Throughout the history of major league baseball there have good trades and bad trades and then there some that are so bad you wonder what was the team thinking of. In this blog I’m going to discuss some trades and some other miscues that teams would like to have had a do over. these examples for the most part involve Hall of Famers or future Hall of Famers.
The big One
I’ll start with the most obvious one; the Boston Red Sox Selling Babe Ruth to the new York Yankees. If you follow baseball at all you know that the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000 during in the off-season of 1919-1920. Prior to that transaction, the Red Sox had been one of the most successful professional baseball franchises, winning the first World Series and captured five World Series titles. After the sale they went without a title for 86 years and the Yankees became one of the most successful franchises in North American professional sports. Ruth’s last year with the Yankees was 1934, so he didn’t much of an impact during the 70 years until they finally won in 2004.
The Boston Red Sox Trade Jeff Bagwell
The Red Sox made another trade that in hind-sight they wish they could take back. This time the player was Jeff Bagwell. In 1990 the Red Sox were in a pennant race and needed a veteran pitcher. At the same time the Houston Astros were going nowhere and were in a rebuilding phase. so, the Astros sent Larry Andersen to the Red Sox. Andersen pitched in 15 games and compiled an impressive 1.23 ERA. however, in the playoffs he recorded a loss and after that he was finished with the Red Sox.
In order to get Andersen, the Red Sox agreed to send Jeff Bagwell to the Astros. Bagwell started his Astros career by winning the 1991 National League Rookie-of-the-Year. In 1994 he won the MVP award and finished second (1999) and third in MVP (1997) voting. Four All-Star appearances, three Silver Slugger awards and a Gold Glove award later, Bagwell in my opinion had a Hall of Fame career. Bagwell finished with 449 home runs and if injuries hadn’t shorten his career; he probably would have hit over 500 home runs.
The Mets Trade Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver
The Mets didn’t do it just once; they traded two Hall of Fame pitchers, Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver. Imagine a starting rotation that included Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman. Together they won 867 games. In the Mets defense, Ryan’s four years with the Mets weren’t specular. he was traded to the Angels with several others for Jim Fregosi. Fregosi played total of 146 games for the Mets batting.233.
For whatever reason, teams have signed Nolan Ryan, then after a few years have tried to trade him or let him go, figuring the end of his career has to be in sight. Every year he proved those teams wrong, but the worst story is the team that let him go before he became one of the best pitchers in baseball history.
Once in California, Ryan became a star. so maybe we could cut them a little slack with Ryan, but Tom Seaver was the Mets ace. how do you justify trading a pitcher who has won three Cy Young awards and been an All-Star 10 times?
The Mets had to answer this in 1977 when they traded Seaver to the Reds for Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson and Dan Norman. In the 5 years Zachry spent with the Mets he compiled a record of 52-62. Meanwhile, over the same period Seaver compiled a 75-49 record for the Reds. The other three players aren’t worth mentioning.
The Mets committed one other significant bone-head move. In 1966 the Mets had the first overall pick in the MLB draft. They chose catcher Steve Chilcott. They could have selected outfielder Reggie Jackson. Chilcott, is one of only two first overall players to never play a game in the major leagues. The other is Brien Taylor, drafted by the new York Yankees in 1991. Jackson went on to have a Hall of Fame career with 563 home runs, 1,702 RBI, fourteen All-Star appearances and the MVP in 1973.
Houston Astros Trade Joe Morgan
After nine mediocre years with Houston, the Astros gave up on Morgan and traded him to the Cincinnati Reds. there must be something in Cincinnati that agreed with him. In each of his eight years with the Reds he was selected to the All-Star team and won two MVP awards and led the Reds to two World Series titles.
As with the Mathewson trade, Morgan was brought back to Houston for a year during which they won the National League West title. Morgan was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990.
Philadelphia Phillies Trade Ryne Sandberg
Ryne Sandberg was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 20th round of the 1978 amateur draft. Sandberg played 13 games for the Phillies in 1981.The Phillies traded him with Larry Bowa to the Cubs for Ivan de Jesus.
There are a few players that based on their name make you think of a team. when you hear the names Ron Santo or Ryne Sandberg you automatically think of the Chicago Cubs. Sandberg went on to have a Hall of Fame career.
In three seasons with the Phillies, de Jesus never batted higher than.257.
Chicago Cubs Trade Lou Brock
Lou Brock was with the Chicago Cubs for four seasons, but only played two full seasons before being traded to St. Louis Cardinals.
In 1964, the Cubs sent Brock and two others to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ernie Broglio. In three seasons with the Cardinals Broglio compile a record of 6-21 and an ERA of 5.12. Meanwhile Brock’s career took off guiding the Cardinals to a World Series title in his first year. Brock went on to have a Hall of Fame career.
Detroit Tigers Trade John Smoltz
The Detroit Tigers drafted John Smoltz in the 22nd round of the 1985 amateur draft. Before Smoltz made it to the major leagues, the Tigers traded him to the Atlanta Braves. In 1987, the Tigers were in a pennant race and the Braves who weren’t contenders readily traded Doyle Alexander for Smoltz. Alexander went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 11 starts, helping the Tigers to get into the playoffs.
Unfortunately, he stunk in the playoffs going 0-2 with a 10.0 ERA. Smoltz debuted on July 23, 1988 joining Tom Glavine and Greg Maddox forming one of the best starting rotations in baseball history. Smoltz became a reliever from 2001 through 2004. he is the only pitcher in major league history to top both 200 wins (213) and 150 saves (154). he is also a member of the 3,000 strikeout club.
St. Louis Cardinals Trade Steve Carlton
In 1972 the St. Louis Cardinals traded 20 game winner Steve Carlton to the Philadelphia Phillies for 17 game winner Rick Wise. At the time Carlton was the number two pitcher behind Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson. They had already won one World Series and Carlton appeared to be the heir apparent for Bob Gibson.
In Philadelphia Carlton won 241 of 329 games and won four Cy Young awards. Wise lasted two years with the Cardinals compiling a 32-28 record.
Montreal, Seattle, Houston, Arizona (twice) and the new York Yankees Either Traded or Let Go Randy Johnson
For whatever reason, trading Randy Johnson always makes at least one team look stupid. The Montreal Expos traded him in a package deal to the Seattle Mariners for mark Langston. Obviously this was a great deal for the Mariners as they now had their ace for the 90s. The Expos could have had a top of the rotation featuring Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez.
For as many bad trades as the Mariners have had though, at least when they traded Johnson to the Astros in 1998 they received Freddy Garcia and Carlos Guillen. Garcia finished 2nd to Carlos Beltran for Rookie of the Year in 1999 finishing with a 17-8 record and won 76 games in the 4 years he was with the Mariners. Guillen had a decent career with the Mariners.
The Astros got what they need. In 11 games, Johnson compiled a 10-1 record with a 1.28 ERA
For the Expos though, these kinds of trades explain it all.
Montreal Expos Trade Pedro Martinez
It’s tough to trade your top guy when you feel he will leave in free agency, but you can at least get something for him when you do.
After the Dodgers traded Martinez for Delino DeShields, one of those; wish we could do over trades, Martinez went 17-8 with an ERA of 1.90 winning the Cy Young Award in 1997. I guess the Expos weren’t impressed since they traded him to the Red Sox where he won two more Cy Young awrads. instead of acquiring some quality prospects, all they got was Carl Pavano (24-35) and Tony Armas, Jr. (32-41).
In addition to Randy Johnson and Martinez, the Expos traded Larry Walker, Andre Dawson, Vladimir Guerrero and several other really good players.
Chicago White Sox Trade Sammy Sosa and Pass on another Slugger
The Rangers originally traded Sosa to the White Sox after he played a total of 25 games for them. After three seasons with the White Sox, they didn’t see anything that made them think he would be a powerful home run hitter, so they traded him to the Cubs for George Bell.
Bell’s career was pretty much over, and after two seasons he retired. Sosa, meanwhile, showed the exact power the White Sox were trying to trade for. The extra power could have helped them compete in the AL Central.
Like the Mets 20 years earlier, the White Sox with the fifth pick in the 1985 draft picked a high school catcher from California named Kurt Brown; he never reached the majors. With the sixth pick, the Pirates selected Arizona State outfielder Barry Bonds. Do you think the White Sox might have won a Division title or two with Bonds in left field?
Imagine a lineup that included Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa. The White Sox could have made it happen, but it wasn’t to be.
Stay tuned, as I doubt we have seen the last these bone-head moves. I’m going to be watching the careers of Jesus Montero and Michael Pineda.