Astros: Reviewing the 1990 Bill Doran trade with Reds

Infielder Bill Doran of the Houston Astros catches an opponent in a run down during a game.
Infielder Bill Doran of the Houston Astros catches an opponent in a run down during a game. /

We take a look back at the trade in which the Houston Astros sent Bill Doran to the Reds.

August 30, 1990 was a day that will forever be remembered in Houston history. That’s the day the Astros traded reliever Larry Andersen to the Red Sox for a minor league third baseman named Jeff Bagwell. What gets lost in the shuffle is a second trade that took place the same day sending longtime infielder Bill Doran to Cincinnati.

The Astros were going nowhere in 1990, eventually finishing with a 75-87 record under second-year manager Art Howe. Trading off some veterans was in the cards, so they shipped Doran to the Reds in exchange for three players to be named later. Those players turned out to be catcher Terry McGriff and pitchers Keith Kaiser and Butch Henry.

What the Astros Gave Up

Doran had been the team’s starting second baseman since being called up in Sept. 1982. He finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1983 and earned some MVP votes each year from 1985 to 1987. In nine seasons, he hit .267/.355/.374 with 180 doubles, 191 steals and an adjusted OPS of 107. His performance was worth 30.5 WAR during his time with the Astros.

He’d slumped at the plate in 1988 and 1989, but Doran was in the midst of a resurgent campaign in 1990. He was hitting .288/.405/.413 at the time of the trade at age 32, and he hit .373/.448/.559 in 17 games for the Reds after the trade. The Reds went on to sweep Oakland in the World Series, though Doran didn’t play in the postseason due to back surgery.

He played two more seasons in Cincinnati, hitting .280/.359/.374 in 1991 and .235/.342/.349 in 1992. He spent his last major league season with the Brewers in 1993, hitting .217/.284/.283 in 28 games.

What the Astros Got

More from Climbing Tal's Hill

McGriff, who was 26 at the time of the trade, appeared in 77 games across four seasons for the Reds and compiled a .210/.287/.285 batting line. He’d appeared in only two games and garnered four hitless at-bats before the trade in 1990, and with the Astros, he appeared in four games and totaled five hitless at-bats. Those would be his only appearances in Houston, as he spent all of 1991 in the minors before moving on.

Henry had not yet reached the majors, but the left-hander made his debut with the Astros in 1992. He made 28 starts and went 6-9 with a 4.02 ERA. The team lost him in the expansion draft that November, and after bouncing around and posting a couple of good seasons in Montreal, Henry ended his career with a 3.83 ERA in seven seasons.

Kaiser would never reach the major leagues. He pitched well in A-ball but never could figure out the Double-A level, pitching to a 6.26 ERA there in three seasons.

The Final Verdict

The Reds got 2.7 WAR from Doran in a little more than two seasons. The Astros got nothing from Kaiser and -0.2 WAR from each of McGriff and Henry. The on-field performances clearly lean in favor of the Reds.

I certainly don’t blame the Astros for trading Doran considering their 1980s championship window had closed and they were preparing to embark on a new era with younger players. It also cleared the way for Craig Biggio’s move to second base in 1992.

dark. Next. Revisiting the 2000 amateur draft

But they failed to get much of anything in return for Doran. Henry ended up having a respectable career, but they left him unprotected in the expansion draft, so he had his best years elsewhere. McGriff was, at best, a backup catcher, while Kaiser never broke through. This is simply a poor return for a guy who was a reliable player for nearly a decade.