Players not only ones moving in trades
Families forced to make big adjustments after Deadline deals
Jarrod Washburn had been hearing the whispers for over a year, and two weeks ago they finally turned into a scream.
After revitalizing his career at the age of 34 with a 2009 season that has put him among the American League leaders in ERA, the left-handed starter was finally traded from the rebuilding Seattle Mariners to a new home with Detroit as the Tigers geared up for a pennant drive.
Washburn was among the dozens of Major Leaguers who had their careers and their lives sent on an unpredictable detour to a new team and a new city. From Victor Martinez and his tearful goodbye from Cleveland to Jake Peavy leaving San Diego behind for Chicago, the trade season has impacts that go beyond the field.
For Washburn, a savvy veteran, it won't be hard to take the ball every five days on pitching mounds around the American League he's already accustomed to.
But as a married father with three young children, sudden change is never easy.
"They don't really understand it, trying to make that adjustment," Washburn says of his children: sons Jack, 8, and Owen, 6, and 4-year-old daughter, Ava.
"I think it's confusing for them to go from one minute cheering for the Mariners to now, where we've got to cheer for the Tigers. Just two weeks ago, they were cheering against the Tigers."
Meanwhile, Jarrod's wife, Kerrie, has been tasked with transitioning the family from their house in Kirkland, Wash., outside Seattle to new digs in suburban Michigan. She, too, admits that while they knew being traded was a very real possibility, the lightning-quick reality has made things a bit difficult.
"Even with all the stuff you see on TV or read on the Internet, you still really can't pack up or know where you're going," Kerrie Washburn says. "You go from having a house and being settled with roots to being on a plane in a couple of days.
"We bought our house, the kids went to school there for a few years, they played Little League, and we had neighbors and friends. We loved being there."
Fortunately for the Washburns and other big league families, there's usually a permanent offseason house that will always represent "home" to children. For the Washburns, it's the rural Wisconsin town of Webster.
But with Jarrod set to be a free agent at the end of this year, it's anyone's guess where they might end up in 2010 after figuring out in a hurry where to settle near Detroit.
"We're just going to rent a house and move into it today," says Kerrie, still packing up boxes in Kirkland. "We won't think about next year until this season's over."
Mark Kotsay is now used to that approach.
The 33-year-old utility man has been reduced to role-player status by a rash of back injuries over the years, but he's still effective enough to warrant being considered a perennial pennant-push piece come Trade Deadline time.
Kotsay was moved from the Atlanta Braves to the Boston Red Sox last August, and this past July 28, was shipped from Boston to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Brian Anderson.
"It's somewhat comical in some respects, really," says Kotsay, also married and the father of three children.
"But it's also not fun when you have family involved and they've gotten used to their surroundings and have established relationships. It puts a strain on a marriage and on your kids."
Kotsay makes a point to say he feels fortunate that he's well-paid and playing a game for a living, but he also says ballplayers are human beings and maybe sometimes that gets forgotten.
"Normally, in corporate America, when a person is told they're being transferred from one side of the United States to the other, they're given at least two weeks' notice," Kotsay says. "We get two days."
In Kotsay's case this year, the quick turnaround wasn't accomplished so easily.
He was designated for assignment on a Friday, packed up his Boston apartment on Saturday, and took the family back to their offseason home on a Sunday flight. He found out Monday that he had been traded to Chicago, the deal was officially announced Tuesday, and the White Sox wanted him in Minnesota and in uniform for a Wednesday night game.
Fair enough, but there was only one problem.
Kotsay had left his luggage and boxes with the clubhouse attendants at Fenway Park, who were to ship his personal belongings to San Diego while leaving Kotsay's baseball equipment until Tuesday.
"But when I found out I was traded, the baseball stuff was already in transit to San Diego," Kotsay says. "So I scraped together some black cleats, found a first baseman's mitt and an outfielder's glove in my garage, stuffed it into my bag for Minnesota, and eventually had to borrow a first baseman's glove from [White Sox pitcher Mark] Buehrle because mine wasn't broken in enough."
All of this on top of another fun fact.
"I just recently got the five bedrooms of furniture from my Atlanta house moved to San Diego so I don't have to pay the 350 bucks a month of storage there anymore," Kotsay says. "At the end of this year I'll still be unpacking from my last trade."
At least he doesn't have to plan a wedding. George Sherrill does.
|"I've got a lot of empathy, not just for the player. I think about the family and extended family. It can be a very emotional thing."|
|-- White Sox GM Kenny Williams|
"She had come back to Baltimore and wasn't even there a week and then it happened," Sherrill says of the trade. "Once it happens, you just have to get everything in order and take care of everything. And she's been awesome about it. Like I say, she's a good one."
Like Kotsay, Sherrill says he'll just stay in a hotel while he's in L.A. because he's not sure where he'll end up next year. Kotsay says the team pays for the first seven nights in a hotel while the player secures longer-term housing.
Sherrill doesn't seem fazed by the drastic life change, though.
Maybe that has something to do with the fact that he went undrafted out of college and spent almost five years in remote independent league outposts in Indiana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Canada before hooking on with the Seattle Mariners in 2004. He then became an All-Star closer with Baltimore in 2008.
"I'm used to being on the move," Sherrill says. "When I was in Winnipeg, I stayed in a hotel, and in independent ball they have host families. I did that for the first couple years in Evansville. Sioux Falls had an apartment for me. It's a lot of different stuff. You're home for a week, gone for a week, and it's basically the same schedule.
"I've been on the move for most of my life. I feel kind of like an Army brat, I guess."
One thing Sherrill won't complain about is the shift in the standings that he has experienced by going from the Orioles, who are in last place in the AL East, to the Dodgers, who are cruising atop the National League West with the second-best record in the Majors.
"It's hard not to be positive about it when you go from worst to first," Sherrill says. "The bottom line is that I haven't had a chance at the playoffs yet in my career, and now I do."
Angels broadcaster Rex Hudler, who played 13 seasons in the Major Leagues and one in Japan and was traded twice, has made a living out of accentuating the positive, and he says that's what players need to do when their seasons and lives are abruptly sent in different directions when the calendar hits July 31.
"It's exciting, really," Hudler says. "You understand the business before you get in it. You never really think it's going to happen, but when you hear your name, wow.
"Look, we're all human beings and we all want to be wanted. You hear your name out there, you're like, 'Cool, man. Somebody wants me.' And then, once it happens, you're like, 'What do I do now?'"
Hudler, who has children now but didn't at the time of both of his big league trades, says he learned a tough but valuable lesson about how serious this issue can be with players and their families.
"I'm on FOX, my first year, 11 years ago, and I hear that [pitcher] Kenny Rogers had rejected a trade, and I said probably the strongest thing I had said on the air to that point," Hudler recalls. "I said, 'He's just scared. He doesn't want to go.'
"It turns out his family was listening, so the next time I saw Kenny, he pulled me aside and said, 'I heard that you're a big family man, and I also heard you said I was scared because I didn't want to accept a trade. I've got a problem with that.'
'Hud, my kids were crying, saying, 'Daddy, don't go.'
"And that's when it dawned on me that when you have kids, you have to listen to them."
But when you don't have the right to turn down a trade, you can only listen to your new club.
"The only thing you can control in baseball is your hustle and your attitude," Hudler says. "With all the other stuff, you're a piece of property. You're a high-priced beef cattle and you go to the highest bidder.
"I was more like cow manure than high-priced beef cattle, but the best thing about cow manure is that they use it to fertilize the ground and give life to other things."
Kenny Williams has given life to plenty of Deadline deals over the years.
After building the team that won the World Series in 2005, the charismatic general manager of the White Sox has rebuilt the club over and over, including this year's stunning moves of trading for Peavy and claiming high-priced outfielder Alex Rios off waivers.
He says trading players isn't just an exercise in cell phone communication and paperwork, though.
"I take it very seriously," Williams says. "I've got a lot of empathy, not just for the player. I think about the family and extended family. It can be a very emotional thing. And this is coming from the person who has probably traded more players than anybody.
"But it's different with each guy because your relationship is different. Some guys you can't wait to trade for whatever reason because they haven't followed the White Sox way or the White Sox plan. And with some others, you really dread the conversation, and it puts you through your own emotions."
Williams says it was particularly difficult to have to say goodbye to outfielder Aaron Rowand and pitcher Freddy Garcia.
"When you win a World Series with guys, it makes it that much tougher," Williams says. "You're never really 'good' at doing it, but I can say we now know what to expect just because we have a lot of experience at it."
So if seasoned ballplayers, executives or families can take any solace in the personal turmoil created by trades, it's that it gets easier as the years and the miles add up on the wonderful ride called Major League Baseball.
Just ask Kerrie Washburn, who says her kids are already adjusting to a new, and most likely very temporary, life in Detroit.
"My oldest thought, 'Yeah, that's cool. The playoffs would be awesome,'" Kerrie says.
"And Owen, the 6-year-old, he was kind of upset because he didn't want to leave his friends. But my 4-year-old, Ava, she knew there was a carousel at Comerica Park.
"So I think she's OK with it."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.