2002 – The Indians enter rebuilding mode, as the club deals staff ace Bartolo Colon and minor league pitcher Tim Drew to the Montreal Expos for three future star prospects and veteran first baseman/outfielder Lee Stevens.
Colon, off to a 10-4 start for the Tribe with a 2.55 ERA in 16 starts, is dealt to a contending Expos team as the Indians cannot seem to push over the .500 mark. The club was 36-41 at the time of the trade, seven games in back of Minnesota, and a sub-.500 team since April 28th.
The Expos, in second place with the inverted record of the Indians at 41-36, were trailing the Atlanta Braves by six and half games at the time of the trade. Colon joined an unproven staff that included Javier Vazquez, Tomo Ohka, and Tony Armas and remained dominant in his new league, going 10-4 down the stretch in 17 starts with a 3.31 ERA.
The Indians acquired young outfielder Grady Sizemore, left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee, and middle infielder Brandon Phillips along with Stevens. Stevens will wrap up his MLB career on the Indians roster, while the other three will report to minor league affiliates.
Sizemore will report to High-A Kinston and hit .343. He will reach the Majors midway through the 2004 season and make the first of three All-Star teams by 2006. Lee will report to Double-A Akron and will make his Major League debut before year’s end. He will get Cy Young consideration by 2005 and will win the award in his last full year in Cleveland in 2008, his first of four career All-Star trips. Phillips will head to Buffalo, but will make his debut at the age of 21 in September. After failing to stick at the MLB level after parts of four seasons with the club, he will be dealt to the Cincinnati Reds for minor league reliever Jeff Stevens.