It was one of the best trades in Indians history

Celebrating the anniversary of one of the best trades in franchise history


On December 10, 1991, 22 years ago this evening, the Indians worked out a trade with the Astros. The Tribe sent Willie Blair and Ed Taubensee to Houston, in exchange for second baseman Dave Rohde and an outfield prospect named Kenny Lofton.

You'll be forgiven if only one of those names means anything to you.

Blair was a right-handed pitcher, about to turn 26. He'd been an 11th round draft pick and was never especially impressive in the minors. He'd been decent for the Blue Jays in 1990, his rookie season, before being traded to the Tribe that winter. In 1991 he pitched only 36 innings for the Indians, spending most of the year with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, the Tribe's Triple-A affiliate at that time.

Taubensee was a 23-year-old catcher, who'd been a 6th round draft pick of the Reds in 1986, but never panned out for them. In 1991 he'd had his first real success in the minors, also as a member of the Sky Sox. He'd posted a batting line of .310/.377/.547 and was the main target of the deal for Houston, expendable for the Indians because Sandy Alomar Jr. was seen as the catcher of the future.

Rohde was 27 at the time of the trade. In both 1990 and 1991 he'd hit well for Houston's Triple-A affiliate (the Tucson Toros), but had struggled in the big leagues, batting just .165 in 139 at bats, without hitting a single home run. Houston had a young catcher named Craig Biggio at the time, he'd had a nice year in 1991, but the team planned to move him to second base.

Lofton was a speedy center field prospect, 24 years old, who'd been given a taste of the show in 1991, appearing in 20 games with Houston. By December he'd been named one of Baseball America's top 100 prospects, but Houston had acquired another young player named Steve Finley the year before, and expected him to hold down center field in the Astrodome for years to come.

Blair appeared in just 29 games for the Astros, with a 4.00 ERA in 78.2 innings. He did stick in MLB until 2002, including a very solid 1997 with the Tigers. Taubensee was Houston's primary catcher for two seasons, then played with the Reds for 7 years, collecting 600 hits with them. He returned to the Indians in 2001 and hit a game-tying 9th inning home run against Detroit on May 23rd. Rohde went 0 for 7 with the Indians in 1992, and never again appeared in the Majors.

Lofton, well I think you know about Kenny. He collected 2,428 career hits (1,512 with the Indians), stole 622 bases (452 with the Indians), and scored 1,528 runs (975 with the Indians). He was named to the All-Star team 6 times and won 4 Gold Gloves (all with the Indians). In short, he went on to become one of the dozen or so greatest center fielders in baseball history.

I'd say that trade worked out pretty well for the Indians.

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