Pittsburgh Pirates: A Look Back at the Tony Womack Trade

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Editorial: In February of 1999, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded away a player who was a fan favorite during a rough time in team history.  Let’s look back at the trade.

On February 25, 1999, the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to trade second baseman Tony Womack. They dealt him to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a player to be named later and outfielder Paul Weichard. The player to be named later ended up being Jason Boyd, who was sent to Pittsburgh on August 25, 1999 to complete the trade.  It was, of course, somewhat of a controversial trade as the Pirates, who had not had a winning season since 1992, traded away a proven player.  What did not help, was the Bucs did not receive any big league talent back in the deal.

Womack’s Pirate Career

Womack was a seventh-round pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1991.  Womack spent his first five years in Pittsburgh playing from 1993-’94 and ’96-’98. He first appeared in games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1993, appearing in just 15 games.  In 1994 he received an even smaller cup of coffee, playing in just five games.  He spent all of 1995 in the minors, and he finally reached the majors again in 1996, appearing in 17 games.

Finally, Womack was a given an opportunity to start in 1997, and he was able to prove that he deserved to start.  He received an all-star nod and swiped 60 bases, along with a .278 batting average.  Womack also finished ninth in the rookie of the year voting. Not bad numbers for a first full season. A solid 1997 season insured him to be the second baseman of the near-term future.  In 1998, Womack essentially repeated his 1997 numbers, stealing a league leading 58 bases and batting .282. In his two years as a starter, Womack hit .280/.323/.366 with 118 stolen bases in his 314 games and 1393 plate appearances.  Despite leading the league in stolen bases from ’97-98, Womack still produced a -0.1 WAR in those two years due to having 37 errors.

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The Trade

So on February 25, 1999, the Pirates and Diamondbacks made a trade. In his five years with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Womack played in 629 games, having 2744 plate appearances, and hitting .269/.314/.362 with a WAR of 1.3. His most notable achievement with Arizona is being part of the 2001 World Series championship. He was the team’s starting second baseman and hit .266 with 28 stolen bases.

The Prospects

The outfield prospect the Pirates acquired was Paul Weichard.  Weichard never amounted to anything in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.  He hit above .250 only once in his four years with the organization. His last two years with the organization he hit under .200.  Weichard never reached the Pittsburgh Pirates major league roster, and ended up playing in the independent leagues after spending the 2003 season with the Atlanta Braves organization.  Essentially, Weichard will only be remembered as a prospect who was in a trade for Tony Womack, which is not a lot to be excited about.

Jason Boyd was the player to be named later in the deal.  He pitched in 4 games and 5.1 innings with a 3.38 ERA in 1999 with the Pirates. Although a small sample size, it at least was a positive one compared to Weichard. However, on March 29, 2000, the Milwaukee Brewers claimed Boyd off of waivers. He did come back to Pittsburgh though, being selected off waivers from Cleveland on October 1, 2003. In his second stint with the Pirates, Boyd pitched in 12 games and 13 innings, producing an ERA of 5.54 in 2004, before he was granted free agency on October 7.  Boyd at least made appearances in a Bucco uniform.  Still, he never amounted to anything close to make sense in trading a former all-star second baseman.

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The Aftermath

Meanwhile, Womack made such an impression on the Diamondbacks, and they rewarded him with a four-year contract worth $17 million after the 1999 season.  This bought out his last few years of arbitration, and extended him to 2004. Eventually, Arizona traded Womack to the Colorado Rockies. In return, the Diamondbacks received Emmanuel Ramirez on July 18, 2003. Womack’s third team in just four years. Again, Womack was dealt for a player who many probably have never heard of.

Although Tony Womack was never viewed as a franchise player, he still was an all-star for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Looking back at history, it was just one in the same of many bad trades made before the Huntington era.  At the time, Womack should have been able to grab legitimate prospects, instead, he brought back nothing of note. Meanwhile, his contract had him locked up until 2002.  It is not like he was a year away from free agency and the Bucs wanted to deal him because they knew they would not be able to sign him.  Looking back, this is just one of the many historically bad trades that kept the Pittsburgh Pirates out of contention for so many years.