Miami, FL

On This Day In 1999, The Marlins Made Their Greatest Trade Ever

Mike LowellPhoto byAdam Moss

By Sean Millerick

Greatest trade in team history? It’s a bold claim to make, whatever the team under discussion may be. There’s a lot to consider. A lot of history to sift through.

For the Miami Marlins though? It’s a no-doubter when it comes to naming the trade worthy of the title. It also happened 24 years ago to the day on February 1, 1999.

That’s the day Mike Lowell became a Marlin. 

However, before diving into this transaction, it’s important to tell the story of another trade. One far more notorious in baseball circles, and referenced much more often when it comes to the Marlins. That would be the May 14, 1998 trade that saw the Marlins send prospect Manuel Barrios, Charles Johnson, Jim Eisenreich, Bobby Bonilla, and Gary Sheffield to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Mike Piazza. Four postseason stars for the defending World Champions dealt for one of the biggest names in MLB. A name that the Marlins retained for . . . eight days. After appearing in just five games, Piazza was dealt to the New York Mets for a handful of prospects  on May 22.

Okay, technically that was two trades. Given the fact that Piazza probably never even unpacked his suitcase though, I trust we can agree on basically treating it as a singular three-team trade.

A three-team trade that put the finishing touches on Miami’s first firesale, and a shameful gutting of a championship-caliber roster. From a public relations standpoint, it’s debatable whether the Marlins ever recovered from that decision.

And yet, another World Championship run was already well underway thanks to one Harvey Edward Yarnall.

You’d be forgiven for not knowing the name, provided you’re not a Marlins or a New York Yankees fan of a certain age. Yarnall only played seven career games in the Majors. But in the late 1990s, he was a well-regarded prospect, and part of the package Miami received in return for Piazza. The headliner on that deal, Preston Wilson, became a household name in South Florida and had a very solid MLB career. But you can argue Ed Yarnall’s impact on the Marlins was even greater.

Because in February of 1999, Yarnall was part of the package the Yankees wanted in return for Lowell. Along with Mark Johnson and Todd Noel, in total Miami shipped three pitching prospects to the Yankees to secure a deal. Lowell was a Top 100 prospect, but he was also looking like a blocked one, thanks to Scott Brosius’ emergence during New York’s 1998 title campaign.

Miami ended up with a net 14.6 bWAR out of the deal. The Yankees? Try -0.4 WAR.

In fact, some bonus points might be in order. Lowell won a Gold Glove in 2005 (after multiple close losses to newly minted Hall of Famer Scott Rolen leading up to that point). He helped Miami win the World Series in 2003. Pick an offensive category in club history, and Lowell will be right there amongst the leaders. He was even voted in as one of the Marlins’ Franchise Four faces in 2015. That’s a ton of value.

Sure, there have been a few other great trades for the Marlins. One of them even involved Lowell again on Nov. 24, 2005, as he was tacked on to star pitcher Josh Beckett in the package that brought Hanley Ramirez (26.9 WAR with Miami) and Aníbal Sánchez (14.1 WAR with the Marlins) to Miami. The Gary Sheffield and Sandy Alcantara deals also come to mind.

But there’s only one trade in Marlins history that is the perfect marriage of getting that much value, from a player that actively helped them win a championship, in exchange for what was effectively less than nothing in return. The Lowell trade.

And it was exactly 24 years ago that the Marlins pulled it off.

Sean Millerick is a diehard Miami Marlins fan but still finds cause for hope every Spring Training. He currently writes for @CallToThePen. You can find him on Twitter @miasportsminute.

Comments / 0

Published by

The Internet Baseball Writers Association of America represents hundreds of writers and content creators wherever baseball is played all over the world, ranging from hobbyists to professionals and everywhere in between. Learn more at or follow @ibwaa on Twitter.

New York, NY

More from IBWAA

Comments / 0