The 10 Best/Worst Trades in Baseball History
Trades. The complexity is unbelievable, yet the goal is simple. Throughout the years, thousands of trades have taken place. In some situations, a trade works out great for both teams involved. For example, prior to the 2008 season, Josh Hamilton was traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Edinson Volquez. Hamilton played fantastically in 2008, hitting .304 with 32 home runs and 130 RBI's, which led baseball.
Though Cincinnati would have loved to have had Josh Hamilton's hot bat, they were just as pleased with the pitching of Edinson Volquez, as he went 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA, including 206 strikeouts in 196 innings.
Then there are those trades that don't seem to work out for either team, such as the 1994 trade that sent Terry Mulholland and Jeff Patterson to the Yankees in exchange for Kevin Jordan, Bobby Munoz and Ryan Karp to the Phillies. Mulholland played just one season with the Yanks and was awful, and Patterson only pitched three games in pinstripes. Karp pitched just 16 games for the Phils over two years, Munoz was 8-15 with an ERA near 5 in his four seasons in Philly, and Kevin Jordan was a decent utility man over the course of seven seasons. With the exception of Jordan, who was mediocre at best, this was a completely ineffective trade, even including Jordan. Then there's that third kind of trade. The kind that one team will talk about for years to come, and the other will try to forget about.
In this list, you will see the 10 greatest/worst trades in baseball history. If you are confused, there is one list. I phrase the list as greatest/worst because for one team it's a great trade, and for another it's terrible. So, before I attempt to confuse you any further, let's take a peek at this list, shall we?
10. Oakland Athletics trade first baseman Mark McGwire to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitchers T.J. Matthews, Blake Stein, and Eric Ludwick.
The Cardinals have to love Mark McGuire, for a few reasons. When you think of the 1998 and 1999 Cardinals, what do you think of? Of course, Mark McGuire's magical 70 and 65 home run seasons, respectively. You don't think of the 1998 third place finish by the Cardinals, and you certainly don't think of the 1999 fourth place finish. McGuire, though he was most likely a steroid user, brought back baseball to America, in a sense. And for a cheap price for the Cardinals, I might add.
This was some steal of a trade they pulled off for McGuire, who before arriving in St. Louis was recognized as one of the game's premier hitters. Though McGuire is so remembered for what he did with the Cardinals, he only played 4 1/2 years with the Cards. The Cardinals gave up T.J. Matthews, Blake Stein and Eric Ludwick. Ludwick pitched just six games with the Athletics, Stein was 5-9 with a 6.60 ERA, and T.J. Matthews was 24-15 with a 4.78 ERA, the one somewhat bright spot of this trade, and that is a stretch to say. In simpler terms, the Cardinals gave up next to nothing to nab one of the greatest hitters of this era.
9. New York Mets trade pitcher Scott Kazmir and infielder Jose Diaz to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Bartolome Fortunato and Victor Zambrano.
Met fans, it's true. Scott Kazmir is the real thing, and Victor Zambrano isn't. It's time to face the reality of the situation.
Kazmir, over six seasons with the Devil Rays/Rays, is 51-42 in 136 starts with an ERA under 4. The only thing that Diaz can put on his resume is that he was traded straight up for Matt Stairs, but with the Rays, he was useless. Then there's the Mets side of the trade. Fortunato was virtually useless for the Mets, with a 7.06 ERA in 17 relief appearances. Then, there's the curious case of Victor Zambrano.
Well, if you ask a Met fan, it's not a curious case, it's quite an aggravating one. Zambrano, who had high expectations, was a victim of poor play and injuries. In 39 games (35 starts), Zambrano was 10-14 with a 4.42 ERA. Besides the fact that the Mets wasted over $5 million on him, he only lasted one full season, and never resulted to anything, as you can see. Kazmir is a two time all-star, Zambrano is a free agent. Who won this trade?
8. New York Mets trade pitchers Nolan Ryan, Don Rose, catcher Frank Estrada, and outfielder Leroy Stanton to the California Angels for shortstop Jim Fregosi.
This is a pretty interesting trade, for a few reasons. First of all, with the exception of one particular player ( if you didn't already figure it out, take a look at the slide title), all the players involved with this trade were all busts. The other aspect that makes this trade interesting is that the player who was traded for four others was conceivably worse than all of the players he was traded for.
Jim Fregosi, who was traded to the Mets for four players, played just 1 1/2 years for the Mets, and batted just .233 with 5 home runs, 43 RBI's in 146 games. Rose was ineffective for the Angels, pitching 16 games, 4 starts in 1972 with a 4.22 ERA. Estrada never played for the Angels. Stanton was decent with the Halos, posting a .247 batting average, with 47 home runs and 242 RBI's over five years, but the star of the trade was obviously Nolan Ryan. Over eight seasons with the Halos, Ryan had 138 wins, five all-star appearances and an ERA of 3.07. Ryan is regarded as one of the greatest pitchers of all time. And the Mets gave him up for Jim Fregosi. Wow.
7. The Baltimore Orioles trade pitchers Curt Schilling, Pete Harnisch and outfielder Steve Finley to the Houston Astros for First Baseman Glenn Davis.
This trade is a little different than the others on this list, in that the Astros, who received a future hall of famer, an all star outfielder and a solid starter, didn't benefit so much out of this trade.
The reason the trade is on the list is because of how the Orioles got royally screwed in this trade. Pete Harnisch, though probably the most unproductive of the three players traded to Houston, was the most productive with the Astros, going 45-33 with a 3.41 ERA over four seasons. Finley, in four seasons with Houston, hit a respectable .281, with 32 home runs and 186 RBI's, along with 110 stolen bases. And as surprising as this may sound, the most unproductive player the Astros acquired in this trade? (this question can also be answered by: a) process of elimination or b) look at the picture) Yes, it is Curt Schilling.
Schilling spent only the 1991 season with the Astros, and he wasn't even a starter. In 56 games out of the bullpen, he went 3-5 with a 3.81 ERA, and 8 saves. But the real reason this trade is on the list is because of the Orioles. The fact that they gave up three respectable veterans at the least for Glenn Davis is laughable.
Davis wasn't exactly a superstar with the Astros, as he hit .262, with 166 home runs and 518 RBI's in seven seasons with Houston. If you thought that was mediocre, he hit just .247 with a mere 24 home runs and 85 RBI's over a course of three seasons. The reason this trade isn't higher is because the players Houston received, although great players, didn't make a big impact with the Astros. Had Harnisch played longer, Finley played longer and Schilling played longer and been a starter, this trade might be higher up. But either way, it's on the list due to the negligence of the Orioles.
6. The San Francisco Giants trade pitchers Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser to Twins for A.J. Pierzynski
This is why the Minnesota Twins are one of the smartest teams in baseball. Pierzinski had been the starting catcher for three years up until 2003, and had been extremely productive, hitting .301 with 26 home runs and 193 RBI's. The Twins knew that Pierzinski had personality issues, but decided to keep that a secret from the San Francisco Giants, who had an interest in A.J. What did the Giants end up doing? Giving up three pitchers who would have fantastic futures in baseball, and all for what? A catcher that had a so-so season in San Fran in 2004.
And in 20 words or less, the previous sentence perfectly describes the A.J. Pierzinski era in San Francisco. Yep, they only had him for one year. And about those three pitchers who would go on to do great things? Boof Bonser was one of the pitchers acquired, and although the stats don't show it, he has been a decent pitcher over the last three years (If you really want to know his stats, it is an 18-25 record with a 5.12 ERA in 60 starts).
Francisco Liriano will be remembered for a long time due to his unbelievable 2006 campaign that includes a 12-3 record with a 2.16 ERA and an all-star appearance. Though Tommy John Surgery caused him to miss all of the 2007 season, Liriano has come back to the Twins, but has not been the same. Hopefully, he will rebound to what he was in that magical 2006 season. And then there is Joe Nathan, the real steal of the deal (man, that is some great alliteration right there). Nathan put up good numbers in San Francisco as a starter and reliever, but what he did in Minnesota simply doesn't compare. Now in his sixth season as closer, Nathan has solidified himself as one of the best in the league, making the all-star team four times, including this year. There is no other way to say it. The Giants screwed up.
5. Montreal Expos trade Randy Johnson, Brian Holman and Gene Harris to the Seattle Mariners for Mark Langston and Mike Campbell.
The Expos weren't sure what direction to go in with this trade, as they gave up three young pitchers in exchange for Campbell, a young pitcher with some potential, and Langston, a well acclaimed veteran. What they didn't know is who they were giving up in this trade. Langston pitched fantastically for the Expos in 1989, going 12-9 with a 2.39 ERA in 24 starts. What the Expos didn't know is that it would be his only year with the team, and the Expos also got absolutely nothing out of Campbell, who would never pitch for the Expos.
The Mariners, meanwhile got the better end of this deal (by a longshot). Gene Harris didn't do much for Seattle, as he would pitch 51 games over parts of four years with the Mariners. Brian Holman did relatively well in his time in Seattle, going 32-35 with a 3.73 ERA over 80 starts. But we all know who the star of this trade was: Randy Johnson.
In parts of 10 years with the Mariners, Johnson thrived, going 130-74, with a 3.42 ERA. The acquisition of Johnson wasn't only great for the way he pitched with the team, but what the Mariners got in return for when they decided to trade him in 1998. When the Mariners traded Johnson to the Astros in 1998, the Mariners got Carlos Guillen, John Halama and Freddy Garcia in return.
Guillen was decent, posting a .264 batting average, with 29 home runs and 211 RBI's over six seasons with the team. Halama was also decent, going 41-31 with a 4.46 ERA. But much like the Johnson trade, there was one real steal to this deal (once again, that is incredibly fun to write): Freddy Garcia. Garcia was 76-50 over his time with the Mariners, and was widely recognized as one of the best pitchers in baseball during his time in Seattle. This trade isn't up here because the Expos got next to nothing out of the deal. It's up here because of the incredible amount that Seattle would accumulate out of this trade.
4. Boston Red Sox trade Jeff Bagwell to the Houston Astros for Larry Andersen
This is one of those trades that you can't get on the Red Sox for. This wasn't even a trade deadline trade, it was made at the end of August. The Sox felt like Andersen, 37 at the time, could help them make a playoff run. In 15 games, Andersen did a great job, posting a 1.23 ERA. But when it came to the playoffs, Andersen disappeared, posting a 6 ERA in the 1990 playoffs. And with that, Andersen's Red Sox career ended.
And what about that Bagwell guy, what did he do with his career? How about 449 home runs, 1,529 RBI's, four all-star appearances and an MVP? Bagwell was lights out for the Astros, and along with Craig Biggio, became one of the two cornerstones of that franchise for 15 years. If they could do it all over again, I bet the Sox would, but for now, they have to live with the embarrassment of giving up Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen.
3. Philadelphia Phillies trade Larry Bowa and Ryne Sandberg to the Chicago Cubs for Ivan DeJesus.
This trade is rather confusing from the Phillies standpoint. Bowa was a veteran at the back end of his career, and Sandberg was considered good, but not untouchable by the Phillies. If this was simply a desperate move to get a mediocre second baseman, then the Phillies succeeded. DeJesus hit just .249, with 7 home runs and 139 RBI's over three seasons. Bowa, though at the back end of his career, wasn't too bad, as he hit .247 over three and a half years.
But the obvious steal of the trade is Sandberg. A Cub for 15 seasons, hit .285 with 282 home runs and 1061 RBI's. Oh, did I forget to mention his seven Silver Sluggers, nine Gold Gloves, 10 all-star appearances and 1985 NL MVP? Yea, it was that kind of career for Sandberg.
Still, the most astonishing thing about this trade to me is, why would they want DeJesus? He wasn't some kind of superstar shortstop previous to the trade. In fact, he was pretty bad. Take a wild guess what his batting average was in 1981, the year before he was traded to the Phillies? An obismal .194.
This adds to the mystery. Why would the Phillies trade Ryne Sandberg for Ivan DeJesus? That should have been the Seinfeld line, although I did consider the Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps trade for this list. This trade confuses me quite a bit, and not in a way the Phillies would like to hear.
2. Detroit Tigers trade John Smoltz to the Atlanta Braves for Doyle Alexander.
This was a hard trade to rank. The Tigers thought they had what it takes to make it to the world series, well, at least they thought they were one piece away, and they thought Doyle Alexander was that guy. And for the last two months of the 1987 season, he was. You could say he was the Aaron Small of the 1987 Detroit Tigers. In 11 starts, Alexander was brilliant, going 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA, guiding the Tigers to the ALCS. But Alexander didn't come through in the playoffs like he did down the stretch of the regular season, as he gave up nearly as many earned runs in the ALCS alone (10) as he did in all of his 11 starts during the regular season (15).
Alexander would pitch two seasons after that 1987 season, but didn't make a huge impact. As for John Smoltz, he made an impact. And what an impact it was. Over the course of 20 seasons, Smoltz teamed up with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine to form one of the greatest pitching rotations of all time. The Braves thrived under the pitching of those three, and would end up winning the 1995 world series largely due to it.
Smoltz did whatever the Braves needed him to do, and set a few records in the process. He was amazing as a starter, winning over 200 games as a starter with the Braves. He was also amazing coming out of the bullpen. One of the most recognized starters in the game, the Braves called on Smoltz in 2001, a year and a half after recovering from Tommy John Surgery, to take over duties as the closer. Smoltz thrived, posting three 40 save seasons, including a 55 save season in 2002. As of right now, Smoltz is the only pitcher in the history of baseball to have 150 wins and 150 saves, and for that matter, 200 wins and 150 saves. Smoltz is an eight time all-star, a Cy Young award winner from 1996 and (here's a good trivia question), a Silver Slugger from 1997, hitting an astounding .228 with four RBI's in 79 at-bats.
This trade, unlike the Ryne Sandberg trade, makes perfect sense. The Tigers, thinking Alexander would save their world series hopes, gave up a prospect, only for the Tigers to find out that the prospect would go on to be one of the greatest pitchers of the last 20 years.
1. Seattle Mariners trade Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek for Heathcliff Slocumb
I know that many people are going to comment "no way, definitely not." It may not look like a #1, but dig down a little deeper, and you may see why I picked it. Slocumb was recognized as a decent closer (that might be a little generous) at the time, and the Mariners felt that he would help them make a run for their money. Slocumb was awful, going 0-4 with a 4.13 ERA, and just 10 saves. Slocumb would also pitch the 1998 season with the Mariners, and was so bad that he was demoted from being a closer, as he was 2-5 with a 5.32 ERA over 57 relief appearances.
And then, there's the Red Sox side of the trade. Derek Lowe was great as a Red Sox, going 70-55, a 3.72 ERA and 85 saves. So you could say that Lowe was the Red Sox's version of John Smoltz, considering that Lowe, like Smoltz, was a great starter and closer. Lowe was also a big part of the 2004 World Series winning team.
Varitek, well that's a story for another day. Over 12 years as a starter, Varitek is a .261 hitter with 174 home runs and 692 RBI's, but he can't be judged by numbers. Besides being a great player on the field, Varitek is the captain of the Sox, and is the leader in the clubhouse. You could say that he is more responsible for the 2004 and 2007 World Series championships than anyone else who was on those teams, possibly even Manny, because unlike Manny, who separated the clubhouse, Varitek's job, and he did it as well as anyone in the history of baseball, was to bring it back together and keep it together. And oh boy, he did.
If you are still wondering why this trade is #1, consider this. Slocumb, though he had his good moments, was not a premier pitcher before this trade. In fact, he was worse with the Sox in 1997 than he was with the Mariners, as he was a dismal 0-5 with 17 saves, and an abismal 5.79 ERA. So yes, Ivan DeJesus was hitting .194 with the Cubs the year before, but Slocumb had a 6 ERA at the time he was traded. He's a closer. That's why this trade is #1. And if you're still confused, than comment on this article and tell me what's on your mind.
Last Slide (I couldn't think of anything better to call it)
This was not an easy list to make. In fact, it took me longer to figure out who was going where than it did to write about all of the trades. I thought a lot of these trades were near even, so at first, you will probably think a lot of these trades are in the wrong spots. The way I graded these trades was putting most of the emphasis on winning a World Series (ex: John Smoltz, Jason Varitek & Derek Lowe). I also put a lot of emphasis on the contributions that player made to the team, such as if they are now regarded as one of the greatest players in that team's history (ex: Jeff Bagwell, Ryne Sandberg) That's not to say if a player didn't win a world series with the team he was traded to automatically means he isn't on the list, because if that was true, there would only be two trades on this list. But I put more emphasis on that than how the players played with the teams overall. For example, Mark McGuire had two or three really great seasons with the Cardinals, but they didn't win that many games with him. McGuire left a lasting impact, but the Cardinals didn't exactly play well just because of his presence. That's why he's #10. Then, there's Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb. Essentially, Slocumb was a negative, he flat out made the team worse. Imagine if the Mariners not made the trade. Along with Griffey, A-Rod, Edgar Martinez, you would have those two. But the Red Sox get them, and Lowe was a huge part of one World Series winning team, and you could argue that Varitek was THE most important part to both. That's why this trade is #1 I just wanted to give my opinions about how amazing/horrible these trades were. So if the order is off, I am sorry, and if you want to ask me why, I would be happy to answer any of your questions about why I put who where.
Hope you guys like the picture on this slide. I just felt like doing something completely random, so that's my random picture of the article. Hope you like Joe Flacco.