Worst Trades last Twenty Years

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.

Klub and MadBum

The title to this blog would make for a great CBS sitcom.  I could see the commercials now, an odd couple of sorts changing cities in order to change their lives…maybe for the better?  Madison Bumgarner and Corey Kluber are two potential aces that have switched teams in the offseason. The theme of the 2019 Winter meeting seems to center around pitching.  With Strasburg and Cole signing massive contracts they have overshadowed the mometus moves by both the Diamondbacks and Rangers in order to bolster their staffs. The question I have is who really made the better move??

Bumgarner helps in more ways than one.

The Diamondbacks agreed to a five-year $85 million contract over the weekend.  Bumgarner will join a rotation that features Merrill Kelly, Luke Weaver, Mike Leake, Zac Gallen, Alex Young and Robbie Ray.  With Madbum that makes for seven names for five spots. MLB trade rumors is suggesting that the pickup of Bumgarner means that Robbie Ray will be on his way out in Arizona.  If that happens, did the Diamondbacks really improve themselves? Surprisingly to most Bumgarner just turned 30 years old in August, a five year deal will not have him pitching into the twilight of his career. Bumgarner’s 3.2 WAR immediately puts him at the top of the starting pitchers for the D-Backs.  

Rotation WAR

Robbie Ray 2.0

Luke Weaver 1.8

Merrill Kelly 1.5

Zac Gallen .8

Alex Young .4

The Diamondbacks now have a proven starter at the top of their rotation. They addition of Bumgarner makes the trade market for Robbie Ray a lot better.   The impending free agent has the upside to miss bats that most contending teams are going to want to acquire. Arizona has pitching depth in the minor league system so moving Ray with the addition of Bumgarner will allow Arizona to get the depth the need at first base or the outfield.  The signing of Bumgarner has opened up the possibilities for Arizona, they improved their #1 starter and opened up the market for to continue improving their roster.  

Rangers get an Ace

The Texas Rangers have made their counter move in the stacked AL West adding former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber for basically some guys on a spreadsheet.  This deal seemed like a recreation of the Moneyball scene where Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt just threw out a few names to pick up a reliever.  

The Cleveland Indians picked up Delino Deshields Jr. and Emmanuel Clase. Clase is the player that brings the most interest in this trade. Clase is a 21 years old and possesses potential dominant stuff including a 100 MPH cutter.  Clase projects as a future relief option for the Indians. He still has only reached the High A level but immediately jumps into the top 30 prospect list for Cleveland. 

Now let’s talk about what the Rangers got in Corey Kluber.  The Rangers had starting pitching issues all season in 2019 and they were set on reworking their rotation.  Kluber has become the marquee name along with Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson. Those three will join Mike Minor and Lance Lynn making a rotation that can immediately make an impact in the loaded AL West. Kluber is coming off a lost season, dealing with multiple stints on the injured list but the upside he brings is well worth what is ultimate cost was.  While the Indians found him expendable the Rangers have a chance to push themselves into the playoff hunt with a healthy new ace of the staff. We tend to forget that 2018 Kluber won 20 games and added a 5.5WAR.  

Who did better?

Arizona and Texas both have tough divisions to deal with.  The NL West is still the Dodgers and the AL West is still the Astros until further notice.  Both teams were able to add impact starters for little cost. I am going to call Diamondbacks the winner of these two trades  Bumgarner allows the flexibilty to fill in any and all needs they may have. Kluber is a huge move for the Rangers but they still have a lot of work to do to contend for even a wild card spot in the American League.  If the D-Backs decide to hold on to Ray or move Ray they should have the rotational pieces that will make them a force to contend with in the National League.