Groundhog Day grin for ex-Rockies GM

O'Dowd can smile -- now -- over dealing Chone Figgins

Groundhog Day grin for ex-Rockies GM

DENVER -- Away for a year from the fray of building a Major League organization, former Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd can laugh at his pratfalls during a 12-year term -- which, to be fair, included a World Series appearance and an additional playoff trip.

"It's a long list of them," O'Dowd said, chuckling good-naturedly into the telephone.

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But within seconds, O'Dowd hit upon one doozy of a move that he would never want to relive. History shows it as one of two transactions on July 13, 2001:

• Anaheim Angels trade OF Kimera Bartee to the Colorado Rockies for Minor League infielder Chone Figgins.

This was when O'Dowd was known as "Dealin' Dan," a moniker he didn't particularly like, but he was in his second year trying to correct a payroll mess and figure out the Rubik's Cube that is Coors Field. Left field was one of the merry-go-rounds on the club. The Rockies started with veteran Ron Gant but traded him to the Athletics for outfielder Robin Jennings, and the merry-go-round started.

Now, most of the time a deal like the one the Rockies made ends up like the other trade that day -- the White Sox sending outfielder McKay Christensen to the Dodgers for Minor League pitcher Wade Parris.

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But Bartee-for-Figgins went down as one of the most lopsided trades in the histories of both franchises. Figgins would earn a World Series ring in 2002, appear in six postseasons, go to the All-Star Game in 2005 and four times finish in the top 24 in American League Most Valuable Player voting.

Bartee?

Well, before throwing Bartee under the bus of history, let's acknowledge the reasons the Rockies wanted him. Then-Rockies manager Buddy Bell had managed Bartee 1996-98 with the Tigers, so he wasn't showing up sight unseen. And the Angels had Bartee stashed at Triple-A Salt Lake, so the Rockies figured why not give him a shot. And the Angels obliged.

Bartee would appear in 15 games, make 19 plate appearances and go 0-for-15 -- though he walked twice -- in Purple Pinstripes. After 133 games in Triple-A with the Cubs the following year, Bartee would finish his professional career in independent ball and in Mexico.

O'Dowd, now an analyst with MLB Network, offered no alibis. He learned a lesson: know your personnel.

Figgins was hitting .220 at Double-A Carolina at the time of the deal. He had never finished a year better than .283, but he had solid on-base performances most years, was a basestealing threat and handled himself well enough at second base and shortstop that he'd developed a skill set that could be used at many positions.

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"The lesson I learned in the Figgins trade is to know your players, more than what I had on paper," O'Dowd said.

Good deals and bad are part of front-office work. O'Dowd's best best deals included grabbing franchise saves leader Brian Fuentes from the Mariners for third baseman Jeff Cirillo, franchise wins leader Jorge De La Rosa from the Royals for reliever Ramon Ramirez and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez from the Athletics for outfielder Matt Holliday (getting a budding star for a star). Another clunker that he recalled occurred when he was assistant GM under John Hart with the Indians, and he signed Jack McDowell rather than Kevin Brown to help the pitching staff.

But the Figgins deal is one nightmare that became a valuable lesson.

"Back then we had depth problems and made a lot of trades," O'Dowd said. "And I had never seen him play. Michael Hill [now the Marlins' president of baseball operations] was our farm director, and he had seen him play some but not a lot.

"Figgins would have helped us, especially at Coors Field. He could play so many positions, and he could hit. That was a bad deal, man."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.