10 Biggest Salary-Dump Trades in MLB History

Shale BriskinContributor IIINovember 8, 2011

10 Biggest Salary-Dump Trades in MLB History

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    Over the years, some teams have made some expensive free-agent signings that have either turned out poorly, or have led to trades if the team was trying to cut back on its payroll.

    Most of the smaller market teams, such as the Marlins and Expos/Nationals, have done these trades more often than not because their budget was just so much smaller than that of other teams.

    Here are the top 10 salary dump trades in MLB history.

10. George Foster Traded to Mets

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    Former MVP winner George Foster begins this list.

    After having seven great seasons with the Reds, including a 52 home run season in 1977 that led him to winning the NL MVP Award that year, Foster was traded to the Mets in the 1981-1982 offseason for Greg Harris, Jim Kern and Alex Trevino.

    Foster was then signed to a five-year $10 million contract, but ended up becoming a huge disappointment for the Mets.

    In fact, Foster was released midseason in 1986 after complaining about having to sit on the bench.

    Nonetheless, this turned out to be a great move for the Reds because they were glad they were able to avoid Foster's struggles during his Mets years.

9. Francisco Rodriguez Traded to Brewers

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    In July 2011, right after the All-Star break, the Mets announced that they were trading closer Francisco Rodriguez to the Brewers. There were multiple reasons as to why this was done.

    Rodriguez was due to make $17.5 million in 2012 if he pitched more than 55 games for the Mets in 2011. With the Mets' payroll uncertainties as bad as they are, it was a wise move for the team to make.

    The Mets only got Danny Herrera in return, but with Rodriguez's vesting option pending, trading him was a good way to lower the team's payroll.

    Furthermore, the trade strengthened the Brewers' bullpen as they made their run in the postseason. Rodriguez became the new set-up man for John Axford.

8. Carlos Beltran Traded to Giants

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    A few weeks later, the Mets made another smart salary dump trade by sending outfielder Carlos Beltran to the Giants for pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.

    Beltran was in the walk year of his seven-year $119 million contract with the Mets and it became pretty clear by June 2011 that he was not going to re-sign with the Mets in the offseason.

    The trade strengthened the Giants' lineup depth and although the Giants did not make the 2011 postseason, they could re-sign Beltran who could be a good veteran presence in a young lineup.

7. Johan Santana Traded to Mets

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    In the 2007-2008 offseason, the Mets pulled off a blockbuster trade by acquiring Johan Santana from the Twins for Carlos Gomez, Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra.

    With such a small payroll, the Twins knew they were not going to be able to re-sign Santana, so this led to the Mets receiving Santana and immediately signing him to a six-year contract extension.

    Santana pitched very well in 2008 and continued his dominance in 2009 and 2010, although he battled some injuries in each of those two seasons. However, he missed all of 2011 with injuries.

    Meanwhile, Gomez has since been traded to the Brewers, Humber has since been traded to the White Sox and Mulvey is now a member of the Diamondbacks. All in all, the Mets clearly won this trade.

6. Pedro Martinez Traded to Red Sox

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    The 1994 Expos may have won the World Series that year had it not been for the players' strike. However, after the season, the Expos began to dismantle the solid team they had in place.

    The final and most significant trade occurred when Martinez was traded to the Red Sox after his Cy Young-winning 1997 season for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr.

    While Martinez would go on to win another two Cy Young Awards in 1999 and 2000, as well as help lead the Red Sox to the 2004 World Series, the Expos never really had an ace for the rest of their existence in Montreal.

    The attendance at Olympic Stadium rarely ever got above 20,000 and the team suffered significantly without Martinez around.

5. Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis Traded to Tigers

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    After the 2007 season, the Marlins raised a few eyebrows by trading stars Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for Cameron Maybin, Mike Rabelo, Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, Eugenio De La Cruz and Dallas Trahern.

    Cabrera and Willis were two of the Marlins' biggest stars at the time, but once again, the Marlins performed one of their infamous fire sales in which they trade superstars for groups of prospects.

    In this trade, the Tigers benefited dramatically compared to the Marlins.

    While Willis is no longer on the Tigers and has been inconsistent lately, Cabrera has continued to put up big numbers for the Tigers.

    None of the players that the Marlins got have really panned out, and Maybin ended up getting traded again to the Padres a few years later.

4. Vernon Wells Traded to Angels

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    Prior to the 2011 season, longtime Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells got traded to the Angels for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera. This turned out to be one of the most significant salary dump trades in recent years.

    Back in 2006, the Blue Jays signed Wells to a seven-year $126 million contract extension, which was widely criticized by the media. However, by the end of 2010, the Blue Jays were trying to free up some money to re-sign slugger Jose Bautista, so they decided to trade Wells away.

    Wells got off to a poor start in 2011, but improved a bit later on in the season. Nonetheless, 2011 was a disappointing season for Wells. As for the other players involved in the trade, Napoli was immediately traded again to the Rangers in the offseason and Rivera ended up getting traded to the Dodgers in early July. No clear cut winner has been determined yet, but if Wells has a strong season in 2012, the Angels will emerge as the winner of this deal.

3. Mike Piazza Traded to Marlins and Then Traded to Mets

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    One of the biggest trades in Mets history occurred initially from a salary dump.

    All-Star catcher Mike Piazza had rejected an $84 million contract extension from the Dodgers and got traded to the Florida Marlins shortly after.

    Interestingly, this trade also relates to part of the Marlins' 1998 fire sale as they traded Bobby Bonilla, Charles Johnson, Gary Sheffield and Jim Eisenreich for Piazza and Todd Zeile.

    Exactly a week later, Piazza was traded to the Mets for Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnall and Geoff Goetz.

    The Marlins were not going to keep Piazza for the rest of the season, especially during the fire sale they were having. As a result, this led to the second trade to the Mets.

    Piazza and the Mets would barely miss postseason contention in 1998, but made the postseason in both 1999 and 2000, and even represented the National League in the 2000 World Series.

2. Tom Seaver Traded to Reds

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    Another huge salary dump trade involving the Mets occurred back in 1977, but this trade had the opposite effect on the Mets.

    Tom Seaver was not a happy camper when it came to the money he was making, compared to other top pitchers across baseball.

    He let Chairman M. Donald Grant know of this, but Grant was not big on the new free agency market and he did not want to pay Seaver the significant raise he felt he was deserved.

    One sports writer wrote about this and claimed that Seaver's wife wanted him to ask for more money because she was jealous that Seaver's former teammate, Nolan Ryan, was making more money.

    After hearing that story, Seaver immediately demanded a trade and felt that he could not exist around Grant.

    In what became the "Midnight Massacre," Seaver got traded to the Reds in June 1977 for Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Pat Zachry and Dan Norman.

    He would go 14-3 with the Reds while the Mets spiraled downward and became one of the league's worst teams for the following six seasons.

1. Babe Ruth Traded to Yankees

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    The biggest salary dump trade in MLB history has to be the infamous trade in 1919 when the Red Sox sent the legendary Babe Ruth to the Yankees.

    Ruth had demanded a salary raise to $20,000 a year, which was twice the amount of his previous salary.

    Harry Frazee, the Red Sox's owner at the time, was not willing to pay Ruth that much money, but also did not want to see him potentially retire because of it. As a result, Frazee sent Ruth to the Red Sox for $150,000 in total.

    This trade would doom the Red Sox for many decades to come.

    They would not win another World Series championship until 2004, while the Yankees would go on to win 26 World Series championships during that span.

    Ruth was on four of those championship teams.