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April 23, 2012

Signing Pudge: The rest of the story

Former general manager Tom Grieve retold the story Monday about how scout Doug Gassaway and former scouting director Sandy Johnson discovered catcher Ivan Rodriguez at a free agent camp in Puerto Rico. Pudge was a . . . well . . . pudgy 16-year-old at the time. 

The rest of the story, which Grieve didn't tell, bears retelling, too. Latin scouting coordinator Luis Rosa used to annually greet Johnson and Gassaway in Puerto Rico with a short list of favored prospects. Pudge wasn't on Rosa's list that visit, but the names of infielder Luis Benitez and outfielder Pablo Delgado were. 

The Rangers signed not only Pudge, but also Benitez and Delgado. 

In December of that year, 1988, Grieve found himself talking with the Chicago Cubs about a multi-player trade that was going to bring Rafael Palmeiro, then a 25-year-old outfielder with 25 career home runs, to Texas. In exchange for Palmeiro, Jamie Moyer and Drew Hall, the Cubs were to receive a package of four players that included reliever Mitch Williams and infielder Curtis Wilkerson. 

But the Cubs felt they needed some prospects added to the offer. Knowing that scout Rosa had just joined the Chicago organization, a light went on in Johnson's head. He added Benitez and Delgado to the Rangers' end of the deal, the Cubs said yes, and Palmeiro went on to hit 544 more big-league homers, 321 in 10 seasons with Texas. 

Benitez's career lasted only three seasons, batting .224 while never rising above the Class-A Sally League. Delgado also played three minor league seasons, none above the Class A New York-Penn League, and batted .178.


--Gil LeBreton





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