For most sports, the draft is a serious event. Guys from college or high school jockey for big deals, the teams making huge moves and millions of dollars flying about. A draft pick is a major moment that can change a career or a franchise. Baseball is different. Their draft takes place mid-way through the season and can involve up to 40 rounds or more. It was only established in 1965 and soon became famous for the “bonus babies” deals going around. Notable is how teams use it to try and lock down prospective stars right out of high school. But unlike the NBA or NFL, the players have the choice to basically ignore their drafts and if they want to wait, they can just wait.
That’s because many are smart enough to know a draft means spending years in the minors before they can make it big. Quite a few players prefer finishing college and honing their skills to they can move faster from the minors to the big leagues. Thus, it’s very common for a player to turn down the team that drafted him first and join another later. A few cases do have guys signing but traded off before they can every actually play. It’s amazing to see how some major names, both current and past stars, were picked by another team yet it’s forgotten. Here are 25 MLB stars even their biggest fans forget were drafted by another team to show how different things can be.
25 Jeff Bagwell - Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox actually chose Bagwell in 1989 who had been a fan of the team since childhood and was eager to join. In 1990, they decided to trade him off to Houston. To Boston fans, it’s second only to Babe Ruth going to the Yankees as the worst trade in team history.
Bagwell is now one of the most beloved Astros ever, becoming the 1991 Rookie of the Year.
He was the MVP of the strike-shortened 1994 season and a four-time All-Star. He’s also the only player in MLB history to achieve six consecutive seasons with 30 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 runs scored, and 100 walks. He was there cheering the Astros winning the World Series and serves as a coach to just illustrate how stupid Boston was for letting him go.
24 Ben Zobrist - Houston Astros
Ben Zobrist belongs to the elite club of players to win back-to-back World Championships on two different teams. Which must really frustrate the Houston Astros who took until 2017 to win their first. He showed his stuff as a utility player and did well in college so the Astros drafted him in 2004. But then he and Mitch Talbot were traded to the Rays in 2006.
In just a few seasons, Zobrist had a 1,000 hits but was still traded to the A’s in 2014. He was traded to the Royals and thus got to enjoy them winning the World Series in 2015. Zobrist then joined the Cubs where he not only got them to finally break the “Curse” but was named World Series MVP. Sure, Houston finally got a title but it has to annoy them they gave away Zobrist.
23 Fred McGriff - New York Yankees
Some cite Fred McGriff as one of the best players yet to make it into the Hall of Fame. It’s hard to argue against a 19-year career with just under 2,500 hits and 493 home runs. He twice led the league in home runs as well as a five-time All-Star. Maybe it’s because McGriff didn’t settle down long, playing for seven teams in his career. Perhaps it would have been different had he stuck with the Yankees, who drafted him in 1981 with a $20,000 signing bonus. But in one of the most lopsided trades ever, the Yankees dealt him off to Toronto.
McGriff embarked on a career highlighted by winning the 1995 World Series with the Braves to show how bad a move this was. Maybe if he’d stayed in pinstripes, McGriff would have the Cooperstown plaque he deserves.
22 Hunter Pence - Milwaukee Brewers
When one looks at the San Francisco Giants in the last decade, it’s amazing to see how many players could have been on different teams. Hunter Pence set some records with his hitting in Texas which made him a good pick for the majors.
The Brewers drafted him in 2002 but Pence elected not to sign.
He waited three years before going with the Astros and showing his stuff before a move to the Phillies. The big move was a trade to San Francisco where Pence broke out, winning two World Series and the “Hunter Pence sign” has become a phenomenon anywhere he plays. Maybe that would sparked Brewers games up a bit more.
21 Brandon Belt - Boston Red Sox & Atlanta Braves
Here’s another example of the Giants having their current stars drafted by other teams. Brandon Belt had two chances to join the majors before the Giants but turned them both down. First was Boston in 2006 and then Atlanta in 2007. Each time, Belt decided to finish college in Texas and proving himself a solid slugger.
He finally joined the Giants in 2011 and won two World Series with them. While his batting average is okay, Belt can back it up with good work in the field to make both the Red Sox and Braves sorry he didn’t sign with them.
20 Buster Posey - Los Angeles Angels
Right now rehabbing an injury, Buster Posey has proven himself as one of the biggest stars of the Giants. No sooner had he joined the team than his smash slugging made him the 2010 Rookie of the Year and the Giants winning the World Series. Posey then won the Comeback of the Year award in 2012 by returning from injury better than ever and helping the Giants win two more World championships.
That must really aggravate the Angels given they had drafted him in 2005. Posey turned them down, both to finish college and not being happy about the bonus offered. The Giants had no problem when they took him three years later with a whopping $6.2 signing bonus. Today, that seems a bargain for what Posey has done for the team.
19 Mark Prior - New York Yankees
Here’s a rare case of the Yankees letting a star get away from them. Mark Prior graduated from San Diego in 1998 and the Yankees, hot off a World Series, moved to sign him. However, the two sides just couldn’t come to an agreement with the Yankees actually refusing Prior’s pay requests. Thus, Prior went to USC where his pitching won him numerous awards.
He joined the Cubs in 2001 and was soon a star pitcher for the team.
He even led them to within five outs of a World Series only to fall apart after Steve Bartman’s infamous catch. His career was over in five years due to injuries so maybe joining the Yankees might have been a better move in the long haul for Prior.
18 Corey Kluber - San Diego Padres
Cleveland fans should be sending a thank-you letter to the Padres. Corey Kluber had been a sensation at Stetson University and expectations were high for him in the draft. The Padres took him in the fourth round in 2007 and with a nice $200,000 signing bonus. However, in 2011, they made him part of a trade to Cleveland that also involved St. Louis.
Since then, Kluber has easily been the ace of the Indians. He’s won two Cy Young awards, twice led the AL in wins and boasted a 1.83 ERA in the 2016 postseason where the Indians came within a couple of runs of the World Series. He’s still doing great to make this trade a dumb move by the Padres.
17 John Smoltz - Detroit Tigers
The 90s Braves boasted one of the best pitching rotations in all of baseball. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz formed a group that baffled batters and kept the Braves in contention. Smoltz had grown up in Michigan and thus naturally rooted for the Tigers. So Detroit drafting him in 22nd round of the 1985 amateur draft seemed a dream come true. But just as Smoltz was getting used to the minors, the Tigers made him part of a trade to Atlanta. There, Smoltz was an 8-time All-Star and twice led the NL in strikeouts and wins. He was also part of the Braves team that won the 1995 World Series, making this one of the worst trades in Tigers history.
16 Kyle Hendricks - Texas Rangers
Today, Kyle Hendricks is an ace of the Cubs staff. His fantastic pitching was a key factor in Chicago finally winning the World Series in 2016, his 2.13 ERA the lowest in baseball. He also gets attention for his sinkers and change-ups to baffle batters. It was the Angels who first took notice of Hendricks and drafted him in 2011.
Unlike many on this list, Hendricks did indeed sign with the Rangers but before he could develop, he was traded to Chicago.
Texas fans must be grousing over that one as the Cubs were able to use Hendricks to finally get a title and show how even signing a draftee can still lead to a lost star.
15 Ozzie Smith - Detroit Tigers
To many St. Louis fans, it’s hard to imagine Ozzie Smith in anything but a Cardinals uniform. But it happened as Smith had shown his amazing talent and quick reflexes in high school. Dreaming of playing for his hometown Dodgers, Smith instead was drafted by the Tigers in 1976. However, the two sides couldn’t agree on a price with Smith wanting a bigger signing bonus. He thus waited a year before being taken by the Padres. He spent four years there before the Padres foolishly traded him to St. Louis.
There, the “Wizard of Odds” became a huge fan favorite with his skills and backflips and easily elected to the Hall of Fame. If they had just shelled out a bit more money, that could have been Detroit’s.
14 Jake Arrieta - Cincinnati Reds & Milwaukee Brewers
A Texas native, Jake Arrieta showed he was a pitching prodigy in high school and thus the Reds drafted him in the 31st round in 2004. The next year, the Brewers also drafted him but Arrieta chose to finish college first and was showing off in the Olympics. He finally made it to the majors in 2007 with the Orioles. He’s had a good record with two no-hitters but hit his height in 2016 with the Cubs, both an All-Star and World Series champion. Now with the Phillies, Arrieta still has great pitching promise and shows both the Reds and Brewers what they missed out on.
13 Mark Teixeira - Boston Red Sox
Nothing rattles Red Sox fans more than seeing the Yankees triumph. Except knowing a major reason for said triumphs is a player the Sox could have had. In 1998, Mark Teixeira was becoming a major force as a switch hitter in high school.
The Red Sox took him in the draft but asked for an all-but-signed agreement, which is not only against baseball rules (negotiations are forbidden before the draft) but rubbed the Teixeira family the wrong way.
So Mark went to college before being taken by the Rangers in 2001. He was soon having a good career with five Golden Gloves. He hit his height in 2009 with the Yankees, leading the AL in home runs and RBIs and helping New York win the World Series. Maybe if Boston hadn’t made such a bad offer, they could have had a great player.
12 Dave Winfield - San Diego Padres
For all his accolades (12 time All-Star, 7 Golden Gloves and 6 Silver Sluggers), Dave Winfield will be best remembered for one moment with a bat. Baltimore had the first shot at Winfield in college but he elected to finish out his time in Minnesota where he seemed to be choosing between baseball and basketball. He finally settled on baseball and was taken by the Padres in 1973. After a good stint there, he moved on for a long run with the Yankees to show his power with the bat.
Winfield’s biggest moment came with his walk-off homer that won the 1992 World Series for the Toronto Blue Jays. Thus, Baltimore missed out on one of the best Hall of Fame sluggers of his generation.
11 Roger Clemens - New York Mets
Today, Roger Clemens’ reputation isn’t what it once was. A man with seven Cy Young awards, two Triple Crowns and two World Series wins won’t be making the Hall of Fame. But in his prime, Clemens was a fantastic pitcher unlike few others.
He’d been chosen by the Mets in 1981 but elected to attend the University of Texas.
Thus, it was the Red Sox who drafted him in 1983 and Clemens kicked off his career striking out 20 batters in one game in 1986. Again, his career since has suffered but maybe it could have been different in Clemens had started in New York.
10 Barry Bonds - San Francisco Giants
This may seem odd given that Barry Bonds achieved massive fame with the Giants. However, it was a long road getting there. Bonds was showing off nicely in college enough for the Giants to draft him. Bonds, however, decided to hold out for a better offer.
The Pirates thus drafted him and Bonds was a great factor in them winning three division titles. But Bonds felt he was underpaid and not being treated right so the Pirates foolishly let him walk in free agency, where he signed with San Francisco. Once a Giant, Bonds was setting records in home runs, was a multiple MVP and All-Star and while there are controversies surrounding him, no one will question he was the best slugger of his generation.
9 Tim Lincecum - Chicago Cubs & Cleveland Indians
“The Freak” is hailed for being able to throw out pitches much faster than his slight frame would indicate. Even in high school, he was showing his great pitching prowess and thus the Cubs drafted him in 2003. Lincecum elected not to play however. The Indians then chose him in 2005 but he turned down their $70,000 signing bonus.
Finally, the Giants nabbed him and ended up with a great star. He led the NL in strikeouts for three straight seasons, was a two-time Cy Young winner, tossed two no-hitters and helped the Giants win three World Series. He’s currently a free agent but both the Cubs and Indians must be lamenting not being able to close the deal on a former star pitcher.
8 Aaron Judge - Oakland Athletics
It’s been a while since the Yankees tasted the World Series. But Aaron Judge is doing his best to get them there. The AL Rookie of the Year has been wowing fans with his skills, a two-time All-Star already and most seeing him as a future superstar in the making.
That has to haunt the Oakland A’s who had actually drafted Judge in 2010 out of high school.
Judge, however, decided to head to Fresno State to develop his skills and he did well there.
Thus, it was the Yankees who got Judge in 2013 and that’s paid off with him easily the current star of the team and a rare misfire of a draft by Oakland.
7 Bo Jackson - California Angels
Bo Jackson had a unique career, bouncing between football and baseball while also being a huge multi-media star. The California Angels were the first to try and grab him out of college but Bo decided to declare for the NFL draft. He was then chosen by Tampa Bay but he wasn't keen on playing for the lowly Buccaneers so he elected not to play for them. Instead, he went into the 1986 supplemental draft and was chosen by the Royals.
He has the distinction of being in both the All-Star Game and the Pro Bowl while making himself famous. Ironically, Jackson closed out his MLB career with the Angels in 1994, a season cut short by the player’s strike and still a notable career in so many ways.
6 Randy Johnson - Atlanta Braves
This is the first of two famous pitching stars that the Braves missed out on. In 1982, the Braves chose Randy Johnson and offered him $50,000 to sign straight out of high school. Johnson wanted more, but Atlanta refused so Johnson accepted a scholarship to USC instead. He waited until 1988 to get started with the Expos. Following a trade to Seattle, the Big Unit was a 10-time All-Star, a five-time Cy Young winner and had both a no-hitter and a perfect game.
The highlight was in 2001 as Johnson led the Diamondbacks to the World championship named MVP and easily elected to the Hall of Fame. That could have been Atlanta’s if they’d just been willing to pay more.
5 Tom Seaver - Atlanta Braves
Tom Seaver was a sensation in college, every scout knowing he would be a terrific star for the majors. Thus, the Braves were more than happy to draft him in 1966 and Seaver even signed the contract.
However, someone missed the fact that Seaver had taken part in a couple of exhibition college games and the deal was nullified.
It went to the commissioner’s office as William Eckert decided that because Seaver hadn’t actually played in those games, he would allow him to join the majors. However, it would be for any team that could match Atlanta’s offer.
The Mets won the raffle and Seaver helped turn them into World Champions in just three years. “The Franchise” would end up as one of the best pitchers in the game much to Atlanta’s dismay.
4 Josh Donaldson - Chicago Cubs
After so many years of terrible moves, Josh Donaldson is a breath of fresh air for Blue Jays fans. At last, Toronto landed a truly great star player, the trade to get him from Oakland paying off wonderfully. Since joining Toronto in 2015, Donaldson has been the AL MVP and led the league in runs scored and RBIs. So it’s forgotten that the Cubs had first choice at Donaldson in 2007 and drafted him as a catcher.
He had an okay career in the minors which led to the Cubs trading him to Oakland. True, the Cubs are now doing great so it’s not a huge loss but it's still notable how they gave away the guy who finally gave Toronto fans something to cheer about.
3 Max Scherzer - St. Louis Cardinals
As a lifelong fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, Max Scherzer must have been overjoyed when he heard the Cardinals had drafted him in 2003. However, he wanted to finish some college first at the University of Missouri. By the time he was done, St. Louis’ interest had faded. He was thus drafted by the Diamondbacks in 2006. He spent time with the Tigers before heading to Washington. There, Scherzer has blossomed into a pitching star with amazing credentials: Six-time All-Star, three Cy Young awards, twice leading the NL in strikeouts and two no-hitters in a single season. The Cardinals must be wishing they’d gone for a “hometown hero” pick.
2 Anthony Rizzo - Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox have finally long rid themselves of “the Curse” yet they've still made some mistakes. In 2007, they drafted Anthony Rizzo in the sixth round.
It wasn’t long before Rizzo impressed in the minors and it looked like he’d be called up. Instead, Rizzo was traded to the Padres in a surprise move given all his promise.
The Padres didn’t do much either and thus he was traded to the Cubs in 2012. Since then, Rizzo has provided much of the power for Chicago, winning the Silver Slugger and Golden Glove awards, a three-time All-Star and helping the Cubs win the World Series in 2016
1 Kris Bryant - Toronto Blue Jays
Right now, Kris Bryant is well known as arguably the best third baseman in the majors. In only his fourth season, he’s already a two-time All-Star, the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year and the 2016 MVP thanks to his helping the Chicago Cubs win the World Series. Yet it was the Blue Jays who first drafted Bryant in 2010. However, in the ultimate case of Toronto ineptitude, they didn’t have the money to pay Bryant, who was trying to finish college in San Diego. Thus, Bryant honed his skills in San Diego which allowed him to become a major star. Even by Blue Jays standards, this one has to hurt.