Yankees: Revisiting the Tino Martinez Trade That Replaced a Legend

The New York Yankees moved from Don Mattingly to Tino Martinez thanks to a seamless trade.

Before Tino Martinez became a vaunted Yankees first baseman for life, he was a hard-swinging adversary.

In the Yankees dynasty’s worst non-World Series departure from the playoffs of the decade in 1995, Martinez was on the other side, playing first base for Seattle and eyeing a legendary counterpart across the diamond in Don Mattingly, who was making his first career playoff appearance. The Bam-Tino caught George Steinbrenner’s eye in that series by cracking .409 with a single homer and 5 RBI in 25 at-bats, in an intense battle better remembered for Edgar friggin’ Martinez.

By the end of the year, Martinez would be filling Mattingly’s shoes instead of simply observing them. Two days after the Yankees re-signed Wade Boggs, they brought in Martinez, Jim Mecir, and Jeff Nelson (!) on Dec. 7 in exchange for Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock. Yankee history would never again be remotely similar.

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The Tino Martinez trade helped the New York Yankees dynasty along.

Of course, the deal paid immediate dividends, and the grace period between the two sluggers’ tenures was fairly short. Martinez hit .292 with 25 homers and 117 RBI in that very first season, which ended in hardware in the Bronx (which had to be a little painful for Mattingly, but we digress).

The next season, Martinez leveled up, hitting 44 homers, knocking in 141 runs, winning the Home Run Derby in Cleveland, and nearly earning MVP honors, finishing second to Griffey (unanimously), who clubbed 56 jacks of his own. His first transcendent playoff series was, surprisingly, the 1998 World Series, in which he hit .385 and damn near secured the series in its opening game with a grand slam. From then on, he was a powerful mainstay in nearly every October, setting up Derek Jeter’s Mr. November homer with a game-tying shot down to the final out in the ninth.

Luckily, he’s still a constant presence at Yankee camp, remaining around the team well after his career’s closure. This will always be home for Martinez.

And, while we’re here — the Yankees got Jeff Nelson in the same trade?!

Before returning to Seattle in 2001, Nelson was an integral part of four championship bullpens, really hitting his stride in 2000, going 8-4 with a 2.45 ERA.

As for Hitchcock and Davis? Davis ended up a solid Mariner, hitting 20, 20, and 21 homers for the Mariners from 1997-1999, though never appearing in a playoff series with them. Hitchcock had a good year in 1998…for the Padres, and was swept out of the World Series by Tino’s heroics.

Next: Clint Frazier Looked Like What?!

Them’s the breaks, kid.