Worst baseball deadline trades
Page 2 staff

With baseball's trading deadline passing last week, Page 2 has compiled our list of the 10 worst deadline deals in baseball history.

Lou Brock
Stolen base legend Lou Brock was a steal for the Cardinals.
Our definition of a "deadline" deal is expanded a little to include trades made before the July 31 and deals made before Aug. 31 when players are required to clear waivers.

Although some of the trades worked out briefly in the short tern for the "losing" teams, these clubs lost out by giving up players who proved far more valuable than any short-term fix.

After taking a look at our list below, check out how our readers ranked their choices for the worst midseason baseball trade before the deadline. Then be sure to vote in the poll to crown the all-time worst baseball trade deadline deal.

1. Cubs trade Lou Brock to the Cards for Ernie Broglio (June 15, 1964)
When the Cubs traded away Brock, he was a 24-year-old with a .260 average in two big league seasons. "Brock struck out a lot and didn't know how to run the bases," said Bill White, who played first base for St. Louis in 1964. "We thought we had given up too much." Broglio was a good pitcher, winning 70 games in a little more than five seasons for the Cubs before being traded, and leading the NL in wins with his 21-9 record in 1960, but he had developed a sore arm and went only 7-19 in two-plus seasons with the Cubs.

Brock helped the Cards take advantage of the 1964 Phils astounding collapse. St. Louis won the NL flag and beat the Yankees in the World Series. Brock hit .348, stole 33 bases ... and then went on to lead the NL in steals eight times and bat over .300 eight times. He became a Hall-of-Famer in 1985.

"That was the greatest deal made at the deadline," said Jerome Holtzman, MLB's official historian. "It was one of the worst trades in the history of the Cubs."

Jeff Bagwell
Trading Jeff Bagwell to Houston for reliever Larry Andersen continues to haunt the Red Sox.
2. Red Sox send Jeff Bagwell to Houston for reliever Larry Andersen (Aug. 31, 1990)
Bagwell was a Double-A third baseman in the Red Sox system when Boston sent him packing to the Astros in exchange for Andersen, a 37-year-old who Boston acquired for their stretch run. The Red Sox went on to finish first in the AL East in 1990 before losing the ALCS in four straight to Oakland. Andersen pitched only 22 innings for the Sox, and was only one-for-four in the save department. In 1991 he was off to San Diego. Bagwell's in his 12th season with the Astros; in his first 11 seasons, he had a .969 OPS. He was the 1994 NL MVP and is probably on his way to the Hall of Fame.

3. A's send Mark McGwire to Cardinals for pitchers T.J. Mathews, Eric Ludwick and Blake Stein (July 31, 1997)
Sure, McGwire's contract was going to expire at the end of the 1997, and the A's didn't think they could take on what they knew would be a multiyear, kajillion-dollar contract. But they still made a mistake. McGwire hit 24 homers in the last two months of 1997, then went on to hit 196 over the next four years before retiring. So the Cards got 220 home runs. The A's? Ludwick went 1-4 with an 8.25 ERA in August and September 1997, and went downhill from there. Blake Stein was 5-9 for the 1998 A's and then was dealt to the Royals, where he's been mediocre at best. T.J. Mathews gave Oakland a few decent seasons and is now with the Astros.

John Smoltz
Detroit hasn't developed a pitcher of John Smoltz's quality since the ill-fated Doyle Alexander trade.
4. Tigers send John Smoltz to Braves for Doyle Alexander (Aug. 12, 1987)
Alexander was the perfect hired gun for the Tigers -- the 36-year-old righty went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 11 starts for Detroit, and the Tigers won the AL East pennant (they lost the ALCS in five games to the Twins, a series in which Doyle was 0-2 with a 10.00 ERA). Alexander went 20-29 over the next two seasons for Detroit, then retired.

Smoltz, of course, was one of the Braves' trio of great starters (Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux are the other two) through their incredible 1990s. In 1989, his first full season as a starter, he went 12-11 with a 2.94 ERA. He's been a four-time All-Star, won the 1996 Cy Young Award, and has gone 12-4 with a 2.72 ERA in 20 postseason series. After arm troubles in 2000 and 2001, he moved to the bullpen and has become baseball's most effective closer, on pace for 60 saves in 2002.

5. Padres send Fred McGriff to Braves for OF Melvin Nieves and pitchers Donnie Elliott and Vince Moore (July 18, 1993)
The Braves gave up three minor leaguers, and got McGriff. Without him, they might not have won the pennant in 1993 -- McGriff hammered 19 homers and netted 55 RBI in just 68 games for the Braves, and Atlanta edged out the Giants for the NL West title by just one game. The Braves lost the NLCS to the Phillies, but McGriff hit .435, with one homer and four RBI in the six-game set. Over the next four seasons as the Braves first baseman, McGriff was a three-time All-Star, hitting a total of 111 home runs and driving in 391.

Nieves played in parts of seven major-league seasons, hitting .231 in about 450 big league contests. Elliott pitched 35 major-league innings in 1994 and 1995; Moore has had a long minor-league career, and is currently with the Edinburgh Roadrunners of the Central League.

Jay Buhner
Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps is the bane of The Boss' existence.
6. Yankees send Jay Buhner to Seattle for Ken Phelps (July 21, 1988)
In one "Seinfeld," episode, Frank Costanza asks George Steinbrenner, "How could you have traded Buhner for Ken Phelps?" We wonder the same thing. Buhner was only 23 and had little major-league experience when the Yankees traded him, along with pitcher Rick Balabon and Troy Evers, to Seattle for Phelps, a 34-year-old DH. Steinbrenner told then-Yankees manager Lou Piniella that Phelps would seal the pennant for the Yankees in a tight AL East race; instead, Phelps hit just .224, the Yankees finished fifth, and Phelps was dealt to the A's a year later.

Buhner? A perennial fan favorite, Bone retired last December after patrolling the right-field "Boneyard" for 14 seasons with the Mariners. During that time, he hit 307 homers and drove in 951 runs for the M's, while inspiring one of the more interesting promotions ever -- "Buzz Night." One sixth grader said it best when Buhner was honored at Safeco Field early in April. "I like the way he plays, how he's always happy. Other players just don't seem as joyful about what they do."

7. Mariners send Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek to Red Sox for Heathcliff Slocumb (July 31, 1997)
Lowe had a 6.96 ERA halfway through his rookie season with the Mariners before he was dealt. Since then, he's flourished with the Red Sox, first as a reliever, and this year as one of the best, if not the best, starters in the AL. He's got a lifetime ERA of 3.32; this year he's 15-5 with a 2.13 ERA. Varitek, a switch-hitting catcher, has been a solid backstop for the Red Sox; this season, coming back off a broken elbow suffered in June 2001, he's hitting .284 with eight HR and 42 RBI.

Slocumb, a veteran reliever who had been an All-Star with the Phillies in 1995 and had saved 31 games for the Red Sox in 1996, tossed only 95 innings for Seattle in 1997 and 1998, going 2-9 with 13 saves and an ERA up around 5.

8. Astros send Freddie Garcia, Carlos Guillen and John Halama to Mariners for Randy Johnson (July 31, 1998)
There's no doubt about it -- the Astros got what they wanted in Johnson, a hired gun to shoot them into the 1998 playoffs. Johnson did the job, going 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA. He also did his job in the Astros NLDS loss to the Padres -- he had a 1.92 ERA but got the L for both of his starts, thanks to Houston's grand total of two runs scored during those games.

Mariners fans and players were furious about the trade -- all they got in return for the ace of aces were three minor leaguers. But Mariners GM Woody Woodward looked pretty smart, in retrospect, in getting the better of the deal and for a longer term.

During 1999 spring training, M's manager Lou Piniella, talking about the players he'd acquired, said, "Wait until people see what they can do." Here's what: Garcia, who turned 26 in June, has been a key to the Mariners' incredible rise. He's gone 55-26 with a 3.69 ERA, and had a remarkable 2001 season, with an 18-6 record and a 3.05 ERA while tossing almost 240 innings. Guillen, who replaced A-Rod at shortstop in 2001, struggled with injuries and tuberculosis. This season, though, Guillen's hitting a sturdy .285 with a solid .797 OPS. John Halama has pitched decently in his three-plus seasons with the M's, and has a 2.85 ERA this season.

Johnson, meanwhile, has been great, though sadly for the Astros, he's been great for the Diamondbacks.

9. Reds send Hank Sauer and Frankie Baumholtz to Cubs for Harry "Peanuts" Lowrey and Harry "The Hat" Walker (June 15, 1949)
The Cubs were awful in 1949, going 61-93, but a third of the way through the season they did something right, sending Peanuts Lowrey and Harry "The Hat" Walker to Cincinnati in exchange for outfielders Hank Sauer and Frank Baumholtz.

Sauer hit 27 homers for the Cubbies that year, and in 1950, the "Mayor of Wrigley Field," hit .274 with 32 homers and 103 RBI. He was named MVP in 1952, the first player from a team in the second division to receive the honor. Sauer slugged 31-plus homers each season from 1950-52, then knocked out 41 in 1954. Baumholtz struggled in 1948 and 1949, and didn't play in 1950, but hit .325 in 1952 and was an effective role player for the Cubs before they sold him to the Phillies after the 1954 season.

Lowrey, who had been an All-Star in 1946, stayed with the Reds for a little more than a season before being shipped off, along with his .227 batting average and .292 slugging percentage, to St. Louis in mid-1950. Walker was also a short-timer with the Reds, but he played well, hitting .318 in 86 games for the Reds in 1949, before also being traded to St. Louis before the 1950 season.

David Cone
A trend that seems to continue (see Raul Mondesi and Roger Clemens), the Blue Jays started helping the Yankees by dealing David Cone.
10. Blue Jays send David Cone to Yankees for pitchers Marty Janzsen, Jason Jarvis and Mike Gordon (July 28, 1995)
The Yankees most recent dynasty began in 1995, and Cone was a key ingredient in the Pinstripers 1995 playoff push, going 9-2. During the next five seasons, the aging right-hander was a team leader, was named to the All-Star team twice, led the AL in wins with 20 in 1998, and compiled a 55-38 record. Oh, and he pitched a perfect game. None of the pitchers the Blue Jays acquired played in the majors.

Also receiving votes:

  • Cardinals send Keith Hernandez to Mets for pitchers Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey (June 15, 1983)
  • Indians send Jeromy Burnitz to Brewers for Kevin Seitzer (August 31, 1996)
  • Royals send Dan Miceli and Jon Lieber to Pirates for Stan Belinda (July 31, 1993)
  • Indians trade David Justice to Yankees for Ricky Ledee (June 29, 2000)


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