Guest Post- A Look Back: Yankees Trade for David Justice
By - Robert Seidenstadt
June 17, 2022
We are seven weeks away from the August 2 trade deadline, the standings are
being scrutinized to identify the “buyers” and the “sellers”. The buyer attempts to
acquire an established player who will help immediately in their pennant drive
while the seller is more future oriented and receives “prospects” whose major
league standing is yet to be defined.
On June 29,2000, the Yankees made such a trade with Cleveland. The Yankees
got outfielder David Justice in his age 34 season. They gave up outfielder Ricky
Ledee (age 26 season) and two players to be named later, pitchers Jake
Westbrook and Zack Day, (each in their age 22 season). Let’s see how that trade
worked out for each team.
David Justice was a power hitting corner outfielder who won the NL Rookie of the
Year Award in 1990 as a member of the Atlanta Braves. His best year was in
1993 when he hit 40 HR and was 3 rd in the NL MVP voting. He was traded to
Cleveland in March 1997. He excelled in Cleveland as well. When he was traded
to the Yankees in June 2000, he had hit 20 HR in 68 games. At the time of the
trade, Cleveland was 8.5 GB the White Sox for the AL West lead and decided to
invest in their future.
When Justice arrived in New York, the Yankees were 38-35 and 3 games behind
the Toronto Blue Jays for the AL East lead. Justice continued his outstanding
career as a member of the 2000 Yankees. In 78 games, his WAR was 3.2 with
20 HR and 60 RBI. His slash line was an impressive .305/.391/.585. The
Yankees finished with a 87-74 record, good enough to win the AL East with a 2
game advantage over the Red Sox. In the post-season, Justice won the ALCS
MVP with 2 HR and 8 RBI in the Yankee 4 games to 2 games victory over the
Seattle Mariners on their way to their 26th World Championship.
In 2001 (Justice’s age 35 season) his WAR was 0.5 in 111 games. He was
traded at the end of the season to the New York Mets who traded him the next
week to the Oakland Athletics. He retired after the 2002 season.
Over his 13-year Major League career Westbrook compiled a 105-103 W-L
record and a 4.32 ERA. His lifetime WAR was 13.1 He became a mainstay of the
Cleveland pitching staff, throwing over 200 innings from 2004-2006.His two best
years for Cleveland were 2004 (14 wins and an All-Start game nod) and 2006 (16
wins). In the 2007 ALDS, Westbrook pitched Game 3 for Cleveland against the
Yankees. He lost that game giving up 5 runs in 5+ innings that included a 3-run
Johnny Damon home run. 2007 was the only year during Westbrook’s tenure
with the team that Cleveland made a post-season appearance. Overall, he had a
2-2 post-season W-L record with Cleveland and St. Louis.
Westbrook needed Tommy John surgery in 2008 and missed the entire 2009
season. He returned to pitch for Cleveland in 2010 and at the July 2010 deadline
he was part of a three-team trade that sent him to St. Louis.
The Yankees drafted Ledee in 1990. He made his Major League debut in 1999.
At the time of the trade, Ledee was batting .241 with 7 HR and 31 RBI in 62
games. He played 17 games for Cleveland and then was traded to Texas at the
end of July 2000. He had a 10-year Major League career playing with seven
different teams and finished with a lifetime BA of .243, with 63 HR and 318 RBI.
The Yankees drafted Day in 1996. Over a 5-year major league career with three
NL teams, Day compiled a 21-27 W-L record, a 4.66 ERA and a lifetime WAR of
2.9. Control was not his calling card. In 2003, he led the NL in Wild Pitches (13)
and HBP (10). His lifetime SO/W was 1.10.
1. The Yankees traded Justice to the New York Mets for infielder Robin Ventura
at the end of the 2001 season. Ventura had a productive 2002 for the Yankees
with 27 HR and 93 RBI, .247/.368/.458 and a WAR=3.7. He was granted his free
agency, only to be re-signed by the Yankees for the 2003 season.
2. Ricky Ledee lasted only 17 games with Cleveland. He was traded to the Texas
Rangers for David Segui. Ledee is remembered in Yankee history for his “almost
lost in the sun” 9 th inning catch of fly ball for the 26 th out in David Cone’s perfect
game. Ledee also hit a 2-run homer in that game.
3. At the trade deadline in 2010, Jake Westbrook was part of a three-team trade
(Cleveland, San Diego and St. Louis) that netted Cleveland a 23 year-old pitcher
named Corey Kluber who was then pitching in AA for the San Diego Padres.
Yes, the same Cory Kluber who pitched a no-hitter for the Yankees in 2021 and
who won the AL Cy Young award in 2014 and 2017. Good for Cleveland.
So who won this trade?
Both teams did.
The Yankee traded for Justice and he helped get them to their 26 th World
Championship title. That was the purpose of the trade and you can say
unequivocally, “Mission Accomplished”. Could Ledee have done what Justice
did for the Yankees in 2000? I think not. Westbrook turned into a productive
starter and Day was, at best, a depth pitcher. And they were also able to morph
Justice into Ventura for the 2002 season. Yes, this trade was a win for the
The trade was also a win for Cleveland. Westbrook was a consistent 200+ inning
pitcher for three years and he was still pitching for Cleveland six years after
Justice retired. If you add Kluber into the equation, then you have another 6
years of starting pitching that is arguably at the HOF level. Not a bad return for a
34-year old outfielder. But, alas, no World Championships.