Of All Oakland Athletics Trades, Swapping a Manager For a Player is a Rarity
After being swept by the Red Sox 3-0 in the 1975 ALCS, A’s Owner Charlie Finley fired Manager Alvin Dark after two seasons of first place finishes and brought on Chuck Tanner to be at the helm for the 1976 season.
After the free-agency loss of Catfish Hunter to the Yankees in 1975 and the trade of Reggie Jackson to the Orioles at the start of the 1976 season, the A’s finished in second place with a 87-74 record under Tanner.
With the remains of their once-dynasty players like Bert Campaneris, Sal Bando, Joe Rudi and Ken Holtzman gone to take advantage of the free agent market for the 1977 season, Finley sought to fill the catching vacancy left by departing 1972 World Series MVP Gene Tenace and Ray Fosse, who had been traded in mid-1976. In November 1976, Finley made an unheard of deal: he sent his manager, Tanner, to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for catcher Manny Sanguillen and $100,000. This was only the second time in MLB history where a manager was part of a baseball trade. In 1960, Indians manager Joe Gordon and Tigers manager Jimmie Dykes were traded for each other
More from White Cleat Beat
- The stark difference between Oakland A’s, San Francisco Giants
- Jace Peterson – the Oakland A’s new super utility option
- Oakland A’s sign intriguing catcher Yohen Pozo
- Oakland A’s get rid of two more utility depth options
- Vimael Machin casualty of Oakland A’s blockbuster trade
The Pirates were in need of a skipper, with Danny Murtaugh retiring from his fourth tour of duty as manager after the 1976 season due to stated health reasons. Only three months after stepping down as manager Murtaugh would die from a stroke in December of 1976.
At the time, the three-time All-Star Sanguillen had a career .303 batting average and was just a year removed from the best season of his career where he hit .328. He had been a key member of the 1971 Pirates team that won the World Series under Murtaugh.
In 1977 at Oakland, Sanguillen, a free-swinger who took advantage of the artificial turf at Three Rivers Stadium as well as other plastic grass parks that were prevalent in the National League at the time (8 out of 12 ballparks), saw his batting average fall from .290 to .275. At age 33, the A’s also discovered that the aging Sanguillen no longer had the stamina or the reflexes as an every-day catcher and limited him to 77 games behind the plate that year.
Days before before the start of the 1978 season, the A’s sent Sanguillen back to the Bucs (and Tanner), in exchange for three middle-of-the-road players: relief pitcher Elias Sosa, outfielder Miguel Dilone, and minor-league second baseman Mike Edwards. None of the three would amount to much, and only Edwards would remain for the Billy Ball Era, seeing very limited action as a utility infielder.
Tanner, on the other hand, inherited a team in 1977 that included future Hall of Famers Willie Stargell and pitcher Bert Blyleven, along with stars like third baseman Bill Madlock, second baseman Phil Garner and outfielder Dave Parker. He would go on reach the pinnacle of his managerial career just two years later as the skipper of the Pirates’ “We are Family” 1979 World Series Champions.