, and Low A righthander Josh Rupe and outfielder Anthony Webster.

Reportedly, the conditions of the trade dictated that the Rangers could take only two players if they wanted one in particular. That player was evidently Malone, certainly the highest-profile prospect in the group. Whether it was the opportunity to take three players if they passed on Malone, or the elbow and shoulder problems that the 22-year-old had encountered in the previous 11 months, the Rangers went in a different direction, not necessarily making the obvious choices but, in retrospect, probably making the shrewdest decisions possible.

On July 24, after three weeks of intense scouting (as Everett was hitting a punchless .237/.328/.339 for the White Sox), Texas announced that it had pinpointed Francisco, Rupe, and Webster to complete the deal.

Chicago had acquired Francisco from Boston less than a year earlier, in a trade for veteran reliever Bobby Howry. He was in his seventh pro season, and yet at age 23 was pitching in Class A in the month that Chiti, Giordano, and Terrasas were on their mission. Francisco picked a very good time to show his stuff. A starter at the time, he pitched in three games for High A Winston-Salem after the pool of eight players was defined, twice allowing one hit in seven innings.

Rupe was in his first full pro season, pitching 19 times in relief for Low A Kannapolis before getting his first start of the year on June 15. In that start, Rupe gave up 10 runs in 2.1 innings of work. Why point that out? Because if you toss that effort out, Rupe’s 5-5, 3.02 record for the Intimidators would have been 5-4, 1.71. Even including that spanking, Rupe held the South Atlantic League to a .212 batting average and, in 65.2 innings, was never taken deep.

The media advertised Webster as the key to the deal. Ranked as Chicago’s number three prospect going into the season even though he had yet to play for a full-season farm club, the former blue-chip tailback prospect was hitting .299 for Kannapolis when the front end of the Everett trade was announced, slumping a bit to .289 by time the trade was completed. He was second in the league with 68 runs scored (in 94 games), and had stolen 20 bases. Texas had a remarkably thin collection of outfielders on the farm at the time – the franchise’s highest hopes were for Ramon Nivar, a converted second baseman – and Webster was being counted on to step to the top of the Rangers’ minor league outfielder class.

Converted back to the bullpen, Francisco rocketed to Texas within a year and was a huge part of the stalwart bullpen that led the 2004 club to 89 wins. Rupe was brilliant when healthy in 2003 and 2004, reaching Texas three weeks after turning 23 in 2005. Webster, as it turns out, has been on the slowest track of the three, spending his first three Rangers seasons in Class A before splitting 2006 in AA Frisco and AAA Oklahoma, and returning to Frisco for the 2007 season.

At this point, it’s more likely that Francisco ends up closing games for Texas and that Rupe pitches every fifth day for the club than it is that Webster becomes the next Marquis Grissom or Milton Bradley, as he was once supposed to do. But whether Texas ends up getting two big leaguers out of the Carl Everett deal or three, Dom Chiti and Tom Giordano and Rudy Terrasas certainly made John Hart look good on this deal, especially considering what has become of the five White Sox prospects that the Rangers chose not to take.

Jamey Newberg is a contributor to MLB.com. A Dallas lawyer, he has been an insane Texas Rangers fan since the days of scheduled doubleheaders, Bat Nights when they actually handed out a piece of lumber instead of a grocery store voucher, and Jim Umbarger. He has covered the Texas Rangers, from the big club down through the entire farm system, since 1998 on his website, NewbergReport.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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