Biggest Trade Disasters in New York Yankees History

Jake SingerContributor IIIOctober 25, 2012

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

As the New York Yankees enter another long offseason without a World Series title, fans and the media will clamor for Brian Cashman to make trades to put the team over the top. But it's important to keep in mind that not all trades improve the team, and trading prospects for established veterans does not always work out.

Here are five of the worst trades the Yankees have made, as a reminder that sometimes the best moves are the ones not made.

5. Yankees trade Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera and Randy Choate for Javier Vazquez

Before the 2004 season, the Yankees dealt for Javier Vazquez for the first time and gave up three unproven prospects.

Nick Johnson played in parts of two seasons for the Yankees before being traded and has gone on to post an .840 OPS in ten injury-prone seasons. He hasn't been a perennial all-star, but he's been an above-average hitter when on the field.

Juan Rivera has hit 132 home runs in 12 big league seasons and Randy Choate continues to be a solid lefty specialist out of the bullpen.

In return for these three serviceable major league players, the Yankees had Vazquez for all of one season, in which he went 14-10 with a 4.91 ERA and had an ERA over 9.00 in the postseason.

Just like the second time the Yankees traded for Vazquez, Brian Cashman wishes he had this one back.

4. Yankees trade Ted Lilly for Jeff Weaver

As part of a three-team deal with the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers in 2002, the Yankees acquired Jeff Weaver in return for Ted Lilly. If only they had gotten Weaver's brother, Jered.

Weaver pitched the second half of '02 and all of '03 in pinstripes, doing more good for the opposing team than for the Bombers. He made 47 appearances for the Yankees (32 starts) and went 12-12 with a 5.35 ERA. In the playoffs, he only pitched three and two-thirds innings in relief and allowed three runs.

By the time Cashman traded Weaver away from the team, he could only include Weaver in a deal for Kevin Brown, which was another disaster of a trade.

On the other side of the deal, Ted Lilly has gone on to have a very good career. Since his Yankees days, he has pitched for Oakland, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has a career 130-111 record and a 4.13 ERA. He hasn't had an ERA over 4.00 since 2008 and has an arm the Yankees could have used for all of the last decade.

3. Yankees trade Mike Lowell for Mark Johnson, Ed Yarnell and Todd Noel

When the Yankees dealt Mike Lowell to the Florida Marlins in 1999, it was a minor move. They traded one prospect for three minor players. Little did they know that the prospect they dealt would go on to win a World Series MVP for their biggest rival.

Mike Lowell was an above-average third and first baseman for the Marlins and Boston Red Sox, hitting 223 home runs with an .805 OPS in a 13-year career. In 2007, he won the World Series MVP for the Red Sox when they beat the Colorado Rockies. He hit .400 in the series with a home run in four games.

Neither Mark Johnson nor Todd Noel ever played for the Yankees, and Ed Yarnell threw 20 below-average innings for them.

Here's a question for Yankee fans to ponder: if they had kept Mike Lowell in 1999, would the Yanks have traded for Alex Rodriguez in 2004 and have to deal with his contract today?

2. Yankees trade Jay Buhner and Rich Balabon for Ken Phelps

In the middle of the 1988 season, the Yankees traded struggling outfielder Jay Buhner and minor-leaguer Rich Balabon to the Seattle Mariners for first baseman/DH Ken Phelps.

Phelps would play just 131 games for the Yankees in two seasons, hitting .240 with 17 home runs before moving on to Oakland.

Buhner, meanwhile, would become one of the best hitters in Mariners' history and played a major role in eliminating the Yankees from the 1995 Division Series. He hit .458 with a home run and three RBIs in the five game set.

He hit 310 home runs in his career and had three straight seasons of 40+ home runs from 1995 through 1997.

How many games could the 1998 Yankees have won with Buhner added to the lineup?

1. Yankees trade Fred McGriff, Dave Collins and Mike Morgan for Dale Murray and Tom Dodd

In December 1982, the Yankees traded away a borderline Hall of Fame first baseman, which makes it perhaps the worst trade in team history.

McGriff never played a major league game for the Yanks but accrued 2,490 hits and 493 home runs for the Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Cubs and Dodgers. He was a career .286 hitter with an .886 OPS.

Dave Collins had a few good years after being traded and Mike Morgan had a career 4.23 ERA and went 16-8 with a 2.55 ERA for the Cubs in 1992.

In return? The Yankees got 120 innings out of Dale Murray and no at-bats from Tom Dodd.


The Yankees have made other bad trades (Randy Johnson, Javier Vazquez Volume 2 and even the Curtis Granderson for Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke deal come to mind) as well as good trades, but these five horrendous deals should remind all of us that trades aren't always needed or beneficial. There's been talk from Yankee fans about trading Robinson Cano. They should bite their tongues; I can almost guarantee that any trade of Cano would end up on this list someday.


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