MLB Trades: 9 Stars Who Should Never Have Been Traded
With the 2011 MLB trade deadline looming, we take a look at some of the most ill-advised trades in baseball history.
Typically, when athletes emerge into superstars, their franchises do all they can to lock them up to long-term deals. After all, not only do superstars help their team win, but they also draw fan interest that can be invaluable to a franchise.
Surprisingly, there have been numerous examples of teams trading superstar players that were still in their prime for players of lesser value.
The following nine superstars were all traded during their peak, and just about all of them are already in the Hall of Fame or are expected to be inducted shortly.
9. Rickey Henderson, LF
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Henderson wasn't just a guy that could steal a lot of bases; he was a leadoff legend.
Originally brought up with the Oakland A's in 1979, Henderson found success in the big leagues right away. He led the league in stolen bases every season from 1980-1984, including an MLB-record 130 steals in 1982.
However, after the 1984 season, Oakland traded Henderson and Bert Bradley to the New York Yankees for Tim Birtsas, Jay Howell, Stan Javier, Eric Plunk and Jose Rijo.
While Javier and Rijo were solid players, they certainly did not impact the game the way that Rickey did.
Henderson went on to play four and a half terrific seasons with the Yankees. This included the 1988 season when the A's lost the World Series and really could have used his presence in the lineup.
Fortunately for the A's, they were able to reacquire Henderson through a trade in 1989.
Henderson was great for the A's from 1989 until he was traded in the middle of the 1993 season, particularly during the 1989 World Series when he hit .474, as the A's swept the San Francisco Giants to take home their most recent World Series title.
8. Ferguson Jenkins, SP
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After the Chicago Cubs won 98 games and the NL pennant in 1945, the team failed to win more than 82 games in a season until Jenkins arrived in the mid-1960s. Despite a loyal fan base and the impact of many of Ernie Banks' and Billy Williams' prime years, the Cubs consistently put up losing seasons.
Finally in 1967, 24-year-old starting pitcher Ferguson Jenkins had a breakout year, winning 20 games and finishing second in NL Cy Young voting. The Cubs won 87 games that season, their most victories in 23 years.
Jenkins won at least 20 games each of the next five seasons, highlighted by a 1971 season in which he won 24 games and earned NL Cy Young honors. As a team, the Cubs won at least 84 games as a team each of those seasons.
But in 1972, Jenkins was relatively inconsistent, finishing the season with a record of 14-16 and a mediocre ERA of 3.89. The Cubs won just 77 games that season and proceeded to trade Jenkins after the season for third baseman Bill Madlock.
Madlock played well for the Cubs in his three years with the team, but he was not as valuable as Jenkins. The Cubs won just 72 games per season with Madlock at third base and failed to win more than 82 games in a season until the mid-1980s.
Meanwhile, Jenkins won another 117 games before he retired and was eventually inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame.
7. Orlando Cepeda, 1B
During the first half of the 1960s, the middle of the San Francisco Giants' batting lineup was one for the ages.
Willie Mays hit third, Willie McCovey batted in the cleanup spot and Orlando Cepeda hit in the five hole. The trio led the Giants to an average of 94 wins per season from 1962-1965 and was well in position to dominate for a few more seasons.
However, during the middle of the 1966 season, the Giants traded Cepeda for St. Louis Cardinals' starting pitcher Ray Sadecki. The trade made little sense for the Giants.
While Sadecki was a decent pitcher at best, Cepeda was a 28-year-old superstar that was still very much in his prime.
Cepeda went on to play three-and-a-half seasons in St. Louis before being traded to Atlanta. His best season came in 1967 when he earned MVP honors for the World Series champion Cardinals.
Sadecki, on the other hand, was just 32-39 with the Giants and was never named to an All-Star team throughout his career.
6. Mike Piazza, Catcher
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The catcher position is frequently the weakest hitting position on the field, next to the pitcher. But for the Los Angeles Dodgers during the mid-1990s, catcher Mike Piazza was their star hitter.
A 62nd-round pick in 1988, Piazza was fantastic for the Dodgers from the get go. From his rookie year in 1993 through the 1997 season, Piazza hit at least .318 every year and averaged 33 home runs and 105 RBI during that span.
However, toward the beginning of the 1998 season, Piazza reportedly asked for a contract extension worth the upwards of $100 million. The Dodgers offered Piazza a seven-year, $84 million contract, which he rejected.
Still 29 years old and very much in his prime, Piazza was traded on May 15th, 1998. The Dodgers sent Piazza and third baseman Todd Zeile to the Florida Marlins for Manuel Barrios, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich, Charles Johnson and star outfielder Gary Sheffield.
While Sheffield was a great hitter, he was not quite as productive nor consistent as Piazza. Perhaps most importantly, Sheffield was not a catcher, so the Dodgers had to play guys like Charles Johnson, Todd Hundley, Chad Kreuter, Paul Loduca and Angel Pena behind the plate over the next several years, none of whom were comparable to Piazza.
Making matters even more frustrating for Dodger fans, Los Angeles signed 34-year-old pitcher Kevin Brown to a seven-year deal after the season worth $105 million.
5. Ken Griffey Jr, CF
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Griffey was selected by the Seattle Mariners with the first overall pick of the 1987 amateur draft and became a superstar very quickly.
After a solid rookie campaign, 20-year-old Griffey had a breakout season in 1990, earning his first All-Star selection. Junior hit .300 that season with 22 home runs and earned Gold Glove honors.
Griffey got better and better as the 1990s rolled along. He finished the decade with 382 home runs in the decade and was named to the All Century team in 1999.
However, after the 1999 season, the Seattle Mariners traded Griffey to the Cincinnati Reds for Jake Meyer, Mike Cameron, Antonio Perez and Brett Tomko.
The aftermath of the trade was filled with frustration on both ends.
The Mariners won 116 games just two seasons later, but were unable to beat the New York Yankees in the postseason, mostly due to lack of power.
Meanwhile, Junior suffered numerous injuries during his time with Cincinnati and was never able to regain his superstar form. Whether Griffey would have suffered those same injuries had he stayed with Seattle is unknown, but the trade is one that most Mariner fans and even neutral fans wish never occured.
4. Frank Robinson, Of/1B
Aaron, Ruth, Mays.
Prior to the middle of the 2001 season, these were the only guys in MLB history that had hit more career home runs than Frank Robinson.
The NL Rookie of the Year in 1956, Robinson hit 324 home runs and had over 1,000 career RBI with Cincinnati. He also had 318 doubles, 161 stolen bases and was a lifetime .300 hitter.
But in December of 1965, the Cincinnati Reds traded Robinson, who was just 30 years old at the time, to the Baltimore Orioles for Jack Baldschuin, Milt Pappas and Dick Simpson.
Like many of the guys on this list, Robinson made his former team regret the trade immediately. He won the AL Triple Crown in 1966, hitting .316 with 49 home runs and 122 RBI, earning unanimous MVP honors.
Robinson finished his career with 586 home runs, 1,812 RBI and was a 14-time All-Star.
3. Jimmie Foxx, 1B
When your 28-year-old first baseman has already led you two World Series titles and is coming off of his sixth season out of the past seven, in which his OPS has been over 1.000, what do you do with him?
Well, if you're the Philadelphia A's, you trade him to the Boston Red Sox for George Savino, Gordon Rhodes and $150,000.
After departing from Philadelphia, Foxx, unsurprisingly, continued his excellence in Boston. He hit .320 overall during his seven seasons with Boston and earned MVP honors in 1938.
Meanwhile, the A's lost at least 97 games each of the next five years.
To this day, Foxx is generally regarded as one of the greatest hitters of all time. After all, he hit 534 home runs, won the 1933 triple crown and earned three MVP awards. He ranks sixth all time in career OPS and eighth in RBI.
2. Steve Carlton, SP
From 1967-1971, the St. Louis Cardinals had a one-two punch for the ages with Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton. The duo led the Cardinals to an average of 90 wins per season during those five years, including back-to-back NL pennants in 1967 and '68.
With St. Louis, Carlton had several big years, earning three All-Star appearances. However, he was relatively inconsistent during his last two seasons in St. Louis, going 30-28 with an ERA of 3.64.
Then, before the start of the 1972 season, St. Louis traded Carlton for starting pitcher Rick Wise. While Carlton may not have been overly spectacular during his last two seasons with the Cardinals, he still had a very impressive career ERA of 3.10 and was just 28 years old at the time of the trade.
Wise went on to pitch pretty well for the Cardinals, being selected to the NL All-Star team in 1973, but he was no Steve Carlton.
Carlton ended up pitching 15 seasons in Philadelphia, winning 241 games and earning three Cy Young Awards. He is by all accounts one of the greatest pitchers of all time and would have likely helped the Cardinals win multiple World Series if he hadn't been traded.
1. Babe Ruth, SP/RF/LF
Where do we start with this one? There are countless reasons why the Boston Red Sox shouldn't have given up the Babe to the Yankees.
We ask you, what type of qualities make a major league baseball player untradeabe? The ability to get on base? Power? The ability to work the count consistently? The ability to pitch extremely well, in addition to being a great hitter? Winners?
The Bambino was all of the above.
Ruth was technically sold to the New York Yankees for $100,000, not traded, but the result was the same.
As a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox from 1914-1919, Ruth won 89 games with an impressive ERA of 2.19. During the 1918 season alone, Ruth won 13 games as a starting pitcher, led the AL in home runs, and helped bring Boston a World Series title. Just unheard of kind of stuff.
But after a 1919 season, in which Ruth won nine games and hit a then-major league record 29 home runs, he was dealt to the New York Yankees.
You all know the rest of the story. Ruth stopped pitching and became an everyday outfielder.
Ruth helped turn the New York Yankees from an irrelevant team into arguably the greatest franchise in professional sports. He also glorified the long ball, hitting 659 home runs as a Yankee and 714 throughout his career.
As the Yankees instantly became a perennial title contender, the Boston Red Sox would have to wait until the 2004 season to win their first championship without the Babe.