Every MLB Team's Best Dumb-Luck Acquisition Ever
Whether at the trade deadline or during the offseason, teams are looking to improve throughout the year in MLB. Generally, the trade in mind is simple for a team, whether it's trading a star for prospects, trading hitting for pitching, or whatever is needed.
The same goes for the draft, though teams generally draft less for need and more by how scouts feel about a player. Based on scout knowledge, teams can get lucky finding a player late, and one of the prospects added in a trade can end up being a superstar.
Here is the luckiest acquisition for each team in MLB history, whether it's a prospect who became a Hall of Famer, or whether they drafted a guy as a favor to a friend, leading to the team acquiring the same.
Baltimore Orioles: Mike Flanagan
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In 1973, the Baltimore Orioles were stocking up on pitching through the draft. They selected four pitchers in the first six rounds, with only Mike Parrott even reaching the majors.
In the same draft where the Orioles got Eddie Murray, they drafted Mike Flanagan in the seventh round.
Flanagan won 141 games for Baltimore, as well as a Cy Young award. He was drafted in 1971 as well by the Astros but chose not to sign, so the O's got doubly lucky.
Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz
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David Ortiz does not necessarily fit this list to a tee, as he did produce somewhat during his time with Minnesota. However, there's one reason I put him on the list.
When the Red Sox signed him in January 2003, it wasn't because they knew he would be a star. It was because they had an opening at first base, so they acquired Ortiz, Kevin Millar and Jeremy Giambi to see who would stick.
Needless to say, one in particular stuck very well.
New York Yankees: Don Larsen
Most of the Yankees' best acquisitions were either through outpaying other teams or grabbing them from the Red Sox around 1920, so it's harder to pick one for this list.
However, one sticks out.
In 1954, Don Larsen won three games and lost 21 with the Baltimore Orioles. Yes, 3-21. As a result, he was traded to the Yankees in a huge batch of players from both sides.
The result was the Yankees acquiring the only pitcher in World Series history to throw a perfect game.
Tampa Bay Rays: James Shields
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The Tampa Bay Rays may not have had a long history, but they have still been able to get lucky in the draft.
While David Price, Jeff Niemann and other pitchers have been first-round selections, workhorse James Shields was selected in the 16th round of the 2000 draft.
In the draft that awarded the Rays Rocco Baldelli, it's nice to know they were lucky elsewhere.
Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista
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Jose Bautista turned into a star out of nowhere. He was selected in the 20th round of the 2000 draft and was a journeyman for several years, never able to solidify a spot in the lineup.
The Pirates traded him to Toronto for nothing more than a player to be named later, Robinzon Diaz. Diaz is struggling in the minors, while Bautista has become one of the most feared bats in the game.
Chicago White Sox: Ozzie Guillen
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When Ozzie Guillen signed with the Miami Marlins as manager for the upcoming season, it felt like that was the first time he was ever not a member of the White Sox.
In fact, this is not quite true.
Guillen was originally signed by the San Diego Padres in 1980. At the end of the 1984 season, he was traded with a bunch of other players for LaMarr Hoyt, who had recently won a Cy Young Award.
While San Diego got its pitcher, the White Sox got their starting shortstop for 13 years.
Cleveland Indians: Shoeless Joe Jackson
Shoeless Joe Jackson may be best known as a member of the Black Sox during the 1919 scandal, but when he was just starting out, he was part of the Philadelphia Athletics.
In a 1910 deadline deal, the A's traded Morrie Rath to the Cleveland Naps for Bris Lord. They also sent a player to be named later, and that throw-in player ended up being Jackson, who became the cornerstone of the Cleveland offense for the next five years.
Detroit Tigers: Norm Cash
Before Norm Cash was a great first baseman for the Detroit Tigers, he bounced around the American League teams quite a bit. He started his career with the Chicago White Sox, then he was lumped into a trade with the Cleveland Indians after the 1959 season.
The Indians didn't seem to want him, immediately trading him to the Detroit Tigers for a guy that played 15 career games in the majors. The Tigers, in return, got a 15-year star.
Kansas City Royals: Amos Otis
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Amos Otis may not be well known outside of Kansas City, but he is a huge part of Royals history, so much so that it's hard to see him in another uniform.
However, he started his career with the New York Mets.
After hitting .151 in 1969, the Mets traded him and Bob Johnson to the Royals for Joe Foy. The other two did little, but Otis blossomed into Kansas City's first big star.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Cronin
Joe Cronin is perhaps best known for his time with the Boston Red Sox, but he was a key part of the Washington Senators teams of the early 1930s. However, he originally was part of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
He played sparingly for two years before being sent to the minors. The Senators has a shortstop in Bobby Reeves but figured Cronin could be a good backup and picked him up.
The end result was that Washington had a perennial MVP candidate for many years.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Jim Fregosi
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When expansion teams are made and an expansion draft occurs, the teams are lucky to acquire serviceable players, and they naturally have to build from there.
In the case of the Angels in 1960, they picked up Jim Fregosi from the Boston Red Sox, then an 18-year-old prospect. He not only blossomed into the Angels' first star, but he was the basis of their first great trade, when they sent him to the Mets for a young Nolan Ryan.
While Nolan Ryan makes sense on this list, I feel like Ryan was the main piece of the group to begin with, so it wasn't so much dumb luck as a bad trade by the Mets.
Oakland Athletics: Jose Canseco
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The Oakland Athletics are a team pretty well known for evading luck in acquiring and getting rid of players where they can. Still, even they can get lucky sometimes.
The main source of power in the late 1980s, Jose Canseco, won a Rookie of the Year Award and MVP early on with Oakland, yet he was taken in the 15th round of the 1982 draft.
Seattle Mariners: Randy Johnson
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To me, it's hard to see Randy Johnson in anything other than Seattle's or Arizona's uniform, though he played with six different teams in his career. The first, the Montreal Expos, wanted an ace and got a deal going with Seattle.
For Mark Langston, the Mariners got three pitchers, with the hopes that one could take over for Langston down the road. Johnson did that in spades, becoming an all-time great pitcher, starting with his time in Seattle.
Texas Rangers: Charlie Hough
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When you have 216 career wins, and you went until 30 without really starting any games, that says a lot.
Despite that, Charlie Hough is a relative unknown. He spent the first 10 years of his career with the Dodgers as a reliever and occasional closer.
The Rangers bought him in July 1980 to help out with the bullpen. After a couple seasons, they decided to make him a full-time starter, and he spent the next decade as a very consistent starter for the Rangers, leading them through the 1980s.
Atlanta Braves: John Smoltz
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In another of baseball's most lopsided trades, the Detroit Tigers needed help in a pennant race and traded 20-year-old prospect John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander.
Alexander did his job for that half a season, while Smoltz began a key piece of the great 1990s Atlanta Braves pitching staff.
Miami Marlins: Jeff Conine
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Much like the Angels back in 1960, the Marlins needed to find quality players in the expansion draft, and they were able to do so in 1992, selecting Jeff Conine from the Kansas City Royals.
Conine played in 37 major league games before arriving with the Marlins, but he was the centerpiece of the lineup the first few seasons, helping lead them to their first World Series title.
New York Mets: Howard Johnson
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The New York Mets are typically on the unlucky side of deals. Nonetheless, they do have players who fit onto this list.
Such is the case for Howard Johnson.
Johnson was originally a power hitter for the Detroit Tigers. After three seasons, the Tigers did not have much use for him and traded him to the Mets for Walt Terrell, who they didn't need much.
The Mets ended up getting a great bat for a decade as a result.
Philadelphia Phillies: Curt Schilling
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This is a tough one, since the Phillies have many players that could potentially fit here, and Curt Schilling had his best years after leaving Philadelphia.
Nonetheless, he certainly applies.
After one season in Houston, the Astros sent Schilling to the Phillies for Jason Grimsley in a reliever-for-starter trade. Ironically, the Phillies turned Schilling into a starter, and he got better every year that he was one.
The luck comes in because the starter the Astros wanted, they perhaps had all along.
Washington Nationals: Andre Dawson
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Before Andre Dawson was winning the MVP and adding to his Hall of Fame credentials with the Cubs, he was the longtime power bat in the Montreal Expos' lineup. He spent 11 seasons there, winning Rookie of the Year and nearly winning two MVPs.
The Expos drafted him in 1975 in the 11th round, and he was selected 250th overall.
In a draft class where the best first-rounder was perhaps Rick Cerone, acquiring Dawson as late as they did was a huge break for them.
Chicago Cubs: Ryne Sandberg
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After the 1981 season ended, the Philadelphia Phillies felt they needed to add a younger shortstop and looked to acquire Ivan de Jesus from the Cubs, trading over Larry Bowa in the process, who they had a contract dispute with.
They also sent off someone else they didn't needed in their crowded infield by the name of Ryne Sandberg. He immediately became a starter, then a star, for the Cubs, spending 15 Hall of Fame years in Chicago.
Cincinnati Reds: Joe Morgan
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Joe Morgan was a very good second baseman for the Houston Astros for nearly a decade. At the end of the 1971 season, he was one of five players traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Tommy Helms, Lee May and Jimmy Stewart.
It's tough to call this dumb luck, since Morgan was one of the centerpieces of the deal to begin with, but the Astros certainly did not see his sudden rise to stardom coming, turning from a very good second baseman to one of the all-time greats with the Reds.
Brandon Phillips, the current second baseman, deserves an honorable mention as well, since he was merely traded to the Reds for a player to be named later.
Houston Astros: Jeff Bagwell
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Astros fans all know the story of Jeff Bagwell.
The Red Sox needed help at the 1990 trade deadline and acquired Larry Andersen from the Astros. In return, they sent over Jeff Bagwell, who they would not have been able to use anyway with Mo Vaughn at first in the mid-90s.
Like many others in this slide show, Bagwell is someone who should be in the Hall of Fame.
Milwaukee Brewers: Cecil Cooper
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The Milwaukee Brewers have had very little in the way of luck, one way or the other. Their best players have been first-round draft picks, and acquiring players for pennant races has not backfired like it has for other teams.
The closest player to fit here is Cecil Cooper.
The first baseman spent six uneventful years with the Red Sox before being traded to the Brewers for Bernie Carbo and George Scott. The trade looked good for Boston originally, but Cooper blossomed into a star in Milwaukee through the late '70s and early '80s.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Roberto Clemente
Roberto Clemente is a legend in Pittsburgh, and it would be impossible to see him in any other uniform. However, that was almost the case, as he was originally in the Brooklyn Dodgers' farm system.
After a decent 1954 season playing Triple-A ball, the Dodgers' outfield was full with Duke Snider and Carl Furillo.
As a result, the Pirates selected Clemente in the Rule 5 draft, since they had an opening in right field, and they ended up with an all-time great.
St. Louis Cardinals: Albert Pujols
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I think everyone saw this one coming. Albert Pujols was selected in the 13th round of the 1999 draft, 402nd overall. Players drafted after the first several rounds are considered an afterthought.
The Cardinals had already found a steal with Coco Crisp in the seventh round, but having a surefire Hall of Famer still on the board after 400 picks? That rarely happens.
The Lou Brock trade deserves an honorable mention, though Brock was the main player the Cardinals were trying to acquire of the three they got from the Cubs.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Luis Gonzalez
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Luis Gonzalez tends to come up rather frequently in dumb-luck slide shows, thanks in part to his 57 home run season.
The way the Diamondbacks acquired him, however, was very much that.
Gonzalez was a veteran left fielder who signed with Detroit for the 1998 season. After a year, the Tigers wanted to go younger and traded Gonzalez to Arizona for Karim Garcia.
Garcia amounted to little, while Gonzalez unleashed his potential in Arizona for eight seasons.
Colorado Rockies: Matt Holliday
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The Colorado Rockies are known for their bats, and Matt Holliday has been one of their many great ones.
However, he was selected later than one would expect given his prowess.
In the 1998 draft, Holliday was selected in the seventh round. He went on to play five great seasons for them. The Rockies also drafted Juan Pierre six rounds later, so 1998 was a lucky year for them.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Mike Piazza
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A lot of the drafted players here were selected fairly far down in the draft, but they are in the 10th-15th round range.
Mike Piazza's selection by the Dodgers blows all of those out of the water.
Piazza was selected in the 62nd round in the 1988 draft. Players drafted that far down usually don't even bother playing professionally, and it's sometimes done as a courtesy.
In Piazza's case, his father asked Tommy Lasorda to draft him. The rest is history.
San Diego Padres: Trevor Hoffman
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In 1993, the Marlins were still a brand new team and wanted a face for their franchise. As a result, they acquired Gary Sheffield from the San Diego Padres, giving up three prospects to do so.
Two of them amounted to nothing, while Trevor Hoffman became one of the greatest closers of all time.
When you trade a star, you hope you get good players in return, but a premier closer in return does not happen often.
San Francisco Giants: Christy Mathewson
Some people note this as the most lopsided trade in baseball, which it perhaps is. Others note it as the best trade for the Giants or worst for the Reds, which it could be.
A lot of that, however, is due to luck.
Trading stars for prospects was not a big thing 100 years ago like it is now. Trading Amos Rusie, a star, for Christy Mathewson, a prospect, was a surprise.
Obviously, had the Reds known what they had, they never would have traded him away.