Being a GM and/or president in baseball is no easy task.
You can make as many great trades, draft selections and free agent signings as you want. But it just takes that one bad trade to ruin the legacy of a GM or president. Many of the top baseball stars of today were virtually given away by their old teams, becoming franchise stars once they got a chance of scenery.
Baseball fans and historians immediately think of the Babe Ruth trade (when the Boston Red Sox sent him to the New York Yankees almost a century ago), when people begin discussing lopsided trades.
But you may not know that many of the top baseball stars of today were traded in massively one-sided deals many years ago. The thing is, a lot of these stars weren't household names at the time, so fans don't always remember some of these blockbuster trades that went down years ago.
Sure, teams like the Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals look primed to win for many years, but even these franchises have often been on the wrong side of recent trades that turned out to be massive failures. On the flip side, these such teams are great because they simply hosed teams in blockbuster deals.
Well, we're here to kindly (or unfortunately), remind you of some of the most one-sided trades involving current MLB superstars. Maybe your team was on the right side of it, or maybe they were victims of highway robbery. Here are 20 incredibly lopsided trades involving active MLB players.
20 Phillies Give Away Hunter Pence To Giants
Philadelphia was out of the playoff race at the 2012 trade deadline, so they traded star outfielder Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Tommy Joseph, Seth Rosin and Nate Schierholtz.
None of those three players left made major impacts with the Phillies, while Pence became a key piece of the Giants' 2012 and 2014 World Series teams.
He brought an excellent clubhouse presence and was named to the 2014 All-Star game.
It made sense for the Phillies to trade Pence as they kick started a rebuild, but the return pieces weren't great. Pence was crucial in helping the Giants reach dynasty status in their two most recent championship victories.
19 Mariners Get Jean Segura From Arizona
Looking to add another big time hitter to their powerful lineup, the Seattle Mariners landed speedster Jean Segura (along with Mitch Haniger and Zac Curtis), from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Ketel Marte and Taijuan Walker during the 2016 offseason.
Now, Marte and Walker have had some fine moments with the Diamondbacks, but Segura has been a huge piece of Seattle's lineup. Named to his second All-Star Game in 2018, Segura has batted .300 or better in each of his first two seasons in Seattle. Segura has totaled 42 stolen bases and has a .765 OPS since joining the Mariners. He's one of the top leadoff men in all of baseball now, and the M's didn't have to give up a whole lot for his services.
18 Rays Acquire Tommy Pham From St. Louis
The Cardinals had too many outfielders and a bundle of their prospects aren't far off from the majors. The bold decision was made to make room by dealing Tommy Pham to the Rays at this year's deadline in exchange for outfielder Justin Williams, two prospects and $500,000 in international pool money.
It's obviously way too early to know how the players St. Louis received will pan out, but this looks like a one-sided deal for the time being. Pham batted .343 with an excellent OPS of 1.071 in 39 games with the Rays, leading them to an impressive 90-72 record, falling just shy of the postseason.
Tampa Bay now has a new star outfielder to build around, and the Cardinals might look back telling themselves they dealt the wrong player to make room.
17 Orioles Get Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter From Texas
With Mitch Moreland locking down the first base spot for the Texas Rangers, the team simply didn't need Chris Davis anymore. At the 2011 deadline, the defending AL Champions sent Davis and reliever Tommy Hunter to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Koji Uehara.
Davis was the ideal piece to help the Orioles turn things around.
He led the majors in homers during the 2013 and 2015 seasons with 53 and 47, respectively. Davis got Baltimore to the 2014 ALCS and led them to other playoff berths in 2012 and 2016.
Yes, Davis had a historically bad 2018 season, but let's not forget what he's brought to the franchise. Uehara was solid, but not a major impact reliever for Texas. He left them after the 2012 campaign.
16 Red Sox Swap Travis Shaw For Tyler Thornburg
Travis Shaw had a strong 2016 season with the Boston Red Sox, boasting quality offense and good defence that added up to a 2.3 WAR. But the Red Sox were ready to make room for top prospect Rafael Devers at third base, so they traded Shaw and two prospects to the Milwaukee Brewers for Tyler Thornburg in the 2016 offseason.
Shaw has emerged as a key cog on the Brewers. He clubbed 30-plus home runs in 2017 and 2018, posting WARS at 4.0 and 4.1, respectively. Shaw is among the top all-around third basemen in baseball, while Thornburg has dealt with several injuries - missing all of 2017 and playing in just 25 games this season.
Yes, it made sense to deal Shaw and make Devers their full-time third baseman, but the Red Sox can't be happy with the mediocre return they got for a borderline star.
15 Colorado Rockies Shed Troy Tulowitzi's Contract
The Colorado Rockies knew that shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was well past his prime and they were desperate to unload his hefty contract at the 2015 trade deadline.
The Blue Jays were willing to help out, taking on Tulo's contract and reliever LaTroy Hawkins for Jose Reyes, two prospects and pitcher Jeff Hoffman. The Jays almost never let the front office take on bad contracts, but they somehow let Alex Anthopoulos do so here.
Foot injuries limited 'Tulo' to 66 games in 2017, and bone spurs in his foot caused the former All-Star to miss the entire 2018 season. The budget-conscious Jays are stuck with his awful contract through 2020.
Meanwhile, the Rockies used the financial flexibility to make necessary roster upgrades.
14 Rangers Hand Cubs Kyle Hendricks
Feeling more than comfortable with their rotation, the Rangers dealt pitching prospect Kyle Hendricks and prospect Christian Villanueva for veteran pitcher Ryan Dempster at the 2012 deadline.
Dempster appeared in just 12 games for the Rangers and finished with an ERA of 5.09, while Hendricks would go on to become a staple in the Cubs' rotation.
That trade certainly became key in helping Chicago win its first World Series in 108 years, while the Rangers are left wondering what could have been if Hendricks was part of a rotation that once featured Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels.
13 Matt Kemp Returns And Reforms With Dodgers
When the Dodgers traded former All-Star slugger Matt Kemp to the Padres in 2014, his career appeared to be going downhill. He was no longer a feared presence at the plate, and a trade to the Atlanta Braves in 2016 did virtually nothing to help Kemp regain his old form.
The Dodgers decided to take a chance on Kemp last winter, trading away Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Charlie Culberson and cash for their former franchise slugger.
The Dodgers were hit hard by injuries this season, but Kemp saved the day with a resurgent year. He finished the regular season with a .290 batting average, 21 home runs, 85 RBI and .818 OPS.
12 Blue Jays Get Jose Bautista For Robinzon Diaz
Looking to add a third baseman, Toronto swung a trade for career journeyman Jose Bautista from the Pirates in 2008, giving up catching prospect Robinson Diaz in return.
Diaz left the Pirates after the 2009 season, and Bautista would break out as one of baseball's premier sluggers two years later. He led the majors in homers during the 2010 and '11 seasons, with 54 and 43, respectively.
A six-time All-Star with the Jays, Bautista led the franchise to ALCS appearances in 2015 and 2016.
Bautista goes down as a franchise icon in Toronto, and it only cost them a player whose career in the majors was very short.
11 Cardinals Get Ace In Adam Wainwright
Even though Adam Wainwright was highly regarded as a top pitching prospect for the Atlanta Braves, they dealt him, Jason Marquis and Ray King to the Cardinals for J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero before the 2004 season began.
Wainwright made a major impact in St. Louis once he turned pro, leading them to the 2006 World Series. A three-time All-Star who's led the NL in wins twice, Wainwright also helped the Cardinals win the 2011 World Series.
Wainwright has 148 career wins, 1,632 strikeouts and a 3.32 ERA. He's been the staple of the St. Louis rotation for over a decade, and they've been among the top teams in baseball since Wainwright joined the team in 2006. What a steal of a deal this was.
10 Blue Jays Land Encarnacion From Reds
The Jays dealt former All-Star third baseman Scott Rolen to the Reds at the 2009 trade deadline in exchange for Edwin Encarnacion and pitchers Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart. It took a couple of years to make himself at home, but Encarnacion finally broke out for Toronto in 2012.
The All-Star slugger clubbed 42 home runs, 110 RBIs and posted a .941 OPS. He had five seasons of 30-plus home runs with the Jays, forming quite the slugging duo with Bautista.
Encarnacion left Toronto with 239 home runs, 679 RBIs and a batting average of .268. Had the Blue Jays not acquired him nine years ago, that team simply would not have reached back-to-back ALCS.
9 Boston Gets Star Closer Craig Kimbrel From Padres
Red Sox head of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski wasted no time making big changes in his first year in Beantown. He traded for four-time All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel during the 2015 offseason, only giving the Padres Carlos Asuaje, Logan Allen, Javier Guerra and Manuel Margot.
Kimbrel has come every bit as advertised in Boston, having been selected to the All-Star Game in each of his three years there.
He has a whopping 108 saves, 305 strikeouts in 184.1 innings pitched and an ERA of 2.44. Kimbrel has led Boston to three consecutive AL East division titles, too.
There's time for all four of those players the Padres received to eventually become impact players, but it hasn't happened yet. Right now, the Red Sox are clearly the big winners in this deal.
8 Cubs Steal Jake Arrieta from Orioles
The Orioles simply gave up on Jake Arrieta, who was putting up laughable numbers and simply unable to find himself a place in the rotation. So before the 2013 deadline, Baltimore dealt Arrieta and reliever Pedro Stop to the Cubs in exchange for pitcher Scott Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger.
Arrieta quickly turned a corner and revived his career with the Cubs, winning the 2015 NL Cy Young award and earning his first All-Star nod in 2016. That same year, Arrieta led the Cubs to their first World Series win in 108 years.
You can't blame Baltimore for giving up on a player that simply wasn't performing, but man, did Arrieta ever become a steal for Chicago.
7 Orioles Land All-Star Adam Jones From Mariners
The Mariners were looking to add an ace to their rotation, so they acquired Erik Bedard from the Orioles before the 2008 season began in exchange for outfielder Adam Jones, two pitching prospects (including Chris Tillman), and reliever George Sherrill.
Jones was undoubtedly the centerpiece of this trade, however. He's been named to five All-Star games since joining Baltimore - displaying tremendous defense and a powerful bat. He's won four gold gloves with the Orioles and guided them to the playoffs in 2012, 2014 and 2016.
The Orioles wouldn't have enjoyed such success in the 2010s if not for Jones, who has been one of the best all-around outfielders since the trade happened a decade ago.
6 Mets Get Thor From Blue Jays
Former Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos won almost every trade he made when the team employed him. But the decision to trade flame-throwing pitcher Noah Syndergaard and top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud for knuckleballer and former Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey was a massive mistake.
Dickey spent four seasons with the Blue Jays and totaled a mere 4.05 ERA and 49-52 record. Meanwhile, 'Thor' has emerged as one of baseball's top pitchers.
His record with the Mets sits at 37-22, with an impressive 2.93 ERA and 573 strikeouts in 518.1 innings pitched.
Syndergaard led the Mets to a World Series appearance in 2015 and helped them each the NL Wild Card Game the following year. Just imagine if the Blue Jays had Syndergaard with Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman in the rotation.
5 Athletics Send Josh Donaldson To Great White North
Josh Donaldson emerged as a franchise cornerstone for the Oakland Athletics in 2012, leading the team to a pair of AL West titles and a berth in the 2014 Wild Card Game. But for some reason, the A's decided to trade Donaldson after the 2014 postseason, and they got a very low return for the elite slugger and defensive wizard.
In the 2014 offseason, Oakland traded Donaldson to Toronto in exchange for Brett Lawrie (no longer with the team), and prospects Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin and Franklin Barreto.
Donaldson won the 2015 AL MVP in his first year with the Jays and led them to consecutive ALCS appearances. Graveman and Barreto are the only players still with Oakland, and they haven't exactly reached the MVP-like level Donaldson displayed in Toronto.
4 Cubs Steal Anthony Rizzo from Padres
It's safe to say the Cubs wouldn't have ended their 108-year World Series drought without star first baseman Anthony Rizzo. They're fortunate San Diego was willing to give him up in a 2012 offseason trade.
Rizzo was one of the key pieces the Padres got from Boston in the 2010 Adrian Gonzalez blockbuster trade. But they sent he and prospect Zach Cates to the Cubs for pitcher Andrew Cashner and Kyung-Min Na, who never played an MLB game.
Cashner spent five seasons with the Padres but never materialized as a star. Rizzo is a three-time All-Star and has led Chicago to four consecutive playoff appearances, highlighted by the aforementioned 2016 World Series.
3 Tigers Steal Miguel Cabrera From Marlins
A year after winning the AL pennant, the Tigers were looking for a big time superstar to build around. In the 2007 offseason, they landed All-Star slugger Miguel Cabrera and ace pitcher Dontrelle Willis from the Marlins in exchange for Dallas Trahern, Andrew Miller, Mike Rabelo, Cameron Maybin, Burke Badenhop and Eulogio De La Cruz.
Cabrera became baseball's best hitter after arriving in Detroit. He led them to the ALCS in 2011, 2012 and 2013, plus another AL Central title in 2014. Detroit reached the 2012 World Series, too. Cabrera won the historic AL Triple Crown award in 2012, as well as the AL MVP in that same year and in 2013 as well.
Cabrera has also won four AL batting champion awards and is a seven-time Silver Slugger Award winner. And the Tigers didn't have to give up a single star player for him.
The only reason we don't have Cabrera tad bit higher is the fact he's no longer a superstar, and the Tigers are in rebuilding mode. But wowza, what a trade this was for the Motor City and its fans.
2 Tigers Ship Justin Verlander To Astros
It's hard to believe, but Justin Verlander was once an unwanted man as the Tigers tried to unload his salary and kick start a rebuild. Before the 2018 waiver deadline, Houston stepped up and made a play for the six-time All-Star and Cy Young winner.
Houston landed Verlander in exchange for prospects Jake Rogers, Daz Cameron and Franklin Perez. Verlander turned out to be the final piece Houston needed in their championship quest, going 5-0 in 2017 with a 1.06 ERA.
Verlander went 4-1 in the 2017 postseason with a 2.21 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 36.2 innings pitched, leading the Astros to their first World Series victory. He had another Cy Young-caliber season in 2018 with 16 wins, a 2.52 ERA and 290 strikeouts. What a deal this was for the Astros.
1 Padres Send Corey Kluber to The Land
Corey Kluber has developed into one of the most dominant starting pitchers in the history of baseball, taking home the AL Cy Young Award in 2016 and '17. Cleveland is certainly thankful that San Diego virtually gave him away at the 2010 trade deadline.
The deal saw Cleveland land Kluber from the Padres, who got Jake Westbrook and Ryan Ludwick from the Indians and Cardinals, respectively. San Diego also traded Nick Greenwood to the Cardinals in the three-team deal.
The Padres have been one of baseball's worst teams since the trade took place, and Kluber has racked up 96 wins, 1,423 strikeouts and a 3.09 ERA since joining Cleveland. Did we mention he's led them to three consecutive AL Central titles and the AL Pennant in 2016?
This one's hurt the Padres for a decade, and the Indians have emerged as an AL powerhouse because of Kluber.