10 biggest trades in Giants history

December 1st, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- Things have a way of evening out, as the Giants' trade history indicates.

At one time, the Giants were known for engineering colossally bad deals. Between 1966-72, they jettisoned two future National League MVP Award winners (Orlando Cepeda and George Foster) and a pair of eventual Cy Young Award recipients (Gaylord Perry and Steve Stone). Suffice it to say that San Francisco didn't get nearly as much value in return.

Sadly, the Giants traded three legends -- Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal -- because owner Horace Stoneham was hemorrhaging money and couldn't afford to pay them

.As years passed, the Giants began to acquire performers who helped the franchise flourish. In fact, in-season swaps proved essential to the World Series titles that San Francisco earned in 2010, '12 and '14.

Here's a look at 10 trades, listed in order of impact, that proved memorable for the Giants:

1. Sabean shows 'em
Giants got from Cleveland: 2B Jeff Kent, SS Jose Vizcaino, RHPs Julian Tavarez and Joe Roa and cash
Giants gave up: 3B Matt Williams and OF Trent Hubbard
Date: Nov. 13, 1996

Giants fans were furious after new general manager Brian Sabean announced his presence by trading the popular Williams, who departed because the club couldn't afford both him and Barry Bonds. Sabean's decision was legitimized as the Giants soared from a last-place NL West finish in 1996 to the division title in '97. Kent complemented Bonds offensively for six solid years, Vizcaino provided steady competence, and Tavarez set a club record with a Major League-high 89 appearances in '97. Williams played seven more seasons and had big years in '97 (32 homers, 105 RBIs) and '99 (35 homers, 142 RBIs) but was average otherwise.

2. Swapping for a slugger
Giants got from Padres: 3B Kevin Mitchell, LHPs Dave Dravecky and Craig Lefferts
Giants gave up: 3B Chris Brown, RHP Mark Grant and LHPs Mark Davis and Keith Comstock
Date: July 5, 1987

Though the Giants already had a decent lineup without Mitchell, his slugging propelled the team to greater heights. Exhibit A: His 47-homer, 125-RBI performance in 1989, when he won the NL MVP Award. He hit 143 of his 234 career homers as a Giant. Lefferts gave San Francisco three solid years in the bullpen (2.88 ERA and 35 saves in 178 appearances). Before becoming known as an inspirational figure, Dravecky finished 7-5 down the stretch in '87 to help San Francisco win the NL West. Davis won the Cy Young with San Diego in '89 (44 saves, 1.85 ERA), but this blockbuster clearly favored the Giants.

3. Vida crosses the Bay
Giants got from A's: LHP Vida Blue
Giants gave up: C Gary Alexander, LHP John Henry Johnson, 1B/OF Gary Thomasson, INF Mario Guerrero, RHPs Dave Heaverlo, Phil Huffman and Alan Wirth and $300,000
Date: March 15, 1978

Talk about quantity for quality. None of the seven players Oakland obtained made a significant difference in the club's fortunes. By contrast, Blue's 18-10 finish helped the Giants contend in the NL West and re-energize the fan base. Attendance soared from 700,056 in 1977 to 1,740,477 in '78 largely due to the momentum Blue generated. He thus proved to be as important off the field as he was on it.

4. Hunting for a title
Giants got from Phillies: OF
Giants gave up: C Tommy Joseph, RHP and OF Nate Schierholtz
Date: July 31, 2012

The Giants explored a trade for Pence in 2011, when they acquired Carlos Beltran at the non-waiver Trade Deadline to bolster the offense. An injury limited Beltran's activity and effectiveness. The Giants had much better luck with Pence, who drove in 45 runs in 59 games despite batting .219 to help San Francisco win the NL West. He had two more productive years and maintained a leadership role through the 2018 season. Joseph and Schierholtz had their moments but couldn't establish themselves as regulars.

5. You must be kidding
Giants got from Reds: INF Frank Duffy and RHP Vern Geishert
Giants gave up: OF George Foster
Date: May 29, 1971
This trade remains inexplicable. The Giants yielded Foster, whose power potential was obvious, for a non-prospect pitcher and a young shortstop -- though rookie Chris Speier had begun entrenching himself at that position for what would be years to come. Duffy (more on him later) appeared in 21 games for the Giants. Geishert never pitched for them. A five-time All-Star, Foster belted 92 homers in 1977-78 and finished his career with 348.

6. McDowell screeches to sudden halt
Giants got from Cleveland: LHP Sam McDowell
Giants gave up: RHP Gaylord Perry, INF Frank Duffy
Date: Nov. 29, 1971

McDowell led the American League in strikeouts five times between 1965-70. The Giants ignored the warning signs in '71, when McDowell's walks-per-nine-innings ratio jumped from 3.9 to 6.4. McDowell finished 11-10 with a 4.36 ERA for the Giants before they sold him to the Yankees early in the '73 season. Meanwhile, Perry won 184 more games while pitching into the 1983 season after leaving the Giants. He apparently wasn't enough to seal the deal with Cleveland, so the Giants threw in ... Duffy, who served as Cleveland's primary shortstop from 1972-77.

7. Lots of fight left in 'Baby Bull'
Giants got from Cardinals: LHP Ray Sadecki
Giants gave up: 1B Orlando Cepeda
Date: May 8, 1966

Cepeda established himself as a fan favorite while winning the 1958 NL Rookie of the Year Award. But the Giants couldn't accommodate both him and McCovey in the lineup because neither could or would play outfield full time. So the Giants, in need of pitching, discarded Cepeda. Giants fans howled when Cepeda won the '67 NL MVP and led St. Louis to a World Series triumph. Sadecki finished 32-39 for the Giants but was more effective than those numbers suggest, as his 3.52 ERA and 12 shutouts in 128 appearances indicate.

8. Giants salute 'White Flag'
Giants got from White Sox: LHP Wilson Alvarez, RHPs Roberto Hernandez and Danny Darwin
Giants gave up: INF Mike Caruso, LHP Ken Vining, RHPs Lorenzo Barcelo, Brian Manning, Keith Foulke and Bob Howry
Date: July 31, 1997

The deal derived its nickname from the simple fact that the White Sox were only 3 1/2 games out of first place on the morning the trade was announced. Alvarez, Hernandez and Darwin provided depth for San Francisco's pitching staff as the club outlasted Los Angeles to win the division title. Foulke and Howry proceeded to have productive big league careers; Barcelo and Caruso also were highly regarded prospects.

9. Completing the core
Giants got from Pirates: LHP Javier Lopez
Giants gave up: 1B/OF John Bowker, RHP Joe Martinez
Date: July 31, 2010

Though they didn't earn the nickname immediately, the Giants' "Core Four" of late-inning relievers became complete when Lopez joined Jeremy Affeldt, and Sergio Romo. Lopez recorded a 1.42 ERA in 27 appearances in the final two months of the 2010 season, then yielded just one hit and one run in 5 2/3 innings spanning nine postseason appearances. He proceeded to give the Giants six more strong seasons. Bowker and Martinez performed sparingly in the Majors after the trade.

10. 'Big Daddy' makes huge difference
Giants got from Pirates: RHP Rick Reuschel
Giants gave up: RHPs Jeff Robinson and Scott Medvin
Date: Aug. 21, 1987

In one of the franchise's best stretch-drive deals, the Giants picked up Reuschel, who went 5-3 in nine appearances (eight starts) to further their successful bid for the NL West title. Reuschel won 36 games in the next two seasons, figuring heavily in the Giants' march to a World Series appearance in 1989. Robinson remained a serviceable reliever through 1992, while Medvin's big league career ended in 1990.