April 19, 1979: Pirates Get a Day Off and a New Shortstop

The Pirates were off on April 19, but that doesn’t mean nothing happened.  They defied the old canard about early-season trades not happening by swapping shortstops with the Mets.  Frank Taveras, who’d been the Bucs’ shortstop since 1974, went to New York for Tim Foli and minor league right-hander Greg Field.

Originally drafted first overall by the Mets in 1968, Foli was known for an explosive personality that earned him the nickname “Crazy Horse.”  By 1979, Foli had already been traded to Montreal and then San Francisco, then sold back to the Mets.

The trade didn’t figure to boost the Pirates’ offense.  Taveras had an OPS+ of just 72 during his eight years with the Pirates, but Foli during the same period had topped 63 just twice, peaking at 79.  Foli also didn’t have Taveras’ speed.  Where he figured to make a difference was on defense.  According to both bb-ref and FG, Taveras had had a couple good years early in his career, but more recently he’d declined to average or below at short.  Foli, however, consistently put up excellent defensive numbers.

Taveras stuck as the Mets’ regular at short for two years, playing much as he had with the Pirates.  He spent two more, partial seasons in the majors after that, one with the Mets and one with the Expos.  Field, a former fourth round draft pick out of high school, was 22 at the time of the trade.  The Pirates sent him to their AAA affiliate in Portland, where he had a rough time.  He never reached the majors.

As for Foli, stay tuned . . . .