In mid-2008, the last time the Chicago Cubs were exceptionally good, the team signed rapidly-declining OF/1B/DH-type Ben Broussard to a minor league deal (what do you know? Good teams do sign guys like that to minor league deals!). He lasted in the Cubs’ organization less than a month, and retired after failing to make a big league team the next year. For his career, Broussard put up some decent numbers as the lefty half of a platoon with the Indians in his late-20s, but he’s not a guy you’d remember for making an indelible, long-term impact.
In 2006, the Indians traded Broussard to the Mariners for a former top 100 outfield prospect who had fallen off those lists in the last year or so: Shin-Soo Choo. It was one of those midseason trades that doesn’t get much play outside of the two cities it directly affects (at the time, Choo was a 23-year-old putting up decent numbers at AAA, but who hadn’t shown much in his first big-league go-around). The Mariners were trying to win, and Broussard offered a modest upgrade.
In the wake of Choo’s seven-year, $130 million deal with the Texas Rangers, Rob Neyer looked back at the Choo/Broussard trade, receiving thoughts from the Mariners’ GM at the time. That GM, Bill Bavasi, indicated that there wasn’t a lot of patience for any kind of long-term plan at the time – though he concedes that he screwed up by moving Choo at all.
The funny thing is that, it appears the trade was well-received by Mariners fans at the time. See this thread at Lookout Landing, discovered by Neyer. Particularly comical? As noted in the comments, Keith Law hated the trade for the Mariners, and the ensuing comments shredded Law for not knowing what he was talking about. Oops. A favorite: “Of course these dummies will just look at Choo’s line in Tacoma and act as if the M’s just traded Delmon Young.” That’s glorious, in hindsight, in so many respects.
(Remember, friends: what you say on the Internet is there forever-ever. Oh, God, some of the things I’ve said … )
The lesson here? Seemingly minor trades can have a significant, long-term impact if they’re successful. Keeping Broussard would have netted the Indians nothing (they went on to finish 18 games out of first place that year), and, even if the trade had landed them a busted out prospect, they were no worse for the wear. As it stood, they gambled on upside, and they hit the jackpot. It didn’t hurt that the Indians gave Choo another year to marinate at AAA before he broke out at 25 in 2008 – the same year Broussard was failing in his minor league stint with the Cubs.