On December 26th 1919 the Boston Red Sox traded sold the rights to Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. Thus began one of the longest and most miserable championship droughts in the history of any organization. In honor of this and the coming of a new year, I wanted to talk about some of the worst trades over the last twenty years. I am going to try and pick one from each sport. These will be trades, not free agent signings and most will be bad but maybe not the worst on all lists. I would also like to note that these trades won’t have the impact of Babe Ruth to the Yankees but what really would?
NBA: OKC ships James Harden to the Rockets
Fresh off a Sixth Man of the Year award James Harden was entering the 2012-2013 season with high hopes for himself and his team built around young stars. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Harden were going to be the core of a future championship team. Unfortunately management saw the writing on the wall. They knew resigning all four players was not realistic to a smaller market team. While the Thunder did reportedly offer Harden a contract worth about $55 million it was never signed and the team decided to move on.
They trade Harden and a handful of players that names are worth typing for Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin and two draft picks (one became Steven Adams). At the time this seemed like a decent return for a player that had primarily played a bench role, they were soon to find out that it may have taken a future championship away from OKC. Harden developed into the MVP, multi-time All-Star and franchise player Rockets GM Darryl Morey thought he saw while no players outside of Adams are active for the Thunder. Anyone and everyone will always question what could have been if Westbrook, Durant and Harden had stayed together. We will never know.
Honorable Mention: Brooklyn Nets trade everything for KG and Paul Pierce
MLB: Indians steal Corey Kluber from Padres
In 2010 the St. Louis Cardinals were in need of a proven starter. The San Diego Padres were looking for a power bat. The Cleveland Indians started the season 30-47 and were looking to unload some veterans to bring in prospects. This culminated in St. Louis getting veteran Jake Westbrook, the Padres getting slugger Ryan Ludwick and the Indians acquiring a 24-year old rightie in Double-A named Corey Kluber.
Kluber was a bit older for a pitcher in Double-A but possessed strikeout potential. The Indians projected him as a potential middle of the rotation innings eater down the line. The Padres and Indians had little idea that Kluber would discover a pitch that would end up changing his career. Kluber was none for a low 90’s fastball and trouble with command, until he found the sinker. Becoming a mainstay in the rotation in 2013 Kluber would go on to win 98 games in total for the indians over his 8 full seasons including three All-Star appearances and two Cy Young Awards.
The Cardinals and Padres got what they needed out of the veteran pickups but neither would be near the impact of Corey Kluber, sometimes things just workout.
Honorable Mention: Cubs trade Josh Donaldson (2008)
NFL: Raiders trade Randy Moss to Patriots
Randy Moss as a Raider seemed like it would make sense. Until it didn’t. The Raiders picked up the troubled wide receiver in hopes that they would be able to give a premier target to their young quarterbacks. Two years and mediocre production along with some other issues, forced the Raiders to move on from Moss. In 2007, the Raiders found a suitor, the New England Patriots. The Patriots traded a fourth round selection for the future hall of famer.
The Patriots had already established themselves as top of the league organization but had not really shown the offensive force that most dynasties had. The combination of Tom Brady and Randy Moss was almost unfair to the league. Their first season together the Patriots raddled off 18 straight victories before being upset in the Super Bowl by David Tyree’s helmet. Still the combination was lethal almost immediately. Moss, was reenergized by the move to New England. His 2007 season was something you would see when you play easy mode on Madden football, 98 catches, 1493 yards and 23 touchdowns. That is not a typo. Randy Moss had 23 touchdowns in 2007! Moss would go on to have three stellar seasons with the Patriots while the Raiders would fall on hard times trying to replace the weapon they had basically handed away.
Honorable Mention: Bills trade Marshawn Lynch (2010)
NHL: Bruins trade Joe Thornton to Sharks
In 2005 the Bruins started slowly. Before the lockout of the previous year they had exited the playoffs in the first round three consecutive seasons. They decided to shake things up. The decision was made to move their star Joe Thornton to the San Jose Sharks for a few afterthoughts and some players I guess.
Thornton went on to continue a hall of fame career in San Jose, currently leading the franchise in most offensive categories. The Sharks may have not gotten the championship they were looking for in picking Thornton but they did become a force in the NHL for years to come. The Bruins floundered for a bit but in the long run they were ok. Still when you trade a star in their prime you have to get something in return….they didn’t.