10 biggest trades in Guardians history

December 1st, 2021

The Guardians have more than a century's worth of history, making for a long list of crucial transactions throughout the franchise's annals. Trades, in particular, have been prevalent for Cleveland and critical to the clubs that piled up wins and contended for a championship.

There are so many important swaps to pick from that narrowing things down to the 10 best trades in team history is a daunting task. Larry Doby for Tito Francona, the Kenny Lofton-David Justice swap and Shoeless Joe Jackson's arrival are among the many significant trades to miss the cut.

Here are our Top 10 trades in Cleveland history:

1. The trade

Guardians got from Expos: LHP Cliff Lee, INF , OF Grady Sizemore and 1B Lee Stevens
Guardians gave up: RHP Colon, RHP Tim Drew
Date: June 27, 2002

This is arguably one of the most famous deals in baseball history -- not just Cleveland history. Lee went on to become a Cy Young Award winner with the organization, while Sizemore blossomed into a generational talent whose career was shortened by injuries. Phillips also had a strong MLB career, though mostly with the Reds. Colon, well, he kept pitching and pitching and pitching in a remarkable career that spanned more than two decades.

2. Alomar and Baerga arrive

Guardians got from Padres: C Sandy Alomar Jr., 2B Carlos Baerga, OF Chris James
Guardians gave up: OF Joe Carter
Date: Dec. 6, 1989

The '90s were the golden age of baseball in Cleveland. There was a new ballpark, piles of division crowns and a pair of trips to the World Series. This trade in '89 was integral in adding two core pieces to the organization's All-Star-laden lineup. Baerga made three All-Star teams with Cleveland, while Alomar became a force behind the plate in what would become a 20-year career. Carter fizzled with San Diego, but saw his career rebound with the Blue Jays.

3. The Grey Eagle lands

Guardians got from Red Sox: OF Tris Speaker
Guardians gave up: RHP Sad Sam Jones, INF Fred Thomas
Date: April 9, 1916

Speaker was already a star after nine seasons and a pair of World Series titles with the Red Sox. He then spent 11 years with Cleveland, where he became one of the greatest players in franchise history. His stay with the organization included being part of the club's 1920 World Series title. Speaker churned out 1,965 of his 3,514 career hits with Cleveland.

4. The CC deal

Guardians got from Brewers: OF , RHP Rob Bryson, LHP Zach Jackson, 1B Matt LaPorta
Guardians gave up: LHP
Date: July 7, 2008

Cleveland hit the reset button after its 2007 run fell short and the '08 campaign got off to a rough start. That meant parting ways with Sabathia, who was the reigning American League Cy Young winner and was nearing free agency. LaPorta was the focal point of the return package, but he did not pan out as planned. Instead, it was the player to be named later -- Brantley -- who went on to become a multi-year All-Star and franchise cornerstone. Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA down the stretch for the Brewers, helping them reach the playoffs. The big lefty then hit pay dirt with the Yankees that offseason.

5. The Cliff Lee trade

Guardians got from Phillies: RHP , INF Jason Donald, RHP Jason Knapp, C Lou Marson
Guardians gave up: OF , LHP Lee
Date: July 29, 2009

One year after the Sabathia trade, Cleveland dealt away another reigning AL Cy Young winner in Lee. Carrasco came to Cleveland as a young pitching prospect as part of the trade and went on to become one of the most overpowering arms in team history. Lee pitched outstanding for Philadelphia in the '09 World Series, but the Yankees took home the crown. The lefty would pitch five more seasons in the Majors, retiring with four All-Star appearances and three top-four Cy Young finishes.

6. Farewell to Lindor, Carrasco

Guardians got from Mets: INF Amed Rosario, INF Andrés Giménez, RHP Josh Wolf, OF Isaiah Greene
Guardians gave up: SS Francisco Lindor, RHP Carlos Carrasco
Date: Jan. 7, 2021

With Lindor on pace for free agency after the ’21 season and no contract extension in the works, Cleveland made the franchise-altering decision to deal the superstar shortstop to the Mets. The part of the trade that was more unexpected was the inclusion of Carrasco – a staple on the pitching staff for 11 years. Lindor and Carrasco were a part of the core group that led Cleveland to the World Series in ’16, but they could not bring a title to the championship-starved city. Carrasco exited with the fourth-most strikeouts (1,305) in team history and left as a fan favorite, especially following his inspirational comeback from a leukemia diagnosis in 2019. Lindor (selected eighth overall in the 2011 MLB Draft) won two Gold Gloves, made four All-Star teams and will go down as one of the great talents in franchise history.

7. Acquiring Kluber

Guardians gave up: RHP Jake Westbrook (Cardinals)
Padres gave up: RHP (Guardians), LHP Nick Greenwood (Cardinals)
Cardinals gave up: OF Ryan Ludwick (Padres)
Date: July 31, 2010

This trade did not steal headlines like the Sabathia and Lee trades did in each of the previous two seasons. That said, it was arguably more important to Cleveland's forward progress. The organization dealt away Westbrook and netted an unheralded pitching prospect in Kluber. In the Cleveland farm system, Kluber worked on retooling his pitch arsenal, which fueled an unexpected rise to the top of the rotation. Kluber developed into one of baseball's best arms, winning the AL Cy Young Award in '14 and '17 along the way, and headed a historically great rotation.

8. Miller Time

Guardians got from Yankees: LHP
Guardians gave up: RHP , OF , RHP , LHP
Date: July 31, 2016

Cleveland shocked the baseball world when it parted with two top-shelf prospects (Frazier and Sheffield) as part of a blockbuster deal to land Miller. The lefty was a force out of the bullpen in '16, earning MVP honors for his work in the AL Championship Series against Toronto and nearly helping Cleveland to a World Series crown that October. The rest of Miller's tenure with the club was marred by injuries, but this deal paid off in the form of a memorable Fall Classic run.

9. So long, Rock

Guardians got from Tigers: OF Harvey Kuenn
Guardians gave up: OF Rocky Colavito
Date: April 17, 1960

Cleveland fans of a certain age might be able to tell you where they were when the team traded away The Rock. Not only did Colavito have a blue-collar name working for him, he wielded a powerful bat that quickly added his name to team lore. The Rock smacked 42 homers in 1959 and walloped four homers in a single game on June 10 that summer. So, it was painful for many Cleveland fans to see him dealt to rival Detroit. Kuenn was an All-Star in '60, but that wound up being his lone season in Cleveland. Colavito had a homecoming with the organization in '65-67, but the sting of the initial trade still lingered.

10. Bauer Outage

Guardians gave up: 1B (D-backs), LHP (D-backs), OF (Reds), INF Donald (Reds)
D-backs gave up: RHP Matt Albers (Guardians), RHP (Guardians), RHP (Guardians)
Reds gave up: SS Didi Gregorius (D-backs), OF Drew Stubbs (Guardians)
Date: Dec. 11, 2012

All was quiet for Cleveland during the 2012 Winter Meetings, but it was soon revealed that there was plenty of action happening behind the scenes. A few days after the Meetings ended, the Guardians , Reds and D-backs announced a nine-player deal. For Cleveland, the biggest additions were Bauer (who developed into a front-line starter for the club) and Shaw (one of the most durable late-inning arms in team history). Both were important pieces in a run of multiple division titles for the organization.

10a. Bauer Outage Pt. 2

Guardians gave up: RHP Trevor Bauer (Reds), LHP Scott Moss (Reds)
Reds gave up: OF Taylor Tramel (Padres), Yasiel Puig (Guardians)
Padres gave up: OF Franmil Reyes (Guardians), LHP Logan Allen (Guardians), 3B Victor Nova (Guardians)
Date: July 31, 2019

The Guardians, Padres and Reds executed a three-team deal as Cleveland received a huge package for the Bauer. The trade doesn’t go as a rebuild for Cleveland, but a re-tooling of the roster as the club added two potent bats to the middle of the lineup in Puig and Reyes, in addition to adding Top 100 prospect in Allen (No. 98), who could slot into the spot vacated by Bauer.