Sometimes a trade works out because everything you planned for worked out perfectly. Other times a trade can work out because of something unexpected.
When the Mariners traded Mark Langston during the 1989 season, they thought they were getting an ace pitcher from the Expos organization. They did, but it wasn’t the one they were expecting to be an ace. Brian Holman was the highly touted prospect that had Seattle drooling.
It worked out better for Seattle than for Holman.
A high school phenom from Kansas, Holman was drafted in the first round by the Expos in 1983 with the 16th pick. He struggled in his first few years but in 1987, he made a turn for the better. He put up ace numbers at AA in 1987 and AAA in 1988, looking to fit into a talented Montreal squad.
In his second big league game, he pitched a complete game 5 hit shutout of the Braves and threw 8 strong for the win in his next start. He was effective if not spectacular during his first big league stint, posting 3.23 ERA over 100 1/3 innings pitched.
The next year he began the season on Montreal’s roster but stumbled, splitting time between the bullpen and the rotation.
Then on May 25th, 1989, he was traded from one obscure franchise playing in cold weather under a dome to another. Mark Langston was sent packing to the Expos. Reliever Gene Harris and Brian Holman were Mariners bound. So was enigmatic left hander Randy Johnson, who was freakishly tall, threw the ball outrageously hard and had no control.
Langston pitched well for Montreal but their pennant hopes faded.
Gene Harris did not fare well in Seattle but wound up having a few good years with the Padres.
Randy Johnson kinda sorta went to the Hall of Fame.
But it was Holman who was the big get for Seattle. He did well enough over 22 starts in 1989, pitching to a 3.44 ERA. In 1990, he got the opening day assignment for Seattle. Later that April he took a perfect game into the 9th with 2 outs before giving up a home run to Ken Phelps.
In 1990 and 1991, he pitched well enough. He got double digit wins each year, had a decent if not great ERA and threw 189 2/3 innings one year and 195 1/3 innings the next. He might not have become an ace, but he was developing into a good innings eater. And with Randy Johnson developing into an All Star, he was exactly the kind of number 4 starter that a solid team could use.
But he never pitched again professionally after 1991. Arm issues wiped out his 1992 and he never returned. When the Mariners came within 2 wins of the World Series in 1995, Randy Johnson was a huge factor and he beat Mark Langston in a one game playoff for the west.
Holman was long gone from baseball.
Well, at least gone from playing baseball. He holds clinics for baseball, is an active part of the Players Alumni Association and works as a motivational speaker.
The Mariners got the best of a memorable trade. It would have been even more memorable if Holman’s arm had held up.