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.
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.
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.