Detroit Tigers: Randy Johnson played a part in the J.D. Martinez trade

(Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
(Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Detroit Tigers‘ recent trades have been a mixed bag of solid acquisitions and complete and utter failure. None represents that failure more greatly than the J.D. Martinez trade. A while back, I looked at Al Avila’s worst trades, and the Martinez trade represents his absolute worst. He traded an all-star power bat that was having a top-tier season for Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara, and Jose King.

The three combined for -1.4 career bWAR for the Detroit Tigers, while J.D. had 29 homers and was integral to the D-Backs playoff push. We all know this trade, though. What we don’t know is the impact that Hall of Fame pitcher Randy “Big Unit” Johnson’s impact on this trade, although he retired in 2009.

Baseball history is weird; that much is obvious. Trade trees are fascinating to follow and using the website MLBtradetrees, I found that the great imposing Johnson was a part of a combined 55.78 WAR trade tree that involves ten teams and approximately 12.5 years.

With all of that setup out of the way…

Randy Johnson actually impacted the early years of the Detroit Tigers’ rebuild.

Starting at the top of the tree, Johnson was traded from Arizona to the Yankees in January of 2005 for cash, Dioner Navarro, Brad Halsey, and Javier Vazquez. The first three out of those four don’t lead much of anywhere (except Navarro, who turned into All-Star Shawn Green in the latter part of his career). However, Vazquez became a big part of the trade.

Vazquez spent one season with the D-Backs before being flipped to Chicago for Chris Young, Luis Vizcaino, and Orlando Hernandez. Of those, all three were traded again, but only Young’s became a true tree. Young was sent in a three-team deal to the A’s for Cliff Pennington, Heath Bell, and cash from Oakland and Miami.

The final part of this tree is Cliff Pennington, who, after a couple of fine seasons in Arizona, was traded in 2015 for Toronto Blue Jays prospect Dawel Lugo. From there, Lugo turned into J.D. Martinez, and the Detroit Tigers’ rebuild began in earnest.

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The connection may seem tentative at best, but the sheer fact that 12 years of major league trading connected Randy Johnson to J.D. Martinez and the Tigers’ rebuild is a testament to just how absurdly weird baseball can be.