Recent MLB Trades That Could Haunt Teams Entering the 2022 Season

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterFebruary 27, 2022

Recent MLB Trades That Could Haunt Teams Entering the 2022 Season

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    The Yankees have more than one reason to regret trading for Joey Gallo.
    The Yankees have more than one reason to regret trading for Joey Gallo.Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Whether it's the Chicago White Sox's James Shields-Fernando Tatis Jr. debacle or the Chicago Cubs' failed gamble on Jose Quintana, the worst trades in Major League Baseball's recent history need no introduction.

    Apart from those, a few more could really start to hurt in 2022.

    We see eight in particular that might soon join the pantheon of the league's worst recent trades. A couple are already bad yet could still get worse. Others might look harmless now but not so much in the near future if players who were prospects at the time of the deal make the leap to stardom this season.

    We'll proceed in chronological order.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Tony Watson-Oneil Cruz Trade

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    Justin Berl/Getty Images

    The Deal (July 30, 2017): Los Angeles Dodgers get LHP Tony Watson; Pittsburgh Pirates get SS Oneil Cruz and RHP Angel German

    In fairness, Watson was precisely what the Dodgers needed him to be after they rented him from the Pirates for the stretch run of the 2017 season.

    The veteran lefty posted a 2.70 ERA in 24 regular-season appearances and subsequently remained a weapon during Los Angeles' ill-fated (yet ultimately sympathetic) World Series run. He was unscored upon in nine of the 11 games he pitched in that October.

    As Cruz was barely among the club's top 30 prospects as ranked by Baseball America, it didn't seem like the Dodgers had parted with a blue-chip talent to acquire Watson. But that's no longer the case.

    The 23-year-old Cruz is now widely considered a top-100 prospect, even ranking as highly as No. 8 overall for FanGraphs. And his upside is plainly evident. He hits the ball about as hard as you'd expect from a 6'7", 210-pound unit, and he's succeeded in silencing questions about whether he can stick at shortstop.

    If Cruz realizes his potential for the Pirates in 2022, the Dodgers will be watching from afar wishing he was instead sharing the middle of their infield with Trea Turner.

Pittsburgh Pirates: The Archer-Glasnow-Meadows-Baz Trade

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The Deal (July 31, 2018): Pittsburgh Pirates get RHP Chris Archer; Tampa Bay Rays get RHP Tyler Glasnow, OF Austin Meadows and RHP Shane Baz

    Speaking of the Pirates, anyone who thinks that their trade for Archer is already an all-time misfire isn't alone.

    It indeed is, and not just because Archer flopped in service of a Pirates team that was already on thin ice when he arrived in July 2018. Glasnow developed into an ace for the Rays before undergoing Tommy John surgery last summer, while Meadows has become an All-Star slugger in his own right.

    And yet, what would really seal the infamy of this deal is if Baz makes good on the hype in 2022.

    It was a big enough surprise even at the time when Baz was revealed as the player to be named later in the initial agreement between the Pirates and Rays. Far from a non-prospect, he was ranked by Baseball America as Pittsburgh's No. 3 talent at the outset of 2018.

    Following a 2021 season in which he impressed in the minors, the majors and even in the Olympics with his high-octane heater and dazzling secondary pitches, Baz is now in the discussion of the best pitching prospects in baseball. With him in it, a Pirates farm system that's already great would be even better.

New York Mets: The Cano-Diaz-Kelenic-Dunn Trade

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    The Deal (Dec. 3, 2018): New York Mets get 2B Robinson Cano and RHP Edwin Diaz; Seattle Mariners get OF Jarred Kelenic, RHP Justin Dunn, OF Jay Bruce, RHP Anthony Swarzak and RHP Gerson Bautista

    Contrary to Pittsburgh's miscalculation on Archer, the Mets' deal for Cano and Diaz has yet to truly live up to its bad reputation.

    It's surely no good look on Cano that he missed all of 2021 serving his second suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. Immediately preceding that, though, was an excellent season in 2020. And for his part, Diaz has largely recovered from his disastrous first impression in Flushing in 2019.

    Rather, this trade's reputation was largely informed by Kelenic's rise up the prospect ranks in 2019 and 2020. But when he finally arrived in Seattle last May, disappointment followed as he managed just a .615 OPS and 14 home runs in 93 games.

    To Kelenic's credit, however, he turned a corner when he ripped off an .854 OPS and seven homers in September. In his own words: "I haven't 100 percent got it figured out yet, but you can see that I'm trending in the right direction."

    The Mets will be wishing they had Kelenic in their outfield if he picks up where he left off. Meanwhile, they'll also be wishing they had Dunn and his splendid curveball if there's more where last year's 3.75 ERA came from.

Philadelphia Phillies: The Cristopher Sanchez-Curtis Mead Trade

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    Diamond Images/Getty Images

    The Deal (Nov. 20 2019): Philadelphia Phillies get LHP Cristopher Sanchez; Tampa Bay Rays get 3B/1B Curtis Mead

    There are blockbuster trades, and then there are others like the one that sent Sanchez to Philadelphia and Mead to Tampa Bay a little over two years ago.

    It was such an innocuous event that even MLB Trade Rumors couldn't conjure so many as 150 words about it. Though both players were too good to be considered non-prospects at the time, neither was a top-100 talent worthy of a headline and a few paragraphs' worth of praise.

    That's no longer true for one of them.

    Though Sanchez is admittedly a decent-looking prospect, Mead is on another level after putting himself on the national radar in 2021 as he hit .321/.378/.533 with 15 home runs and 11 stolen bases. His last stop was at Triple-A Durham, where he went 6-for-14 with three extra-base hits in four games.

    Though Mead isn't expected to break into the majors in 2022, he might not give the Rays much of a choice if he continues to hit like he did last season. Either way, the Phillies will be wishing they had the Australian standing by to help an infield that's currently littered with question marks.

Oakland Athletics: The Mike Minor-Dustin Harris Trade

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    The Deal (Aug. 31, 2020): Oakland Athletics get LHP Mike Minor and cash; Texas Rangers get 1B Dustin Harris and OF Marcus Smith

    Following a 2019 season in which he was a down-ballot contender for the American League Cy Young Award, Minor hit the skids and had little trade value by the trade deadline for the shortened 2020 season.

    The A's nonetheless took a chance on him, agreeing to send two players to be named later to Texas in exchange for the veteran left-hander.

    It didn't work out. Minor pitched to a 5.48 ERA in five appearances for the A's in September. And after not appearing at all during the team's win over the Chicago White Sox in the Wild Card Round, he worked exclusively in relief opposite the Astros in the division series.

    As for the Rangers, one of the players to be named later that they got for Minor is suddenly one of the best prospects in their system. That's Harris, who blew away expectations in hitting .327/.401/.542 with 20 homers and 25 steals at Single-A and High-A in 2021.

    If Harris was still in Oakland's system, he would be the heir apparent at first base for Matt Olson, who's likely to be traded as soon as Major League Baseball emerges from the lockout.

San Diego Padres: The Blake Snell-Luis Patino-Francisco Mejia Trade

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    The Deal (Dec. 29, 2020): San Diego Padres get LHP Blake Snell; Tampa Bay Rays get RHP Luis Patino, C Francisco Mejia, RHP Cole Wilcox and C Blake Hunt

    After it happened, initial reactions to the Padres' trade for Snell were understandably positive.

    This, after all, was the same guy who had won the AL Cy Young Award in 2018 and who was fresh off another successful season with the Rays in 2020. He might have even ended up with a ring if he hadn't gotten a premature hook in Game 6 of the World Series.

    However, Snell's first season with the Padres in 2021 saw him realize risks that had been there all along. He missed time on the injured list and pitched to a subpar 4.20 ERA when he was healthy, marking the second time in the last three seasons that he had fallen short of ace-caliber production.

    Granted, this doesn't mean the Rays have won this trade just yet. Mejia was solid in tandem with Mike Zunino in 2021, but Patino had growing pains as a starter, and neither Wilcox nor Hunt cracked the majors.

    Yet as exemplified by his blistering fastball, Patino still has sky-high upside. And after balancing 52 strikeouts against five walks at Single-A in 2021, Wilcox looks like a keeper in his own right. They're precisely the kind of players the Padres will wish they still had if Snell's issues continue in 2022.

New York Yankees: The Jameson Taillon-Roansy Contreras Trade

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    The Deal (Jan. 24, 2021): New York Yankees get RHP Jameson Taillon; Pittsburgh Pirates get RHP Roansy Contreras, RHP Miguel Yajure, LF Canaan Smith-Njigba and INF Maikol Escotto

    The risk the Yankees made when they traded for Taillon was obvious and yet also arguably worthwhile.

    Because of his second Tommy John operation, the hard-throwing righty didn't pitch after May 1, 2019, and then missed all of the 2020 season while in recovery. On the plus side, he was still just 29 years old and only two years removed from a 2018 breakout marked by a 3.20 ERA and 191 innings.

    Still, the deal didn't produce immediate dividends for the Yankees in 2021. Taillon did pitch 144.1 innings but with a roughly average 4.30 ERA. He also had to have ankle surgery in October, from which he's still recovering.

    As for the Pirates, even they might not have anticipated Contreras ascending as a top-100 prospect in 2021. Though he missed time in the middle of the minor league season with a forearm strain, he was otherwise able to sustain mid-to-high 90s velocity as he pitched to a 2.64 ERA and 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings.

    Whereas Contreras might have been a candidate to break camp in the Yankees rotation, they're now powerless to stop him from doing so in Pittsburgh.

New York Yankees: The Joey Gallo-Ezequiel Duran-Josh Smith Trade

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    The Deal (July 29, 2021): New York Yankees get RF Joey Gallo and LHP Joely Rodriguez; Texas Rangers get INF Ezequiel Duran, INF Josh Smith, INF/OF Trevor Hauver and RHP Glenn Otto

    While we're bashing the Yankees, we might as well also point out that their trade for Gallo could fail in 2022.

    Or rather, continue to fail. While he did crush 13 home runs with the Bombers after coming over from the Rangers last year, he also hit just .160 and struck out in 88 of his 188 at-bats. 

    Because he's a two-time All-Star and Gold Glover, it should be easy to believe that Gallo will bounce back in 2022. But he's also the kind of player who defies certainty. Frankly, the next season he spends as a full-time star will also be his first such season.

    The Yankees could potentially look to trade Gallo rather than take any more chances with him. But if they do, it'll be for nowhere near the price that they paid to get him. Even at the time, it was generally agreed that the Rangers got a decent package of prospects for the slugger.

    Now? Even more so. We have Duran and Smith rated among Texas' 10 best prospects, and both even cracked FanGraphs' top 100. Though both are more so candidates to break in next year, there's a non-zero chance they'll be seen in the majors before 2022 is over.


    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.