Colorado Rockies trade anniversary: Trading Charles Johnson to Boston

15 years ago today, the Colorado Rockies traded away the best catcher in franchise history to that point, Charles Johnson, to the Boston Red Sox.

In their short history, Charles Johnson, in just two seasons, was the best catcher that the Colorado Rockies had up to that point.

At the end of spring training in 2005, though, the Colorado Rockies traded away Johnson and minor leaguer Chris Narveson to the Red Sox for pitcher Byung-hyun Kim and cash.

Johnson, who was entering his age 33 season, was acquired by the Rockies in November of 2002 from the Florida Marlins along with reliever Vic Darensbourg, utility man Pablo Ozuna, and outfielder Preston Wilson for starter Mike Hampton, outfielder Juan Pierre, and cash.

The Marlins then flipped Hampton to the Atlanta Braves for a minor leaguer and pitcher Tim Spooneybarger two days later.

Johnson was in his second tenure with the Marlins as he was with them when they won the World Series back in 1997. Ironically, they won the World Series again in 2003, the next season after Johnson left.

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He left the Marlins in 1998 as he was traded to the Dodgers in the Marlins firesale of their players. He was traded along with outfielders Jim Eisenreich, Bobby Bonilla, and Gary Sheffield and a minor leaguer for Mike Piazza and future Rockie Todd Zeile. The Marlins flipped Piazza to the Mets a few days later.

However, a few years later, when Johnson was traded once again (for the sixth time in his career), but this time, by the Rockies, he was the one that was flipped, essentially. The same day that he was traded, the Red Sox dumped him since they already had a catcher in Jason Varitek.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays signed him a few days later and played in 19 games with them. He struggled to a 67 OPS+ before being released in June. He was never signed by another MLB team again.

Narveson, who had only been in the minor leagues up to that point, was acquired by the Rockies in the Larry Walker trade with the Cardinals in August of 2004. Narveson later returned to the Cardinals on a waiver claim later in 2005 and later spent parts of eight seasons in the majors, mainly with the Milwaukee Brewers.

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Kim was a salary dump from the Red Sox and then-Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein admitted as much at the time.

“We certainly made a mistake and I take responsibility for that,” said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein at the time of the trade per ESPN. “It’s just a mystery what happened to this guy.”

The Red Sox had signed him to a 2-year deal for $10 million at the start of the 2004 season. After trading for him in the middle of the 2003 season, Kim pitched to a 6.23 ERA in just 17 1/3 innings. Previously, he pitched with the Arizona Diamondbacks where he, famously, blew the saves in Games 4 and 5 of the World Series in 2001 on walk-off home runs.

The Rockies were looking to dump Johnson because they were turning to JD Closser as their starting catcher so the Red Sox could dump Johnson’s salary instead and the Rockies could get a pitcher for their beleaguered pitching staff, even though Kim was on the downside of his career.

Kim pitched to a 14-26 record with an ERA of 5.33 in 70 appearances (50 starts). In the middle of the 2007 season, the Rockies traded Kim for reliever Jorge Julio, who pitched to a 3.93 ERA in 58 games. He did not make an appearance for the Rockies in the postseason, though.

The Marlins released Kim during the season so the D’Backs picked him up. After two games, they dumped him and the Marlins signed him again.

He didn’t pitch in the majors again after the 2007 season but he did pitch in independent ball, Japan, and Australia. He pitched in Australia as recently as 2018.