MLB Trade Deadline: The Best Trade in the History of All 30 Teams
The MLB trade deadline can make or break a general manager's career and a team's playoff aspirations.
On the one hand, there is the need to add enough veteran pieces to make an October run. However, on the other hand, there is the risk of dealing an underachieving prospect too soon and watching as he develops into a top major league player for another team.
Finding a balance between these two hands is what makes being a GM so difficult and something that the GMs in these 30 deals ultimately accomplished.
Here are the worst trades in the history of each MLB team.
Dmitriy Ioselevich is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for all your MLB news and updates.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Luis Gonzalez Trade
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Diamondbacks Traded: Karim Garcia
Tigers Traded: Luis Gonzalez
Date: Dec. 28, 1998
The Curt Schilling trade of 2000 was just as big a part of Arizona’s World Series run in 2011, but no trade in Diamondbacks was as lop-sided as the one for Luis Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was having a career year for Detroit in 1998 when the Tigers decided to sell high on the 30-year-old outfielder and acquire 22-year-old rookie Karim Garcia.
Garcia never blossomed into the power-hitting outfielder everyone thought he would be and lasted just 104 games in Detroit, although he did hit 14 home runs with a .708 OPS.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, became one of the premium hitters in all of baseball. He had five consecutive seasons of at least 25 home runs and 100 RBI, including a monstrous 2001 when he hit 57 homers, drove in 142 and finished third in MVP voting.
He was also named to five All-Star teams in a span of seven years.
Gonzo played eight seasons in Arizona and finished his Diamondbacks career with 224 home runs and a .298/.391/.529 line. His game-winning hit in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series was worth the price for Garcia alone.
Atlanta Braves: John Smoltz Trade
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Braves Traded: Doyle Alexander
Tigers Traded: John Smoltz
Date: Aug. 12, 1987
As bad as the Luis Gonzalez trade was, this is the move that will always leave Tigers’ fans cringing.
Alexander was an accomplished starter who at the time of the trade had 165 career wins for seven different teams. He was far from washed up in 1987, finishing sixth in Cy Young voting in 1986 and sporting a 4.13 ERA through 16 starts in 1987.
He was even superb after joining the Tigers, making 11 additional starts that season and finishing with a 1.53 ERA and three shutouts.
Alexander would make 67 starts over the next two seasons in Detroit and even earned his first All-Star selection at the age of 37. However, that pales in comparison to what John Smoltz accomplished during his legendary career.
Smoltz was a very well regarded prospect in the Tigers system and made his major league debut in 1988 for the Braves. He would spend 20 years in the Atlanta organization and piled up 210 wins, 3,011 strikeouts, 154 saves and eight All-Star selections.
Smoltz won just one Cy Young award (in 1996), but he finished in the top 10 in voting five times.
Alexander was one of the better pitchers of his time, but Smoltz will go down as one of the greatest pitchers ever.
Baltimore Orioles: Frank Robinson Trade
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Orioles Traded: Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun, Dick Simpson
Reds Traded: Frank Robinson
Date: Dec. 9, 1965
Frank Robinson is one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, but in 1965, Reds owner Bill DeWitt considered his best player to be past his prime and decided to deal Robinson for more pitching.
Robinson responded by winning the MVP in his first season in Baltimore and, more impressively, winning the Triple Crown with a .316 batting average, 49 home runs and 122 RBI.
During his six seasons as an Oriole, Robinson was named to five All-Star teams, finished in the top 10 in MVP voting four times and hit 179 home runs, all while on the wrong age of 30.
Milt Pappas was far from a scrub and in some circles was even considered an ace. He made 75 starts for the Reds and finished with a 4.04 ERA and just 30 wins in three seasons. Baldschun was a reliever with control issues and lasted just 51 games in a Reds uniform.
Simpson was a young outfielder with raw power and poor plate discipline. He only recorded 34 hits in parts of two seasons in Cincinnati.
Three-for-one deals aren’t usually so lopsided, but DeWitt apparently underestimated just how good Robinson was. The Hall of Famer even managed the Orioles for a few years after retiring.
Boston Red Sox: Derek Lowe/Jason Varitek Trade
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Red Sox Traded: Heathcliff Slocumb
Mariners Traded: Jason Varitek, Derek Lowe
Date: July 31, 1997
The Jimmie Foxx trade in 1935 probably helped the Red Sox more than any deal in franchise history, but it’s the Slocumb deal that stands out as the greatest heist.
Slocumb was a good reliever who recorded 48 saves in a Boston uniform despite highly frightening walk totals (6.2 BB/9).
The Mariners needed another arm to fuel their playoff run and Slocumb provided a decent boost for a year and half in Seattle, saving 10 games in 1997 and finishing another 17.
However, the Mariners may never stop punching themselves for the two young players they gave up.
Lowe spent eight seasons in Boston and won 70 games, saved another 85 and helped the Red Sox to a World Series title.
Varitek emerged as the best Red Sox catcher since Carlton Fisk and in his 15 seasons (and counting) in Boston he’s played over 1,500 games, played in three All-Star games and won two world championships.
The lesson as always is to never trade legitimate prospects for a reliever.
Chicago Cubs: Ryne Sandberg Trade
Cubs Traded: Ivan de Jesus
Phillies Traded: Ryne Sandberg, Larry Bowa
Date: Jan. 27, 1982
The Cubs are probably the most unlucky franchise in the history of sports, but this deal ranks as one of the luckiest things to happen to any team anywhere.
Sandberg barely got his feet wet in the majors before he was shipped off to Chicago, where he put together perhaps the best career for a second baseman ever. He was named to 10 consecutive All-Star teams, won nine consecutive Gold Gloves and even took home the MVP in 1984 after finishing with 19 HR, 84 RBI, 32 SB and a .314/.367/.520 line.
Bowa is probably best known as a former manager, but in the '70s and '80s, he was a speedy shortstop who spent four unspectacular, but solid, years in the Cubs every day lineup.
Ivan de Jesus is easily the least well known player on this deal, mostly because he was never very good. At the time of the he was a 28-year-old weak-hitting shortstop with about as much power as Juan Pierre.
He spent three forgettable years in Philadelphia and got to play in the World Series in 1983 but ultimately amounted to nothing.
So if you’re keeping score the Cubs and Phillies basically swapped shortstops and the Cubs got a young Ryne Sandberg as a throw in. If only Chicago could have found a way to trade Steve Bartman too.
Chicago White Sox: Billy Pierce Trade
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White Sox Traded: Aaron Robinson
Tigers Traded: Billy Pierce, $10,000
Date: Nov. 10, 1948
This is the third Detroit trade included on this list, and this one is no less heinous than the others.
Robinson was a left-handed catcher who didn’t get his major league career going until the age of 28 and was done by the age of 36, just three years after this trade. In his three seasons in Detroit, he hit 22 home runs and finished with a .244/.390/.375 line. Not bad.
Billy Pierce, meanwhile, was a 22-year-old left-handed starter who went on to play 13 seasons for the White Sox, accumulating 186 wins (390 starts, 456 games), 1,796 strikeouts and even 19 saves.
He was a seven-time All-Star and led the league in complete games for three consecutive years.
Was the $10,000 so nobody in the White Sox organization would tell people about the trade?
Cincinnati Reds: Bronson Arroyo Trade
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Reds Traded: Wily Mo Pena
Red Sox Traded: Bronson Arroyo, cash
Date: March 20, 2006
The Joe Morgan and George Foster trades are probably more popular candidates for this spot, but at least the Reds had to give up something for those players.
In this case, the Reds gave up a power-hitting outfielder who couldn’t hit a beach ball if it wasn’t thrown straight. The Red Sox loved Pena’s raw power and age (24), but all they got out of him was 16 home runs and 148 strikeouts in parts of two seasons.
Pena was out of the league two years later and is now again searching for a major league team willing to give him a chance.
Arroyo was a solid 28-year-old righty who had spent two seasons in the back of the Red Sox rotation and won 24 games with a 4.19 ERA. A move to the NL helped him immensely and in six seasons (and counting) in Cincinnati he made 189 starts and won 77 games with a respectable 4.13 ERA.
Arroyo, 34, is on pace to have his seventh consecutive season of at least 32 starts and 200 innings. That kind of consistency doesn’t just grow on trees and the Red Sox made a major mistake in dealing their surplus pitching for a project that never panned out.
Cleveland Indians: Bartolo Colon Trade
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Indians Traded: Bartolo Colon, Tim Drew
Expos Traded: Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, Lee Stephens
Date: June 27, 2002
Colon was a legitimate ace in 2002 when the Expos made the offer of a decade for the big Cleveland righty. In 17 starts for the Expos after the trade Colon went 10-4 with a 3.31 ERA and four complete games.
Unfortunately, the Expos missed the playoffs, and Colon left Montreal as a 30-year-old free agent.
The Indians, however, are still reaping the rewards of this trade.
Sizemore was once considered one of the top 10 talents in baseball before injuries derailed his career, but he’s still just 28 and playing on a Cleveland team with a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
Lee was a serviceable lefty in the Indians rotation for seven years before he blew up in 2008 and won the Cy Young award with a 22-3 record and a league-leading 2.54 ERA.
The Indians traded Lee to the Phillies a year later for a package that included current Cleveland players Carlos Carrasco and Jason Donald.
Phillips only spent four years in Cleveland and was little more than a role player, but he’s since emerged as one of the better second baseman in the game and has been named to two consecutive All-Star teams, as a Cincinnati Red.
Neither Drew nor Stephens did anything of significance after the trade, but the haul of three future perennial All-Stars for a two-month rental is a pretty impressive heist.
Who knows where the Expos/Nationals would be today if they had held on to that trio?
Colorado Rockies: Dante Bichette Trade
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Rockies Traded: Kevin Reimer
Brewers Traded: Dante Bichette
Date: Nov. 17, 1992
Bichette may be the poster child for the effects of Coors Field on the long ball. Before joining the Rockies, a young Bichette showed promising power potential but little substance with just 38 home runs in over 400 games earlier in his career.
In Colorado, however, Bichette blasted 201 of his 274 career dingers and became one of the most prominent sluggers of the decade. He carried the Rockies to the playoffs in 1995 after smacking 40 HR and driving in 128, good enough for second in MVP voting. He was also named to four All-Star teams.
Reimer was the same age as Bichette at the time of the deal, but he never actually played for the Rockies.
Reimer was drafted from the Texas Rangers in the expansion draft and promptly dealt to Milwaukee for Bichette. He ended up only playing one more major league season and was out of baseball at the age of 29.
This trade was a victory for humidifiers everywhere.
Detroit Tigers: Norm Cash Trade
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Tigers Traded: Steve Demeter
Indians Traded: Norm Cash
Date: April 12, 1960
For once, the Tigers were on the right side of a deal.
Demeter was a 24-year-old third baseman with 18 career at-bats in 1960. He never blossomed into the player the Tigers thought he would be as he lasted just another five at-bats in Cleveland and was then never heard from again.
Cash, however, took a different big league path. The 25-year-old was immediately plugged in at first base and the left-handed hitting slugger responded by mashing 373 home runs in 15 seasons in Detroit.
Cash was named to four All-Star teams and nearly took home the MVP award in 1961 after hitting 41 home runs, driving in 132 runs and leading the league with a 1.148 OPS.
Cash retired as one of the greatest Tigers ever, while hardly anyone outside of Cleveland still remembers Demeter’s name.
Florida Marlins: Mike Lowell Trade
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Marlins Traded: Ed Yarnall, Mark Johnson, Todd Noel
Yankees Traded: Mike Lowell
Date: Feb. 1, 1999
The Yankees tend to get the better end of any deal just by flexing their financial muscles, but they got absolutely fleeced in this trade.
Cashman envisioned Yarnall, a 6’3” left-hander, as a member of the Yankees rotation. However, Yarnall only made three starts in a New York uniform and was out of baseball by 2000.
Johnson and Noel were two additional minor league pitchers who never amounted to anything in the big leagues, with Noel never even making it above A-ball.
Lowell, meanwhile, was the top prospect in the Yankees system and one of the best prospects in baseball. Apparently what the Yankees saw in Yarnall they didn’t see in Lowell because he became one of the most productive third baseman in major league history.
Lowell played seven seasons in Florida and still holds several franchise records, among them home runs (143), runs (771) and RBI (578). He was named to three All-Star teams during his time with the Marlins and even won a Gold Glove despite playing in the same league as Scott Rolen.
Lowell later went on to help the Marlins in another way—by being one of the centerpieces in a deal for current Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez.
Houston Astros: Jeff Bagwell Trade
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Astros Traded: Larry Andersen
Red Sox Traded: Jeff Bagwell
Date: Aug. 30, 1990
In one of the most infamous trades in baseball history, the Red Sox traded away a future Hall of Famer for a rental.
Andersen was a solid righty reliever who was downright dominant in 1990. In 50 appearances and 73.2 innings the veteran had a 1.95 ERA and six saves. He was even better after joining the Red Sox, with a 1.23 ERA in 15 games.
However, Andersen left as a free agent at the end of the season and the Red Sox watched in horror as Bagwell blossomed into a superstar.
The slugging first baseman was a Rookie of the Year in 1991 and the MVP just three years later, well on his way to becoming perhaps the best player to ever suit up for the Astros.
He spent all 15 seasons of his major league career in Houston and finished with 449 HR, 2,314 H, 202 SB and a .297/.408/.540 line that rivals anybody in history.
The Red Sox had Mo Vaugn, a pretty good hitter in his own right, as their first baseman for most of the decade. But Vaugn didn’t come close to matching Bagwell’s consistency and longevity at all aspects of the game.
Kansas City Royals: Jeff Montgomery Trade
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Royals Traded: Van Snider
Reds Traded: Jeff Montgomery
Date: Feb. 15, 1988
The Royals haven’t been competitive in a long time and it’s easy to see why just by looking at their recent trades and draft history. However, even an inept franchise gets it right every once in a while.
Montgomery was one of the better closers of the last decade and saved 304 career games in his 12 seasons in Kansas City. He was a three-time All-Star and won the AL Rolaids Relief award in 1993.
Snider lasted all of 19 games in Cincinnati and stayed in the minors for most of his professional career.
If only the Royals had a few more trades like this one, think where they could be now.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Nolan Ryan Trade
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Angels Traded: Jim Fregosi
Mets Traded: Nolan Ryan, Frank Estra, Don Rose, Leroy Stanton
Date: Dec. 10, 1971
Trading the strikeout king is never a good idea, but the Mets didn’t know exactly what they had in Ryan in the early 1970s. In four seasons in New York a young Ryan accumulated 74 starts and an uninspiring 29-38 record.
Even his strikeouts (493 in 510 innings) were considered pretty mediocre and hardly enough to offset his 6.1 BB/9 ratio.
The Angels, however, decided to take a chance on the wild Ryan and dealt their star infielder and six-time All-Star, Jim Fregosi. Fregosi only ended up playing in 146 games for the Mets and struggled to hit in the National League, putting up just a .646 OPS that was nearly 100 points lower than what he was doing in Anaheim.
Ryan, meanwhile, spent eight magnificent seasons with the Angels, earning five All-Star selections and finishing in the top three in Cy Young voting three times.
Walks were always a problem for Ryan, but he won 138 games in an Angels uniform and recorded nearly 2,500 strikeouts as he joined the elite pitchers in the game.
The sad part (for the Mets anyway) is that the Angels got even more in this deal!
Rose pitched in a handful of games out of the bullpen and Stanton was the Angels’ starting rightfielder for five years. It’s hard to fathom how the Mets could possibly have made a worse trade.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Manny Ramirez Trade
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Dodgers Traded: Bryan Morris, Andy LaRoche
Red Sox Traded: Manny Ramirez
Date: July 31, 2008
We finally have our first three-team deal! The Red Sox actually faired pretty well in this trade because they ended up with Jason Bay (the Pirates got next to nothing), but it’s the Dodgers who came away as bandits.
We all know Manny Ramirez is one of the greatest sluggers in baseball history, with or without fertility drugs. However, when he joined the Dodgers in the summer of 2008 he was on another planet.
In 53 games he batted .396/.489/.743 with 17 home runs and nearly stole the NL MVP award despite playing less than a third of the season.
The trade paid off as Ramirez literally carried the Dodgers on his back all the way to the NLCS, where he only had a 1.748 OPS in five games. The performance was enough to rope the Dodgers into giving a 37-year-old child a two-year, $45 million contract, which might be the single worst contract handed out in Dodgers history.
However, as a pure trade chip, Ramirez was a steal. LaRoche, a weak-hitting third baseman, only lasted two-and-a-half seasons in Pittsburgh, while Morris is still stuck in AA Altoona.
In other words, the Dodgers got Manny for free.
Milwaukee Brewers: C.C. Sabathia Trade
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Brewers Traded: Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Zach Johnson, Rob Bryson
Indians Traded: C.C. Sabathia
Date: July 7, 2008
This isn’t the most lop-sided trade in Brewers history (that honor probably belongs to the Cecil Cooper trade), but I felt it was appropriate to include it here because the Brewers got exactly what they wanted out of the deal.
The 2008 Brewers needed to add an ace to make a run at the playoffs and they definitely got one in Sabathia. In 17 starts for Milwaukee the big lefty was 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and seven complete games.
It was arguably the best second half performance by a pitcher ever and enough to vault the Brewers into a wild card spot, where they unfortunately lost in the first round to the Phillies (Sabathia was awful in his one postseason start).
The Brewers may have given up four players in the deal, but not one of them projects to be an impact major leaguer. LaPorta is a 26-year-old first baseman with raw talent through the roof, but just a .695 career OPS in over 800 at-bats.
Brantley is a light-hitting, speedy outfielder with a .679 career OPS in just under 800 at-bats. Neither Jackson nor Bryson, both of whom are relievers, are currently in the majors.
LaPorta and Brantley, 24, are both still young so there’s a chance they could blossom into productive players. However, there’s no way anybody in Milwaukee will ever regret this trade (unless LaPorta decides to follow Jeff Bagwell’s career path).
Minnesota Twins: A.J. Pierzynski Trade
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Twins Traded: A.J. Pierzynski, cash
Giants Traded: Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser
Date: Nov. 14, 2003
The Johan Santana trade was the steal of the decade, but nobody knew what to expect from him so that pretty much means the Twins got lucky.
However, this trade is proof that the Twins have some of the best scouts in baseball because they absolutely stripped the Giants in acquiring three future major leaguers.
The Giants got the veteran catcher they wanted in Pierzynski, who hit .272/.319/.410 in his one season in San Francisco. But the price was astronomical.
Liriano was an All-Star in his rookie season and was well on his way to becoming an ace when he had to get Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2007 season. He bounced back in 2010 and is still only 27, so there’s plenty left in the tank.
Nathan became the Twins closer and saved 247 games over six seasons, before also missing a year in 2010 because of injury. In his prime the hard-throwing righty was one of the best closers in the game.
Bonser was used sparingly in his first three major league seasons, most of them as a starter. He left the Twins after 28 and then missed the entire 2009 season but is still just 29 years old.
Trading any one of Liriano, Nathan or Bonser for Pierzynski would have been a bad deal for the Giants, but the Twins convinced them into surrendering all three. That’s some good general managing.
New York Mets: Keith Hernandez Trade
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Mets Traded: Neil Allen, Rick Ownbey
Cardinals Traded: Keith Hernandez
Date: June 15, 1983
Hernandez was 29 when the Mets acquired him and coming off six consecutive Gold Gloves, but as it turned out, the best defensive first baseman ever had plenty of juice left in the tank.
He had a .858 OPS in 95 games that first year in New York, and then came back in 1984 and nearly won the MVP award by hitting .311/.409/.449 with 15 HR and his usual superb defense. Hernandez went on to win an additional five Gold Gloves and was named to three All-Star teams during his seven years with the Mets.
It was a fantastic trade for the Mets, who only gave up two role players who never amounted to much in the majors. Allen briefly served as New York’s closer but fell into a setup role during his three years with the Cardinals.
Ownbey was a young right-hander who made just seven more starts after moving to St. Louis and was out of baseball by 1986 at the age of 28.
Hernandez was also a major part of the Mets 1986 championship team.
New York Yankees: Babe Ruth Trade
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Yankees Traded: $100,000
Red Sox Traded: Babe Ruth
Date: Jan. 3, 1920
This is still the most famous trade in the history of sports (call it a sale if you want, but it’s still a transaction) and the move that gave birth to the Curse of the Bambino.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee needed cash to finance his Broadway play No, no, Nanette and decided to sell many of his best players, including the great Babe Ruth.
The Yankees happily took the offer and made Ruth into a full-time hitter, a role in which he flourished. During his 15 seasons in New York, Ruth set practically every offensive record in baseball and led the Yankees to three World Series titles.
The Red Sox, once the most successful franchise in baseball, wouldn’t win another world championship for 86 years. It’s difficult to quantify just how much this trade shook up the history of the league, but there isn’t a Red Sox fan in the world who doesn’t cringe at the thought of Babe Ruth playing for the Yankees.
And yes, the Broadway play was a complete failure.
Oakland Athletics: Mark Mulder Trade
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Athletics Traded: Mark Mulder
Cardinals Traded: Daric Barton, Kiko Calero, Dan Haren
Date: Dec. 18, 2004
Billy Beane is generally regarded as one of the best GMs in the game, but he took some heat for breaking up Oakland’s pitching trio by dealing ace Mark Mulder before he could hit free agency.
Mulder, just 26 at the time, was coming off consecutive All-Star selections when he was dealt to St. Louis to join Chris Carpenter atop the rotation. He was brilliant in his first season with the Cardinals with a 3.64 ERA in 32 starts and over 200 innings, but he broke down quickly after that and was out of baseball entirely by 2008.
Luckily for the A’s, Beane knew that Mulder was a health risk and decided to cash in his chips at the opportune moment.
Calero was a decent reliever who appeared in 179 games for the As over four years. Barton broke though as Oakland’s starting first baseman in 2007 and has a .740 career OPS in five seasons. He’s still just 25 and won’t be a free agent until 2015.
The real prize, however, was Haren. The tall righty made 34 starts in each of his three seasons in Oakland, seemingly getting better each year. Beane capitalized on Haren’s success and traded him to the Diamondbacks for a package that included current lefty ace Brett Anderson and All-Star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who was shipped to Colorado in a deadline deal for Matt Holliday.
Beane then turned Holliday into Brett Wallace, who was then again traded for Michael Taylor, now one of the top outfield prospects in baseball.
There are perhaps as many as 20 players with ties to the Mark Mulder trade, and all of them passed through Oakland at one point or another. Beane should be building space ships, not trading baseball players!
Philadelphia Phillies: Steve Carlton Trade
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Phillies Traded: Rick Wise
Cardinals Traded: Steve Carlton
Date: Feb. 25, 1972
Why the Cardinals would ever trade one of the best pitchers of all time is a mystery only the baseball gods can answer. But for whatever reason the Cardinals didn’t seem convinced by Carlton’s 1971 season in which he went 20-9 with a 3.56 ERA and was selected to his third All-Star team.
But in comparison to what he did in 1972 after he joined the Phillies, Carlton was awful as a Cardinal.
Carlton achieved the rare pitching triple crown by leading the league in wins (27), ERA (1.97) and strikeouts (310), while throwing a league-high 346.1 innings and 30 complete games just for good measure.
Not surprisingly, he was an easy selection for the Cy Young award, the first of four that he would win with the Phillies.
In total, Carlton spent 15 years in Philadelphia and won 241 of his 499 starts, striking out over 3,000 batters and pitching in seven All-Star games. He even won a Gold Glove in 1981!
There are only maybe two or three pitchers in MLB history who could be considered equal value in a trade for Carlton, and Rick Wise definitely wasn’t one of them. He was a solid starter who even earned an All-Star selection in his final season in Philadelphia, but he’ll never be confused with a Hall of Famer.
Wise made just 69 starts in two seasons for the Cardinals and went 32-28. To put the deal in perspective, imagine the Cardinals trading Albert Pujols for someone like Lyle Overbay. It doesn’t get much uglier than that.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Brian Giles Trade
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Pirates Traded: Ricardo Rincon
Indians Traded: Brian Giles
Date: Nov. 18, 1998
Rincon was always a productive reliever who bounced around the majors for 11 seasons because he was left-handed and could strike hitters out. It’s those two factors that landed him in Cleveland in 1999, where he went on to make 207 appearances and pitch over 150 innings in three seasons.
The Indians never would have made the trade, however, if they knew what they had in Brian Giles.
Giles had a .876 OPS in parts of four seasons in Cleveland, but never seemed to put all his immense talent together until he got to Pittsburgh. In his first season with the Pirates Giles blasted a career-high 39 home runs and then hit 110 more over the next three seasons as he emerged as a legitimate slugger.
In five seasons with the Pirates the outfielder had a 1.018 OPS.
The Pirates later turned an aging Giles into an electric young lefty named Oliver Perez and an outfield prospect named Jason Bay. Not a bad return for a middle reliever.
San Diego Padres: Adrian Gonzalez Trade
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Padres Traded: Akinori Otsuka, Adam Eaton, Billy Killian
Rangers Traded: Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Young, Terrmel Sledge
Date: Jan. 6, 2006
Back in 2005 the Rangers had a first baseman by the name of Mark Teixeira and no room for a young left-handed slugger who was the first pick in the 2000 draft. So they traded a 23-year-old Adrian Gonzalez in a move to bolster the bullpen.
Otsuka came as advertised and earned a 2.25 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over two seasons with the Rangers. Eaton was a far bigger disappointment and had trouble adjusting to a new league. He had a 5.12 ERA in 13 starts and was gone by the end of the season.
Chris Young faired much better in his new home, emerging as a solid No. 2 behind ace Jake Peavy and making 97 starts during his five seasons in San Diego.
Gonzalez meanwhile, blossomed into one of the best sluggers in baseball. He improved his numbers each season and is now a perennial MVP candidate, albeit for a different team.
The lesson here is just because you have the best player at his position, that doesn’t mean that you should trade the second best player at his position. How’s Mitch Moreland treating you Rangers’ fans?
San Francisco Giants: Christy Mathewson Trade
Giants Traded: Amos Rusie
Reds Traded: Christy Mathewson
Date: Dec. 15, 1900
This has the honor of being the oldest trade on the list and is just further proof that even in simpler times, GMs still didn’t know what they were doing.
For a swap of future Hall of Famers, this trade is shockingly one-sided.
Rusie was at the end of his illustrious career in 1900 and only made two more starts (bad ones) for the Reds before retiring.
Mathewson, however, made his major league debut for the Giants and went on to have 17 of the greatest seasons in major league history. He won 373 games, pitched 435 complete games, struck out 2,507 batters and finished his career with a 2.13 ERA and 1.057 WHIP.
The Giants may never stop thanking the Reds for this one, especially for their 1905 World Series title.
Seattle Mariners: Randy Johnson Trade
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Mariners Traded: Mark Langston, Mike Campbell
Expos Traded: Randy Johnson, Gene Harris, Brian Holman
Date: May 25, 1989
The Expos jettisoned Pedro Martinez, Cliff Lee and Randy Johnson (three of the best pitchers of the modern era) in three separate short-sighted deals. However, it’s this deal that stings the most.
Johnson was very raw in 1989. He could throw as hard as anybody in the game, but his 1.00 SO/BB ratio in 1989 left something to be desired. Langston was everything the Expos thought Johnson could be, so Montreal pulled the trigger on essentially a swap of left-handed starters.
Langston was great in his brief time in Montreal (12-9, 2.39 ERA, 175 strikeouts), but that performance pales in comparison to what Johnson eventually did in Seattle.
130-74, 3.42 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 2,162 strikeouts, five All-Star selections, one Cy Young
Holman and Harris were two underachieving righties who contributed little, although Holman did win 32 games in three seasons. Add that to Johnson and this becomes a truly epic haul, one that just kept on getting better for Seattle.
After 10 years the Mariners turned Johnson into Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen and John Halama, three more very productive major leaguers.
In fact, this second trade might be the most lopsided in Mariners history because the Big Unit spent just two months in Houston before signing as a free agent with the Diamondbacks.
St. Louis Cardinals: Lou Brock Trade
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Cardinals Traded: Ernie Broglio, Doug Clemens, Bobby Shantz
Cubs Traded: Lou Brock, Jack Spring, Paul Toth
Date: June 15, 1964
The Cubs knew Brock could run, but they never could have imagined he’d turn into an all-around superstar when they traded him to the Cardinals in 1984.
Try 938 career stolen bases, second all time. Try six All-Star selections and five top 10 MVP finishes. Try 3,023 hits over 19 seasons, all but four of them spent in a Cardinals uniform. Brock did everything on a baseball field you could possibly ask for.
As for the other players in this deal, Broglio made 33 uninspiring (5.40 ERA) starts for the Cubs to end his career. Clemens contributed 114 hits over parts of two seasons in Chicago. Shantz appeared in a grand total of 20 games for the Cubs and got knocked around (5.56 ERA).
Toth never appeared in a game for the Cardinals and Spring appeared in just two, but this deal is still heavily screwed in St. Louis’ direction. Any time you end up with the Hall of Famer in a deal, you’ve probably done pretty well.
Tampa Bay Rays: Scott Kazmir Trade
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Rays Traded: Victor Zambrano, Brian Fortunato
Mets Traded: Scott Kazmir, Jose Diaz
Date: July 30, 2004
The Rays are run by some very smart people, and at the 2004 trade deadline these smart people took advantage of a Mets front office that had a reputation for abandoning its top prospects for short-term fixes.
Kazmir was a left-handed starter with electric stuff and one of the best prospects in all of baseball, but the Mets either didn’t believe the hype or chose to ignore it by dealing their biggest and best trade chip. Big mistake.
Kazmir went on to win 55 games for the Rays and was a legitimate ace atop the rotation for several seasons, earning two All-Star selections and even leading the AL in strikeouts in 2007. His career has taken a disappointing twist lately, but Kazmir still ranks as one of the best pitchers in Rays history.
The same can’t be said of Zambrano and the Mets. Zambrano always had major control issues (career 5.1 BB/9), but the Mets liked his potential to become an innings eater. The righty threw just over 200 innings in 35 starts for the Mets, and hardly any of them were memorable or particularly good.
Zambrano has been out of baseball since 2007 and still owns a career 4.64 ERA.
Sometimes all those scouting reports and projects are accurate, and sometimes the Mets should pay attention.
Texas Rangers: Mark Teixeira Trade
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Rangers Traded: Mark Teixeira, Ron Mahay
Braves Traded: Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Date: July 31, 2007
As recently as last season this trade looked terrific for the Braves, but each of the four young players that they traded to Texas has emerged into a productive major league starter.
Andrus is a 22-year-old shortstop with an All-Star selection already on his resume and many more expected to come as his power develops on top of his terrific speed.
Feliz is a 23-year-old closer who just set the rookie saves record (about to be broken by a Braves pitcher) and is one of the most electric righties in the game, with the potential to eventually join the rotation and become an ace.
Harrison is a 25-year-old lefty who is having his best season as a Ranger with a 3.05 ERA in 19 starts. Neither he, nor Feliz or Andrus, will be a free agent until 2015 at the earliest.
Saltalamacchia is now in a Red Sox uniform, but the 26-year-old catcher has rapidly developed into one of the best all-around catchers in the game.
Teixeira is a terrific player and did have a .943 OPS in parts of two seasons for the Braves, but no rental player should ever cost four fringe All-Stars. The worst part of this deal is perhaps that less than a year later the Braves dealt Teixeira back into the AL West, this time to the Angels, for a package centered around first baseman Casey Kotchman (he of the .732 career OPS).
We won’t be able to close the book on this deal for quite some time, but even if all four current former Rangers players were to retire tomorrow this would still be a major win for Texas.
Toronto Blue Jays: Jose Bautista Trade
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Blue Jays Traded: PTNBL (Robinson Diaz)
Pirates Traded: Jose Bautista
Date: Aug. 21, 2008
The Joe Carter and Robbie Alomar trade completely reshaped the Toronto franchise, but the Blue Jays gave up two pretty good players (Fred McGriff, Tony Fernandez) in the deal.
Bautista, however, they pretty much got for free.
Nobody can really blame the Pirates for selling low on an outfielder who in 2006 hit a career-high 16 home runs with a .755 OPS, his best season after years of being a fringe major leaguer. Who knew Bautista would become the preeminent slugger in baseball that he is today?
After joining the Blue Jays Bautista made some adjustments to his swing and began driving the ball with the authority, deeper and deeper into the ozone layer.
In just under 400 games for the Blue Jays he already has 101 home runs and is well on his way to leading the league in HR for two years in a row and probably taking home an MVP trophy.
Diaz, meanwhile, is a young catcher who played all of 43 games in Pittsburgh, 42 more than he played in Toronto and hasn’t been in the majors for two years.
The Blue Jays will have Bautista until at least 2015, enough time for the prolific slugger to make a run at 400 career home runs despite having just 43 in five years in Pittsburgh.
Washington Nationals: Pedro Martinez Trade
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Expos Traded: Delino DeShields
Dodgers Traded: Pedro Martinez
Date: Nov. 19, 1993
The Expos have made more than their share of dumb moves, but they finally got one right in landing a young righty with a blazing fastball and an unhittable changeup.
I’m talking, of course, about Pedro Martinez, one of the best pitchers of the last generation and a likely future Hall of Famer.
Martinez actually started his career as a reliever and was terrific for the Dodgers with a 2.58 ERA in 67 appearances, all but three of them out of the bullpen. But the Dodgers never imagined that his frail frame could support an ace starter, so they traded for an up-and-coming second baseman by the name of Delino DeShields.
DeShields was coming off a career year in 1992 (46 SB, .292/.359/.398), but his time with the Dodgers wasn’t so glamorous. In three seasons he had a .241/.326/.327 line and never made it to an All-Star game, eventually leaving Los Angeles as a free agent in 1996.
Martinez, however, blossomed into a genuine superstar in Montreal. He was 11-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 23 starts his first season, and by 1997 he had won his first Cy Young award after going 17-8 with a league-leading 1.90 ERA and 13 complete games.
The Expos later traded a 26-year-old Martinez to Boston for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas, Jr., and Pedro went on to win two more Cy Young awards and a World Series title in 2004.