Trading in Major League Baseball (MLB) is much different than in other professional leagues, especially near the trade deadline. Whereas draft picks are frequently tossed out as trade bait in other leagues, MLB teams are prohibited from dealing their picks; they do, however, happen to have more than 100 minor league position players and pitchers. As a result, the MLB trade deadline is often a time when high-profile players get dealt for a group of prospects most casual fans never heard of. For example, some of the prospects dealt prior to the most recent deadline include the likes of Adam Cimber, Giovanny Gallegos, Williams Jerez, and Ty Buttrey. Chances are one of those players might end up having a decent career in the big leagues, but it's also incredibly likely that neither ever make a name for themselves.
That's in part why it is so hard to make a fair trade in the MLB. Unless they are receiving a top-flight, can't-miss prospect in return, teams that are trading away a superstar at the deadline - or in the offseason, for that matter - almost never receive a worthwhile return. The Mets, for example, received Noah Syndergaard in 2012 in a package for Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. The following year, the Cubs received a young Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop in exchange for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger. Ouch. Below are 20 recent trades that have the potential to look just as bad - or good, depending on which team's perspective - in a few years.
20 Zach Britton For Three Prospects
Thanks to a loaded farm system, the New York Yankees were not only able to add a formidable bat to its lineup prior to the trade deadline, but also an All-Star closer. In July, New York sent Dillon Tate, Cody Carroll, and Josh Rogers to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Zach Britton, who has since registered an impressive 2.88 ERA through 25 innings.
Tate was considered a top-100 prospect prior to the 2016 season, but the former first-round pick's stock has fallen drastically since then; he registered a 5.75 ERA through seven starts with Baltimore's Double-A affiliate following the trade. Rogers and Carroll, meanwhile, are 24 and 25 respectively and have yet to make the MLB save for as September call-ups following the trade.
19 Brian Dozier For Logan Forsythe And Two Prospects
It made sense for the Los Angeles Dodgers to add Brian Dozier at the 2018 trade deadline. Just a few years prior, the team added aging veteran Chase Utley, who looked impressive in his short stint with the team. However, the same can't be said about Dozier, who struggled through 47 games with the National League West team. He hit five home runs, had 20 RBI, and a disappointing .182 batting average.
Logan Forsythe, meanwhile, was much better with Minnesota than he was with Los Angeles, but he wasn't even the primary return. The highlight of the deal for the Twins was prospects Luke Raley and Devin Smeltzer, who both had promising seasons in Double-A.
18 Brad Hand And Adam Cimber For Francisco Mejia
It's not often that the team giving away its top prospect might be better off in the long-term, but that's the case with this trade as the Cleveland Indians, as of writing this, are legitimate World Series contenders with a bullpen bolstered by the acquisition of former San Diego Padres closer Brad Hand.
The two-time All-Star recorded eight saves and allowed only 19 hits while striking out 41 through 27.2 innings with the Indians following the July 18 trade. Cleveland also added relief pitcher Adam Cimber in the trade but had to give up top prospect Francisco Mejia. The 22-year-old has decent potential, but has never been considered a top-100 prospect and struggled mightily through 20 games with the Padres with a .185 batting average.
17 Corey Dickerson For Daniel Hudson And Tristan Gray
The Tampa Bay Rays have been unable to attract or keep high-profile stars due to the team's low operating budget, but it was surprising to see they decided to trade Corey Dickerson during the 2018 offseason. The left fielder earned an All-Star nod for the first time in his career last season after hitting 27 home runs and registering a .282 batting average. His bat was perfectly suited at the Trop as well.
Yet, he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Daniel Hudson and Tristan Gray. Not surprisingly, Dickerson had a similar season with a .804 OPS compared to last year's .815. His home run totals dropped, but his batting average shot up to .300. Hudson was subsequently released by the Rays and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Gray had a disappointing season with Tampa's Single-A affiliate in Charlotte.
16 Mike Moustakas For Brett Phillips And Jorge Lopez
The Milwaukee Brewers were one of the surprise teams of the 2018 season due in large part to the play of offseason acquisitions Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. Prior to the trade deadline, the team once again turned to the Kansas City Royals to acquire third baseman Mike Moustakas. The 30-year-old hit eight home runs and recorded 33 RBI in 54 games with the Brewers and solidified their status as a World Series contender.
Milwaukee didn't really have to give up much either. Brett Phillips is a former top-100 prospect who is primarily regarded for his outfield defense, while Jorge Lopez projects as an average middle reliever at best.
15 Freddy Galvis For Enyel De Los Santos
This is obviously on a much smaller scale, but it's a regret for the Philadelphia Phillies nonetheless. Originally signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent in 2006, Galvis was with the organization for 11 years before being dealt to the San Diego Padres in December 2017 for Enyel De Los Santos.
Galvis' career .664 OPS isn't really all that attractive, but he's a very capable fielder at shortstop, second base, and the outfield, as evidenced by his career .984 fielding percentage. He has also hit 20 home runs in the past and registered 13 as well as a career-high 67 RBI this past season with San Diego. De Los Santos, meanwhile, was average at best out of the Phillies' bullpen as a September call-up and projects as either a back of the rotation starter or a mid-tier reliever at best.
14 Luke Voit For Chasen Shreve And Giovanny Gallegos
It's really hard to fault the St. Louis Cardinals here, but this might be one of the most lopsided trades of this past season. Prior to the trade that sent him to the New York Yankees in exchange for Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos, Luke Voit was a fringe big leaguer who had only appeared in 70 games, during which time he had a .240 batting average to go along with five home runs and 21 RBI.
Through 39 games with the Yankees, Voit registered a .333 batting average, hit 14 home runs, and recorded 33 RBI. He also had a remarkable 1.095 OPS and was one of the team's most important players in September. Shreve, meanwhile, only pitched 14.2 innings for the Cards and had an abysmal 1.57 WHIP and Gallegos is likely a career minor leaguer.
13 Stephen Piscotty For Max Schrock And Yairo Munoz
While Yairo Munoz had a productive season for the St. Louis Cardinals, the 23-year-old rookie doesn't appear to project as much more than a utility player off the bench. Similarly, infield prospect Max Schrock has a very limited ceiling. With that in mind, it appears as though the Oakland Athletics are the clear early winners of the 2018 offseason trade that landed them Stephen Piscotty.
For his part, Piscotty was a staple in the A's lineup this season. He had a slow start to the year, but finished the season with career-high totals in home runs (27) and RBI (88), while registering the second-highest OPS (.821) of his career.
12 Jonathan Schoop For Jonathan Villar And Two Prospects
Sometimes a team can make too many unnecessary moves in an effort to bolster its playoff lineup. That certainly applies to the Milwaukee Brewers in this instance. While it made sense to add power-hitting second baseman Jonathan Schoop, the result hasn't been all that great; through 46 games, the 26-year-old struggled to adjust to the National League and registered a sub-par .577 OPS. Villar, meanwhile, had a .729 OPS with the Orioles.
Even one-for-one, the trade would have been a loss for the Brewers, but they also gave up prospects Jean Carmona and Luis Ortiz. Carmona is an 18-year-old infielder with impressive athletic and fielding ability, while Ortiz is a right-handed pitcher who was selected in the first round of the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft.
11 Chris Archer For Tyler Glasnow And Austin Meadows
Despite being out of the playoff race, the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired All-Star starting pitcher Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays at the trade deadline. It was a move made with the purpose of exciting the fan base and building a competitive clubhouse culture and, while Archer is a talented pitcher, it appears as though the Pirates might have overvalued him.
Archer went 3-3 with a 4.30 ERA with the Pirates, while Tyler Glasnow, who is five years younger than Archer, had a 4.20 ERA and impressive 1.10 WHIP through 11 starts with the Rays. Meadows, a former first-round pick, looked comfortable at the plate in only 10 big league games and, at only 23 years old, could be a big part of Tampa Bay's future.
10 Gio Gonzalez For Gilbert Lara And KJ Harrison
A two-time National League All-Star, Gio Gonzalez is a left-handed pitcher who was among the best at his position during the past eight years. Yet, the 33-year-old struggled with the Washington Nationals through 27 starts and was dealt to the contending Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for prospects KJ Harrison and Gilbert Lara.
Gonzalez started five games for the Brewers and allowed only 14 hits in 25.1 innings to give him an impressive 0.95 WHIP. Harrison is a first base prospect who is unlikely to reach the big leagues and Lara, similarly, was average at best in his first full season at Single-A this past season.
9 John Axford For Corey Copping
This is another trade that might end up being inconsequential for both teams, but for the time being at least, there's potential for the Toronto Blue Jays. The American League East team signed veteran relief pitcher John Axford in the offseason and, after a mediocre showing in the regular season, dealt him to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitching prospect Corey Copping.
Axford pitched in only five games for the Dodgers and registered an abysmal 17.18 ERA before being designated for assignment. The 24-year-old Copping, meanwhile, had the best stretch of his minor league career with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Toronto's Double-A affiliate, as he registered a 1.93 ERA and struck out 20 batters in 14 innings. He could compete for a spot in the Blue Jays' bullpen next season.
8 Kevin Gausman And Darren O'Day For Four Prospects
The Baltimore Orioles were so bad this season that they made Kevin Gausman seem like an elite pitcher by comparison. The 27-year-old has a career ERA and WHIP of 4.12 and 1.34 respectively but, along with veteran reliever Darren O'Day, was sought after by the Atlanta Braves at the trade deadline. To their credit, it was great scouting by the Braves as Gausman started 10 games for Atlanta and registered a 2.87 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. O'Day, meanwhile, didn't play due to a hamstring injury but is still under contract for next season.
In acquiring the two pitchers, Atlanta only gave up four mid-level prospects who, aside from right-handed pitcher Evan Phillips, all played below the Double-A level in 2018.
7 Tommy Pham For Three Prospects
The Tampa Bay Rays might have made a mistake dealing Corey Dickerson in the past offseason, but the American League East team shored up its outfield depth mid-season by acquiring Tommy Pham from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Genesis Cabrera, Justin Williams, and Roel Ramirez. The jury is still out on those three prospects, but it's unlikely they become household names.
Pham, meanwhile, played at a level he has yet to reach in his four-year career. The former 16th-round draft pick registered a .343 batting average and 1.071 WHIP through 39 games with the Rays. He also had seven home runs and 22 RBI.
6 Randal Grichuk For Dominic Leone And Conner Greene
Conner Greene was one of the top pitching prospects in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, but he struggled in his first year in the St. Louis Cardinals. Similarly, Dominic Leone didn't make much of an impact as he registered a 4.50 ERA and 1.46 WHIP through 30 appearances out of the bullpen.
The Blue Jays' return for both players, outfielder Randal Grichuk, had a slow start to his 2018 season but emerged as one of the few veterans on Toronto's roster that might be included in the team's long-term vision. The 27-year-old finished the season with a career-high 25 home runs to go along with 61 RBI, a .245 batting average, and a .803 OPS.
5 Cole Hamels For Two Prospects
A four-time All-Star and 2008 World Series MVP, Cole Hamels, at 34-years-old, is obviously on the back end of his career, but the Chicago Cubs felt the left-handed starter still had some gas in the tank. Hamels had a mediocre 4.72 ERA and 5-9 record through 20 starts with the Texas Rangers this season but has been elite since joining the Cubs.
Through 12 starts, Hamels posted a 4-3 record to go along with a 2.36 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Texas received Eddie Butler and Rollie Lacy as part of the trade. Butler is a low-end reliever clinging to a job in the big leagues and, while Lacy has potential, the 23-year-old pitcher is unproven and has yet to advance beyond the Single-A level.
4 Josh Donaldson For Player To Be Named Later
Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins, president and general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays respectively, have done little to inspire confidence in the Blue Jays' fanbase and their handling of Josh Donaldson has only exacerbated those issues. The oft-injured third baseman should have been traded in the offseason, especially considering everyone in baseball knew the team wasn't going to be competitive in 2018.
Instead, they held on to Donaldson only to watch him suffer an early-season injury and then trade him minutes before the August waiver trade deadline, when his value was at his absolute lowest. Not surprisingly, Donaldson, now healthy, has been a valuable player in the middle of the lineup for the Cleveland Indians. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, only received a player to be named later (PTBNL) for the player who is only two seasons removed from being the American League MVP. To make matters worse, it's believed that PTBNL is 27-year-old pitcher Julian Merryweather, who is coming off of Tommy John surgery.
3 Ian Kinsler For Ty Buttrey And Williams Jerez
It's hard to believe four-time All-Star Ian Kinsler was traded for a pair of mid-tier prospects, but that's the reality of the MLB trade deadline, especially when the player being dealt is 36-years-old. True, Kinsler isn't quite the player he once was, but he's still a capable fielder who registered 13 home runs and 32 RBI with the Los Angeles Angels prior to being dealt to the Boston Red Sox.
Kinsler might not have performed much better in his limited stint with Boston, but his veteran leadership will only benefit the team in the playoffs. Ty Buttrey had a relatively impressive season in Triple-A, but the right-handed pitcher will be 26 years old by the start of next season and projects as a middle inning reliever at best. Williams Jerez is unlikely to reach the big leagues.
2 Adam Duvall For Three Prospects
It's easy to acknowledge contending teams as the early winners of trades given the veteran leadership added to the clubhouse alone, but the Atlanta Braves might have made a mistake in acquiring Adam Duvall from the Cincinnati Reds. Although he is known for his power more so than his ability to hit for average, Duvall's .132 batting average through 33 games with the Braves was indefensible. He also didn't hit a home run or record a single RBI in 57 plate appearances.
The Braves sent the Reds pitchers Lucas Sims and Matt Wisler as well as outfielder Preston Tucker. The two pitchers won't be much more than middle relievers at best, but Tucker has the potential to play every day in Cincinnati's outfield next season and there's no way he can be as awful as Duvall has been for the Braves.
1 Christian Yelich For Four Prospects
As previously mentioned, Christian Yelich has been one of the key contributors for the Milwaukee Brewers this season; in fact, he has been among the league's best players. The 26-year-old outfielder led the National League in batting average (.326) and finished second in both home runs (36) and RBI (110). All were career-best figures.
In acquiring Yelich, Milwaukee gave up prospects Jordan Yamamoto, Monte Harrison, Isan Diaz, and Lewis Brinson. While Brinson is the most highly-touted of the group, the outfielder had a disappointing rookie season in Miami as he registered a .199 batting average. This might go down as one of the most lopsided trades in recent memory.