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The time the Dodgers traded for ERA leader Rick Honeycutt

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Swingman Dave Stewart was dealt to the Rangers

Texas Rangers v New York Yankees

The Dodgers are playing the Rangers this weekend at Dodger Stadium, so lets go back a few decades when the two teams made a trade of some note.

At the winter meetings in December 1982, the two teams nearly made a deal. The Dodgers really wanted Jim Sundberg, a six-time Gold Glove winner and two-time All-Star catcher, and even agreed to a deal that would have sent Burt Hooton, Mark Bradley, Dave Stewart, and a minor leaguer named Orel Hershiser.

A generation of Dodgers fans gives thanks that the deal fell through, thanks to Sundberg and Los Angeles unable to agree on a re-worked contract. But that near-deal planted the seeds of a trade that would grow to fruition eight months later.

On August 19, 1983, the Dodgers did trade Stewart to the Rangers in exchange for Rick Honeycutt. Ricky Wright was sent to Texas a few weeks later as the player to be named later to complete the transaction.

The Dodgers were in a dogfight with Atlanta for a second straight year, and trailed by 3½ games when they added Honeycutt, who led the American League with a 2.42 ERA at the time of the trade.

After winning his first two starts with the Dodgers, allowing one run in 16 innings, Honeycutt was torched in his next five starts for a 9.14 ERA and was banished to the bullpen in the final week of the season and during the playoffs. On the season, Honeycutt’s ERA was 3.04, but his National League numbers didn’t affect his AL numbers, and since he had enough innings to qualify he won the AL ERA title.

Pulling a Willie McGee, this is called in some circles — okay, population of one — but playing the role of 1990 Eddie Murray seven years earlier was Murray’s teammate with the Orioles, Mike Boddicker, whose 2.77 ERA was better than Honeycutt’s on the season. But unlike Murray’s batting average, Boddicker didn’t lead the majors that year (he was sixth in ERA).

The Dodgers traded for a league ERA leader in August twice during the 1980s. The second one was more of a blockbuster, dealing star hitter Pedro Guerrero for John Tudor, whose 2.29 ERA paced the NL when he was acquired.

Texas actually led the American League West at the All-Star break in 1983, and were tied for first as late as July 24. But losing 22 of 28 games doomed the Rangers, who were eight games back when Honeycutt was traded. By the end of that day, August 19, a doubleheader loss to the division-leading White Sox pushed Texas 10 games back.

With the 29-year-old Honeycutt in the final season of his deal, Rangers first-year general manager Joe Klein opted to get something in return for the left-hander rather than lose him for nothing. Though the process was taking longer than Honeycutt would have liked.

“The Rangers had been putting everything off, and and I decided earlier this week to get in touch with my agent and tell him we had to do something,” Honeycutt said after the deal (1). They just started talking and the next thing you know, he called me up and asked me how I’d like to be a Dodger. I was really kind of stunned.”

As part of the trade, Honeycutt and the Dodgers agreed to a five-year, $3.8 million contract that began in 1984, and at the time made him one of the highest-paid players on the team. It was a different time.

Sports Contributor Archive 2019
In parts of four seasons with the Dodgers, Dave Stewart made 15 starts and 109 relief appearances, posting a 3.33 ERA in 267⅔ innings, and a lot of waiting in the bullpen.
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Impact

Honeycutt was a part of the Dodgers rotation for roughly four years, and was a perfectly average pitcher during his time in Los Angeles, posting a 100 ERA+ in 651 innings. All four of his playoff appearances with the Dodgers (1983, 1985) came in relief, and he allowed a total of six runs in three innings.

But another August trade, this time in 1987, sent Honeycutt to the A’s in exchange for Tim Belcher, which was Honeycutt’s indirect link to a Dodgers championship.

At the time of the trade, Honeycutt hadn’t won a game in over three months. His 11 consecutive losses are a Los Angeles Dodgers franchise record.

Honeycutt joined a team in Oakland just about to take over the American League, one with a matured Stewart atop the rotation. At the time Stewart was traded from the Dodgers in 1983, he was a 26-year-old swingman looking to find a consistent role in the majors.

“I’m getting a chance to go some place and do one job, which is what I’ve been asking to do all along,” Stewart said. (1)

Stewart struggled in both starting and relieving for Texas, then again in Philadelphia, putting up a 4.53 ERA in 361 combined innings in both cities before getting released by the Phillies in May 1986. Two weeks later, Stewart found a new home in Oakland, and took off.

With the A’s, Stewart won 20 games in four straight years (1987-90), finishing in the top four in Cy Young Award voting each season, a span that saw Oakland win three pennants and a championship.

Honeycutt became a full-time reliever with the A’s and, among other things, retired all 10 Dodgers batters he faced in the 1988 World Series, striking out five. He pitched until 1997, when he was 43 years old.

His impact on the Dodgers became more pronounced after his playing career was over. Honeycutt started working with minor league pitchers as a consultant in 2001, then a year later was the minor league pitching coordinator. In 2006 became the major league pitching coach, a position he would hold for 14 seasons, tying Ron Perranoski for the longest tenure in franchise history.


  1. “Dodgers obtain Honeycutt; Stewart sent to Rangers,” by Vic West. The San Bernardino Sun, August 20, 1983.