I personally think the MLB trading deadline is an over-hyped and overblown, thanks to cable TV and the Internet. Let’s face it, it makes good television and Social Media fodder, but how many deals have actually helped a team win the World Series? Some, but not many. And how many so-called prospects on the other end have turned into big time superstars? So, with a nod and a tip of the cap to the Royals landing Johnny Cueto last season, here are the worst blunders at (or near) the MLB trading deadline.
5.) 1987: Tigers trade John Smoltz to the Braves for Doyle Alexander
What most don’t remember is that Alexander became a very good pitcher, in spite of his brief time with the Tigers. He was 11-0 that season after the trade and helped Detroit to the AL East title, only to lose to the eventual World Champion Minnesota Twins. The flip side is that Hall of Famer John Smoltz became one of the best pitchers, starter or reliever, of the next two decades. Alexander played only two more seasons with Detroit and retired after losing 18 games in 1989.
4.) 1997: Mariners trade Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe to the Red Sox for Heathcliff Slocumb
Lowe had a fine eight year career with the Red Sox as a closer (saving 42 games in 2000) and as a starter (winning 21 games in 2002). He also enjoyed success with the Dodgers and Braves. Varitek went on to be the leader of Boston with 18 homers and a .296 average in that now-magical year of 2004 when the “Curse of the Bambino” ended. He hit 17 homers with a .255 average when the Red Sox swept the Rockies to win another World Series title. On the other hand, Slocumb, who saved 32 games for the Phillies in 1995 and 31 games for Boston a year later, pitched for two years in Seattle with a total of 13 saves and an ERA of plus four.
3.) 1995 Blue Jays trade David Cone to the Yankees for pitchers Mike Gordon, Marty Janzen and Jason Jarvis
Cone became a key member of the Yankees dynasty of the ’90s. He won 20 games in the team’s dominate 1998 season, won 64 games for New York during the next six years, was an American League All Star twice and pitched a perfect game in 1999. Of the three traded to the Blue Jays, only Janzen (a Gainesville, Georgia product) made it to the major leagues. He was 6-7 with a 6.39 ERA in his two seasons in Toronto.
2.) Padres trade Fred McGriff to the Braves for Melvin Nieves, Vince Moore and Donnie Elliott
It’s hard to imagine where the Braves would have been without “Crime Dog.” He hit 130 homers in five seasons with Atlanta, including 27 during the World Series championship season of 1995. On the other end, Donnie Elliott was gone from baseball after only two years and 35 innings with Padres. Vince Moore never got out of Double-A. Melvin Nieves played a total of seven years in the majors, 1998 being his last. He later toiled in the minors, in Japan and in Mexico.
1.) Cubs trade Lou Brock to the Cardinals for Ernie Broglio
This one is pretty much a lock for number one, and has been for years. Broglio was a very good pitcher for the Cardinals. He won 21 games in 1960 and another 18 in 1963. Lou Brock? Well, the Cubs didn’t think he ran the bases too well. The rest is history. Brock became an eight times NL stolen base leader! The 1964 Cardinals won the National pennant when the Phillies took the now-famous nose dive at the end of the season. With Brock batting .348 for the Cardinals that season, St. Louis went on to win the World Series in seven games over the Yankees. Of course, Brock’s numbers were incredible: 938 stolen bases including 118 in 1974 at the ripe old age of 35. He batted over .300 eight times for St. Louis, including his final year, 1979. Brock was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985.
As we approach the non-waiver trade deadline on August 1, some other knucklehead moves may be on the way. Who knows, maybe this year Melvin Upton, Jr. going to the Blue Jays or Aroldis Chapman becoming a Cub will be flops. Regardless, rest assured the coverage surrounding the deals at the deadline will always be bigger than the deals themselves.