In Gary Sheffield and Bobby Bonilla, we've seen that a very good player can be traded multiple times if he wears out his welcome. But baseball teams managed to trade Rusty Staub five different times – even though anyone who has ever met the man describes him as a terrific teammate and better human being.
And lest you think Staub wasn't a terrific player, his career OPS+ of 124 was better than that of current major leaguers Victor Martinez, Brad Hawpe, Carlos Beltran and Derrek Lee. Staub topped 130 OPS+ in eight seasons, with a season-high of 166 in 1969.
Let's run down Les Transactions of the man they called Le Grande Orange:
- Before ever donning a Mets uniform, Staub was indirectly involved in a huge part of their history. After six years in Houston, the Astros sent Staub to the Montreal Expos on January 22, 1969 for Jesus Alou and Donn Clendenon, but Clendenon refused to report to the Astros. Eventually, Montreal sent Jack Billingham, Skip Guinn and $100K in Clendenon's place. Then, in June of 1969, the Mets acquired Clendenon and he went on to become World Series MVP. However, Staub was by far the best player in that deal, as he hit .302/.426/.526 in 1969 and .274/.394/.497 in 1970.
- After a similarly strong 1971, the Expos turned around and traded Staub to the New York Mets on April 5, 1972 for Tim Foli, Mike Jorgensen and Ken Singleton. It is hard to say the Mets got the better of this one, though Staub helped them to a National League pennant in 1973 and became the first Met to drive in more than 100 runs in 1975. But the Expos got their share of value, too. By 1973, Singleton was hitting .302/.425/.479, Jorgensen had a strong career as a multi-position hitter with pop and Foli was a strong glove man at short.
- To be sure, that haul makes what the Mets got for Staub after the 1975 season look quite unimpressive. New York traded him with Bill Laxton for Billy Baldwin and Mickey Lolich on December 12, 1975. The big catch here was supposed to be Lolich, who had thrown a ridiculous number of innings, 1560.2, over his previous five seasons (including 376 in 1971! No, that isn't a typo). Surprise, surprise, the former Tiger great broke down in his first season with the Mets. Meanwhile, Staub posted an OPS+ of 117 in his four Detroit seasons, driving in 121 runs in 1978.
- But with Staub 35 years old and hitting just .236/.331/.402, the Tigers decided to send him back to Montreal for career minor leaguer Randy Schafer and cash on July 20, 1979. His second stint in Montreal was much briefer, but also a success: he posted an OPS+ of 112 in 101 plate appearances.
- Nevertheless, Montreal traded their beloved Rusty (whose number they eventually retired) to Texas on March 31, 1980 for a pair of brief major leaguers, Chris Smith and LaRue Washington. What Texas got was the last great Rusty Staub season: .300/.370/.459, good for an OPS+ of 129.
A season later, he was back with the Mets as a free agent, where he finished his career strong: a .276/.350/.391 line over 702 plate appearances in five seasons, primarily pinch-hitting. If only we all had such productive decline years.