Swapping Stories: The Scott Podsednik Trade of 1995

August 8, 1995: Texas trades two players to be named later to Florida for righthander Bobby Witt; August 11, 1995: Texas sends righthander Wilson Heredia to Florida; October 8, 1995: Texas sends outfielder Scott Podsednik to Florida to complete the trade.

You could put together a pretty solid lineup of players who had multiple stints with the Texas Rangers. Jim Sundberg behind the plate. An infield of Rafael Palmeiro, Steve Buechele, Toby Harrah, and Buddy Bell. Juan Gonzalez, Ruben Sierra, and Oddibe McDowell in the outfield. A rotation of Fergie Jenkins, Gaylord Perry, Kenny Rogers, Jim Bibby, and Rick Helling, backed by a bullpen featuring Tom Henke and Jeff Russell.

Lots of teams can probably boast a similar collection of encore performers. But there probably haven’t been too many that have a made a three-player trade in which each player made multiple swims through the organization, as the Rangers did when they re-acquired Marlins righthander Bobby Witt late in the 1995 season for two players to be named later, righthander Wilson Heredia and outfielder Scott Podsednik.

The fact that Podsednik was twice property of the Rangers is not nearly the only bullet point that marks his unique career.

Podsednik was the Rangers’ third-round draft pick in 1994, the only player ever drafted out of the small Czech community of West, Texas. The organization envisioned the 18-year-old as a catalyst at the leadoff spot and weapon on the basepaths, but in his first two seasons, despite his speed, he put very little pressure on opposing defenses. In two short-season leagues, Podsednik hit .248 with only 12 extra-base hits in 463 at-bats.

The Rangers were in second place in the division on August 8, 1995, when Doug Melvin decided he couldn’t continue with the revolving door at the number five spot in the rotation, with Scott Taylor (1-2, 9.39 in three starts) the latest to get a look. Melvin called Florida, who was nearly 20 games out and running the 31-year-old Witt out every fifth day. The former Ranger had been effective, going 2-7, 3.90 in 19 Marlins starts, but he was going to be a free agent after the season. Florida GM Dave Dombrowski agreed to trade Witt to Texas for two players to be named later.

Heredia, who had pitched six times for Texas in relief that season (0-1, 3.75), cleared revocable waivers and was sent to the Marlins three days later. (He would return to Texas on a waiver claim after the 1996 season.) As for the second player to be named, Dombrowski took a little more time to decide. On October 8, 1995, he chose Podsednik.

Two mediocre years in the Marlins system followed for Podsednik, and in the winter following the 1997 season, his first in which he was eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, the Marlins not only left him off the club’s 40-man roster, but chose not to protect him on the 38-man AAA roster either, which meant he could be drafted in the minor league phase of the draft. Melvin took that low-risk opportunity to bring Podsednik back.

Assigned to High A Charlotte in 1998, Podsednik had his best offensive season yet (.285/.369/.391), prompting a promotion to AA Tulsa late in the year. He was back with the Drillers in 1999 and 2000, struggling to stay healthy (groin, leg, and wrist injuries) and failing to produce much, but he did get an emergency call-up to Texas in early June 2000 when Ruben Mateo sustained his brutal leg injury.

But Podsednik proved to be merely a placeholder, active for just two days without getting into a game before Ryan Glynn was called up to start in Darren Oliver’s spot. Podsednik returned to Tulsa, and a few weeks later was designated for assignment, run through waivers, and outrighted to the Drillers roster.

Podsednik had six-year minor league free agency rights after the 2000 season and signed with Seattle, where he was assigned to AAA for the first time, and he was having a good enough year that the Mariners called him up for a three-week stint in July – though he got only six at-bats. Outrighted again after the season, he had the right to find a new team but chose to stay with Seattle, proceeding to have his best season in 2002 and earning a 20 at-bat big league look in September.

Seattle tried to slide him through waivers once more that winter, but Melvin – who had been named GM of the Brewers three weeks earlier – put in a $20,000 waiver claim on the 26-year-old. It turned out to be one of the finest moves of Melvin’s career. Podsednik, a veteran of 26 big league at-bats, played everyday for Milwaukee in 2003 and hit .314/.379/.443 with 43 steals – all statistical levels that he’d never managed as a minor leaguer – and finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting to Marlins lefthander Dontrelle Willis.

Podsednik’s numbers slipped a bit in 2004 but he did steal a Major League-leading 70 bases that year. After the season, the Brewers traded him to the White Sox, along with (onetime Ranger) Luis Vizcaino, for (future Ranger) Carlos Lee. Podsednik’s career took another step forward.

In Chicago’s storybook 2005 season, Podsednik hit .290/.351/.349, stole 59 bases, and finished 12th in the AL MVP race. But his biggest contributions were reserved for the post-season. He homered in Game One of the Division Series against Boston, becoming only the second player in baseball history to hit a home run in the playoffs after hitting none in at least 500 regular-season at-bats. Then, in Game Two of the World Series against Houston, Podsednik claimed the record for himself, hitting a walkoff bomb off of Brad Lidge to give Chicago a 7-6 win and a 2-0 Series lead.

Four months after his World Series heroics, the West product who had bounced around the minor leagues for almost 10 years before getting a legitimate shot married a former Playboy Playmate, Fox Sports correspondent Lisa Dergan.

That probably also puts him on a short list of former Rangers.

Unlike a number of trades that have been covered in this column, it’s unfair to look back with regret on the 1995 trade that sent Podsednik to Florida, because in return Texas got Witt (a contributor on the 1996 Texas playoff team) and was able to get the fleet outfielder back two years later. The fact that the Rangers didn’t hang onto him the second time isn’t an issue, because he had the right to leave on his own after not distinguishing himself enough as a minor leaguer to earn a spot on the 40-man roster.

The man who deserves the most credit as far as the Scott Podsednik story is concerned, next to Podsednik himself, is Doug Melvin, who had him twice while with the Rangers, believed there was something there despite the numbers, and gave the outfielder his first real chance in Milwaukee. Podsednik capitalized on it, paved the way for a major league run that has already provided a couple moments of historical significance, and for a kid from West, you probably can’t ask for a whole lot more.

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: