The longest active trade droughts in MLB

April 6th, 2020

With 30 Major League teams, there are hundreds of possible combinations of trade partners, and every one has come to fruition at least once since MLB expanded to 30 teams for the 1998 season.

But some of these pairings are much rarer than others, and many haven’t been seen for a decade or longer. In fact, Baseball Reference’s franchise trade history tool provides a way to see each team’s most long-lost trade partner.

For nearly half the teams (14), their most extensive active drought is with either a current division opponent or a team that shares the same market, perhaps suggesting a reticence to deal with a club that could frequently remind them of a mistake. Others are more surprising, though whether they’re due to front-office dynamics -- in some cases overlapping multiple regimes -- or simple chance, it’s difficult to say.

Are some teams more difficult to deal with, less inclined to trade or more choosy about their partners? Perhaps. The Cardinals are the longest-running blank spot for five different franchises, and the Nationals for four, although one of those droughts stretches all the way back to the franchise's past as the Expos.

Here is a look at which trade partner has eluded each of the 30 clubs for the longest, working up toward the longest active drought. Each is listed with the date and details of the last swap between the two parties.

Blue Jays: Braves (May 31, 2016)
Acquired Jason Grilli and cash for Sean Ratcliffe

Talk about working the room. Ross Atkins took over as the Blue Jays’ executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager in December 2015, and in barely more than four years since then, he has already hashed out a deal with each of his counterparts across MLB.

Yankees: Mets (Dec. 14, 2014)
Acquired González Germen for cash

This was general manager Brian Cashman’s first deal with his team’s Subway Series foe in 10 years, having acquired pitcher Mike Stanton in December 2004. It didn’t amount to much, as Germen was designated for assignment less than a month later and traded to Texas.

Rangers: Nationals (Dec. 12, 2014)
Acquired Ross Detwiler for Christopher Bostick and Abel De Los Santos

It’s fair to say this one didn’t make nearly as much of a splash as the first trade between these two clubs after the Nats relocated to Washington. That one, in December 2005, sent Alfonso Soriano to D.C. just in time for him to post a rare 40-40 season.

Angels: Mariners (Dec. 19, 2012)
Acquired Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales

This intra-division challenge trade was the first between the American League West rivals since 1996 and just the fourth since Seattle debuted in 1977.

Marlins: Rockies (Aug. 6, 2011)
Acquired Alfredo Amezaga for Jesus Merchan

These 1993 expansion clubs have made a few significant deals in the past. The first, before the 1997 Trade Deadline, sent rookie Craig Counsell to Florida, where he famously scored the walk-off run in Game 7 of the World Series that fall.

D-backs: Nationals (July 30, 2011)
Acquired Jason Marquis for Zach Walters

The 2011 D-backs surged in August and September to win the National League West, but it was not because they picked up Marquis. The veteran right-hander had a 9.53 ERA in three starts, went on the injured list and never pitched for Arizona again.

Rays: Cubs (Jan. 8, 2011)
Acquired Chris Archer, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld, Brandon Guyer and Hak-Ju Lee for Matt Garza, Fernando Perez and Zac Rosscup

The Rays still haven’t completed a deal with Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein’s front office. This one was made with then-general manager Jim Hendry, who proclaimed it “a great trade for the present and the future.” Garza was solid for the Cubs in 2011, but the deal paid much greater dividends for Tampa Bay, which is still benefiting today, having flipped Archer to Pittsburgh for another big package. Hendry was dismissed that summer, paving the way for Epstein’s arrival.

Mariners: Astros (June 22, 2010)
Sent Tommy Everidge to Houston for future considerations

As hard as it is to believe given his frenetic pace, Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto has not yet made a trade with four teams in his current post, which he has occupied since September 2015. Also missing from the ledger are the Angels (his previous employer), Rockies and Tigers.

Padres: Tigers (Dec. 21, 2009)
Acquired Dusty Ryan for cash

What, no love for an old World Series opponent (1984)?

Red Sox: Reds (Aug. 14, 2009)
Acquired Álex González and cash for Kristopher Negrón

Note: This is not shortstop Alex S. Gonzalez, who played from 1994-2006 and started for the Cubs in the 2003 NL Championship Series. This is shortstop Álex González, who played from 1998-2014 and started for the Marlins in the 2003 NLCS.

White Sox: Mets (May 30, 2009)
Acquired Ramón Castro and cash for Lance Broadway

A pitcher named Broadway going to New York? Unfortunately, there wasn’t much opportunity for the back-page editors to flex their muscles, as the 2005 first-round Draft pick lasted just eight games with the Mets, his final games in the Majors.

A’s: Phillies (July 17, 2008)
Acquired Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman and Matthew Spencer for Joe Blanton

This move was integral to the Phillies' 2008 World Series championship run, as Blanton was solid down the stretch and the club won all three of his postseason starts, in which he posted a 3.18 ERA.

Giants: Dodgers (Aug. 9, 2007)
Acquired player to be named later (Travis Denker) for Mark Sweeney

In 1956, when these two franchises were still in New York, the Dodgers traded Jackie Robinson to the Giants, only to have Robinson retire rather than report to his new club, and the deal was voided. The arch-rivals soon moved west, but in the decades since, they have come together for only three trades, in 1968, '85 and finally, 2007. This last one was quite minor, with Sweeney, a veteran pinch-hitter, getting 21 hits in a Dodgers uniform over the next two seasons.

Cubs: Cardinals (July 4, 2007)
Acquired John Nelson for future considerations

Believe it or not, the Cubs have made more trades with their bitter NL Central rival (74) than any other franchise, though of course much of that is due to their long shared history. Only three of those have occurred since 1981, and this most recent one barely registered, as Nelson, who got into eight games with the 2006 Cards, never played in Chicago. Brock-for-Broglio this was not.

Astros: Nationals (March 26, 2007)
Acquired Danny Ardoin for Wade Robinson

The only trade between these 2019 World Series opponents and Spring Training neighbors -- since the Washington franchise moved from Montreal -- involved players who never suited up for either big league club.

Mets: Cardinals (June 23, 2006)
Acquired Rich Rundles for future considerations

This came roughly four months before a rather memorable postseason encounter between these teams.

Reds: Cardinals (April 21, 2006)
Sent Timo Pérez in exchange for cash

Cincinnati has made only four of its 98 all-time trades with St. Louis in the 26 years since the teams became sometimes-testy division opponents in the newly formed NL Central.

Brewers and Rockies (Dec. 13, 2004)
Colorado acquired Marcos Carvajal for cash

These teams also matched up for one of the first -- and most notable -- trades in Rockies history. The expansion franchise nabbed Dante Bichette from the Brewers in November 1992, before it ever played a game.

Indians and Royals (June 4, 2004)
Kansas City acquired Matt White for future considerations

By this point, White (a 1998 Cleveland Draft pick) had already been selected in the Rule 5 Draft twice, only to be returned to the Indians.

Dodgers and Tigers (April 1, 2004)
Los Angeles acquired Cody Ross in exchange for Steve Colyer

This was one of the first moves made by Paul DePodesta after the Dodgers hired him as GM in February 2004. Ross, 23 at the time, played only 22 games with the Dodgers, but he stuck in the Majors through ‘15 and was MVP of the 2010 NLCS for the Giants.

Braves and Phillies (Dec. 20, 2002)
Atlanta acquired Johnny Estrada for Kevin Millwood

It’s been quiet for these NL East rivals since Atlanta shipped away Millwood, supposedly in large part for budgetary reasons, after a season in which he went 18-8 with a 3.24 ERA.

Twins: Cardinals (June 11, 2002)
Sent Warren Morris to St. Louis for a player to be named (Seth Davidson)

How long ago was this? David Ortiz was still on the Twins at the time.

Nationals/Expos and Orioles (Oct. 3, 2001)
Baltimore acquired Tim Raines for future considerations

The Hall of Famer’s second stint in Montreal ended when the 42-year-old was traded near the end of the season so he could play with his son, Tim Raines Jr., who had recently debuted for Baltimore. They joined the Griffeys as the only father-son teammates in MLB history.

However, these two franchises have not agreed to a trade since the Expos moved to the Mid-Atlantic and became the Nationals in 2005, creating some regional tension.

Cardinals and Pirates (July 29, 2000)
St. Louis acquired Jason Christiansen for Jack Wilson

This was their first deal since 1987, before they were NL Central foes, and it came when Albert Pujols was a Class A player with some promise. Christiansen, a lefty reliever, didn’t make much of a mark in St. Louis, but the slick-fielding Wilson arrived in Pittsburgh the next year and was the Pirates’ primary shortstop for nine seasons.