The 12-Player Trade

Look, here at MLBTradeRumors, we treasure every transaction, from that second lefty who gets picked up on waivers to the free agent signing of that minor league slugger. But it is undeniable that some trades get us more excited than others, and it is a shame that MLBTR wasn't around back on December 28, 1994, when the Houston Astros and San Diego Padres exchanged 12, yes 12 players.

The Astros received the following players: Derek Bell, Doug Brocail, Ricky Gutierrez, Pedro Martinez (but not THE Pedro Martinez), Phil Plantier and Craig Shipley.

The Padres received, in return: Andujar Cedeno, Ken Caminiti, Steve Finley, Roberto Petagine, Brian Williams and Sean Fesh.

But while a simple 12-player swap is about the most exciting thing possible to people like us, there's so much more that may have made this the most complicated player swap in baseball history.

Consider that not only were 12 players involved, but 11 of them- all but Fesh- played in the big leagues.

Consider that of the six players San Diego traded, they re-acquired five of them, three of them within a calendar year.

Consider that of the six players Houston traded, they eventually re-acquired four of them.

And consider that Brad Ausmus, who was not in this deal, was eventually traded with two of the players above, one of them twice, in three separate deals.

Confused yet? Good. Now let's look at value. We'll start with what Houston got from their acquired players.

Derek Bell was an immediate star for the Astros, hitting .334/.385/.442 in his first season with Houston at age 26. Over six seasons, his OPS+ was 104 with Houston, and he drove in more than 100 runs twice.

Doug Brocail provided a couple of mediocre relief seasons before getting traded with Brad Ausmus to Detroit, then, four years later, getting traded with Brad Ausmus from Detroit. Brocail went on to pitch until 2009, making additional stops in both San Diego and Houston.

Ricky Gutierrez provided value, most of it defensively, in five seasons at second base, shortstop and third base before leaving via free agency. His final stop in the majors lasted 17 days for the 2006 Padres.

Phil Plaintier was only in Houston for a short time, but it was productive. He posted an OPS of .805 in 22 games before San Diego decided to re-acquire him in July 1995 for Rich Loiselle and Jeff Tabaka.

Pedro Martinez posted a 7.40 ERA in 20.2 innings with Houston, before the Padres re-acquired him, too, following the 1995 season. The price? Ray Holbert.

Craig Shipley played all four infield positions for the Astros in one season. After that year, he was signed, via free agency… by the Padres.

So there you have it: three players of value, especially Bell.

And yet, it appears that San Diego won. The simple reason is Ken Caminiti.

Caminiti was a dominant player in San Diego. In four seasons, he hit 121 home runs, won the MVP in 1996, three Gold Gloves and played on three All Star teams. His OPS+ for those four years? 146. After those four years, Caminiti signed as a free agent with… the Houston Astros.

Other players the Padres got included:

Andujar Cedeno, a shortstop whose offense fell dramatically after the trade. His OPS+ in his last Houston season: 100. In his first year with San Diego, it dropped to 55. Cedeno eventually got traded by the Padres to the Tigers with Brad Ausmus in a deal that did not involve Doug Brocail. Cedeno finished his career with a handful of plate appearances for… the Houston Astros.

Steve Finley, a Gold Glove center fielder on two occasions for San Diego, who hit 30 home runs in one season, 28 in another. After a .249/.301/.401 age-33 season, the Padres elected not to re-sign him- much to Arizona's delight, in retrospect.

Roberto Petagine, a minor league slugger who managed a .937 OPS in his minors, but just a .722 mark in the major leagues. However, this came on 438 plate apparances spread over seven seasons, so it is quite possible Petagine simply never got his chance.

Brian Williams, a middling middle reliever and occasional starter, who wasn't any better in San Diego (6.00 ERA) than he'd been in Houston (5.74 ERA). After stops in San Diego, Detroit and Baltimore, he signed again with… the Houston Astros.

And attention must be paid to Sean Fesh, the minor leaguer in the deal, who went on to pitch 17 seasons in the minor leagues, compiling an ERA of 3.33 in 849.2 innings. Naturally, he went on to spend another season later in his career back with the Astros.

All in all, December 28, 1994 was a glorious day in transaction history. We may never see the likes of it again.

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22 Comments on "The 12-Player Trade"

5 years 2 months ago

This was an amazing post

5 years 2 months ago

I imagine this would have made 1994 MLBTR writers cry in a fetal position under their desk for 30 minutes before the daunting task of writing the article.

4 years 8 months ago

Hahaha that’s true.

5 years 2 months ago

Wasn’t there something like an 18 player deal with the Orioles and Yankees that sent Don Larsen to the Yankees? Cool post, too.

5 years 1 month ago

Nice user name, change to a Mariners picture because he’s even worse on the Mariners than he was on the Pirates

5 years 2 months ago

whats bizarre,,,three guys going to SD are now dead,,,heads up finlay

5 years 1 month ago

Caminitti Cedeno and who else? I believe the rest are alive, although Brocail had a heart thing a couple years ago…

Patrick Newman
5 years 2 months ago

Petagine had a great career in Japan and is playing there again this season. I believe he is the last player active from that deal.

5 years 1 month ago

Ausmus just activated off of the 60-Day DL to keep the trade alive!!!!

5 years 2 months ago

I saw Petagine in Indianapolis (Reds’ AAA at the time) for two seasons in 98-99 and he was an absolute monster! He definitely never got his chance.

I remember this trade well, and, as a Tigers fan, I especially remember all of the Houston-San Diego/ Houston-Detroit swaps. Hilarious, really, all the back-and-forth.

Awesome post, just awesome.

5 years 2 months ago

Excellent post.

Mario Saavedra
5 years 2 months ago

I think the player the padres got for Andujar Cedeno and Brad Ausmus was John Flathery, Flarety… can’t quite remember… my source? 2000 baseball cards for Kids in Qualcoom :P.

5 years 2 months ago

IIRC weren’t the GMs of San Diego and Houston a father and son tandem? I want to say Hal and Tal Smith, but I might be wrong on that.

5 years 2 months ago

IIRC weren’t the GMs of San Diego and Houston a father and son tandem? I want to say Hal and Tal Smith, but I might be wrong on that.

5 years 2 months ago

Tal Smith was the SD GM for sure…but I want to say Bob Watson was still the GM in Houston at the time. Soon after Bob Watson left for a role in the Bud Selig adminstration. Wouldn’t be surprised if Watson’s assistant was Smith’s son.

5 years 1 month ago

I’m pretty sure the San Diego GM was Randy Smith, not Tal Smith. Smith went from the Padres to the Tigers (as GM), and back to the Padres (director of international scouting).

5 years 1 month ago

Kind of like Ausmus :)

5 years 2 months ago

I recall, at the time, mention of two people in the respective FOs being related. The joke was that the deal had been worked out over Thanksgiving dinner… I was under the impression that it was a set of brothers, though my memory could be failing.

5 years 2 months ago

AS was already mentioned, Petagine went on to play in Japan and accumulated 2 HR titles, a MVP, and became the highest paid player when Hideki Matsui left for the Yanks.

He returned to the US in 2005 and hit well at AAA for the Redsox but only got a cup of coffee (18 games/34 AB’s) at the ML level when Olerud went down to an injury.

5 years 1 month ago

Plantier was a Beast On Ken Griffey Jr presents Major League Baseball on Super Nintendo.
Too bad he only had a couple Beastly seasons….was probably on the juice along with a couple other guys on this list…but oh well they were all awesome and this was a amazing article!

5 years 1 month ago

Yes, Flaherty and Chris Gomez came in that deal.

5 years 1 month ago

That was in reply to Mario’s post.