After this week’s collapse of the Todd Helton deal due to the Boston Red Sox unwillingness to part with prospects, it got me thinking of recent trades that have gone through that ended up causing teams seller’s remorse. There have been some pretty bad, lopsided, and down right stupid trades throughout the rich history of Major League Baseball. Ever since that fateful day back on January 2, 1920 when the Boston Red Sox sold the mighty Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $100,000, teams continue to find themselves on the wrong sides of trades all the time. Sure none of them are quite as bad as selling arguably the best baseball player to ever live, but there have been some pretty bad ones over the last century. Countless articles have been written about these bad deals, which is why I wanted to look at it from a more recent perspective.
That’s why today I want to take a look at five trades that have happened since 2000 that at the time didn’t seem too bad, but since have become some of the most uneven of all time. Now the key to all of these trades is that at least one of the players involved was a young, unproven prospect that blossomed into a key player for their new team.
July 19, 2000: As the trade deadline approached in the summer of 2000, the Toronto Blue Jays were in the hunt for the American Leauge East. To bulk up for the final months of the season they made a move to add more depth in their rotation. So to bolster their rotation, they made a move with the Texas Rangers to receive starting pitcher Esteban Loaiza and in return sent pitcher Darwin Cubillan and second baseman Michael Young to the Rangers. Loaiza ended up going 5-7 with a 3.62 ERA the rest of the way for the Blue Jays as they fell short 4 1/2 games in the East. Meanwhile Young has become an all-star and center piece to the Rangers potent offense averaging 218 hits (.319 AVG), 20 homers, and 98 RBI over the past three seasons. Needless to say the Jays would love to have Young hitting in front of Vernon Wells in 2007.
November 13, 2003: During the winter of 2003 the Minnesota Twins had some decisions to make. Fan favorite A.J. Pierzynski‘s contract would soon be up. Re-signing the catcher long term made little sense as they knew they had the home town phenom Joe Mauer on his way up. So during the winter meetings following the 2003 campaign the Twins swung a deal with the San Francisco Giants that is already known world wide as possibly the worst trade of this generation. In return for Pierzynski the Twins received three pitchers by the name of Boof Bonser, Joe Nathan, and Francisco Liriano. As I mentioned before we are only addressing the prospects that were dealt in these trades so lets push aside the fact that the Twins received the man that has become arguably the best closer in baseball, Joe Nathan. So if that wasn’t enough, they also received Bonser who looks to be the Twins number two starter this year after showing some true grit in the stretch run in 2006. Then to cap it off they threw in the man who would have hands down won the American League Cy Young award last season if not for his arm injury in Liriano. Before his injury, Liriano was the most dominant pitcher in baseball posting a 12-3 record and a 2.16 ERA. While he will miss all of 2007 after Tommy John surgery, he still looks to be one of the best upon his return. Forget the fact that Pierzynski only spent one season in a Giants uniform, they could have received 20 A.J.’s and it wouldn’t have made up for the fact that they traded away a number one and two starter and the best closer in the game. Ouch.
Mar 27, 2002: Just before the end of spring training in 2002 the Chicago Cubs wanted to make sure they solidified their pitching staff. Looking to add a starter and an established late innings guy, the Cubs turned to the Florida Marlins for help. Knowing the Marlins are always looking for prospects, the Cubs thew a handful of them at Florida in hopes to achieve their goal. While the Cubs did get what they were looking for by receiving starter Matt Clement and reliever Antonio Alfonseca, they didn’t quite know what they were giving up. In return for the two pitchers the Marlins received Ryan Jorgensen, Jose Cueto, Julian Taverez, and the jewel of the deal, Dontrelle Willis. While Clement did go on to win 35 games for the Cubbies over the next three seasons before moving on to Boston, they would have never made the deal if they knew what they were giving up. Willis has gone on to be the NL Rookie of the Year, a multi time all-star, and runner up for the 2005 Cy Young award (22-10, 2.63 ERA). There’s no doubt the Cubs would love to have him alongside Carlos Zambrano in that Chicago rotation.
December 6, 2002: In the winter meetings of 2002, the Texas Rangers were as always looking to help solidify a starting rotation that has always given them trouble. So the Rangers made a deal to acquire young starter Ryan Drese and catcher Einar Diaz and in return sent righthander Aaron Myette and a first baseman named Travis Hafner to the Cleveland Indians. I think we all know how this one ended and who got the better end of this deal. Hafner has been nothing short of a monster at the plate for Cleveland. Every season he has gotten better (42 HR, 117 RBI, and 1.098 OPS in 2006) and every season he has moved up the list of AL MVP voting. It won’t be long now before he takes home the hardware.
July 30, 2004: Watching the New York Mets scramble to patch together an aging and crumbling rotation must just make Mets fans stomachs turn. Especially considering just a couple of seasons ago they made a trade deadline deal that sent away a guy that could be sitting atop their rotation right now. The deal I’m reffering to is one in which the Mets received Bartolome Fortunato and Victor Zambrano from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in exchange for infielder Jose Diaz and current D-Rays ace Scott Kazmir. Kazmir has shown incredible stuff posting ERAs of 3.77 and 3.24 over the past two years. There’s no doubt that if he were on a winning team (like the Mets) that he would have 18-20 wins a year and be considered one of the best in baseball. In fact, in 2006 Kazmir continued to show his dominance over the big-time AL East teams like the Red Sox (3-1, 2.33 ERA), New York Yankees (0-2, 3.97 ERA), and Toronto Blue Jays (1-0, 1.32 ERA). This guy is only going to get better and is the center piece around the youth movement in Tampa.
While these are some of the biggest involving prospects that turned to superstars, I’m sure I’m missing a couple. Let me know if you can think of anymore. There are also a few more that may end up coming to fruitition in the next couple of years (for example Hanley Ramirez to Florida and Alexi Casilla to Minnesota) so we will be able to add to this list. Because as long as there are teams that are desperate to make a move at the trade deadline or in the winter meetings, we will also see those prospects thrown into deals that no one expects to blow up into a full-blown superstar.