At times, it can seem like every single trade possibility is floated as a rumor during Hot Stove season, yet MLB has the capacity for a deal almost no one saw coming.That took place Saturday, when tens of millions of dollars changed hands as the Braves sent outfielder Matt Kemp
At times, it can seem like every single trade possibility is floated as a rumor during Hot Stove season, yet MLB has the capacity for a deal almost no one saw coming.
That took place Saturday, when tens of millions of dollars changed hands as the Braves sent outfielder Matt Kemp to the Dodgers in exchange for pitchers Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, infielder Charlie Culberson and cash. The trade included brand names, former MVP finalists and All-Stars, and could set up both franchises for bright futures.
Saturday's blockbuster seemingly came out of nowhere, but it's far from the first major trade that shocked the baseball landscape. Below is a look at some of the most unexpected or surprising trades in MLB history, from megadeals packed with stars to others that still leave fans shaking their heads in disbelief.
Aug. 25, 2012: Red Sox trade Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to Dodgers
We'll start with another A-Gon trade. This was also something of a shocker, mainly because of the sheer size of the blockbuster. With the Dodgers' new ownership group hungry to make the team a powerhouse again, Los Angeles got Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett (and Nick Punto) in a mammoth trade with the Red Sox. What's almost as shocking is the teams made this happen in August, with the non-waiver Trade Deadline having already passed. The Los Angeles Times called Gonzalez's acquisition "a stunning development" and an "unexpected coup."
This trade was the biggest move in a year in which the Dodgers had already traded for Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins and Shane Victorino from the Phillies, extended Andre Ethier's contract and signed Yasiel Puig. In an interesting coincidence, Gonzalez would bat directly behind none other than Kemp in his first game as a Dodger. Oh, and he also crushed a three-run homer in his first Dodgers at-bat.
Said Ethier after the trade: "You just chuckle inside and laugh. To see what we were faced with last year at this time and to see where we started the season, it's kind of funny. They told me this is a place you want to be. I knew that already, but they reassured me. They said they'd do whatever it takes to win, and they're definitely proving that now."
July 23, 2012: Mariners trade Ichiro to Yankees
It seemed like Ichiro Suzuki would be a Mariner for life. He had spent more than a decade in Seattle after coming to the Majors from Japan, amassing 10 All-Star nods, 10 Gold Gloves, seven MLB hits titles, two AL batting titles, a Rookie of the Year Award and an MVP Award. But during the 2012 season, with the young Mariners in a rebuilding phase, Ichiro quietly requested that the team consider trading him. The Mariners complied, sending the 38-year-old franchise icon and fan favorite to the Yankees -- while the two teams were playing each other in Seattle. In his first at-bat as a Yankee, the crowd at Safeco Field gave him a standing ovation.
In his interview with the media after the trade, Ichiro spoke emotionally about the support he had received since first joining the Mariners, and said he was "overcome with sadness" that he would no longer be donning their uniform. Yankees captain Derek Jeter, meanwhile, said the trade was "unexpected, sort of out of the blue," and that "getting someone like [Ichiro] is unbelievable."
July 31, 2004: Red Sox trade Nomar Garciaparra to Cubs in four-team deal
Garciaparra was a bona fide Boston icon after he'd claimed the 1997 American League Rookie of the Year Award and a pair of batting titles for the Red Sox. But Garciaparra was unhappy with the club after they nearly replaced him with Alex Rodriguez the previous winter, and he'd missed the first 57 games of the 2004 season due to an injured Achilles tendon. Boston's then-general manager Theo Epstein saw an opportunity to upgrade the Red Sox's infield defense, and he ended up getting two Gold Glovers -- Expos shortstop Orlando Cabrera and Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz -- in return.
"He was the face of the Red Sox, a superstar in the mold of the legendary Ted Williams," proclaimed Bob Hohler of the Boston Globe, who deemed it "one of the most momentous trades" in the history of the franchise. Nomar's departure sent shockwaves through New England, but the Sox went 42-18 after the trade. Cabrera smacked a key double in that year's AL Division Series, and Mientkiewicz caught the final out of Boston's first World Series championship in 86 years.
Feb. 16, 2004: Rangers trade Rodriguez and cash to Yankees for Alfonso Soriano (and Joaquin Arias)
A deal was in place. Rodriguez was set to go to the Red Sox, while Manny Ramirez would go to the Rangers and Garciaparra to the White Sox. But because A-Rod was going to take a pay cut as part of the deal, the MLBPA stepped in, fearful it might set a bad precedent for players' negotiating rights in the future. That's when Yankees GM Brian Cashman saw an opportunity and sent Soriano, his star second baseman to Texas to get A-Rod. The last-minute switch-up poured energy into the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry that would define the rest of the decade.
"It's tough to come up with the words to describe how you feel when a player of Alex's ability and class is so suddenly in your lineup," said manager Joe Torre at the time. "I know that the fans of New York are going to love having him here on an everyday basis. I couldn't be happier."
In the end, Rodriguez might have never been able to live up to the expectations of the Yankees faithful. But he did earn a pair of MVP Awards while clubbing 351 homers in pinstripes and helping New York win the 2009 World Series. The Rangers got two productive seasons from Soriano, along with a lot of welcome salary relief.
May 14, 1998: Dodgers trade Mike Piazza (and Todd Zeile) to Marlins; Marlins trade Piazza to Mets eight days later
By 1998, Piazza was a star catcher riding a stretch of five straight All-Star, Silver Slugger seasons in Los Angeles. He had finished as the runner-up for NL MVP the last two years and had placed in the top 10 of voting for the last five. But just more than a month into the season, after some uncertainty about whether or not Los Angeles could persuade Piazza to sign a contract extension, the Dodgers sent him to the Marlins for a package of players led by Gary Sheffield.
"News of the deal stunned players and fans. Piazza has been among the most popular players in franchise history," the L.A. Times wrote. The paper called the trade "a shocking move that slams the door on the [Peter] O'Malley era of Dodger baseball." (O'Malley had just sold the team.)
The Marlins were not expected to hold on to Piazza, and indeed traded him to the Mets on May 22, part of their full-scale rebuild following their 1997 World Series win. Piazza would go on to become a six-time All-Star in New York and reach his lone World Series in 2000.
March 25, 1997: Braves trade Marquis Grissom and David Justice to Indians for Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree
Opening Day was just a week away when these two powerhouse teams of the 1990s pulled off a stunner. Lofton was entering his final year before free agency, and the Tribe were determined to get a return for him after watching Albert Belle sign with the White Sox as a free agent earlier that offseason. Indians GM John Hart and Braves GM John Schuerholz pondered this trade all winter, but they kept it under wraps before finally pulling the trigger at the close of Spring Training.
"Shocked is a good word," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said at the time. "Everyone in the back of their minds thought Justice might be traded. We didn't think about Marquis. Everyone is sort of bummed."
Lofton was an All-Star for the Braves in 1997, but he ended up re-signing with the Indians after the season. Justice hit .329 with 33 homers and 101 RBIs, and Grissom brought his stellar defense to center field, spurring the Tribe to the 1997 World Series. Grissom was traded that winter and Justice was dealt to the Yankees in 2000, making this trade a sort of "flash in the pan" for both clubs.
Dec. 5, 1990: Padres trade Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter to Blue Jays for Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff
This was a deal that helped turn the Blue Jays into a powerhouse, and it helped both Alomar and GM Pat Gillick get to Cooperstown. It featured four stud players changing sides: Alomar was a rising second baseman with plenty of speed; Carter was a consistent 100-RBI hitter; McGriff had already captured a home run title; and Fernandez was a three-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner.
"You can debate that one for hours and hours, who got the better of it," Joe McIlvaine, the Padres' GM at the time, told the New York Times. "It might be as big a baseball trade as there's been, in retrospect, when you think about trading four All-Stars."
Gillick faced a lot of backlash at home -- literally. His wife, Doris, was a big fan of McGriff, and according to the New York Times, when he called her from the Winter Meetings to tell her about the trade, she said: "Will you get home before you screw up the team any further?"
McGriff continued to star in San Diego, but the Blue Jays likely wouldn't have won back-to-back World Series without Alomar and Carter. All four players involved eventually made it on to the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, with Alomar inducted in 2011.
Dec. 10, 1984: Expos trade Gary Carter to Mets
Carter was among the game's biggest stars in 1984, but the fifth-place Expos had lost roughly $3 million that year alone. New York was in the market for a power hitter and a backup catcher, and ended up landing the NL's premier backstop still in his prime.
"One of the reasons I didn't veto this trade was that I'm aware of the fine nucleus the Mets have," said Carter at the time. "I feel I can do my part to help them win a championship."
The NL East rivals agreed to the trade -- the Mets gave up four players to get Carter -- on the last day of the Winter Meetings then finalized it in secrecy over the weekend. Carter came through for the Mets, becoming the heart and soul of the 1986 World Series champions.
June 15, 1977: Mets trade Tom Seaver to Reds
They call it the Midnight Massacre. On June 15, 1977, embroiled in a dispute with Mets chairman M. Donald Grant, Seaver was traded to the Reds for Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson and Dan Norman. It was the most devastating of several deals the Mets would swing before the midnight Trade Deadline, which also included sending Dave Kingman to the Padres. Seaver's nickname was "The Franchise," and he had led the 1969 Miracle Mets to the team's first World Series title and helped them reach Game 7 of the 1973 Fall Classic. He had won three Cy Young Awards, made 10 All-Star teams and was a future Hall of Famer. He was beloved by New York fans. And suddenly, he was in another team's uniform.
The Seaver trade made the front page of The New York Times. In the sports section, under the headline "The Unthinkable Occurs: 'The Franchise' Traded," Joseph Durso took the Mets to task: "It was one thing to trade away stars like Nolan Ryan, Amos Otis and Rusty Staub; to dismiss Yogi Berra, to get into a public quarrel with Willie Mays. But it was unthinkable to trade Tom Terrific, who had arrived in 1967 when the Mets were always finishing in last place and who led their climb to respectability and to the 'impossible dream.'"
Dec. 9, 1965: Reds trade Frank Robinson to Orioles
It's hard to imagine another trade in history working out more immediately for one side -- or vice versa in Cincinnati's case. Reds president and owner Bill Dewitt famously deemed Robinson to be "not a young 30" and dealt him to Baltimore for Orioles ace Milt Pappas, along with pitcher Jack Baldschun and outfielder Dick Simpson.
"Cincinnati Reds' president Bill DeWitt tossed a bombshell into baseball circles Thursday by trading superstar Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles," wrote the Cincinnati Enquirer. As it turns out, Robinson had plenty left in the tank. The right fielder paced the AL in runs, homers and RBIs in capturing the 1966 MVP, making him the first -- and still only -- player to capture MVP honors in both leagues.
The Orioles upset the Dodgers in that year's World Series, and Hall of Famer Robinson went on to record five more stellar seasons in Baltimore. The Reds traded Pappas to the Braves two and a half years after they let go of Robinson.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.