The trade went down as one of the worst in Montreal Expos franchise history, though Bartolo Colon held up his end of the deal.
The 2002 Montreal Expos were in the thick of the playoff race mid-season and looking for an upgrade to their pitching staff. Major League Baseball was running the team which was looking at getting contracted in the near future. MLB gave authorization for the Cleveland Indians to fleece the Expos in a trade which brought Bartolo Colon to town to help bolster the starting rotation.
In exchange for Bartolo Colon, the Indians received Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and Brandon Phillips. All prospects who would go on to have great careers in the majors. Colon was just a rental player, as he would last just three months with the team before being traded away (in another trade where the Expos were fleeced).
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This was one of the all-time worst trades in major league history, let alone Expos history, though Colon held his own and did exactly what the Expos needed him to do.
At the time he was acquired the Expos were 6.5 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the division and even closer in the wild card race. In his first game after the trade, Colon pitched seven innings of one-run ball to defeat the Braves to pull the Expos even closer.
The Expos couldn’t keep pace with the Braves, but with Colon throwing every fifth day they were keeping their playoff chances alive.
Colon peaked, with a complete-game shutout, throwing a two-hitter against the San Diego Padres in mid-August. The team won four of his five September starts as well.
All told Bartolo Colon was 10-4 with a 3.31 earned run average. The Expos scored a total of eight runs in the four games he lost while pitching for them. Colon was as advertised, but his performance alone couldn’t push the Expos over the top.
The Expos faded late and after the season Colon was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Rocky Biddle, Jeff Liefer, and Orlando Hernandez. El Duque was hurt and never pitched in Montreal. So basically the Expos traded Lee, Sizemore, and Phillips for 10 wins, 45 saves, and 3 home runs worth of productivity between Colon, Biddle, and Liefer.
Bartolo Colon was not the reason the trade is one of the worst ever, he did what he could. The league-owned Montreal Expos were set up for failure regardless of how well he pitched.