Thursday Trade Tree – Dick Groat

This week we’ll look at the 1960 NL MVP, shortstop Dick Groat.

Maz‘s double play partner from 1956-62, Groat was tradable because of Gene Alley’s presence. Unfortunately, they didn’t get much in return aside from two decent seasons from Don Cardwell .

To any new readers I picked up last week, Hello! Feel free to leave ideas for future trade trees in the comments or over on twitter.

UPDATE 4:25pm: Baseball Think Factory author Mike Emeigh contributed the following which details the environment surrounding the Dick Groat trade far better than I could.

It’s not exactly the case that Groat was tradeable because of Gene
Alley’s presence.  At the end of 1962, Alley was just 21 and  had played
just 36 games above A-ball, and while he’d hit well in the lower levels
he didn’t show much in his AAA trial at the end of the season.

In 1962, the Pirates had the oldest team in the National League. The
starting lineup had five regulars over the age of 30 and another (Dick
Stuart) who was 29. Groat was 31, and there were concerns all over the
place that he was an “old” 31 – that he was fast losing range at SS as
well as what little extra-base power he had. The rotation included
30-somethings Bob Friend, Vern Law, Harvey Haddix, and Tom Sturdivant
(along with the younger Al McBean and Earl Francis). Even though the
Bucs had won 93 games in 1962, Joe L. Brown believed that the team
needed to get younger. Furthermore, as an old Branch Rickey disciple, he
felt that it was better to trade a player a year too early rather than a
year too late.

The Bucs went out that offseason and made three big deals, all of which
were intended to clear space for younger players:

1. The Groat trade. Cardwell was relatively young and being counted on
for big things, but at the time the key to this trade for Pittsburgh was
Julio Gotay, a 24-YO shortstop who had shown some promise in his first
full year in the bigs in 1962, enough so that Branch Rickey (then
consulting for the Cardinals) recommended against making the deal. The
Bucs also had Dick Schofield, then only 27, who inherited the major
league job.  Gotay opened 1963 with the Bucs, but played little and was
sent down in May (that was during the era when teams could carry extra
players on the roster for the first month). Alley by then had grabbed
hold of the shortstop position for Columbus, continuing to flash the
power potential he’d shown in the low minors and in Arizona during the
1962-1963 offseason, so Gotay wound up playing second for the Jets. On
May 25, Gotay suffered a serious knee injury in a game against Syracuse
when Chiefs’ catcher Jackie Moore slammed into him on a double-play
pivot. He didn’t get back into the lineup until August, and clearly
wasn’t 100% even then – at one point Larry Shepard, managing Columbus,
was quoted in the Sporting News as saying he would never have agreed to
activate Gotay if he’d known that he was still in that bad of a shape.
By the end of 1963, Alley had passed Gotay in the Pirates’ pecking
order. Gotay made the team once again out of spring training in 1964 but
again played little, and when Cardwell and McBean were hurt and Don
Schwall struggled in the early going, he was outrighted to Columbus to
make room for Steve Blass. That spelled the end of Gotay’s career with
the Pirates.

2. The Dick Stuart trade. The Bucs traded Stuart and Jack Lamabe, a
pitcher who had done well out of the Bucs’ bullpen in 1962 as a rookie,
for Schwall and Jim Pagliaroni. This was, again, about getting younger
in the lineup. Stuart WAS expendable thanks to the emergence of Donn
Clendenon, and the Pirates want to get the aging Smoky Burgess out of
the regular lineup.

3. The Don Hoak trade. Hoak was sent to Philadelphia in exchange for
Pancho Herrera and Ted Savage. This one was intended to clear a spot for
20-YO Bob Bailey, who had torched the International in 1962 for 28 HRs
and a .941 OPS. Herrera never played a game in Pittsburgh, and Savage
had a horrible year in 1963, spent all of 1964 at Columbus where he
still didn’t hit, and wound up being traded in another forgettable deal
in which the Pirates sent Savage and Francis to the Cardinals for two
nonentities.

At the beginning of 1963, the Pirates’ rotation was Francis (who started
on Opening Day), Friend, Cardwell, McBean, and Schwall. Only Friend was
over the age of 30.  The starters in the infield were Clendenon,
Mazeroski, Schofield, and Bailey; the outfield was Skinner, Virdon, and
Clemente, with Pagliaroni catching. By May, the 31-YO Skinner would be
gone, traded for Jerry Lynch, and with 23-YO rookie WIllie Stargell
getting much of the playing time in left, Virdon was the only over-30
regular. The Pirates were still a relatively old team (a lot of these
guys weren’t especially young, and Friend, Law, and Roy Face were still
getting a lot of innings), but they were much closer to the league norm
in 1963 than they were in 1962.

So the bigger picture here is that the Pirates had an old team, with
some younger guys who looked like they were ready for full-time roles,
and Brown decided that the time was ripe to make a pre-emptive strike.
What happened afterward was a combination of injuries and unrealistic
expectations for some guys (notably Bailey, who probably would have had
a better career anywhere but Forbes Field, but probably also Schofield
and Gotay as well).

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