Throughout the history of every sport, there have been trades that, in 20/20 hindsight, have made us all scratch our heads. Granted, at the time, not much was thought of these trades. They usually involved minor league players, middle relievers, or platoon guys. Banking on the future potential of a player in any sport is a risk that GMs take almost daily. From a fan’s standpoint, it’s easy for us to criticize or mock those decisions. But here’s the bottom line; the ones making these decisions are well vested in the process before we even hear about it. I’m going to look at some of these in each sport over the next few days. We’ll start with MLB.
The first one that comes to mind for me wasn’t actually a trade, but a transaction nevertheless, that shaped two franchises. In December of 1919, Boston Red Sox owner, Harry Frazee, sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125K. His reasoning for this was so that he could finance a Broadway play. Babe Ruth went on to become somewhat of a decent ballplayer after that. The Red Sox spent the better part of the next 80+ years trying to shake a mythical curse.
In the early 70s, the Reds and Giants each had a couple players that didn’t seem to fit into their respective team’s plans. San Francisco had an extra OF, Cincinnati had a 3rd string SS and a pitcher to spare. Hence the makings of the George Foster for Frank Duffy and Vern Geishert trade. Duffy did have a decent career with Cleveland eventually. He had a great glove, but he couldn’t hit. Geishert ended up on the proverbial milk carton. Meanwhile, Foster went on to become a vital cog in the Big Red Machine.
In the early 90s, the Boston Red Sox seemed to be headed in the right direction. But they needed a middle reliever. Down in the minors, they had a 3B that the Houston Astros coveted. The Sox had Wade Boggs at 3B, why not trade this minor leaguer? This thinking drove the Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen trade. The Astros converted him to 1B, and now he’s in Cooperstown. In Boston’s defense, Larry Andersen finished the season with a 1.23 ERA. At least they got something besides a Broadway play this time.
In 1992, the Astros and the Phillies each had a pitcher with control problems. Both teams, apparently at wits end, decided to part ways with them. Hence the Curt Schilling for Jason Grimsley trade. Schilling went on to a HOF caliber career, while Grimsley took over the coveted spot on the milk carton with Vern Geishert.
There are many more, these merely stand out to me. Yes, there’s still Pedro Martinez for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas, but we could go all night calling these out. As I said earlier, none of us really knows what lies ahead for these players in any given trade. It’s a crap shoot, no doubt. We have the benefit of hindsight while GMs are risking quite a bit. The trade deadline is fast approaching. Who will make out? Who will drop the ball? Pun intended.