Baseball’s Worst Trades

Mathewson

In our community, we have a very active and enthusiastic sports interest group. Headed up by a retired New York City schoolteacher, who is also the world’s biggest Giants fan, we’ve been fortunate enough to have visits from Fergie Jenkins, Josh Hamilton, Matt Williams, John D’Acquisto, Hall of Fame Baseball Executive Roland Hemond and dozens of other sports luminaries. Each Spring, as our homage to Spring Training and the new baseball season, we host a baseball panel discussion on a particular topic. In the past, we’ve reviewed the “Golden Age of Baseball” (the 50’s & 60’s), debated the Hall of Fame, previewed the upcoming season, rated the top ten players at each position, reviewed the ten greatest teams of all time and discussed All-Star teams by decade. Last year, we looked into the future to see what major league baseball would look like in the year 2025. So, for 2018, the topic is the worst trades in the history of the game.

 

Earlier this week in front of an enthusiastic audience, the panel reviewed famous trades from the last 100+ years that involved members of the Hall of Fame. While there have been hundreds of lousy trades in baseball, giving up on a future Cooperstown inductee is a category all its own. Here are my notes from the presentation…

 

MOST CASUAL FANS WOULD IMMEDIATELY THINK OF BABE RUTH WHEN THE TOPIC OF BAD TRADES IN BASEBALL IS ADDRESSED. WE’LL DISCUSS 16 DEALS TODAY BUT BABE’S NAME WON’T BE INCLUDED. WHY? BECAUSE RUTH WASN’T TRADED! IF YOU LOOK UP THE OFFICIAL TRANSACTION FROM DECEMBER OF 1919, IT SAYS “PURCHASED BY THE NEW YORK YANKEES FROM THE BOSTON RED SOX FOR $100,000”. THAT MONEY ALLOWED RED SOX OWNER HARRY FRAZEE TO INVEST IN A BROADWAY SHOW CALLED “NO NO NANETTE”. IN FACT, HE HAD REPORTEDLY TURNED DOWN AN OFFER FROM THE WHITE SOX THAT INLCUDED JOE JACKSON & $60,000. SO, UNTIL SOMEONE SHOWS US NANETTE’S LIFETIME STATS, IT WASN’T ANY MORE OF A TRADE THAN THE PIRATES GETTING ROBERTO CLEMENTE FROM THE DODGERS IN THE 1954 RULE 5 DRAFT.

 

#1 – JOE JACKSON FOR BRIS LORD (1910)

 

* THE FIRST TRADE ON OUR LIST DOESN’T TECHNICALLY INCLUDE A HALL-OF-FAMER, BUT HE WOULD HAVE BEEN IF NOT FOR THE 1919 BLACK SOX SCANDEL. DURING THE 1910 SEASON, THE PHILADELPHIA ATHLETICS TRADED A 22 YEAR-OLD UNPROVEN OUTFIELDER NAMED JOE JACKSON TO THE CLEVELAND NAPS FOR BRIS LORD. JACKSON’S FIRST FULL SEASON IN 1911 PRODUCED A .408 BA WITH A LEAGUE-LEADING .468 OBP. “SHOELESS JOE” WENT ON TO BECOME ONE OF THE GREATEST PLAYERS OF THE ERA, WITH A LIFETIME BA OF .356. IN HIS FINAL SEASON BEFORE BEING SUSPENDED (1920), HE HIT .382 AND LED THE LEAGUE WITH 20 TRIPLES. ON THE OTHER HAND, BRIS LORD PLAYED THREE SEASONS WITH THE A’S BEFORE RETIRING WITH A LIFETIME BA OF .256.

 

# 2 – JOHN SMOLTZ FOR DOYLE ALEXANDER (1987)

 

* THE TIGERS WERE FIGHTING FOR THE AL EAST CROWN AND NEEDED TO BOLSTER THEIR PITCHING STAFF, SO THEY TRADED AN UNKNOWN MINOR-LEAGUER TO THE BRAVES FOR 36 YEAR-OLD DOYLE ALEXANDER. ALEXANDER RESPONDED BY GOING 9-0 OVER THE SECOND HALF AND HELPED THE BENGALS GET TO THE PLAYOFFS. HE PITCHED TWO MORE SEASONS FOR DETROIT (GOING 20-29) BEFORE RETIRNG. THE UNKNOWN PITCHER IN THE DEAL WAS JOHN SMOLTZ, WHO SENT ON TO ACCUMULATE 213 WINS & 154 SAVES ON HIS WAY TO THE HALL-OF-FAME.

 

#3 – JOE MORGAN FOR LEE MAY (1971)

 

* LEE MAY WAS AN ALL-STAR 1B FOR THE REDS IN 1971, BUT IN AN EFFORT TO IMPROVE THEIR OVERALL LINE-UP, CINCINNATI SWAPPED HIM TO THE ASTROS FOR A YOUNG 2B NAMED JOE MORGAN. MAY WENT ON TO HAVE A PRODUCTIVE CAREER WITH 354 LIFETIME HR’S BUT MORGAN BECAME THE HEART OF THE “BIG RED MACHINE” WINNING TWO MVP’S AND FIVE GOLD GLOVES. HE HAD A LIFETIME “WAR’ (WINS ABOVE REPLACEMENT) OF OVER 100 AND WAS INDUCTED INTO COOPERSTOWN IN 1990.

 

#4 – TOM SEAVER FOR 4 PLAYERS (1977)

 

* BY 1977, FREE AGENCY WAS PART OF THE BASEBALL LANDSCAPE AND TOM SEAVER WAS ONE OF THE BEST PITCHERS IN THE GAME. HE HAD CAPTURED THREE CY YOUNG AWARDS AND WAS STILL AT THE TOP OF HIS GAME AT AGE 32. SEAVER WANTED TO BE COMPENSATED IN A SIMILAR MANNER TO OTHER TOP PITCHERS OF THE TIME BUT THE METS WEREN’T BUDGING, SO IN MID-SEASON, THEY TRADED “TOM TERRIFIC” TO THE REDS FOR DOUG FLYNN, STEVE HENDERSON, DAN NORMAN & PAT ZACHRY. SEAVER FINISHED ’77 WITH A 21-6 RECORD AND BY 1978, THE METS WERE ONE OF THE WORST TEAMS IN BASEBALL.

 

#5 – DENNIS ECKERSLEY FOR PROSPECTS ( 1987)

 

* IN 1986, DENNIS ECKERSLEY WAS A STARTING PITCHER FOR THE CUBS AND POSTED A RECORD OF 6-11 AT AGE 31. THE CUBBIES TRADED HIM JUST PRIOR TO THE ’87 SEASON TO THE ATHLETICS FOR BRIAN GUINN, MARK LEONETTE & DAVE WILDER. THE A’S CONVERTED HIM TO A CLOSER AND HE SAVED 387 GAMES OVER THE NEXT 12 SEASONS ON HIS WAY TO THE HALL OF FAME. NONE OF THE THREE PROSPECTS EVER APPEARED IN A MAJOR-LEAGUE GAME.

 

# 6 – LOU BROCK FOR ERNIE BROGLIO (1964)

 

* AFTER 2+ SEASONS, THE CUBS GAVE UP ON OUTFIELDER LOU BROCK AND TRADED HIM TO THE CARDINALS FOR PITCHER ERNIE BROGLIO. BROCK HIT .348 FOR THE REST OF THAT SEASON AND LED THE REDBIRDS TO THREE PENNANTS AND TWO WORLD SERIES DURING HIS CAREER. HE IS 2ND ON THE ALL-TIME SB LIST WITH 938. BROGLIO PLAYED 2+ SEASONS WITH THE CUBS AND COMPILED A 7-19 RECORD.

 

#7 – RYNE SANDBERG FOR IVAN DEJESUS (1982)

 

* BEFORE THE 1982 SEASON, THE PHILLIES SWAPPED SS LARRY BOWA AND A 3B PROSPECT NAMED RYNE SANDBERG TO THE CUBS FOR SS IVAN DE JESUS. CHICAGO MOVED SANDBERG TO 2B WHERE HE WON NINE GOLD GLOVES, HIT 282 HR’S AND BECAME A HALL OF FAME PLAYER. DE JESUS WAS THE PHILS SS FOR THREE SEASONS AND NEVER BATTED HIGHER THAN .257.

 

# 8 – GAYLORD PERRY FOR SAM MCDOWELL (1971)

 

* AFTER THE 1971 SEASON, THE INDIANS WERE SHOPPING THEIR BEST PITCHER, SAM MCDOWELL. THEY FINALLY DECIDED TO MAKE A DEAL WITH THE GIANTS FOR GAYLORD PERRY. BOTH HURLERS WERE OUTSTANDING TOP-OF-THE-ROTATION GUYS BUT MCDOWELL WAS THREE YEARS YOUNGER. THE OUTCOME WAS THAT PERRY WENT 24-16 FOR THE TRIBE AND WON THE AL CY YOUNG AWARD. HE WENT ON TO WIN 314 GAMES IN HIS CAREER AND ENTERED COOPERSTOWN IN 1991. MCDOWELL POSTED A RECORD OF 10-8 FOR SAN FRANCISCO IN ’72 AND WAS OUT OF BASEBALL THREE YEARS LATER.

 

#9 – CHRISTY MATHEWSON FOR AMOS RUSIE (1900)

 

* AMOS RUSIE MIGHT HAVE BEEN THE BEST PITCHER OF THE 1890’S, WINNING 246 GAMES BETWEEN 1889-1898. ARM TROUBLE KEPT HIM OFF THE MOUND IN 1899 & 1900 AND THEN THE GIANTS TRADED HIM TO THE REDS PRIOR TO THE 1901 SEASON FOR AN UNKNOWN 19 YEAR-OLD NAMED CHRISTY MATHEWSON. RUSIE PITCHED ONLY THREE GAMES FOR THE REDS BEFORE RETIRING WHILE MATHEWSON WON 30 OR MORE GAMES FOUR TIMES AND HAD 373 VICTORIES IN HIS CAREER BECOMING PART OF THE FIRST HALL OF FAME CLASS IN 1936.

 

#10 – NOLAN RYAN FOR JIM FREGOSI (1971)

 

* FORMER ALL-STAR SHORTSTOP JIM FREGOSI LASTED LESS THAN TWO SEASONS WITH THE METS AFTER BEING ACQUIRED FOR NOLAN RYAN FROM THE ANGELS. OF COURSE, RYAN BECAME A LEGENDARY PITCHER, PLAYING 27 SEASONS, WINNING 324 GAMES, STRIKING OUT 5,714 BATTERS AND PITCHED SEVEN NO-HITTERS.

 

#11 – PEDRO MARTINEZ FOR DELINO DESHIELDS (1993)

 

* THE DODGERS FELT THAT PEDRO MARTINEZ WAS TOO SMALL TO HAVE A PRODUCTIVE CAREER AS A STARTING PITCHER, SO THEY SENT HIM TO THE EXPOS FOR DELINO DESHIELDS. MARTINEZ WON THREE CY YOUNG AWARDS, WAS AN EIGHT-TIME ALL STAR AND HAD THE HIGHEST WINNING PERCENTAGE OF ANY 200-GAME WINNER IN MODERN BASEBALL HISTORY.

 

#12 – STEVE CARLTON FOR RICK WISE (1972)

 

* STEVE CARLSTON WAS A 20-GAME WINNER FOT THE CARDINALS IN 1971 AT AGE 26. DESPITE THAT PERFORMANCE, THEY TRADED HIM TO THE PHILLIES FOR RICK WISE PRIOR TO THE 1972 SEASON. IN ’72, CARLTON HAD ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS SEASONS AS HE WON 27 GAMES FOR THE LAST-PLACE PHILS, WINNING A RECORD 45% OF THE TEAM’S TOTAL VICTORIES. IT WON HIM THE FIRST OF HIS FOUR CY YOUNG AWARDS ON THE WAY TO 329 CAREER WINS. WISE WON 16 GAMES EACH OF THE NEXT TWO YEARS FOR THE CARDINALS AND HAD A PRODUCTIVE CAREER WITH 188 WINS, BUT HE WAS NEVER IN THE CATEGORY OF “LEFTY”.

 

#13 – ORLANDO CEPEDA FOR RAY SADECKI (1966)

 

ORLANDO CEPEDA WAS THE 1958 ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AND HAD SEVEN OUTSTANDING SEASONS WITH THE GIANTS. IN 1965, HOWEVER HE MISSED MOST OF THE SEASON AND THE GIANTS WON 91 GAMES WITH WILLIE MCCOVEY AT 1B. NOT HAVING ROOM FOR BOTH PLAYERS, THEY SWAPPED CEPEDA TO THE CARDINALS IN EARLY ’66 FOR PITCHER RAY SADECKI. CEPEDA CONTINUED HIS EXCELLENT CAREER INCLUDING A WORLD SERIES TITLE IN 1967 WHEN HE WON THE NL MVP AWARD, LEADING THE LEAGUE WITH 111 RBI’S. SADECKI WAS 29-32 OVER THE NEXT THREE YEARS IN SAN FRANCISCO AND HIS CAREER WENT DOWNHILL QUICKLY.

 

#14 – JEFF BAGWELL FOR LARRY ANDERSON (1990)

 

* IN A TRADE THAT CLOSELY PARALLELS THE SMOLTZ-ALEXANDER DEAL, THE RED SOX NEEDED PITCHING HELP DOWN THE STRETCH OF THE 1990 SEASON AND ACQUIRED LARRY ANDERSEN FROM THE ASTROS FOR A MINOR-LEAGUE PROSPECT. ANDERSEN WAS 37 AT THE TIME AND WAS ABOUT TO BECOME A FREE AGENT, BUT HE APPEARED IN 15 GAMES FOR THE BOSOX AND HELPED THEM WIN THE AL EAST. THE PROSPECT TURNED OUT TO BE JEFF BAGWELL, WHO WON THE 1991 ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AND THE 1994 MVP AWARD ON HIS WAY TO 449 CAREER HR’S AND A SPOT IN COOPERSTOWN.

 

#15 – RANDY JOHNSON FOR MARK LANGSTON (1989)

 

* IN MAY OF 1989, THE EXPOS GAVE UP ON AN ERRATIC LEFT-HANDED PITCHER WHO HAD COMPILED A RECORD OF 7-17 OVER THE PREVIOUS SEASON+. THEY WERE ABLE TO GET A QUALITY PITCHER IN RETURN BUT ONLY BECAUSE MARK LANGSTON WAS GOING TO BE A FREE AGENT AFTER THE SEASON. THE PLAYER THEY GAVE UP TO THE MARINERS WAS RANDY JOHNSON, WHO WON FIVE CY YOUNG AWARDS IN HIS HALL OF FAME CAREER.

 

#16 – FRANK ROBINSON FOR MILT PAPPAS (1965)

 

* FRANK ROBINSON WON THE NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR IN 1958 AND HAD TEN GREAT SEASONS WITH THE REDS INCLUDING A MVP AWARD IN ’61. MAYBE THE REDS WERE USING THE OLD ADAGE OF TRADING A PLAYER A YEAR TOO SOON INSTEAD OF A YEAR TOO LATE, BUT IT DIDN’T WORK OUT FOR THE FRANCHISE. HE WAS TRADED TO THE ORIOLES PRIOR TO THE ’66 SEASON, WHERE HE WON THE AL MVP AND LED THE BIRDS TO THE WORLD SERIES TITLE. MILT PAPPAS WAS THE PITCHER IN THE DEAL AND EVEN THOUGH HE WON 209 GAMES IN HIS CAREER, HE WAS NEVER AN ALL-STAR AFTER THE TRADE.

 

OF COURSE, EVERY FAN OF AN INDIVIDUAL TEAM CAN LOOK BACK AND REMEMBER AN AWFUL TRADE MADE BY THE “MUDVILLE NINE”. HOW ABOUT SOME OF THESE…

 

> MARK MCGWIRE TO THE CARDINALS FOR THREE MINOR-LRAGUE PITCHERS

 

* GEORGE FOSTER TO THE REDS FOR FRAN DUFFY & VERN GEISHERT

 

* SPARKY LYLE TO THE YANKEES FOR DANNY CATER

 

* DEREK LOWE & JASON VARITEK TO THE RED SOX FOR HEATHCLIFFE SLOCUMB

 

* ROGER MARIS TO THE YANKEES FOR DON LARSEN, NORM SIEBERN & HANK BAUER

 

* KENNY LOFTON TO THE INDIANS FOR EDDIE TAUBENSEE

 

* NORM CASH TO THE TIGERS FOR STEVE DEMETER

 

* PAUL KONERKO TO THE WHITE SOX FOR MIKE CAMERON

 

FEEL FREE TO ADD MORE OF YOUR OWN

 

 

 

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