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Today in Blue Jays History: Raul Mondesi Traded

Mondesi prepares to bat Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

16 years ago today the Blue Jays traded Raul Mondesi (with some cash) to the Yankees for Scott Wiggins. It really didn’t matter who came back to the Jays. Wiggins would go on to pitch in 3 games for the Jays, but saving money and getting a rather unhappy Mondesi out of the Jay clubhouse was what really mattered.

We had picked up Mondesi in trade for Shawn Green, from the Dodger, in November 1999. The Green trade wasn’t one that the Jays wanted to do, but Green demanded a trade when the team hired Cito Gaston to be hitting coach. Green didn’t get along with Cito when he first came up to the team and Cito was manager. Cito liked players to pull the ball and Green preferred to hit to all fields. They clashed a bit, you can read about it in Green’s autobiography.

The Jays felt that Mondesi’s numbers would improve with the move from the rather large Dodgers Stadium to the far more batter friendly Skydome. It didn’t happen. And Raul wasn’t happy about being in Toronto. Add in that he was making a lot of money and we had 3 better outfielders (Shannon Stewart, Vernon Wells and Jose Cruz).

Why did the Yankees want him?

Apparently the team didn’t but the owner did. Apparently George Steinbrenner told his his team president. Randy Levine, to call the Jays team president Paul Godfrey to make the trade. From the Guelh Mercury Tribune:

As Godfrey tells it, the Yankees were struggling with injuries to their outfield at the time and a play one day led a TV announcer to wonder why Steinbrenner was doing nothing with Mondesi on the market.

”Within minutes of that happening, (Yankees president) Randy Levine calls me and said, he wanted to make a deal for an outfielder,” said Godfrey. “I didn’t think it was Mondesi because we asked everybody about him. So I say, ‘Why isn’t (GM Brian) Cashman dealing with (Jays GM J.P.) Ricciardi?’

”And Randy yells, ‘George doesn’t want those two guys involved, they’ll never get a God damn deal done, I’m on instructions from George to get this God damn deal done now.’”

So Godfrey asked for five minutes, called Ricciardi and explained that he had to do the deal with Levine (to which Ricciardi replied, “I don’t care, get rid of Mondesi immediately”), got a list of prospects to ask for, and eventually settled with Levine on pitcher Scott Wiggins in return.

The Jays send $6 million along with Mondesi. They had been trying to trade him for a while, but no one wanted him. Thankfully Mr. Steinbrenner didn’t care that no one from his front office wanted him. Paul O’Neil had retired after the 2001 season and they were lacking that big bat.

Raul would play a season and a half for the Yankees, he hit .250/.323/.453 with 27 home runs in 169 games. At the deadline of the 2004 season they dumped him on the Diamondbacks. Raul would play for 3 more teams before being out of baseball after the 2005 season.

I’d say it was one of J.P. Ricciardis better trades but he had little to do with it.

Since leaving baseball, Raul became mayor of San Cristóbal and last September he was sentenced to 8 years in jail for “corruption and mishandling public funds” while mayor.