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Worst MLB trade deadline deals: A fan’s view
Baseball's trade deadline is July 31, and while many fans hope that their team makes the deal that will get them to the World Series this season, they need to be cautious; not every deal works out the way you hope. Many of the biggest deadline deals of the past 30 or more years have in fact come back to haunt those who were in contention, as well as those who thought they were rebuilding.
Here are a few of the worst deadline deals of all time:
The Red Sox trade Jeff Bagwell for Larry Anderson
In 1990, the Boston Red Sox were in a heated pennant race and needed a right-handed arm in the bullpen. The Houston Astros happened to have an arm available, one belonging to reliable 37-year-old veteran named Larry Anderson. The price to get Anderson, in his 15th major league season, a young power-hitting first baseman named Jeff Bagwell . On Aug. 30, 1990, the deal was done.
As with just about all bad trades, hindsight is a huge factor. The Red Sox could not have known that Bagwell would be the Rookie of the Year the following season or that Anderson would blow a lead in the 1990 ALCS costing them one of the four games in which they were swept by the Oakland A's in that postseason. Nor could the Red Sox had known that Carlos Quintana, their first baseman in 1990, would be out of the league by the time Bagwell won the MVP in 1994.
Just about any deal involving the Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates are maybe the best story in baseball these days having risen from worst to first in the NL Central. However, while Pirates fans are on edge as the trade deadline looms, they must be mindful of deadline history. The Pirates have a not-so-great history with deadline deals, though. To be fair, they've rarely been on the contending side of a deadline deal.
On July 31 2001, the Pirates traded away future Cy Young contender and staff ace Jason Schmidt(notes) to the San Francisco Giants for pitchers Ryan Vogelsong(notes) and Armando Rios. The deal was the first high profile move for new General Manager Dave Littlefield, who had been hired just two weeks prior to making the deal. Apparently, two weeks was not enough time to get Vogelsong and Rios checked out by doctors as both pitchers suffered arm problems that drove them out of the league less than two seasons later.
The Schmidt trade takes on an even worse after taste for Pirates fans, as in 2006 the team finally cut Vogelsong loose after five years of arm trouble that included Tommy John surgery. Vogelsong ended up in Japan and in 2011 made his return to the San Francisco Giants, where he is currently 7-1 with a 2.02 ERA, good enough for Vogelsong to be selected to the National League All-Star team.
One week before the trade deadline, July 23, 2003, the Pirates threw up the white flag on their season, this time with third baseman Aramis Ramirez(notes) and outfielder Kenny Lofton. The Pirates traded Ramirez, who in 2001 posted 34 home runs and 112 RBIs, and Lofton, who had barely played half a season for the Pirates after being picked up in the off-season, to the Chicago Cubs, for Bobby Hill, Jose Hernandez and Matt Brubeck. While Ramirez and Lofton helped lead the Cubs to within one out of the World Series, Pirates fans are still puzzled as to who Bobby Hill and Matt Brubeck are.
And then on July 31, 2007, in one of the more inexplicable trades of all time, the non-contending Pirates dealt for expensive starter Matt Morris. The team only had to give up a minor leaguer named Rajai Davis(notes) in order to get Morris, but after years of crying poverty during the off-season, fans were rightfully upset to see the Pirates pay the balance of Morris's contract after every other team in the league passed on him because of his contract.
So why did the supposedly cash poor Pirates make a deal for an aging pitcher who would go on to start only 16 games for the team with a 3-8 record and a 7.11 ERA? According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, GM Dave Littlefield, who in nearly six seasons had gotten nothing for Jason Schmidt, Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton, was trying to save his job. Littlefield was fired by the Pirates less than three months later.
It's one of the most lopsided deals in baseball history in hindsight. On June 28, 2003, the Montreal Expos traded three future All-Stars—one an eventual Cy Young Award winner—Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips along with solid slugging first baseman in Lee Stevens to the Cleveland Indians to rent Bartolo Colon. The Expos were fighting for the wild card in 2002 but were fully out contention by September as the San Francisco Giants ran away with the wild card. Colon ran away in the off-season signing with the Chicago White Sox.
Grady Sizemore broke into the Indians starting lineup in 2005 and has been a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate ever since. Cliff Lee would eventually win a Cy Young for the Indians before being traded to Philadelphia in 2009, traded again to the Seattle Mariners in 2010 and was traded one more time that same year to the Texas Rangers, where he went to the World Series before returning to the Phillies this season. Phillips was eventually flipped by the Indians to the Cincinnati Reds, where he's hit at least 20 home runs three times has been an All-Star two years running.
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