Ranking the 10 Most Shocking MLB Trades of 2012

Ely SussmanCorrespondent ISeptember 8, 2012

Ranking the 10 Most Shocking MLB Trades of 2012

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    MLB personnel moves are frequently prefaced by fan speculation, media probing or an executive announcement. Somebody usually spoils the surprise.

    This article celebrates 10 exceptions to that norm that were completed in 2012.

    The players involved ranged from future first-ballot Hall of Famers to lifetime reserves. The reasons for relocation varied, too.

    However, they all understand what it's like to be moved in a shocking trade.

    Let's review their experiences from the past year.

10. Chris Stewart Picked Up (New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants): Apr. 4

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    New York Yankees received C Chris Stewart.

    San Francisco Giants received RHP George Kontos.

    It was presumed that Francisco Cervelli, the Yankees reserve catcher since 2009, would reprise his role for the 2012 regular season.

    Then GM Brian Cashman stunned us all hours prior to Opening Day by acquiring Stewart.

    In hindsight, this move is understandable.

    Baseball-Reference.com reveals that the 30-year-old's defense the previous summer was worth 1.7 Wins Above Replacement. Compared to Cervelli, he boasted a higher caught stealing percentage and allowed fewer wild pitches.

    Meanwhile, confused fans were fixated on Stewart's offensive deficiencies and lack of MLB experience.

    Though the veteran didn't have the luxury of working with Yankees' pitchers during spring training, his catcher's ERA was impressive from the get-go.

9. Edward Mujica Moved in Fire Sale (St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins): July 31

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    St. Louis Cardinals received RHP Edward Mujica.

    Miami Marlins received 3B Zack Cox.

    This move made a ton of sense for the Cards. Their bullpen was scuffling and you can't go wrong with a cheap strike-thrower like Mujica.

    But what's Miami's rationale?

    He could've been retained for 2013 via arbitration and contributed to a potential bounce-back season.

    This summer's Fish fell out of contention by the non-waiver trade deadline and several players anticipated their own departures. Troublesome personalities, impending free agents and poor performers were all rightfully on the trading block, but nobody suspected that Mujica would change uniforms.

    Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald reported that the right-hander was "very surprised" by the news.

    The rest of us were too.

8. Ryan Roberts' Departure (Tampa Bay Rays, Arizona Diamondbacks): July 24

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    Tampa Bay Rays received IF Ryan Roberts.

    Arizona Diamondbacks received IF Tyler Bortnick.

    Easing Evan Longoria back to third base in the aftermath of a hamstring injury has been a process. Conveniently, getting Roberts gave the Rays a reputable bat who provided all-important defensive versatility.

    The motivation to move TatMan from Arizona's perspective became clear only days later when they snagged Chris Johnson—who is less expensive yet comparable in value—from the Houston Astros.

    Realize, though, that at the time, it seemed as if the reigning NL West champion D-Backs were waving the white flag with 10 weeks to play.

7. Montero/Pineda Swap (New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners): Jan. 13

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    New York Yankees received RHP Michael Pineda, RHP Jose Campos.

    Seattle Mariners received DH/C Jesus Montero, RHP Hector Noesi.

    Interested in bolstering their starting rotation, the Yankees were in the market for long-term solutions, especially cheap ones.

    Pineda, one of 2011's American League Rookie of the Year candidates, evidently caught Brian Cashman's attention, but nobody expected Montero to be included in an offseason deal.

    Not unless an established ace was involved (Joel Sherman of the New York Post via Twitter). After finishing with a .328/.406/.590 triple-slash line in 69 plate appearances that September, his value was through the roof.

    Sherman's December article in the Post about New York's payroll limitations seemingly confirmed that Montero would be staying in pinstripes. A pre-arbitration eligible slugger was ideal for a club pushing up against the luxury tax...right?

    Ultimately, the Yankees couldn't resist Pineda's size, velocity and equally negligible MLB service time.

6. Ichiro Suzuki Move (New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners): July 23

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    New York Yankees received OF Ichiro Suzuki.

    Seattle Mariners received RHP Danny Farquhar and RHP D.J. Mitchell.

    It isn't the least bit unusual for a declining player with an expiring deal on a cellar-dwelling team to hop to a contender at midseason.

    Suzuki's situation wasn't so simple, however.

    The M's are owned by Japanese-based electronics juggernaut Nintendo. The outfielder, who's also a native of the Far East, had spent most of his MLB career as their premier player. Plus, let's not overlook the fact that Seattle, relative to most cities in the continental United States, is near the Land of the Rising Sun.

    Despite doubt that the two parties would agree to an in-season contract extension, there was consensus that at least the outfielder's 2012 season would not be split between two franchises.

    Collaborating with a familiar trade partner surely helped the Mariners front office pull the trigger.

    After a couple weeks of discussion, the swap was completed while the Yankees were road-tripping at Safeco Field. An emotional Suzuki simply switched clubhouses.

5. Hanley Ramirez Salary Dump (Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins): July 25

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    Los Angeles Dodgers received 3B Hanley Ramirez, LHP Randy Choate.

    Miami Marlins received RHP Nate Eovaldi, RHP Scott McGough.

    Dumping HanRam's exorbitant salary in Stan Kasten's lap was a concession from the Marlins that their 2012 roster, though talented, could never compete for a World Series title.

    The athletic third baseman was considered the face of the organization. His unusual—and at times, selfish—antics were often excused by owner Jeffrey Loria, who never hid his love for the 28-year-old (via Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports).

    Probably the craziest detail of this transaction was L.A.'s willingness to absorb all $40 million owed to Ramirez through the 2014 season. Miami was selling low on him, but still came away with much-needed financial relief.

4. Wandy Rodriguez Acquisition (Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros): July 24

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    Pittsburgh Pirates received LHP Wandy Rodriguez.

    Houston Astros received LHP Colton Cain, OF Robbie Grossman, LHP Robbie Owens.

    The Bucs wisely addressed their weaknesses as July came to an end.

    Paying big bucks for Rodriguez, however, didn't make much sense for the small-market playoff hopefuls.

    At the time, Pittsburgh had a quintet of healthy and reasonably effective starting pitchers. On top of that, a handful of high-ceiling prospects were maturing in the high minors.

    But as a result of the trade, the Pirates will owe Rodriguez $8.5 million in 2013 and another $7.5 million the following season if he exercises a player option.

    There's was skepticism that they would add a veteran starter at that price considering future obligations to contracted players (e.g. Clint Barmes, Andrew McCutchen) and arbitration-eligible regulars (like Garrett Jones and Neil Walker).

3. A.J. Burnett Giveaway (Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees): Feb. 19

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    Pittsburgh Pirates received RHP A.J. Burnett.

    New York Yankees received OF Exicardo Cayones, RHP Diego Moreno.

    There's no way to put it lightly—Burnett failed in the Bronx.

    And because aging underachievers owed $16-plus million per season are typically impossible to move (see Jason Bay, Barry Zito), Yankees Universe never dreamed that relief from the right-handed albatross was forthcoming.

    The fact that any MLB team wanted to acquire Burnett was shocking. Reports that Pittsburgh was the potential trade partner caused jaws to drop.

    All the fine details were ironed out on the eve of spring training.

2. Ryan Dempster Rental (Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs): July 31

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    Texas Rangers received RHP Ryan Dempster.

    Chicago Cubs received RHP Kyle Hendricks, 3B Christian Villanueva.

    Dempster's Opening Day gem against the Washington Nationals (7.2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 10 SO) raised eyebrows around the National League.

    I imagine that serious offers began flooding the front office soon after as the ace continued cruising through opposing lineups. And the rebuilding Cubs needed to be receptive to all of them.

    Everybody and their grandmother knew that the 35-year-old wouldn't last the summer in the Windy City, but American League destinations were quickly ruled out.

    Dempster wasn't going to wave his 10-and-five rights and risk a statistical regression in a contract year to pitch in a league that has historically clobbered him. Or so we thought...

    As we found out following the non-waiver deadline, the Rangers were desperate.

    They withheld an announcement about Neftali Feliz' injured elbow (via Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram.com) and outbid the Los Angeles Dodgers.

1. Waiver Deadline Megadeal (Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox): Aug. 25

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    Los Angeles Dodgers received RHP Josh Beckett, OF Carl Crawford, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, IF Nick Punto.

    Boston Red Sox received IF Ivan De Jesus, RHP Rubby De La Rosa, 1B James Loney, OF Jerry Sands, RHP Allen Webster.

    Humans are naturally reluctant to encourage unprecedented proposals. That's what this was on paper—a blockbuster larger than any other in the annals of August trades.

    Even those who anticipated a Beantown exodus were in disbelief.

    How could Beckett, Crawford and Gonzalez be moved together? And their monstrous, multi-year deals absorbed by a single team?

    Most of us would have lacked the open-mindedness to cooperate with another executive on such an overhaul.

    I'm genuinely shocked—and impressed—that neither Ben Cherington nor Ned Colletti dismissed the bold idea in its infancy.