Jack Of All Trades: Gary Sheffield

How does a player rack up 509 home runs, post a career OPS+ of 140 (better than Reggie Jackson, Chuck Klein and Al Kaline), make nine All-Star teams…and get traded five times?

Ask Gary Sheffield. His career has been a fantastic one, and if he is denied the Hall of Fame, it will likely be due to the perceived taint around his numbers. But Sheffield has also been part of the hot stove for as long as he's been a household name. Let's take a look at the blockbusters involving Sheff – a combined five trades totaling 25 players.

  • On March 29, 1992, a disgruntled Sheffield was traded by the Milwaukee Brewers with minor leaguer Geoff Kellogg (not MLB umpire Jeff Kellogg) to San Diego in exchange for Ricky Bones, Matt Mieske and Jose Valentin. While none of the three managed a career close to that of Sheffield, all three went on to be valuable. Bones became a mainstay in the Milwaukee rotation over the next four years, pitching to a 4.40 ERA. Mieske delivered 44 home runs over the next five seasons in Milwaukee as a power bat off the bench. And Valentin spent eight seasons in Milwaukee as an extremely underrated player due to his batting average. Valentin was a tremendous glove at shortstop, and delivered a respectable OPS+ of 89 over those eight seasons, posting double figures in home runs six times.
  • Sheffield, however, wore out his welcome in San Diego, despite winning the batting title in 1992 and posting a season line of .330/.385/.580. No, really. So on June 26, 1993, the Padres sent him to Florida along with Rich Rodriguez for Andres Berumen, Trevor Hoffman and Jose Martinez. Berumen and Martinez made no impact, while Hoffman, of course, became the all-time saves leader. Still, it is hard to say that San Diego got the equal of Sheffield's remaining career – not that Florida did, either.
  • The Marlins did get a 156 OPS+ over six seasons. But when the post-1997 firesale commenced, the Marlins traded Sheffield on May 14, 1998 with Manuel Barrios, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich and Charles Johnson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Mike Piazza and Todd Zeile. Florida then sent Piazza onto the Mets for prospects. And while it cost Los Angeles the best-hitting catcher in baseball history, Sheffield performed extremely well for them: a 160 OPS+ over four seasons, actually better than his performance for Florida.
  • Still, the Dodgers tired of Sheffield as well, and dealt the 33-year-old to Atlanta on January 15, 2002 in exchange for Andrew Brown, Brian Jordan and Odalis Perez. Brown, a top pitching prospect, never amounted to much, though Jordan gave the Dodgers a 116 OPS+ over two seasons, and Perez pitched to an ERA+ of 127 and made the All Star game in the first of five largely successful seasons with Los Angeles. Sheffield? All he did was post a 151 OPS+ in his two years with Atlanta, then signed with the New York Yankees before the 2004 season.
  • The haul New York got from the Tigers for Sheffield on November 10, 2006 shows that Sheffield was still a valuable bat late in his career. Though Sheffield was entering his age-38 season, Detroit traded Kevin Whelan, Anthony Claggett and Humberto Sanchez for Sheffield. Sanchez in particular was a highly-touted prospect, though injuries wrecked his career. But for the first time, a team dealing for Sheffield got less-than-superstar production. In two seasons with Detroit, Sheffield had an OPS+ of just 105. The Tigers released him, and even after an OPS+ of 118 with the Mets in 2009, no one wanted Sheffield in 2010.

Though he was a far better player, Sheffield's tale reminds one of Dave Kingman – a prodigious home run hitter who couldn't find a job after hitting 35 home runs in his final season. Kingman was also traded three times and sold once in his career. Overall, Sheffield's career, on some level, has to be considered a disappointment- an astounding thing to say about a player with so much production.

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