Yankees GM Brian Cashman spoke last week about how his team nearly traded Mariano Rivera to the Mariners for Felix Fermin in 1996. As some commenters pointed out, that wouldn't have been the first time Fermin was involved in a one-sided trade. The Indians traded Jay Bell to the Pirates for Fermin (and another unspectacular player, Denny Gonzalez). Cleveland then made good on its own bad trade by shipping Fermin and Reggie Jefferson to Seattle for Omar Vizquel.
One-sided trades on that scale are probably somewhat less likely now than they were 20 years ago, but they still happen. So what's the most one-sided trade of the past ten years? Here are some contenders. Keep in mind that and the Rangers' swap of Travis Hafner and Aaron Myette for Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese happened in 2002, just outside the ten-year window, and so did the Expos' infamous trade of Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew.
Also, this list doesn't include many trades from the past few seasons, since the players involved haven't had the chance to create value for their new teams. For example, many fans thought the Royals' trade of Wil Myers and other prospects for James Shields and Wade Davis was one-sided, but Myers and company haven't had the opportunity to prove that yet.
Pirates trade Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton to Cubs for Jose Hernandez, Bobby Hill and Matt Bruback (2003). Dire financial straits forced the Pirates to deal the 25-year-old Ramirez for virtually nothing. Hernandez left for Los Angeles after the 2003 season, Hill played for a couple years as a spare infielder, and Bruback never made it to the majors. Ramirez, meanwhile, hit 25 or more home runs seven times for the Cubs, and Lofton hit well down the stretch in 2003 to help Chicago make the playoffs.
Giants trade Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser to Twins for A.J. Pierzynski (2003). Pierzynski only played one season for the Giants, while Nathan blossomed into one of the best closers of his generation. Liriano became one of the best pitching prospects in baseball soon after the trade. He never quite lived up to his billing, but if he had, this trade probably would have been the most one-sided on this list.
Diamondbacks trade Jorge de la Rosa, Chris Capuano, Lyle Overbay, Craig Counsell Junior Spivey and Chad Moeller to Brewers for Richie Sexson, Shane Nance and Noochie Varner (2003). The Diamondbacks dealt a number of useful players for one year of Richie Sexson, whose tenure in Arizona quickly went south when he got hurt. The Diamondbacks had just acquired De la Rosa, along with Casey Fossum and Brandon Lyon, when they dealt Curt Schilling to the Red Sox, another poor trade.
Mariners trade Carlos Guillen to Tigers for Ramon Santiago and Juan Gonzalez (2004). That's not Juan Gonzalez the power hitter — this Juan Gonzalez never made the majors. Two of Bill Bavasi's first big moves as Mariners GM were to deal Guillen (a perfectly functional young shortstop) and replace him with free agent Rich Aurilia, who was already on the downslope of his career. Aurilia was a bust with the Mariners, and Santiago did next to nothing for them. Meanwhile, Guillen suddenly emerged as a fearsome hitter in Detroit and was named to three All-Star teams as a Tiger.
Mets trade Scott Kazmir and Joselo Diaz to Devil Rays for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato (2004). The Kazmir trade might not have had the same impact as some others on this list (although Kazmir certainly had a strong career in Tampa), but it stood out as being a poor idea for the Mets at the time, and it didn't get any better with age. Zambrano had led the AL in walks in 2003, and managed to do it again in 2004 despite being shipped to the NL in July. The Mets couldn't fix him, and Kazmir almost immediately turned into the strong starting pitcher that Zambrano never had much chance of becoming.
Athletics trade Tim Hudson to Braves for Juan Cruz, Dan Meyer and Charles Thomas (2004). The Tim Hudson trade was nearly as bad for the A's as the Mark Mulder trade, below, was good. Cruz pitched horribly in Oakland before reestablishing himself in Arizona. Meyer, the key prospect in the deal, immediately stalled out in Triple-A. And Thomas never made an impact. Hudson remains productive eight years after the deal, although perhaps not at salaries the A's would prefer to pay.
Cardinals trade Dan Haren, Kiko Calero and Daric Barton to Athletics for Mark Mulder (2004). Mulder was an enormous disappointment in St. Louis, putting up only one productive season before his career was undone by injuries. Haren, meanwhile, became exactly what the Cardinals probably hoped Mulder would be, pitching 216 or more high-quality innings in seven straight seasons. Calero also added two good years out of the Oakland bullpen, and while Barton's career never really took off, he did have a strong season in 2010.
Athletics trade Andre Ethier to Dodgers for Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez (2005). Bradley was as injury-prone as he was talented and angry, and he couldn't stay on the field with the A's, who ultimately sent him to the Padres for Andrew Brown. Ethier, meanwhile, became exactly the sort of cost-controlled, effective player the A's love, but he did it for Los Angeles.
Rangers trade Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Young and Terrmel Sledge to Padres for Adam Eaton, Akinori Otsuka and Billy Killian (2006). Gonzalez was blocked by Mark Teixeira in Texas, but the San Diego native immediately blossomed into a hometown star with the Padres. Young, an extreme fly ball pitcher, proved to be a perfect fit in home-run-stifling PETCO Park, putting up good numbers for his first two years there before succumbing to injuries. Otsuka put in two good seasons in the Texas bullpen. Eaton had always been a frustrating pitcher and little more, and his career quickly went downhill after the trade. Killian never made it to the majors.
Indians trade Brandon Phillips to Reds for Jeff Stevens (2006). Phillips and Cliff Lee were both a part of perhaps the most lopsided trade of the millennium, and they both continued to be involved in one-sided trades after that. None of the four teams that have traded Lee have gotten good value for him, and the Indians got very little for Phillips when they shipped the then-frustrating former top prospect to Cincinnati, where he promptly became one of baseball's best second basemen.
Mariners trade Shin-Soo Choo and Shawn Nottingham to Indians for Ben Broussard (2006). Choo became a fixture in the Cleveland outfield after breaking out with a .309/.397/.549 performance in 2008, while Broussard had two middling seasons as a part-time player in Seattle.
Phillies trade Gio Gonzalez and Gavin Floyd to White Sox for Freddy Garcia (2006). Garcia pitched 58 poor innings with the Phillies before departing via free agency. Floyd developed into a solid starter, while the several teams who traded Gonzalez probably all wish they hadn't.
Braves trade Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Beau Jones to Rangers for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay (2007). It's tough to acquire a player as good as Mark Teixeira and still be the victim of a lopsided trade, but that's exactly what the Braves did, as Andrus and Harrison became minor stars in Texas, and Feliz became a dominant closer (for two years, at least), all at low prices. The Braves later dealt Teixeira to the Angels for Casey Kotchman and minor-leaguer Steve Marek, receiving pennies on the dollar for their initial investment.
Twins trade Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett and Eduardo Morlan to Rays for Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie (2007). At the time, this looked like a reasonable, albeit risky, exchange of talent for both teams. Young had batted .288/.316/.408 as a 21-year-old the previous year, and was less than five years removed from being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft. He never blossomed in Minnesota, though, and both Garza and Bartlett became key parts of the first-ever winning Rays team.
Padres trade David Freese to Cardinals for Jim Edmonds (2007). Freese had posted excellent numbers in the Padres' minor-league system, and the Cardinals helped him become one of the league's better third basemen. Edmonds, meanwhile, played horribly for the Padres, who released him after only 103 plate appearances.
Mariners trade Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, George Sherrill, Kam Mickolio, and Tony Butler to Orioles for Erik Bedard (2008). When healthy, Bedard pitched well in Seattle, but he started more than 16 games for the Mariners only once before being shipped to Boston. Meanwhile, Jones now looks like an emerging superstar, and Tillman, still just 24, is coming off a good half-season in the Orioles rotation.
Pirates trade Jose Bautista to Blue Jays for Robinzon Diaz (2008). The Pirates were in rebuilding mode in 2008 when they shipped Bautista north in exchange for an obscure minor-league catcher. In Pittsburgh, Bautista had been a poor defensive player who couldn't hit for average and didn't have much to recommend him except his ability to draw walks. In Toronto, he unexpectedly became one of baseball's best power hitters. Diaz got a grand total of 144 plate appearances in Pittsburgh.
White Sox trade Nick Swisher and Kanekoa Texeira to Yankees for Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez (2008). One can hardly blame the White Sox for feeling frustrated with Swisher, for whom they'd traded Gio Gonzalez the previous offseason. But after a down year in Chicago, the White Sox sent him to New York for Wilson Betemit and … well, not much.
Phillies trade Cliff Lee to Mariners for Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez (2009). This is arguably the second-worst of the Cliff Lee trades, in that the Phillies didn't get anyone who looked like an impact player, even at the time.
Angels trade Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera to Blue Jays for Vernon Wells (2011). Even putting aside Napoli's brilliant 2011 season with the Rangers, this was a remarkable trade, in that the Jays only paid $5MM of the remaining $86MM on Wells' contract, despite Wells' uneven performances in the past. Wells has yet to post an OPS north of .682 in Anaheim.