It is rare for a general manager to have the opportunity to trade for a Hall of Fame-caliber player once, let alone twice.
As a young general manager with the Montreal Expos, Duquette had faith that a 22-year-old Martinez had the potential to become one of the game’s top starters, so he acquired Martinez in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers following the 1993 season.
Duquette joined the Red Sox months later and, when he had the opportunity to acquire Martinez – then the reigning NL Cy Young award winner – again four years later, he orchestrated a trade to make Martinez the cornerstone for the Red Sox's future success.
Even though he traded for Martinez twice, Duquette saw a considerable amount of Martinez’s success from afar. He left Montreal before Martinez ever threw a pitch in an Expos uniform. And even though he saw Martinez dominate in Boston for four seasons – including back-to-back Cy Young awards in 1999 and 2000 – Duquette was dismissed prior to the 2002 season. Martinez would help lead the Red Sox to the World Series title in 2004.
Duquette said he won’t miss Martinez’s next crowning moment, his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in July. Martinez was elected to the Hall of Fame this week, receiving 91.1 percent of the vote.
“I’m going to go see him get inducted, absolutely,” Duquette said. "He’s a superstar. He’s a pitching genius and he’s an artist. He had great stuff. … He was just an electric performer, a great, great pitcher.”
When he was in Montreal in 1993, Duquette needed to find a replacement for veteran right-hander Dennis Martinez – a former Oriole who was about to become a free agent following the season. The Expos were preparing for his departure and needed a front-line rotation heir.
Duquette focused on Martinez, who had pitched mainly in relief for the Dodgers. He had made just three starts in 67 career appearances, and Los Angeles was uncertain whether Martinez’s thin frame and 5-foot-11 height could handle the rigors of starting.
“We had identified Pedro Martinez as one of a couple of pitchers in baseball who we thought could come in and give us some innings and develop into a top quality starting pitchers,” Duquette said. “He was pitching in the bullpen for the Dodgers. The Dodgers were concerned about his size or his lack thereof. I think he’s only the second pitcher under 6-feet to be elected to the Hall of Fame. They were concerned about whether his frame could understand the workload of a lot of innings that he would accumulate as a starting pitcher.”
Duquette had faith Martinez had the stuff and the stamina to be a starter. And Kevin Kennedy and Tim Johnson – two former managers in the Dodgers system who later worked with the Expos – vouched for him. Duquette sent the Expos' most popular player, second baseman Delino DeShields, to the Dodgers for Martinez.
“Who knows what’s going to happen when you put innings on a pitcher, right?” Duquette said. “We didn’t know that, but Pedro definitely proved in Montreal that he could not only pitch, but that he could pitch masterfully. … Delino DeShields was our most recognizable player, and I knew it was be unpopular at the time of the trade, but I also knew that Pedro Martinez pitched like his hair was on fire. He had great stuff and he’d be able to prove his mettle once you gave him the opportunity.”
Martinez blossomed in Montreal, winning his first of three Cy Young awards in 1997, when he went 17-8 with a 1.90 ERA and 305 strikeouts in 241 1/3 innings. Duquette was trying to build a winner in Boston and once again set his eyes on Martinez following a season in which he proved both his skill and durability.
Duquette also had the benefit of deeper pockets in Boston, and he sent pitching prospects Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. to the Expos for Martinez and then signed him to a six-year, $75-million deal. At the time, the deal – which also included a seventh-year option that increased its total worth to $90-million – was unprecedented, but Martinez was only 25 and just entering his prime.
“That’s the type of trade you dream about as a general manager, acquiring the reigning Cy Young Award winner,” Duquette said. “We were fortunate to be able to acquire his contract in a trade. The Yankees were trying hard to trade for him too, but we took his contract and we knew we were going to try to sign him to a long-term deal. We were successful with that and Pedro had some great years with the Red Sox over the term of that contract.”
In his first start at Fenway Park on April 11, 1998, Martinez struck out 12 while tossing a two-hit shutout. In seven years in Boston, Martinez was 117-37 with a 2.52 ERA and 1,683 strikeouts in 203 games.
“Every time he pitched in Fenway it was an event," Duquette said. “The fans in Boston got to see the best years of his career. Pedro was a pitcher who had everything and he just compiled an incredible record over those seven years in Boston and really displayed his greatness as a pitcher compared to the rest of the league. He really had everything and he applied it and earned his way to the Hall of Fame.”
Duquette will always be tied to Martinez, and he twice placed him in situations where he could succeed, but Duquette said Martinez’s path to the Hall of Fame was entirely paved by Pedro.
“Pedro deserves all the credit,” Duquette said. “I believed in him. I saw his talent. He committed to his talent and he fought for everything. He put together a great career. He’s a superstar. He’s a pitching genius, and he’s an artist.”