Jack of All Trades Rumors
Wednesday's announcement that Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar earned election to the Hall of Fame was notable not merely for the successful Internet campaign on Blyleven's behalf or Alomar's overcoming last year's snub. In terms of transactional history, Blyleven and Alomar were part of a combined eight trades - not that common for a Hall of Fame class.
Alomar's deals, particularly the one that sent Alomar and Joe Carter to Toronto for Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff, have been rehashed many times. But Blyleven's five trades have been as overlooked as his strikeout and shutout totals. That. Ends. Here.
The Minnesota Twins drafted Blyleven in the third round of the 1969 draft, but just 123 innings later, he debuted with the Twins in 1970. He quickly acclimated, pitching to a 119 ERA+ in his rookie season over 164 innings. He got better from there, posting a 132 ERA+ over his first seven seasons, though he had just a 108-101 record to show for it. (Cue his detractors.)
But on June 1, 1976, with Minnesota struggling and Texas at 25-18, the Rangers made a big move, trading Mike Cubbage, Jim Gideon, Bill Singer, Roy Smalley and $250K to Minnesota for Blyleven and utility infielder Danny Thompson. Blyleven was his usual self, pitching 202 1/3 innings after the trade at an ERA+ of 131. Thompson faded away during his final season in the majors. As for the return for Blyleven, the Twins got some solid years at third base from Cubbage, a decent half season from Singer, and Smalley became one of the best-hitting shortstops in baseball for the next half-decade.
Still, had the Rangers held onto Blyleven, he provided more value than the players Minnesota received. But the Rangers were intent on creating one of the most convoluted deals in baseball history on December 8, 1977, and Blyleven played a key role following a stellar 1977 (234 2/3 innings, 151 ERA+). Four teams, eleven players, and a large number of moving companies got involved.
The Rangers received Jon Matlack from the Mets, Nelson Norman and Al Oliver from the Pirates. The Mets received Tom Grieve and Ken Henderson from the Rangers, Willie Montanez from the Braves. The Braves received Tommy Boggs, Adrian Devine and Eddie Miller from the Rangers. The Pirates received John Milner from the Mets and Bert Blyleven from the Rangers.
The cheese stands alone.
So how did these four teams do? Well, the Rangers received just one stellar season from Matlack, whose dominant career was ruined by arm troubles. Al Oliver gave the Rangers four splendid years, with a 130 OPS+. Nelson Norman even chipped in with a season starting at shortstop in 1979. The Mets received little from Montanez, Grieve or Henderson. The Braves got a few below-average years out of Boggs, Devine and Miller. And the Pirates got three solid seasons from Blyleven and three from Milner, before Milner was dealt once again, this time to Montreal - for Montanez.
Thankfully for the sanity of this columnist, the remaining deals in Blyleven's career were the simple, two-team variety. After a bit of a down 1980, the Pirates traded the 29-year-old Blyleven and Manny Sanguillen on December 9, 1980, receiving Gary Alexander, Victor Cruz, Bob Owchinko and Rafael Vasquez from the Cleveland Indians. Once again, Blyleven provided the most value of any player in the deal, this time by a wide margin. Sanguillen never played another game in the majors, and the four players the Pirates received gave Pittsburgh little. Blyleven pitched to a 126 ERA+ over five seasons in Cleveland, even though he missed most of the 1982 season due to injury.
But after a rare season with run support - Blyleven went 19-7 for an Indians team that finished 75-87 - Cleveland decided to trade their aging pitcher, intent on adding young players. On August 1, 1985, the Twins re-acquired Blyleven for Rich Yett, Jay Bell, Curt Wardle and Jim Weaver. Blyleven was solidly above-average in 1985, 1986 and 1987 for the Twins - in that third season, helping Minnesota to a World Series crown with three postseason victories. Meanwhile, Cleveland didn't know what they had in Bell, and received the most production from the group out of Yett, a swingman who started 48 games over four seasons with the Indians, with little success to show for it.
Blyleven slumped badly in 1988, pitching to an ERA+ of just 75. About to turn 38, it appeared this could be it for him, but the Angels thought otherwise. They traded Rob Wassenaar, Mike Cook and Paul Sorrento to Minnesota for Blyleven and Kevin Trudeau. One last time, the team that traded Blyleven regretted it. While Blyleven enjoyed a renaissance at age 38, pitching to a 140 ERA+ over 241 innings, the Twins received nothing from Cook, and even Sorrento enjoyed his eventual success in Cleveland.
There are a few ways to look at the Blyleven deals. One is that while the case against him for the Hall of Fame asserted that he wasn't respected during his playing career, teams repeatedly gave up huge packages of players for Blyleven. And yet, again and again, the team trading Blyleven regretted it, usually immediately. Maybe most obviously, while Blyleven has the Internet to thank in large measure for rallying his Hall of Fame support, it is MLBTradeRumors.com that could have used the Blyleven trades. That four-team deal alone would have been the Helen of Troy of trades: the transaction that launched a thousand posts.
As the year 1971 prepared to close, and Nixon Now's 1972 dawned, a baby named Esteban Loaiza entered the world in Tijuana, Mexico. This Baby New Year would go on to pitch for eight teams over 14 seasons in the major leagues. Three times, he was traded for in July, with teams counting on him to pitch them to the postseason. The results were, at best, a mixed bag.
Loaiza signed as an amateur free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1991. He made the jump from Double-A in 1995, and pitched until July of 1998 with Pittsburgh, putting up similar numbers to his production for the remainder of his career- a 4.63 ERA in Pittsburgh, compared to a lifetime 4.65 ERA. At that point, the Rangers decided he'd be the perfect addition to their stretch-run pitching staff, dealing infielder Warren Morris and pitcher Todd Van Poppel to Pittsburgh for Loaiza.
The trade didn't really work out for either team. Morris had a strong 1999, witn 15 home runs and a respectable 98 OPS+ at second base, but his career utterly disintegrated from there. The Pirates tried to make Van Poppel into the star everyone thought he'd be back when he was drafted in the first round of the 1990 draft. Alas, after a 4.95 ERA at Triple-A in 1999, the Pirates let him leave via free agency.
Meanwhile, Loaiza did not provide the pitching the late-90s Rangers so desperately needed. In 14 starts for Texas following the trade in 1998, he pitched to an unsightly 5.90 ERA, allowing 15 home runs in 79.1 innings, and didn't get a posteason start in an ALDS sweep by the Yankees. He improved to a 4.56 ERA in 1999, earning a Game 3 assignment in the ALDS, but Texas got swept by the Yankees again.
In 2000, the Rangers slipped out of contention early. This time, the Toronto Blue Jays sought Esteban Loaiza as the answer, shipping pitcher Darwin Cubillan and infielder Michael Young to Texas for Loaiza. With Toronto just 1.5 games out of first place, Loaiza should have been the difference. He pitched to a strong 3.62 ERA in 14 starts, but the Blue Jays finished the year 32-34 and 4.5 games behind the Yankees. As for Texas' haul, Cubillan didn't provide any value, but Michael Young and his six All Star games, 158 home runs and multi-position versatility certainly did.
Loaiza spent 2001 and 2002 in Toronto, posting an ERA over 5.00 each year, then signed with the White Sox in 2003. He was spectacular, pitching to a 2.90 ERA and finishing second in the Cy Young voting to Roy Halladay. He returned to previous form in 2004, but the Yankees saw an opportunity to acquire a starting pitcher and rid themselves of Jose Contreras, a huge disappointment. The Yankees shipped Contreras and cash to Chicago for Loaiza on July 31, 2004.
Once again, dealing for Loaiza didn't help. He pitched to an 8.50 ERA in 42 1/3 innings for New York, and the Yankees memorably came up a pitcher short in their ALCS collapse against the Boston Red Sox. The White Sox straightened Contreras out, and his 204.2 innings of 3.61 ERA pitching helped thee White Sox to their first World Series victory since 1917.
This man, born on December 25, inspired cheering in many cities over a long period of time. You may think I'm referring to Rickey Henderson or Jesus, but the man in question is actually Manny Trillo. The longtime second baseman deserves to be remembered more today than he is. Trillo collected four All Star appearances, three Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers at second base.
And yet, like some other players in my Jack Of All Trades series, Trillo managed to get traded quite a bit- five times in his career. Moreover, Trillo, a useful commodity, often became part of package deals-including an eight-player, six-player and four-player transaction. Let's travel back to a time when "Manny being Manny" simply meant strong up-the-middle-defense and a reliable bat.
Trillo signed as an amateur free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1968. After two seasons in the minor leagues, the Oakland Athletics stole him away in the minor-league portion of the Rule V draft. He put up numbers pretty similar to what he'd manage in the major leagues for various Oakland affiliates- decent batting average, few walks, home runs in the mid-to-upper single digits, great defense.
That made him a valuable trade chip following the 1974 season. The Athletics acquired the final remnants of Billy Williams' career on October 23 in exchange for Trillo and veteran relievers Darold Knowles and Bob Locker. Williams, a Hall of Famer, fell well short of that standard in Oakland, with a 109 OPS+ over two seasons at age 37-38 as a Designated Hitter. Locker and Knowles each had one standout season for the Cubs- though, this being the Cubs, they didn't happen during the same season.
And Trillo, over the next four seasons, played in at least 152 games each year, gave the Cubs strong up-the-middle defense, even made an All Star team in 1977. He hit just .256/.317/.333 over that time, but considering that he'd replaced the combination of Vic Harris and Billy Grabarkewitz at the position for Chicago, he was an undeniable upgrade. Overall, Trillo was clearly the most valuable player in the deal.
Trillo also rose to the top of a complicated deal between the Cubs and Phillies that can be described as part challenge trade, part pitching prospect grab. On February 23, 1979, the Cubs traded Trillo, outfielder Greg Gross and catcher Dave Rader to the Phillies for second baseman Ted Sizemore, catcher Barry Foote, outfielder Jerry Martin and a pair of minor-league pitchers: Derek Botelho and Henry Mack.
Seeing the challenge trade part of this swap leads one to believe that the Cubs really liked those young pitchers. Trillo, five years younger than Sizemore, won all three of his Gold Gloves and both of his Silver Sluggers over the next four years with the Phillies, while playing a strong second base for the 1980 World Champions. Sizemore played only sporadically for the Cubs in 1979, and his last year in baseball was 1980.
As for the rest of the trade, Gross, considerably younger than Martin, gave the Phillies a decade of 97 OPS+ hitting, primarily as a pinch-hitter. Martin put up a decent 101 OPS+ for the Cubs in 1979 before fading badly in 1980, and bounced around the major leagues for the next few years. Foote and Rader continued in their roles as entirely replaceable catchers for a few more years. And neither Botelho nor Mack did anything significant in the major leagues. That was predictable, given Botelho's pedestrian strikeout rate and Mack's ludicrously high walk rate just before the Cubs acquired them.
It cannot be said that Trillo provided the most value of anyone in the third trade of his career. This time, the Phillies packaged Trillo and outfielder George Vukovich, catcher Jerry Willard, pitching prospect Jay Baller and a young Julio Franco for Von Hayes. This trade is well-known in Philadelphia circles, with Hayes roundly booed by Phillies fans for failing to become Ted Williams, despite being acquired for five players.
Hayes did manage to give Philadelphia nine years of 118 OPS+ hitting while playing all three outfield positions, first base and even a bit of third base. Fun fact- over the remaining length of Hayes' career, his OPS+ of 116 for the Phillies and Angels in 1983-1992 is better than Julio Franco's 112 OPS+ mark for Cleveland and Texas in that same span. Still, Franco's subsequent 109 OPS+ in 1993-2007, along with the value from Vukovich, Willard and Trillo made this deal a loser for Philadelphia.
Trillo performed as expected for Cleveland in 1983, putting up a .272/.315/.328 line with the Indians. But with the Montreal Expos looking for middle infield help, the Indians flipped Trillo to Montreal on August 17, 1983 for minor-league outfielder Don Carter and $300K. Carter never made it to the major leagues, while Trillo allowed Doug Flynn to shift to shortstop for an Expos team that ultimately finished eight games back of the Phillies in the National League East.
After the season, Trillo signed as a free agent in San Francisco. Trillo's range began to decline, his batting average dipped to .254 in 1984 and .224 in 1985. With a young Robby Thompson ready to take Trillo's place at second base, the Giants traded Trillo to the Cubs on December 11, 1985 for utility infielder Dave Owen, who can best be described as both a poor man's Spike Owen and as Owen's brother.
Usually, when teams acquire aging middle infielders, the endings aren't happy ones. But Trillo thrived in the role. In 1986, playing first, second and third, he hit .296 and posted an OPS+ of 99. In 1987, he added shortstop to his resume, and hit a career-high eight home runs en route to an OPS+ of 112.
Though he slumped in 1988, leading to his release, and retired following a poor 1989 with the Reds, Trillo provided value to his teams long after glove-first second basemen usually do. So as you enjoy Christmas Day, or whatever other holiday you celebrate, hope that the presents you receive have the durability and value of Manny Trillo, even if, as was often the case with teams acquiring Trillo, it wasn't exactly what you wanted.
When future generations see the ludicrous offensive numbers Rickey Henderson put up, they are going to be shocked when they see how many times he changed teams during his career. Thirteen times, Rickey Henderson found a new employer (even though, much of the time, he returned to previous employers). Four times, Henderson got traded.
So what exactly can a team expect to give up for the greatest leadoff hitter of all time? Surprisingly little, on balance. Let's travel back to a time when a player of Henderson's caliber made a small fraction of Jayson Werth's annual salary.
Henderson began his career with Oakland, who drafted him in the fourth round of the 1976 draft. He made quick work of the farm system, and debuted at age 20 in 1979. By 1980, he was the player he'd be for essentially the next two decades, with an OPS+ of 134, 100 stolen bases, and 117 walks.
However, the New York Yankees sought Henderson, and were willing to give up a ton of prospects to get their hands on him. On December 5, 1984, New York dealt Tim Birtsas, Jay Howell, Stan Javier, Eric Plunk and Jose Rijo to Oakland for Henderson and pitcher Bert Bradley, who would never appear in a game for the Yankees.
The most valuable pieces in the deal were Howell, who made a pair of All-Star games with Oakland, then helped them land Bob Welch in a trade. Jose Rijo put up some strong seasons, but only after the A's traded him for highly-used Dave Parker. Birtsas and Javier had a few decent years as a reliever and backup outfielder, respectively, while Plunk bided his time as Oakland's swingman, in case his path and Henderson's would cross again.
Five years later, it did. Henderson continued his excellence in New York, though his power seemed to be disappearing as he turned 30. On June 21, 1989, the Yankees traded Henderson and his .349 slugging percentage on the season back to Oakland, receiving Plunk, Greg Cadaret and Luis Polonia in return.
Plunk continued a strong career as a middle reliever that lasted until the end of the decade. Greg Cadaret had middling results in three seasons as a swingman. And Polonia lasted less than a calendar year with the Yankees before they sent him to the Angels. So this one was a heist. Henderson found his power stroke back in Oakland, and had his finest season ever in 1990. He posted a 188 OPS+, hit 28 home runs, stole 65 bases in 75 attempts, and helped the A's to another American League pennant.
Henderson was fantastic in 1991 and 1992 as well, and was en route to a season the equal of 1990 in 1993 when the A's, out of contention, traded the free agent-to-be to the Toronto Blue Jays on July 31, 1993. Toronto sent back top pitching prospect Steve Karsay and toolsy outfielder Jose Herrera. Karsay couldn't overcome numerous injuries and Herrera never put it together. And yet, the trade wasn't the win one would assume. For whatever reason, Henderson completely tanked with Toronto, with a 182 OPS+ prior to the trade in 1993, but just an 83 OPS+ after the deal.
After the season, Henderson signed with the A's, and also stopped in San Diego, where he was traded for the final time on August 13, 1997. This time, San Diego's trade partner was the Calfornia Angels, who were just a half-game out of first. They picked up Henderson, minor leaguers Stevenson Agosto and Ryan Hancock for George Arias. The primary result of this deal is the journeyman Arias can tell his grandchildren he was traded for Rickey Henderson and additional players. Henderson, for his part, completely tanked in Anaheim, putting up an OPS+ of 60. He'd been at 118 for San Diego prior to the trade.
So what have we learned from Henderson's trades? A few things. One is, it is astonishingly hard to get value in prospects, even if the team trading those prospects was the mid-80s New York Yankees. For another, it is probably a bad idea to deal a Rickey Henderson-level player when he is 25 years old. And Henderson's reputation as a player who needs a comfort level to succeed seems reinforced by his performance following two of his deals, both of them in-season. The only time he thrived after being traded mid-year, it was a deal returning him to his original team, the A's.
Most of all, it makes this question worth pondering: if Bill James' argument - that you could divide Henderson's production in half and have two Hall of Famers - had become reality, how many times would those two players have switched teams? Did I just blow your mind?
To many casual baseball fans, Nelson Cruz still isn't a household name. Never mind that he hit 33 home runs last year and posted a ridiculous .318/.374/.576 line this season- respect has been hard to come by for the 30-year-old Cruz.
This is nothing new, incidentally. Cruz has been traded three times in his career, an astonishing total for a player with a good reputation and off-the-charts power. What's more interesting still is how little he's commanded in return. Let's relive the uneven goodness, shall we?
Cruz originally signed with the New York Mets as a free agent in 1998 out of the Dominican Republic. After three years in the Dominican Summer League, the Mets traded Cruz on August 30, 2000 to the Oakland Athletics for infielder Jorge Velandia. The Mets desperately needed another backup infielder who could handle shortstop, and Velandia was certainly a desperation move- he hit a cool .000 in both his 2000 and 2001 trials with the Mets, before rallying to .190 in his third and final stint with New York in 2003.
It took Cruz even longer to find his hitting stroke. He finally turned his power tool into a skill in 2003, popping 20 home runs for Single-A Kane County, but hit just .238. Finally, in 2004, his line improved dramatically; he hit a combined .326/.390/.562 at Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A. That convinced the Milwaukee Brewers to deal their starting second baseman, Keith Ginter, to Oakland on December 16, 2004 for Cruz and pitcher Justin Lehr.
Once again, however, the booty for Cruz turned out to be unimpressive. Ginter had hit .262/.333/.479 in 2004 for Milwaukee, but slumped to .161/.234/.263 in 2005 for Oakland. He never played in the major leagues again.
Cruz, meanwhile, kept on hitting, but in the minor leagues - Milwaukee gave him just seven plate appearances during two seasons in the organization. (For reference, Brady Clark received 1,093 plate appearances during those same seasons.)
Finally, Milwaukee traded Cruz to the Texas Rangers, but the Rangers were actually after Carlos Lee, who also came to Arlington in the July 28, 2006 deal. The Brewers received Francisco Cordero, Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix and minor leaguer Julian Cordero.
Of all the players dealt for Cruz, Francisco Cordero actually produced for his new team, with 60 saves and a 11.6 K/9 ratio over his season-and-a-half in Milwaukee. Mench never hit in Milwaukee the way he had in Texas, Nix disappointed as well, and Julian Cordero never climbed above Single-A.
Lee hit .322/.369/.525 in his half-season with Texas before signing an immense contract with Houston that still has two years and $37MM left on it.
Cruz struggled mightily to get his major league OPS over .700 in 2006-2007, but he absolutely murdered the ball at Triple-A. Finally, in 2008, Cruz hit .330/.421/.609 in a big-league trial, and was in the major leagues to stay. From 2008-2010, Cruz has hit .292/.360/.555 in 1,093 plate appearances- the same exact number Brady Clark received from Milwaukee while Cruz languished in the minors.
Rest assured, the next time Nelson Cruz is traded, the package coming back will be significant.
One of my favorite parts of Ken Burns' The Tenth Inning was the reminder of just how talented Bobby Bonds was. The 461 stolen bases and 332 home runs are really only part of the story. Bonds was also a three-time Gold Glove winner who posted a career OPS+ of 129; his era and ballparks depressed his raw hitting stats significantly.
But Bonds' abrasive personality and personal problems led to six trades in five years. Despite this propensity for getting dealt, Bonds brought back interesting talent in return each of the six times. Let's take a closer look at just who won each of these trades.
The San Francisco Giants signed Bonds as an amateur free agent in 1964, one year before the institution of the amateur draft. He quickly climbed the organizational ladder, and in 349 plate appearances as a rookie in 1968, hit .254/.336/.407. Not impressive, right? Wrong. This was 1968; those totals meant Bonds posed an OPS+ of 122. He wouldn't drop below an OPS+ of 116 until 1980.
But despite seven seasons, 186 home runs, and an OPS+ of 131 over those seven years, the Giants decided to trade Bonds following his age-28 season. The New York Yankees acquired him on October 22, 1974 in a challenge trade for Bobby Murcer. It is hard to determine who won this trade. Bonds certainly outperformed Murcer on the field in 1975, with an OPS+ edge of 151 to 127, and a home run edge of 32 to 11. But Bonds spent just the year in New York, while Murcer played two with the Giants.
By December 11, 1975, the Yankees were ready to unload Bonds, so they sent him to the California Angels for Ed Figueroa and Mickey Rivers. This time, the return for Bonds was even greater than from the first trade. Bonds played in just 99 games in 1976, then rallied for 37 home runs in a dominant 1977. But the Yankees got terrific work out of Figueroa and Rivers, with the former providing 749 innings of 115 ERA+ pitching in 1976-1978 alone, and Rivers posting a solid 110 OPS+ in three-plus years in pinstripes.
Again, from numbers alone, it is startling that Bonds was on the move again following the 1977 season. But the Angels shipped him on December 5, 1977, along with Thad Bosley and Richard Dotson, to the Chicago White Sox for Brian Downing, Dave Frost and Chris Knapp. Though few would have predicted it, Bonds was an afterthought in this trade in retrospect. He lasted just a few months with his new team, with Dotson providing 1,603 innings at 103 ERA+ over the next decade and Bosley setttling in for a long career as a reserve outfielder. As for the return, both Frost and Knapp provided one strong season as a starting pitcher. Meanwhile, Downing became a dominant catcher/outfielder, posting a 126 OPS+ over the next 13 seasons for California.
Bonds, as previously stated, wore out his welcome with the White Sox by mid-May. One would think he'd be dealt for pennies on the dollar, but the May 16, 1978 trade with the Texas Rangers netted Chicago Rusty Torres and Claudell Washington. Torres was a valuable reserve outfielder, while Washington, just 23, had another dozen years at 108 OPS+ ahead of him. Bonds had started slowly in Chicago, but his .265/.356/.497 mark in Texas made for a solid 138 OPS+ in 1978.
Despite his big season, Bonds wasn't in Texas for long. You guessed it, he was promptly traded on October 3, 1978, along with starting pitcher Len Barker, for Cleveland's Larvell Blanks and Jim Kern. Cleveland got pretty decent return on this deal, with Bonds providing his final Bonds-like season at age-33: .275/.367/.463 in that cavernous Municipal Stadium, good for an OPS+ of 122. Barker also pitched reasonably well, giving Cleveland 932.1 innings of 95 ERA+ pitching over five seasons. (He then netted them Brett Butler and Brook Jacoby in a deal with Atlanta). Blanks performed as usual, a middling middle infielder, and Kern had one of the great one-year wonder seasons in 1979: 13 wins, 29 saves and a 1.57 ERA.
Perhaps stung by precious Jim Kern memories, the Indians decided to trade Bobby Bonds as well, sending him to St. Louis on December 7, 1979 for John Denny and Jerry Mumphrey. By now, the magic around Bonds-based trades had worn off. Bonds was terrible in St. Louis, hitting .203/.305/.316. Denny won an ERA title in 1976 for the Cardinals, and the Cy Young Award in 1983 for the Phillies, but he posted three decidedly mediocre seasons for Cleveland in between. And Mumphrey never even played for the Indians (the Padres acquired him two months later).
There's almost a visceral sadness in reading the career numbers and journey of Bobby Bonds. Clearly one of the best players not in the Hall of Fame, it is easy to imagine a happier Bonds easily reaching that honor. Saddest of all, he's doomed to be largely forgotten by history as well, overshadowed by his son.
Generally speaking, pitchers as talented as David Cone don't get shopped around much during their prime years. On Baseball-Reference's list of comparables, for instance, Cone is similar to Tommy Bridges (whole career in Detroit), Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser (each spent prime years with one team) and Bob Welch (two teams for the duration of his career).
But Cone managed to travel widely over the course of a career that looks just short of being Cooperstown-worthy, with most of the trades coming during his best years. Let's take a look at the deals that sent him from place to place.
The Kansas City Royals drafted Cone in 1981, and he had some early success before missing the entire 1983 season due to torn cartilage in his left knee. He returned in 1984, but his command didn't, and the Royals tried converting him to a reliever before they sent him to the Mets on March 27, 1987, along with Chris Jelic, for Rick Anderson, Mauro Gozzo and Ed Hearn.
To call this a win for the Mets would be a massive understatement. Cone managed a 3.71 ERA in 1987, then put together a 20-3, 2.22 ERA season in 1988. His strikeout rate climbed to 8.3/9, which would ultimately be his career mark. Over the next five years, Cone starred for the Mets, twice leading the National League in strikeouts.
But near the end of the 1992 season, the Mets decided it was time to trade Cone, despite Cone's strong 121 ERA+ and youth (he was still just 29). It is hard to imagine, in retrospect, the kind of timetable for contention that wouldn't include Cone, but on August 27, he headed to Toronto for Ryan Thompson and Jeff Kent.
The trade has to be considered a limited win for both sides. For the Mets, giving away Cone earned them one terrific player in Kent, whom they ultimately traded away before he blasted most of his home runs, and Ryan Thompson, a center fielder whose performance never approached his tools.
The Blue Jays got 53 innings of 2.55 ERA pitching from Cone in the regular season, along with four strong starts in the playoffs, as Toronto won the World Series. Flags fly forever, so there's that. But giving up Kent for such a small amount of Cone is hardly a massive victory.
Cone signed with the Royals following the 1992 season, and provided a pair of strong seasons, including a 16-5, 2.94 ERA campaign as a 31-year-old in the strike-shortened 1994 season.
For his work, he was rewarded by getting traded twice in 1995.
First, the Blue Jays re-acquired Cone on April 6, trading David Sinnes, Tony Medrano and Chris Stynes to Kansas City. Only Stynes reached the big leagues, while Cone pitched to an ERA+ of 140 in 138.1 innings with Toronto.
But teams with 56-88 records don't need Cone-like starters (or rather, they need many more of them), and Toronto shipped Cone to the New York Yankees for Jason Jarvis, Mike Gordon and Marty Janzen. Janzen was supposed to be the big prize for Toronto - he pitched to a 2.87 ERA over a pair of levels in 1995 - but he never reached that level of performance in the minors or the majors.
As for Cone, he continued his excellence for the Yankees. His six seasons in the Bronx included 922 innings and a 3.91 ERA. Fascinatingly, though, he was actually a better pitcher with the Yankees than he was with the Mets once you adjust for park and time period. His raw ERA was 3.13 with the Mets, but Cone checks in with a 112 ERA+ with the Mets and a 119 ERA+ with the Yankees.
Even that understates his Yankee performance, thanks to a nightmarish 4-14, 6.91 ERA year in 2000. From 1996 to 1999, Cone had an ERA+ of 142 with New York.
Ultimately, what is Cone's trade legacy? He failed to disappoint any team that acquired him. The lesson here: for a pitcher of Cone's caliber, get a hefty return.
Everett had a reputation for being a difficult teammate, but the teams that traded him always got value in return. Let's take a look at every deal from the Jurassic Carl period.
Everett was actually a first-round pick of the New York Yankees back in 1990. After some uninspired seasons in the low minors, the Marlins took Everett in the 1992 expansion draft. In 1993-94, he managed just a .515 OPS over 74 plate appearances with Florida, so the stage was set for his first trade: the Marlins sent him to the Mets on November 29, 1994 for second baseman Quilvio Veras.
Veras promptly led the National League in steals (and in caught stealing) for Florida in 1995 while compiling a .261/.384/.373 line at second base. Everett had his best Mets season in 1995; he hit .260/.352/.436 that year before injuries slowed him down in 1996 and 1997.
Finally, the Mets decided to cut bait, dealing Everett to the Houston Astros on December 22, 1997 for reliever John Hudek. Hudek posted a 4.00 ERA in half a season and helped the Mets acquire supersub Lenny Harris, but Everett became a star for the Astros immediately. He hit .296/.359/.482 in 1998, then had arguably his best year in 1999: .325/.398/.571.
Despite this dominance, the Astros unloaded Everett on the Boston Red Sox on December 14, 1999, getting Greg Miller and Adam Everett in return. While the latter went on to some magical years in the field for Houston, Jurassic Carl continued to produce at the plate for Boston. He hit .300/.373/.587 in 2000, though his production dropped off a bit in 2001.
That drop-off was the impetus the Red Sox needed to trade Everett, then entering his age-31 season, to Texas for Darren Oliver on December 12, 2001. Everett struggled somewhat in 2002, then had his last great Carl Everett season in 2003: .287/.366/.510. Naturally, he was traded right in the middle of it, heading to the White Sox on July 1 for Frank Francisco, Josh Rupe and Anthony Webster. Francisco, in particular, went on to success with the Rangers, saving 25 games last year and putting up a strong 55/14 K/BB ratio in his first 46.1 innings in 2010.
Everett spent a half-season in Chicago, then signed as a free agent with the Montreal Expos for the 2004 season. But the White Sox needed him back and traded for him again on July 18, 2004, giving up Gary Majewski and Jon Rauch, a pair of relievers, for the right to bring Everett back into the fold. This was part of the latter-day Everett production: .260/.319/.432 won't get it done when your outfield defense is declining and you have a reputation as a difficult teammate.
Six years later, Carl Everett is still playing baseball, hitting .276 with seven home runs for the Atlantic League's Newark Bears. Chances are, he'll never get traded again, but his Jack Of All Trades legacy is secure.
Last month in this space, we detailed the career of Rusty Staub, beloved by many, but a frequently-traded commodity nonetheless. Dave Kingman, it is safe to say, did not share that beloved label in many of the places he played. Still, for a player who hit 442 home runs in his career - a remarkable total given the parks and era he played in - Kingman knew how to pack a suitcase, especially in 1977.
After signing with the Giants as a top draft pick in 1970, Kingman rocketed through the minor leagues, getting to San Francisco by 1971 after hitting 41 home runs in 602 minor league at bats. Despite the power, Kingman did not hit for any kind of average or draw walks, and his batting line reflected that in four seasons with the Giants. He hit .224/.304/.469, which was still good for an OPS+ of 112.
But between the low batting average and poor fielding, the Giants decided to cut their losses just before his age-26 season, selling him to the New York Mets for $150K. This turned out reasonably well for New York.
The Mets got 36 home runs from Kingman in 1975 and 37 home runs in 1976 (including 30 by the All Star break). Even with his absurd 28 walks and 135 strikeouts in 510 plate appearances, Kingman still posted a .238/.286/.506 and an OPS+ of 128 in 1976.
Then came Kingman's odyssey year: 1977. He began with the Mets, but struggled mightily, hitting just .209/.263/.370. On June 15, the Mets traded him to the Padres for Paul Siebert and Bobby Valentine, neither of whom turned into much for New York.
He was decidedly Kingman-esque for San Diego, hitting .238/.292/.488 for the Padres, with an OPS+ that matched his career mark of 115. Nevertheless, San Diego put him on waivers, and the California Angels selected him on September 6. One hopes he didn't buy a place in Anaheim because, the Angels traded him to the Yankees for Randy Stein and cash nine days later. Kingman then had the odd experience of playing for the Yankees in September without the chance of making the postseason roster. He was ineligible for the playoffs, since he joined the team after August 31.
After Kingman's busy 1977, his salad days quickly arrived and he signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Cubs. His OPS+ went from 131 to 146 to 128 in 1978-1980, and 1979 was by far his best season. Kingman hit .288/.343/.613 with an astounding 48 home runs. But while his OPS+ was strong in 1980, his health limited him to just 280 plate appearances. As a result, Kingman was traded again.
This time, it was back to the Mets for a second tour in Queens. New York acquired him on February 28, 1981 for Steve Henderson and cash. Kingman's batting average dipped lower and lower with the Mets, falling from .221 to .204 to .198 in three seasons. He did lead the National League with 37 home runs in 1982, but his OPS+ of 99 was actually below average. Overall, his OPS+ with the Mets over three seasons was just 102.
After the Mets released Kingman, the A's picked him up and enjoyed the last great Kingman season. In 1984, the slugger hit .268/.321/.505 with 35 home runs before adding 30 home runs in 1985 and 35 more in 1986. Despite those totals, he was unable to find a job in 1987, which is more understandable when you examine his 1986 season line: .210/.255/.431.
Overall, Kingman probably stands as the least expensive source of home runs ever made available on the trade market. For the teams that took advantage - and there were quite a few - the results were often exactly what they should have expected. And only the Cubs, who got him via free agency, can be said to have truly prospered from the collaboration.
What do you think of when you hear Fred McGriff's name? For me, the answer is Terry McGriff, whose baseball card I often pulled from a pack of Topps, Donruss or when desperate for my baseball card fix, Score. The excitement over getting the Crime Dog quickly gave way, as I wondered who, exactly, Terry McGriff was.
For others, McGriff's name brings to mind the blissfully consistent first baseman who hit 30 home runs ten times (and hit 28, 27 and 27 in three others).
But for a surprising number of teams, McGriff conjured up the phrase: trade him.
This is not to say that McGriff was considered a clubhouse cancer, or even an unskilled player. But He was traded four times and sold once en route to the same number of career home runs as Lou Gehrig. Let's take a look at who got the best of those deals - in nearly every case, the answer is "whichever team got Fred McGriff."
- The Yankees selected McGriff in the ninth round of the 1981 draft. But in an inexplicable deal, they traded him, along with Dave Collins, Mike Morgan and cash, to the Toronto Blue Jays for pitcher Dale Murray and Tom Dodd on December 9, 1982. If one trade could represent the excesses of the Yankees at their worst, it is this one. The Yanks brought in Collins as a high-priced free agent the season before to replace Reggie Jackson. After Collins hit .253/.315/.330, the Yankees shipped him out. McGriff, of course, had just hit .272/.413/.456 in rookie ball. Mike Morgan, who will be the subject of a future Jack of All Trades piece himself, had another 20 years and 2,532.1 innings left in the tank. And what did the Yankees get? In Dodd, a slugger with a career .295 on-base percentage in the minor leagues, and Murray, a veteran swingman whose ERA never saw the good side of 4.00 again.
- Fast forward to December 5, 1990. McGriff has by now developed into an elite player, posting an OPS+ of 166 in 1989 and 154 overall as a Blue Jay. But in a four-player trade, Toronto traded McGriff and Tony Fernandez to the Padres for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar. It's easy to say Toronto got the best of this deal, since Carter and Alomar were essential parts of two world championships. John Olerud replaced McGriff at first base, so the Blue Jays kept getting production. But McGriff complicates the assumption that the Blue Jays won this trade. He continued his essential McGriff-ness, posting a 149 OPS+ in three seasons with San Diego. Carter's best single-season OPS+ was 124, and his overall OPS+ with the Blue Jays was 104. Even Alomar posted just an OPS+ of 123 with Toronto, though that stat tells just part of the story, since Alomar was a terrific defender and baserunner. Ultimately, Carter plus Alomar probably beats McGriff plus Fernandez (who wasn't very good with San Diego). But McGriff might have been the most productive player of the four after the trade.
- And yet, the Padres dealt the 29-year-old McGriff on July 18, 1993 to their division rival, the Atlanta Braves, for a trio of young players: Vince Moore, Donnie Elliott and Melvin Nieves. It is fair to say Atlanta won this trade, though Nieves eventually put up a pair of 20-plus home run seasons with the Tigers. McGriff hit .310/.392/.612 for Atlanta after the trade, then showed it was no fluke by hitting .318/.389/.623 in 1994 over what approximated a full season. Three decent seasons of 115 OPS+ hitting followed, before the Braves unceremoniously sold McGriff to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
- McGriff alternated between decent seasons and excellent ones with Tampa Bay. And in his fourth year in Tampa, hitting .318/.387/.536, the Chicago Cubs decided they could use him for the stretch run. McGriff decided he wasn't so sure about the Cubs and invoked his no-trade clause. He eventually relented and the Cubs acquired him on July 27, 2001 for Manny Aybar and Jason Smith. The Cubs finished third in 2001 and fifth in 2002, but it was no fault of McGriff's. He posted a .282/.383/.559 line after the deal in 2001, and had his last McGriff-like year in 2002, with a line of .273/.353/.505 and 30 home runs.