Here's when a Cy Young win leads to a trade

23 years ago, the Rocket became a Yankee

February 18th, 2022

It seems like common sense that if a pitcher wins a Cy Young Award, his team would hope to keep him the following season. But it doesn't always work out that way.

Sometimes that's because the pitcher is a free agent in the ensuing offseason. Other times, his sky-high value leads his team to make a trade.

One example of the latter case took place 23 years ago Friday, when the Blue Jays dealt Roger Clemens to the Yankees, with the right-hander coming off back-to-back American League Cy Young Award campaigns for Toronto in 1997 and '98.

That's one of only four instances in which a pitcher was traded in the offseason he captured the award since its inception in 1956. Here is a look at that quartet, plus a list of the hurlers who were shipped off within two seasons of taking home a Cy. Years listed atop sections indicate when the player won his award.

Traded immediately after

2012: , Mets to Blue Jays
After a journeyman career from 2001-09, Dickey joined the Mets for the 2010 season and discovered another level, making consistent starts and getting good results. In '12, he won the National League Cy Young Award, posting a 2.73 ERA and leading the NL in complete games (five), shutouts (three) and strikeouts (230). The offseason following that year, the Mets sent the then-38-year-old hurler to the Blue Jays in a deal that netted them prospects Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard.

1998: , Blue Jays to Yankees
Clemens won his second consecutive Cy Young Award with Toronto in 1998, and fifth overall. In '98, he led the AL in wins (20), ERA (2.65) and strikeouts (271). In February 1999, Clemens was traded for the only time in his career, going to the Yankees in a deal for David Wells, Homer Bush and Graeme Lloyd. Clemens would go on to win two more Cy Youngs -- in 2001 with New York and in '04 with Houston.

1997: Pedro Martínez, Expos to Red Sox
Martínez won the first Cy Young Award of his career in 1997 with the Expos, leading the Majors in ERA (1.90) and complete games (13). He had 305 strikeouts, but he finished behind Curt Schilling (319). Martínez turned 26 after the regular season ended, and he was about to start the portion of his career that propelled him to Cooperstown. In November, the Expos traded him to the Red Sox in a deal for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas. Martínez finished second in AL Cy Young voting in his first year in Boston, then won the award in two straight years in 1999 and 2000.

1994: , Royals to Blue Jays
Cone won the AL Cy Young Award with the Royals in 1994, in his second stint with the club after it initially drafted him in '81. He recorded a 2.94 ERA in 23 starts. In April 1995, before the season began, Kansas City sent Cone to Toronto in a deal for Chris Stynes and two Minor Leaguers. Cone was then traded again just more than three months later, when the Blue Jays sent him to the Yankees by the Trade Deadline.

Traded the following season or offseason

2009: Zack Greinke (KC to MIL)
2008: Cliff Lee (CLE to PHI)
2007: CC Sabathia (CLE to MIL)
2006: Johan Santana (MIN to NYM)
1993: Jack McDowell (CWS to NYY)
1988: Frank Viola (MIN to NYM)
1983: LaMarr Hoyt (CWS to SD)
1979: Bruce Sutter (CHC to STL)
1978: Gaylord Perry (SD to TEX)
1977: Sparky Lyle (NYY to TEX)
1969: Denny McLain (DET to WSH Senators)

These 11 pitchers each found themselves traded either during the season following their Cy Young Award win or the offseason after that follow-up campaign. Three were traded midseason, and thus did not even complete a reigning-winner season with the team they had won the award with: Lee, Sabathia and Viola. That’s right -- Sabathia and Lee were both traded by Cleveland, and in consecutive years, no less.

Lee was traded again the following offseason, going from the Phillies to the Mariners. Then, in July 2010, the Mariners sent him to the Rangers. That’s four teams in a two-season span that began with Lee as a reigning Cy Young Award winner. At the end of all of that, he signed a free-agent contract worth more than $110 million to return to Philadelphia.

Another fun connection exists between the Twins and Mets. Minnesota has had three pitchers win Cy Youngs (Santana twice, Viola and Jim Perry), and it traded two of those to the Mets within 16 months. The other, Perry, was also traded within two offseasons, heading to the Tigers (on the list below).

Note: Clemens was traded following his Cy Young-winning 1998 season, but he had also won in '97. He is not counted twice on this list and is only under those to be traded in the season immediately after.

Traded two seasons or offseasons later

2018: Blake Snell (TB to SD)
2017: Corey Kluber (CLE to TEX)
2012: David Price (TB to DET)
2007: Jake Peavy (SD to CWS)
2002: Randy Johnson (ARI to NYY)
1989: Bret Saberhagen (KC to NYM)
1987: Steve Bedrosian (PHI to SF)
1983: John Denny (PHI to CIN)
1975: Tom Seaver (NYM to CIN)
1974: Mike Marshall (LAD to ATL)
1971: Fergie Jenkins (CHC to TEX)
1970: Jim Perry (MIN to DET)
1964: Dean Chance (CAL to MIN)
1956: Don Newcombe (LAD to CIN)

On this list of 14 pitchers to be traded either during the second season after their Cy Young Award win, or following that season, six of them were traded midseason: Price, Peavy, Bedrosian, Seaver, Marshall and Newcombe. Three pitchers on the list (Denny, Seaver and Newcombe) were traded to the Reds, who didn't have a pitcher win a Cy Young while in their uniform until Trevor Bauer in 2020. Two pitchers on the list were traded to the Rangers/Senators, one of three clubs that have never had a Cy Young winner (along with the Marlins and Rockies).

When Price was moved at the Trade Deadline in 2014, it was the first of two straight years in which he joined a new team in August. First, he went from the Rays to the Tigers. Then in '15, the Tigers sent him to the Blue Jays. Following the 2015 season, he signed a seven-year deal with the Red Sox -- who later traded him to the Dodgers, with Mookie Betts, in February 2020.

Newcombe being on the list is notable because his 1956 Cy Young Award was the first time the honor was given -- and he won the NL MVP Award, too.

Note: McLain was traded a season after his second straight Cy Young Award, in 1969. As with Clemens above, he is not counted twice and is only on the list for the following season or offseason.