MLB Power Rankings: The 10 Worst Trades in Baseball History
No professional sports league produces as many awful trades as Major League Baseball.
Baseball is the only sport that features players that may not peak until their late-20s or even early-30s.
Because of this, some teams get impatient with their farm talent and ship it away in exchange for an aging veteran that has had previous success. As the late-bloomer explodes onto the scene with his new team, the aging veteran produces about a season or two of decent numbers before taking a nose dive.
We live in a "win now" world and baseball front offices don't always have the job security to allow their prospects to develop. Here are the 10 worst trades in the history of Major League Baseball.
10. Giants Trade Pitchers Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano for A.J. Pierzynski
The Giants needed a catcher with some offensive firepower in 2003 to give Barry Bonds some more protection.
They decided that A.J. Pierzynski was the guy.
So the Giants shipped Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Pierzynski.
Nathan went on to be one of the most accomplished closers in all of baseball, Liriano went on to be a top-flight starter that has gone from stud to dud, and now back to stud.
Even Bonser made 60 career starts with the team.
Pierzynski ended up playing a single year with San Francisco, hitting .272 with 11 home runs and 77 RBI and the Giants failed to make the playoffs.
The Twins have been a perennial playoff contender every season since the trade thanks to the Giants' urge to win now and forget about the future.
9. Orioles Trade Curt Schilling, Pete Harnisch and Steve Finley for Glen Davis
The O's thought it would be a great idea to trade pitchers Curt Schilling, Pete Harnisch and outfielder Steve Finley to the Houston Astros for first baseman Glenn Davis in 1991.
Schilling went on to win multiple World Series championships; Finley had a long and productive career that didn’t end till he was 42; Harnisch had two 16-win seasons after leaving Baltimore.
Davis went on to hit a grand total of 24 home runs in three seasons with the O’s and was released after breaking his jaw in a bar fight in 1993.
8. Mariners Get Rid of Randy Johnson for Multiple Young Studs
The Astros blew it with Randy Johnson in 1998. They thought he could propel them to the promised land when they traded for him at the July 31st deadline.
The Astros traded pitchers Freddy Garcia, John Halama and infielder Carlos Guillen to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Randy Johnson.
While "The Big Unit" went an outstanding 10-1 to close out the regular season, he didn't have the same success in the playoffs. Johnson went 0-2 and his team was ousted by the San Diego Padres.
Johnson went on to the Diamondbacks and the Astros were left with nothing.
Garcia went on to go 76-50 in six seasons for the Mariners—including a 18-6 year with a 3.05 ERA. Guillen went through the Seattle farm system and was hitting .276 as a starter in his mid-20s.
7. Mariners Ship Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe to Boston
The 1997 Mariners thought it would be a great idea to trade pitcher Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek to the Red Sox for closer Heathcliff Slocumb.
As it tuned out, the Mariners gave Boston two key cogs of their 2004 World Series Championship. Slocumb helped the Mariners make the postseason in 1997—but that was about it.
His skills deteriorated drastically in 1998 and it ended up being his last year in Seattle.
6. A's Mark McGwire Traded to the Cardinals for Pitching Pu Pu Platter
Have you ever heard of T.J. Matthews, Blake Stein or Eric Ludwick?
The 1997 trade deadline is a forgettable one for the A's. "Big Mac" had already hit 31 home runs and was going to receive a monster contract. The A's were on a budget and knew they couldn't afford to keep him.
But letting him go for 10 cents on the dollar did the franchise no favors whatsoever. The official deal was McGwire for the three pitchers mentioned above.
Stein was 5-9 with a 6.60 ERA with the A's, T.J. Matthews was 24-15 with a 4.78 ERA, while Ludwick pitched a grand total of six games with the team.
McGwire went on to break the single-season home run record and gave his team enough publicity to more than make up for his mammoth contract.
5. Red Sox Let Bagwell Go for Larry Anderson
The Red Sox thought they were onto something in 1990 and entered the dreaded "win now" mode.
In August, the Astros happily accepted the 22-year-old that would go on to win the 1991 Rookie of the Year award and the 1994 MVP trophy.
Bagwell would go on to be an Astros legend that played 15 seasons with the team and sported a .297 career average. He hit 449 home runs and knocked in 1,529 RBI in his storied career.
Anderson, a middle reliever, provided mild success to the Red Sox—but the team once again failed on their quest to win a World Series.
4. Tigers Trade John Smoltz to the Braves for Doyle Alexander
This one doesn’t need much explanation.
In August of 1987, the Tigers thought it would be a good idea to trade young pitching prospect John Smoltz to the Braves for Doyle Alexander.
We all know what Smoltz would go on to do.
Detroit got a lot out of Alexander, who went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA to boost the Tigers to a 1987 division title. But he was dismal in the ALCS going 0-2 with a 10.00 ERA, bringing his postseason totals to 0-5 with an 8.38 ERA for his career.
He was never the same after and ended up retiring in 1989.
3. Rangers Trade Sammy Sosa to White Sox for Harold Baines
Sammy Sosa could have been one of the all-time great sluggers as a member of the Rangers.
But Texas management had different plans.
At the 1989 trade deadline the Rangers shipped Sosa, Wilson Alvarez and Scott Fletcher to the White Sox in exchange for Harold Baines and Fred Manrique.
Sosa went on to hit over 600 home runs as a member of the Cubs and Alvarez made an All-Star appearance in 1994 and became a reliable starter for the White Sox until 1997.
Baines went on to be one of the greatest DHs of all time—but he only spent one season with the Rangers.
Manrique was a journeyman with a .254 career average that also played one non-noteworthy season in Texas.
The Rangers tried to make up for their mistake by acquiring a 38-year-old Sosa in 2007. He only batted .262 but did knock home run No. 600 as a member of the team.
A painful reminded of what could have been for the Rangers.
2. Randy Johnson to the Mariners for Mark Langston and Mike Campbell
This is a big “what if” for the entire sport.
The Montreal Expos traded pitchers Randy Johnson, Gene Harris, and Brian Holman to the Seattle Mariners for pitchers Mark Langston and Mike Campbell in 1989.
What if the Expos hung on to the “Big Unit”—who would go on to win 303 games, five CY Young awards, one World Series MVP and 10 All-Star selections?
Langston only pitched in 24 games for the Expos before going to the Angels. Campbell never pitched a single game for Montreal.
Could Johnson have single-handedly saved baseball in Montreal? The Expos never had star players for more than a few seasons and the excitement of the franchise completely died.
Now we are left wondering if Johnson could have saved baseball in Montreal.
1. Red Sox Trade Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for Cash
Sorry Red Sox fans—I had to.
"The Babe" hit .308 in his career with the Red Sox, but only knocked 49 home runs out of the park. It was his pitching that was the key in his early days. He went 89-46 with the Red Sox, with a 2.19 ERA and 119 shutouts.
He was a great player for the Sox, but winning wasn't exactly at the top of owner Harry Freese's mind. He decided that the money he could get for Ruth would be able to fund the play "No, No Nanete."
How did that work out?
In 1920, his first year as a Yankee, Ruth hit 54 home runs and instantly became a Yankee legend.
The Broadway play didn't debut until 1925 and the Red Sox wouldn't win a championship for almost 85 years.
Ruth is now considered the best baseball player of all time as he developed into a power hitter that had never been seen before. His 714 career home runs was a record that stood for 40 years and he will go down in history as the man that called his own home run in a game.
The legend of Ruth is astronomically large while the Broadway play never even lived up to expectations and received mixed reviews. I don't think that really matters to Red Sox fans.
The "Curse of the Bambino" may be squashed now...but it was hanging over the franchise for 80-plus years.
That, my friends, is a horrible trade.