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The Marlins drafted a Hall of Famer in 1992 and nobody noticed

The decision to draft Charles Johnson with their first ever selection is still paying dividends for Miami.

Way back in 1992, the Marlins were a twinkle in Major League Baseball's eye, and were allowed to make their first amateur selections to start to build their farm system before the major league team debuted in 1993. With their first pick, the Marlins struck gold, essentially snagging a Hall of Famer. And no one noticed.

No one noticed because this one player, Charles Johnson, was not a Hall of Famer. He was only worth about 22 wins over the course of his career above replacement. But what Johnson begot, through the Marlins' maddening refusal to hold on to useful players, was something along the lines of an elite Hall of Fame-level of production.

As we approach July and the trade deadline, the Marlins sit at 30-42, and experimental manager Dan Jennings' .412 winning percentage is even worse than the .421 winning percentage that got Mike Redmond fired. As I write this, they are 8.5 games back in the NL East and 10.5 games back of any kind of Wild Card. In short, it's not happening in South Florida again this year, and eventually that realization will dawn on whoever is responsible for Jeffrey Loria and whichever former stepson he has put in charge of transactions while his general manger relays signals from the dugout. And what is amazing is that, when the Marlins trade Martin Prado (assuming he gets healthy), they will add even more value to their franchise that they will be able to trace back to Johnson.

Johnson was a local kid, something I'm sure the cagey Marlins considered when they selected the 20 year old catcher out of the University of Miami, who had grown up just two hours north of the city, and had backed up Jason Varitek for Team USA in the 1992 Olympics, as the 28th overall pick.

As it turned out, it was a good one. Johnson flew through the minors and caught four games in May for the Marlins, hitting .455/.462/.818 while filling in for Benito Santiago. Johnson was returned to the minors long before the players struck, and finished the season at double-A. Santiago left to sign with the Reds that offseason, and Johnson broke camp as the starting catcher when the delayed season got started in 1995. He got hurt in August, came back for a couple weeks and then was hurt again. He finished the year .251/8.351/.410 with 11 homers, won his first of four consecutive NL Gold Glove awards, and finished 7th in the Rookie of the Year voting. He made the All Star team in 1997 and was part of the club's first world championship team, hitting .357/.379/.464 while starting all seven games.

Of course, the next year, Johnson was caught up in the first Marlins fire sale as well. With the Marlins just one game under .500, owner Wayne Huizenga ordered the team gutted. Johnson, Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich, and a prospect went to the Dodgers for Mike Piazza and Todd Zeile. It was pretty shameless, especially since neither Piazza nor Zeile lasted the rest of the season in Miami. In fact, Piazza barely lasted a week, getting dealt to the Mets for three players, including useful center fielder Preston Wilson and not useful pitcher Ed Yarnall.

Amusingly, Wilson was traded with the recently reacquired Johnson in the 2002 offseason to the Rockies for Mike Hampton (who was quickly sent to the Braves) and Juan Pierre, who would help Marlins win their second world championship in 2003 and eventually lead to the Marlins acquiring Ricky Nolasco.

More important for our purposes, however, is Yarnall, who was packaged in the 1998-1999 offseason with two other players to bring in Mike Lowell from the Yankees. Lowell would, of course, be a steadfast Marlin for the next seven years, teaming with Pierre on that 2003 World Series winner, and hitting .272/.339/.462, making three all star teams, and winning a gold glove and a silver slugger while manning third base. Lowell, of course, went with Josh Beckett and Guillermo Mota to the Red Sox in 2005 to get them ready for their own 2007 championship, while four players, including Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez came back to the Marlins.

Sanchez struggled with injuries for much of his Marlins career, but found himself in serious demand at the trade deadline in 2012, when the Tigers acquired him for three players, Bryan Flynn, Rob Brantley, and former top prospect Jacob Turner. Brantley lasted a couple seasons as a backup catcher. Flynn was traded this offseason to the Royals for Aaron Crow. Finally, Turner flopped, but was still sent to the Cubs for minor leaguers Jose Arias and Tyler Bremer, who are still in the Miami system.

Ramirez quickly became the greatest player in Marlins history, winning the NL Rookie of the Year in 2006, and being worth around 23 wins in his first four full seasons. As injuries began to take their toll, Ramirez was traded in 2012 to the club where all former great Marlins eventually go, the Los Angeles Dodgers. One of the players the Marlins got in return, Scott McGough, still toils for the Fish in double-A when he's healthy. The other, Nathan Eovaldi, pitched pretty ok for the team from 2012-2014. This past offseason, as he was set to start earning real money through arbitration, he was sent to the Yankees with Garrett Jones for the aforementioned Martin Prado and for David Phelps.

Phelps has pitched pretty ok in 2015 for the Marlins. He has done good work limiting his walks and homers, while struggling to strike batters out with average stuff. He will still make little enough through arbitration, however, that the Marlins can hold onto him for at least another season before he too gets dealt. Prado, however, should deliver a return that will keep this crazy chain alive. Thanks in many ways to their refusal to hold onto tradable assets, the Marlins have actually gained something like 88 wins thanks to their selection of Charles Johnson 23 seasons ago. And they're still counting.




Charles Johnson



Mike Piazza



Todd Zeile



Preston Wilson



Mike Lowell



Tim Spooneybarger



Juan Pierre



Sergio Mitre



Renyel Pinto



Hanley Ramirez



Anibal Sanchez



Ricky Nolasco



Harvey Garcia



Jesus Delgado



Rob Brantley



Jacob Turner



Nathan Eovaldi



Brian Flynn



David Phelps



Martin Prado