December 17, 1932: The Reds acquire future Hall of Fame first baseman Jim Bottomley from the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Estel Crabtree and pitcher Ownie Carroll.
Bottomley had been one of baseball’s best hitters from 1923 when he hit .371 with 94 RBI in his first full season, collecting 111 or more RBI every season from 1924-29. His best season was his MVP 1928 season, when he hit .325 with 31 homers, 136 RBI, 123 runs scored, 42 doubles, 20 triples, a .402 OBP, a .628 SLG, and a 1030 OPS (162 OPS+) as the Cardinals won the National League championship. The Cardinals were a first division team from 1925 through 1931. Bottomley slowed in 1932, hitting .296 with 11 homers as the Cardinals fell below .500 for the first time in almost a decade. Bottomley, at age 32, was supplanted by 28-year-old Ripper Collins and Bottomley was made expendable.
The 1932 Reds had finished last for the second consecutive season after finishing seventh of eighth the previous two seasons. Having finished last in runs scored, the Reds jumped at the chance to obtain Bottomley and the price was outfielder Crabtree and rotation starter Carroll. Crabtree was a light hitting outfielder (.274, two homers, .684 OPS in 108 games) while Carroll had led the league in losses as a starting pitcher (10-19, 4.50 ERA, 85 ERA+). Carroll’s best season had been 1928 for the Detroit Tigers (16-12, 3.27 ERA, 126 ERA+), but he had only gone 22-52 with a 5.07 ERA in the years since. The Cardinals flipped him to the Brooklyn Dodgers three months later where he went 14-18 over the next two seasons before retiring. Crabtree had 36 plate appearances for the Cardinals in 1933 before he was sent to the minor leagues, where he spent the next eight seasons before returning to the majors in 1941.
Bottomley became the Reds starting first baseman for the next three seasons, but was a shell of his former self. His best Cincinnati season was his second year with the team when he hit .284 with 11 homers, 31 doubles, 11 triples, 78 RBI, and a 763 OPS (106 OPS+). However, the biggest impact Bottomley had on the Reds may not have been of his own doing. The Reds had acquired young Johnny Mize (also from the Cardinals) following the 1934 season and Mize apparently won the first base job during the 1935 spring training season.
Mize had a lingering injury that required surgery and would cause him to miss several months of the 1935 season. The Reds decided they didn’t want to take a chance on a damaged player and returned Mize to the Cardinals two days before the 1935 season began. Bottomley was named the starting first baseman again and had his worst major league season, hitting .258 with one home run and 49 RBI, posting a 617 OPS (68 OPS+). Mize returned to the Cardinals minor league system in 1935 and hit well and won the Cardinals first base job in 1936 and began his Hall of Fame career with an outstanding rookie season (.329, 19 homers, 93 RBI, .402 OBP, .577 SLG, 979 OPS, 162 OPS+). Meanwhile, the Reds traded Bottomley to the St. Louis Browns for utility infielder Johnny Burnett, who never played a game for the Reds.
For his career, Bottomley hit .310 with 219 home runs and an 869 OPS (127 OPS+) in 16 seasons. In three seasons with the Reds, Bottomley hit .265 with 25 homers and a 704 OPS (95 OPS+). Carroll played nine major league seasons, going 64-90 with a 4.43 ERA (89 OPS+). In two-plus seasons with the Reds, Carroll was 13-29 with a 4.84 ERA (80 ERA+). Crabtree played eight seasons in the majors, hitting .281 with 13 homers and a 721 OPS (100 OPS+). In five years with the Reds, Crabtree hit .273 with eight homers and a 689 OPS (92 OPS+). Crabtree’s biggest claim to fame is that was named to the International League Hall of Fame in 1953 after playing eight years for the Rochester Red Wings.