The clock is ticking until the the Aug. 1 (non-waiver) trade deadline as contenders attempt to bolster their rosters for a playoffs run, and flagging squads sell off assets to stock the farm. Sometimes it works (see: Yoenis Cespedes) and sometimes it ends disastrously when the acquisitions flop or the farmhands turn out to be Hall of Famers. Take a look at the biggest deadline busts ever.
Getty ImagesJamie Squire
Detroit Tigers acquire Jarrod Washburn from the Mariners (July 31, 2009)
No, it’s not as if the prospects the Tigers traded, Luke French and Mauricio Robles, turned into All-Stars and this now looks incredibly one-sided. The problem is that the Tigers traded for Washburn (earning $9.85 million that season) to solidify their starting rotation and the 34-year-old lefty flopped. In his last five starts for Seattle before the trade, Washburn went 4-0 with a 0.74 ERA. In his eight starts with the Tigers, he spun a 7.33 ERA and allowed 12 homers in 43 innings. It was certainly not Washburn’s fault alone but the Tigers finished one game behind the Twins for the AL Central crown and missed the playoffs.
Getty ImagesMark Cunningham
The San Diego Padres ship Fred McGriff to the Atlanta Braves (July 18, 1993)
This was a pure salary dump and a depressing one for San Diego fans, who saw steady home-run hitting first baseman McGriff, earning $4 million at the time, move to the Braves for outfielders Melvin Nieves and Vince Moore and pitcher Donnie Elliott. The Padres had also just traded away a 24-year-old Gary Sheffield. A despondent young Tony Gwynn was furthermore upset the Padres didn’t acquire top Braves prospects. "You trade somebody like Freddie McGriff, you expect to get some quality in return," Gwynn said. "I'm frustrated. I can't understand why we're doing what we're doing." McGriff helped solidify a light-hitting Braves lineup that didn’t need very much run support with its triumvirate of Hall of Fame arms in Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.
Getty ImagesStephen Dunn
Boston turns Healthcliff Slocumb into Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe (July 31, 1997)
While every transaction is like the butterfly effect in A Sound of Thunder, this exchange was a dinosaur crashing in the forest. The Seattle Mariners were eager to strengthen a poor bullpen and looked to Heathcliff Slocumb who had enjoyed three solid seasons in Philadelphia and Boston before struggling with the Red Sox in 1997 with a 5.79 ERA through 49 games. In return for Slocumb, the Red Sox landed eventual catcher-captain Jason Varitek and starter Derek Lowe, both of whom remained in Boston and played key roles in the Red Sox’s curse-breaking 2004 World Series title (and Varitek for the 2007 as well). Slocumb stuck in Seattle and struggled for 1.5 seasons.
Sporting News via Getty ImagesThe Sporting News
Jay Buhner goes cross-country from New York to Seattle (July 21, 1988)
The Mariners got the (much, much) better end of this one at least and it inspired a “Seinfeld” outburst by Jerry Costanza. Late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was a man of convictions, and he believed that DH/1B Ken Phelps might be the missing piece to elevate New York to the top of the East. Frank: "What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for?!? He had 30 home runs and over 100 RBIs last year. He’s got a rocket for an arm. You don’t know what the hell you’re doing!!! Steinbrenner: "Well, Buhner was a good prospect, no question about it. But my baseball people loved Ken Phelps’ bat. They kept saying 'Ken Phelps, Ken Phelps.'" The popular goateed slugger hit 296 home runs in 14 seasons in Seattle. Phelps did hit 10 homers in just 127 at-bats after the deal in 1988, but batted only .224 and was shipped out of town the following August.
Getty ImagesJamie Squire
The Indians send Bartolo Colon to the Montreal Expos for a serious haul (June 27, 2002)
As the end drew near for the Expos (RIP), general manager Omar Minaya sought to make a splash in the NL East playoffs race and sent the following players to the Indians for their ace: Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens. Phew. Just imagine if injuries hadn’t derailed Sizemore’s career in 2008 after three All-Star campaigns. To be sure: Bartolo Colon did his job for the playoffs-seeking Expos, finishing 10-4 in 17 starts with a 3.31 ERA, four complete games and a shutout. The Expos finished 19 games behind the 101-win Braves and traded Colon in the offseason.
AFP/Getty ImagesSTEVE SCHAEFER
The New York Mets trade Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano (July 30, 2004)
There were a couple others involved but this was the crux of it: Mets’ 2002 first-round draft pick Scott Kazmir, a 20-year-old top pitching prospect, for Zambrano, a righty who had accumulated 5.0 WAR across his first three-and-a-half seasons in Tampa Bay. Mets fans were livid to begin with but it got worse, because Zambrano was pitching with tendinitis in his right elbow that was worse than thought. “Looking back, you’d like a little more medical due diligence ...” said former Mets GM Jim Duquette. The Mets were 6 games behind the Braves at the time of the trade and never caught up. Zambrano pitched only 14 innings for the Mets that season and pitched poorly in New York for two more years. Kazmir enjoyed two All-Star seasons in Tampa and led the AL in K's in 2007 (239) before suffering arm injuries and reinventing himself with Oakland.
MLB Photos via Getty ImagesRich Pilling
Brock for Broglio (June 15*, 1964)
"Brock for Broglio" has become synonymous for an egregiously lopsided deal. It was a six-player swap but the marquee names sum it up: The Cubs sent unproven 24-year-old future Hall of Famer Lou Brock to the Cardinals for the good but not great, established pitcher Ernie Broglio. Well, Brock left Chicago and then caught fire, batting .348 for St. Louis with 12 homers and 33 stolen bases as the Cardinals powered to the 1964 World Series crown. Broglio needed elbow surgery after the 1964 season and was out of baseball after 1964. Meanwhile Brock eventually became a member of the 3,000 hit club in a 19-year career and set stolen bases records for Rickey Henderson to break. Brock is still the NL stolen base leader with 938. (*Note that the trade deadline was June 15 at the time. It was changed to July 31 in 1986).