Baseball is fantastic, because it has some of the strangest things that could possibly happen in the world of sports. Even when it comes to the front office, there are so many intricacies as players move around these massive organizations, frequently unnoticed. When you see a trade in the NFL or NBA, you have heard of the players involved, and a lot of the trades involve future draft picks.
That’s not the case in baseball, where many of the trades include guys that were already drafted and are acquired based on their potential. We celebrate when our teams acquire what we think is going to be the final piece of the puzzle, even if it means that team trades away a prospect you might not know about.
In some cases, those prospects end up becoming future All Stars or even Hall of Fame players while the big names they brought over flame out quickly. It happens more often than you think, and a lot of the big stars that you know and love today were once just small pieces of blockbuster deals. Let’s take a look at some of the All Stars, MVPs and World Series winners that were involved in one-sided deals. Of course, they are only one-sided in hindsight.
15 Montreal’s Last Stand
Bartolo Colon’s career has lasted for so long that our list even includes the Montreal Expos and active players in the same sentence. Colon had made his debut with the Indians, and was on the roster for several years. That changed in 2002 when the Expos desperately wanted to land the big hurler, as well as Tim Drew. Montreal sent a king’s ransom to Cleveland, sending Lee Stevens, Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips.
The deal would be a great one for the Indians, as Sizemore was productive for several years and Cliff Lee became one of the best pitchers in baseball. As for the Expos, Colon would only be a rental that was again traded to the White Sox before signing with the Angels. It would be one of the last big moves the Expos made before moving to Washington, D.C..
14 Phillips Gets Flipped
The Indians could have been set at second base for years if they had stuck with their original deal with the Expos. Instead, they hurt themselves a bit by flipping Brandon Phillips after acquiring him. In 2006, the Indians got tired of waiting for Phillips to develop into an everyday player and shipped him off to the Reds. All Cincinnati had to give in return was a player to be named that ended up being Jeff Stevens.
Stevens would never play with the big league roster, instead only pitching 37.1 Major League innings (with the Cubs). As for Phillips, he spent 11 seasons in Cincinnati, making three All Star Games while batting .279 with 191 home runs and 851 runs batted in, surely to have his number retired.
13 Cubs Rob The Orioles
As you probably heard already, the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series. Many of the players that were instrumental in breaking the 108-year drought were brought in via one-sided trades. Theo Epstein worked his magic with the next few players on our list, beginning with two pitchers that came up big in 2016.
Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop had been with the Orioles organization, while Strop had limited time at the Major League level and Arrieta struggled. The two were sent to the Cubs in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman. The Orioles barely got any production from the two, while the Cubs landed a bullpen staple and the 2015 National League Cy Young winner. Arrieta would also win games two and six of the 2016 World Series to keep the Cubs alive in their comeback.
12 Cubs Rob The Athletics
In 2014, the Cubs were still in rebuilding mode while the Athletics were trying to make a playoff push. Willing to surrender some of their Minor League system, Oakland made a deal with Chicago. The Cubs sent out starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel for Billy McKinney, Dan Straily and Addison Russell. Russell had been the number three prospect in baseball, while Straily has bounced around (now in Miami) and McKinney is with the Yankees.
Russell has turned out to be the Cubs answer at shortstop, to the point where they were willing to part ways with Starlin Castro. As for the Athletics, their run at a pennant came up well short and they lost both Samardzija and Hammel. Hammel went back to the Cubs, while Samardzija signed with rival San Francisco.
11 Cubs Rob The Padres
While getting Arrieta and Strop might have been the biggest robbery, the Cubs landing their cornerstone first baseman is just as notable. Before the 2012 season, the Padres weren’t all that impressed with the development of Anthony Rizzo, and desired some starting pitching. That’s when they made a deal with the Cubs to send Rizzo and Zach Cates to Chicago in exchange for Andrew Cashner and Kyung-Min Na.
Cashner would become a decent pitcher, but never the star that the Padres were looking for, finishing his career in San Diego with a 28-43 record and 3.67 ERA. As for Rizzo, he has been a three-time All Star in five seasons that has batted .273 (and a .366 OBP) with 133 home runs and 466 runs batted in.
10 Elvis Has Left The Building
The Rangers had a feeling that Mark Teixeira was not going to stick around once he became a free agent, and started to shop the first baseman around. They found a buyer in the form of the Atlanta Braves, who had plenty of pieces to move around. At the trade deadline in 2007, the Rangers sent Teixeira and Ron Mahay to the Braves in exchange for Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz, Beau Jones, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Elvis Andrus.
Mahay would only spend a couple of months with the Braves, while Teixeira only stuck around until the next season before being traded again. The Rangers, however, still have Andrus in their starting lineup. Feliz had been a solid pitcher through 2015 and Jarrod Saltalamacchia wasn’t too bad either. Texas was thinking long-term, and it worked out.
9 Blue Jays Win
During his first season in the Major Leagues, Jose Bautista somehow played for four different teams. The final team that acquired Bautista that season was the Pittsburgh Pirates, who held onto him for a few seasons. In 2008, Bautista had his struggles and the Pirates started to look in a different direction. After moving him down to the Triple A level, Pittsburgh sent Bautista to the Blue Jays in exchange for Robinzon Diaz.
In nine season, Bautista would become a slugger that hit 265 home runs for Toronto, with more than 700 runs batted in. Bautista would also make three All Star Games and win three Silver Slugger Awards. So what became of Robinzon Diaz? He played in just 44 career games with a .281 batting average and a single home run.
8 Then The Blue Jays Lose
Toronto has come awfully close to making the World Series in the past few seasons, but they might have been able to get over the hump had it not been for this next trade. After the 2012 season, the Blue Jays looked to bolster their starting pitching by acquiring veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, as well as Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. The price was that they had to send John Buck, Wuilmer Becerra, Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard to the Mets.
Dickey has had his ups and downs with Toronto, Josh Thole has been almost completely absent and Mike Nickeas hasn’t played an MLB game since 2013. Meanwhile, Noah Syndergaard looks to be one of the most promising pitchers that baseball has seen in quite some time. In two seasons, “Thor” has been an All Star with a 2.89 ERA and 23-16 record.
7 But Then Win Again
Josh Donaldson has been the source of two one-sided trades throughout his career. The first came when the Cubs (the team that drafted him) sent him to Oakland with Matt Murton, Sean Gallagher and Eric Patterson. The Cubs received Chad Gaudin and Rich Harden in exchange, though they much would have rather had Donaldson in hindsight.
The second trade came when Donaldson has already become an All Star with Oakland. The Athletics sent Donaldson to Toronto for Sean Nolin, Franklin Barreto, Kendall Graveman and Brett Lawrie after the 2014 season. None of those four have made a big impact in the MLB, while Donaldson has won an MVP Award and has made two All Star Games with Toronto. In his two seasons with the Blue Jays, Donaldson has 78 home runs with a .291 batting average.
6 Miggy Moves North
One of the best players of this generation, not a lot of younger fans remember that Miguel Cabrera wasn’t always a Detroit Tiger. Cabrera was a rookie in 2003 when the Marlins won the World Series, and he stuck around through the 2007 season. Just as he was hitting his prime, the Marlins decided to dump his contract by sending him to the Tigers with Dontrelle Willis (who was also supposed to be a huge deal).
The Marlins received six players as part of the deal, with Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller being the most recognizable. Maybin never had a huge impact, and Miller wouldn’t become a star for years, well after he had left the Marlins. While Willis never panned out for the Tigers, Cabrera is a clear-cut future Hall of Famer that will likely have a statue at Comerica Park.
5 Hunting For A Deal
Hunter Pence came into the Major Leagues back in 2007 with the Astros, and was an All Star in his third season. The Phillies then acquired Pence, and he would spend parts of the 2011 and 2012 seasons in Philadelphia, batting .289 with 28 home runs. In 2012, Pence would get shifted once again, heading to the Giants. All San Francisco had to give up in return was Tommy Joseph, Seth Rosin and Nate Schierholtz.
Rosin and Schierholtz would have no impact, while Pence has been an All Star with the Giants. Over more than four seasons, Pence has batted .275 with 76 home runs and 315 runs batted in. While this deal has been one-sided so far, it could swing in the other direction. If Tommy Joseph continues to develop as the everyday first baseman for the Phillies, this could turn into an almost identical deal that the Cubs and Padres made for Anthony Rizzo.
4 Orioles Crush It
The Rangers seem to be pretty good about seeing the writing on the wall when it comes to their first basemen. Knowing that Chris Davis wasn’t going to want to stick around after more than three seasons in Texas, they searched for a trade partner, finding one with the Orioles. Baltimore would send Koji Uehara to the Rangers in exchange for Davis and pitcher Tommy Hunter (no longer on the team).
Uehara only played with the Rangers through the 2012 season (the trade was in 2011), before joining the Red Sox and now Cubs. Davis, on the other hand, has made an All Star Game in his five plus seasons as an Oriole. So far, he has crushed 199 home runs with 509 runs batted in during that time, even though he has had his strikeout problems.
3 Jones To The O’s
The good news for the Orioles is that for every Arrieta and Strop, there is a Davis and Adam Jones out there waiting to be had. The second part of our Oriole robbery train happened way back after the 2007 season. The Mariners were really desperate for some starting pitching that year, and had Erik Bedard in their sights (which sounds silly now). To get Bedard, the Mariners had to trade away five players.
Those five players were Kam Mickolio, Chris Tillman, George Sherrill, Tony Butler and Adam Jones. Obviously, Jones is the focal point of the trade here, as he has been to five All Star Games with the Orioles since joining the squad. The everyday player has batted .278 in his nine seasons with 222 home runs and 730 runs batted in, proving this trade was ridiculously one-sided.
2 Building Of The Rays
While Scott Kazmir’s career over the past few years hasn’t been as good as it once was, he is still pitching and helped the Dodgers reach the NLCS in 2016. Kazmir had been brought up with the Mets after being drafted, but didn’t last for long. At the 2004 trade deadline, the Mets really wanted Victor Zambrano (not Carlos) and sent Kazmir to Tampa with Joselo Diaz. Zambrano struggled for New York, while Kazmir proved to be a major prospect.
Kazmir pitched from 2004 to 2009 with Tampa Bay, finishing with a record of 55-44 and a 3.92 ERA. Along the way, Kazmir made a pair of All Star appearances and was able to help get the Rays into the World Series in 2008. Kazmir has played with the Angels, Indians, Athletics, Astros and Dodgers since then, making another All Star Game along the way. As for Victor Zambrano, he was out of the league by 2007.
1 Making Of A World Series MVP
I have seen Ben Zobrist play for four teams, and three of them made the World Series for the first time in my life. The only one that didn’t? The Athletics, and he only played with them for the first part of the 2015 season, so he never even had a chance. Zobrist’s career started when he was drafted by the Astros, but never made the Major League roster. Before he could, Houston sent him to Tampa Bay with Mitch Talbot for Aubrey Huff.
Huff made no impact with Houston in 2006, while Zobrist became a two-time All Star with a .264 average, 114 home runs and 511 runs batted in with Tampa Bay. Zobrist would also be involved in two more trades since 2015, getting sent to the Athletics and then Royals. Zobrist finally had his first shot at free agency in 2016, signing with the Cubs where he became World Series MVP.
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