This Day in Transaction History: Pirates reacquire Manny Sanguillén

Manny Sanguillén
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As a recurring column idea, Bill will expound upon one interesting transaction that occurred on a particular day in baseball history. It won’t always be the most exciting or most impactful transaction, but always something interesting. Feel free to share which transactions stand out to you in the comments.

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42 years ago, the Pirates officially reacquired catcher and first baseman Manny Sanguillén, sending Miguel Diloné, Elias Sosa, and Mike Edwards to the Athletics. The trade was initially announced a few days prior, but it was on this date that Edwards was revealed as the player to be named later to complete the deal.

The Pirates originally signed Sanguillén in 1964 as a non-drafted free agent. He debuted in 1967 and became the Pirates’ full-time catcher in ’69. After a successful stint in Pittsburgh, the Pirates traded Sanguillén to the Athletics in 1976 for manager Chuck Tanner. Sanguillén spent one year in Oakland before being reacquired by the Pirates on this date in 1978.

As a side note, trades involving managers are rare. It has happened only five other times:

  • John Farrell from the Blue Jays to the Red Sox (2012)
  • Ozzie Guillén from the White Sox to the Marlins (2011)
  • Lou Piniella from the Mariners to the Rays (2002)
  • Gil Hodges from the Senators to the Mets (1967)
  • Joe Gordon (to the Tigers) and Jimmy Dykes (to the Indians) (1960), traded for each other

From 1970-75, the Pirates would reach the playoffs five times and win the World Series once, in ’71. In a testament to the quality of the Pirates’ roster, Sanguillén wasn’t even the most productive player in the 1971 postseason despite going 15-for-44 in 11 games. Sanguillén was often overshadowed by his teammates, including Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. He nevertheless played an integral role in the Pirates’ success. Sanguillén hit over .300 in three consecutive seasons from 1969-71 and had a composite .305 average from ’69-75. Among catchers who have accrued 5,000 or more plate appearances dating back to 1969, only three have a higher batting average than Sanguillén’s .297: Mike Piazza (.308), Joe Mauer (.306), and Buster Posey (.302).

According to FanGraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement, Johnny Bench (26.6) was the only catcher in the league better than Sanguillén (15.9) from 1969-72. Sanguillén didn’t have the sum total of offense that Bench had, or even that players like Ted Simmons and Thurman Munson had, but he was sharp defensively, which really added to his value. Sanguillén threw out 43 percent of would-be base-stealers in 1970, 10 percent higher than the league average of 33 percent. In ’71, Sanguillén nailed 50 percent of runners, well above the league average of 35 percent.

Soon after the Pirates signed him, Sanguillén became very close with Clemente. Clemente acted as a mentor to the younger Sanguillén, offering him lessons on and off the field. Clemente died tragically in a plane crash in Puerto Rico in December 1972, attempting to deliver an earthquake relief package to Nicaragua. Sanguillén was supposed to be on the plane with Clemente, but he misplaced his car keys and missed the flight. In the aftermath, Sanguillén tried to locate Clemente’s body, diving into the waters where the plane had crashed. He was so focused on his goal that he missed Clemente’s service.

The Pirates have a long and storied history, dating back to 1881. 42 players and managers who have donned the Pirates uniform, like Clemente, are in the Hall of Fame. Still others have made lasting impressions on the ballclub. Sanguillén may not be a Hall of Famer, but he made a unique mark all his own and is certainly one of the most memorable players in Pirates history.