Astros History

Astros: Revisiting the 1991 Curt Schilling/Glenn Davis trade

1989: Glen Davis #27 of the Houston Astros gets ready on the field during a 1989 season game. Glen Davis played for the Astros from 1984-1990. (Photo by: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
1989: Glen Davis #27 of the Houston Astros gets ready on the field during a 1989 season game. Glen Davis played for the Astros from 1984-1990. (Photo by: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) /
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Taking a look back at one of the best trades in Houston Astros history involving Curt Schilling and Glenn Davis.

Looking through the history of the Houston Astros, there’s no shortage of bad trades. We’ve already examined the 1994 deal sending Ken Caminiti to San Diego, which was partially set up by an excellent trade the team made in 1991 involving pitcher Curt Schilling and first baseman Glenn Davis.

On Jan. 10, 1991, the Astros traded Davis to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Schilling, pitcher Pete Harnisch and outfielder Steve Finley. Finley would wind up in that 1994 trade to San Diego as well.

Davis was soon to turn 30 and had established himself as a solid power hitter despite playing half of his games in the cavernous Astrodome. He’d hit at least 20 homers in six straight seasons prior to the trade, including three 30-homer campaigns. He was a two-time All-Star and had three Top-10 MVP finishes, including a runner-up finish in 1986.

In seven seasons with the Astros, Davis totaled a .262/.337/.483 line with 166 homers. Trading him during his supposed prime would’ve been unpopular, but as it turned out, it was the right time to make this deal. Davis hit .247/.312/.400 with 24 homers in three seasons with Baltimore and would not return to the major leagues after those three seasons.

The Return

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Schilling was a 24-year-old right-hander coming off a 2.54 ERA in 46 innings out of the Orioles bullpen in 1990. The Astros utilized him in relief as well, and he worked to a 3.81 ERA in 75.2 innings for the club in 1991.

Finley spent four seasons in Houston and compiled a .281/.331/.406 line with 32 homers and 110 stolen bases. Harnisch immediately became a solid rotation piece, putting up three strong seasons before finishing his Astros career with a dud in 1994.

Unfortunately the club followed up this excellent trade with some misses. Schilling was shipped to the Phillies after just one season in Houston in exchange for Jason Grimsley. Schilling worked to a 2.35 ERA in 226.1 innings for Philadelphia in 1992 and went on to what should be a Hall of Fame career. Grimsley spent all of 1992 in Triple-A and posted a 5.05 ERA there before getting released.

Finley was included in that ill-fated Caminiti trade with San Diego and blossomed into a solid power hitter after leaving Houston. Harnisch was traded to the Mets for a pair of players who never pitched in the major leagues for the Astros, and he would go on to put together a few more solid seasons with the Mets and Reds.

So unfortunately this trade didn’t turn out quite as well as it could have. The Astros got an impressive haul and traded Davis at the perfect time, but by trading Schilling and Finley before they reached their primes, the franchise failed to maximize its return.

It’s fair to wonder how the club would have fared with Schilling in its rotation through the 1990s and a power-hitting Finley roaming the outfield in the late ’90s and into the 2000s at Minute Maid Park. Schilling’s postseason resume alone would have helped the team during those failed playoff runs in the late ’90s.

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But as we’ll see when examining the history of the Astros franchise, the all-time great Jeff Bagwell trade is an outlier. The rest of the team’s big transactions have more checkered results.

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