There's an old adage in sports that whichever team gets the best player in a trade wins the deal. It's a saying that gets thrown around quite a bit in hockey, but it can also apply to baseball. The belief is that making a deal that nets your team a star player is often a win because he can make a bigger impact than the total contributions of several lesser talented players. Teams often prefer quality over quantity. That's why, when a star player is traded - usually because he's on the verge of free agency, his play is on the decline, or the team is rebuilding -the acquiring team isn't hesitant to give up a package of multiple young prospects. Conversely, the team trading away their star usually aims to get one big time prospect in the deal, who down the line could conceivably end up being the best player in the deal.
As we know, trades don't always work out well for both sides and a trade to deal away a star player can end up leaving one team empty handed. Sometimes it's because prospects don't progress as well as expected. Other times it's because one of those prospects ends up becoming the starwhile the former star's play drops off. Every once in awhile, a deal that seems insignificant at the time ends up coming back to bite a team because a player has an unexpected breakout. Whatever the reason may be, the teams that traded away these star players often regret their mistakes when they end up with basically nothing in return. Here are the top 15 MLB players who were traded for basically nothing.
15 15. Michael Young
A fifth round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1997, Michael Young was still just a prospect when he and reliever Darwin Cubillan were shipped to the Texas Rangers for starter Esteban Loaiza in 2000. While Loaiza had a lengthy big league career, he didn't provide much in parts of three seasons in Toronto, posting a 4.96 ERA during his Blue Jays tenure before departing as a free agent.
14 14. Pee Wee Reese
13 13. Nellie Fox
12 12. Curt Schilling
11 11. Johan Santana
Johan Santana was signed as a 16-year-old free agent by the Houston Astros in 1995. After several years in the minors, Santana was selected by the Florida Marlins in the 1999 Rule 5 Draft and subsequently traded to the Minnesota Twins for minor league pitcher Jared Camp, who had been taken with the prior Rule 5 pick, and $50,000 to cover to cost of the pick.
10 10. Christy Mathewson
9 9. Lou Brock
8 8. Jose Bautista
Another former Rule 5 pick, Jose Bautista was selected by the Baltimore Orioles from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2003. In 2004, he bounced around between the Orioles, Royals, Rays, and Mets before making his way back to the Pirates, making him the first and to date, only player to be a member of five different teams in one season. By 2008, he was still struggling to stay in the Pirates lineup on a daily basis.
7 7. Miguel Cabrera
Miguel Cabrera played parts of five big league seasons with the Miami Marlins, helping them win a World Series title in 2003 and reaching the 30 home run mark three times. Following the 2007 season, the team decided to shop the 24-year-old star, rather than pay him big money. Although several teams were in the running, Cabrera was ultimately shipped to the Detroit Tigers, along with struggling starter Dontrelle Willis, for prospects Cameron Maybin, Mike Rabelo, Dallas Trahern, Frankie de la Cruz, and Burke Badenhop.
6 6. Jeff Bagwell
5 5. David Ortiz
Signed as a 17-year-old free agent out of the Dominican Republic by the Seattle Mariners in 1992, Ortiz was not yet a 21-year-old prospect when he was shipped to the Minnesota Twins in 1996 as the player to be named later in a deal for infielder Dave Hollins. Hollins played just 28 games for the Mariners before departing as a free agent. Ortiz, meanwhile, played parts of six seasons in Minnesota and battled a number of injuries and struggles at the plate to post 18 and 20 home run seasons in limited action.
4 4. Ryne Sandberg
3 3. Pedro Martinez
Pedro Martinez signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a 16-year-old free agent in 1988 and pitched well in limited Major League action in 1992 and 1993 before he was traded to the Montreal Expos following the 1993 season for Delino DeShields. DeShields played three seasons with the Dodgers at second base, but was a pretty replaceable player. Martinez became a star in four seasons with the Expos, taking home the NL Cy Young in 1997, before he was once again traded for very little, this time to the Boston Red Sox for Carl Pavano.
2 2. Nolan Ryan
1 1. Babe Ruth
Undoubtedly the biggest star to ever be traded for basically nothing, Babe Ruth played parts of six seasons for the Boston Red Sox and helped the team to three World Series titles before he was famously shipped to the rival New York Yankees on December 26, 1919 for $100,000. Over 15 seasons with the Yankees, the Babe would fail to reach the 30 home run plateau just twice, leading the Majors in home runs 10 times, hitting a total of 659 home runs, and leading the Bronx Bombers to four World Series titles.
The Red Sox regret over the move has been well documented, as they went 86 years between championships with much of their failure being attributed to the "Curse of the Bambino". What Red Sox owner Harry Frazee needed $100,000 for remains unclear. It has been speculated that the money was used to finance the Broadway Musical, No, No, Nanette, but the validity of that claim remains in question.
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