On a Blockbuster Trade

There’s certain names that you only have to mention to make fans of a particular franchise shudder, names forever associated with a trade that went horribly awry.

For the Tigers, that’s Doyle Alexander, a veteran pitcher who the ’87 team just had to have in time for the stretch run. In the short term, the trade worked out great for Detroit: Alexander was more or less unhittable in his eleven starts. The Tigers won the AL East by a mere two games over second-place Toronto, and that acquisition may have made all the difference.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, the prospect they gave up was future Hall of Famer John Smoltz.

A similar fate befell the Red Sox three years later when they acquired veteran reliever Larry Andersen for the stretch run. Andersen gave the Sox 22 great innings, and like the Tigers, they won their division. The trouble is that they gave up one of the greatest first basemen of all time, Jeff Bagwell, to get those 22 innings. Whoops.

In fairness, it’s tough to make good on a trade when you happen to get traded for a Hall of Famer. That’s the unfortunate story of Delino DeShields, a very good second baseman for the Expos who found himself dealt to Los Angeles in the 1993 offseason for a talented but unproven young arm.

DeShields went on to have a very solid 13-year major league career. That young pitcher went on to be Pedro Martinez.

Finally, to pick on Seattle a third time, there’s the Mariners’ infamous swap of 1997. They dealt two young players to the Red Sox for veteran reliever Heathcliff Slocumb, who was under contract through the end of 1998. Slocumb gave the Mariners about 100 innings, most of them ‘eh’ or worse. The Red Sox, on the other hand, acquired two future All-Stars in Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe.

Of those four trades, I’d say only the Alexander/Smoltz deal could be described as a win for both sides, as the Tigers got a key contributor in the short term and the Braves got a rotation stalwart for the long haul. Every other one – and there are dozens more like them – turned out to be a big loss for the win-now team.

It’s rare in the extreme for this sort of blockbuster to really help both teams. This particular trade, though, might be the exception.


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