Why don’t certain teams trade with each other?

When it comes to trading, almost every team plays favorites. Perhaps a former co-worker is now running another club, making conversations easy and player valuations similar. Or perhaps two GMs just happen to get along well, and when one needs to make a minor deal to round out his roster, he’s comfortable asking his friend for help before polling the rest of the league. There are plenty of reasons why some organizations just fit as better trade partners than others. 

This goes the other direction as well. Many teams are hesitant to make trades with their division rivals, not wanting the player they gave up on to come back and haunt them for 19 games per season, or in the case of trading a young prospect, for years into the future. Shipping a player across the country, or even to the other league, minimizes the chances that your home town fans will be regularly reminded that not every trade works out in your favor. 

Of course, for a few teams that share a large market, there is another franchise in the other league that happens to also be a challenging trade partner. If you want to avoid your fans seeing the traded player turn into a star, having him play for the in-town rival is probably the worst case scenario, which is why trades between market sharing teams are pretty rare. The Cubs and White Sox, for instance, haven’t made a trade since 2006 — the Neal Cotts for David Aardsma blockbuster — and hadn’t made a deal before that one since 1998. The A’s and Giants haven’t made a deal since 2004, when Oakland bought Adam Pettyjohn from the Giants for cash; they last made a deal with players going both directions back in 1990. The Mets and Yankees last swapped players in 2004, when they exchanged Mike Stanton for Felix Heredia. 

But beyond those easily explainable barriers to making a deal, I was curious which other franchises have engaged in long cold wars. Whether for philosophical reasons or just because they haven’t ever matched up, which teams just don’t make trades? Thanks to the particularly nifty Trade Partner tool from Baseball-Reference, we can highlight the teams who seem least likely to make deals with each other, even without the in-division or in-market explanations. 

Braves/Giants: Last trade 2002, Prior Trade 1985

The last time the Giants and Braves hooked up on a trade, San Francisco shipped Russ Ortiz to the Braves for prospects Damian Moss and Merkin Valdez. Ortiz had established himself as a durable innings eater, but Moss was a former top prospect who posted a 3.42 ERA as a rookie in 2002, and the Giants saw big things in his future. Said Brian Sabean at the time:

"While trading Russ was a very tough thing for us to do, we couldn’t pass on the opportunity to pick up a young left-handed pitcher of Moss’ stature," Giants GM Brian Sabean said. "He has a quality arm that hitters in the league have obviously had a tough time figuring out. He’s the type of pitcher who will have quite a bit of success in our ballpark."

Moss lasted half a season in San Francisco, putting up a 4.70 ERA before the Giants shipped him to Baltimore for Sidney Ponson. Moss was even worse for the Orioles, and after flopping in Tampa Bay in 2004, he never pitched in the big leagues again. I’d say that the Giants might be holding it against the Braves, but that deal was their first trade with Atlanta in 17 years, so instead, it seems that these are two franchises who just don’t see eye to eye too often. 

Indians/Marlins: Last Trade 2000, Prior Trade 1994

The Marlins have only been a Major League franchise since 1993, so it’s natural that they’ve made fewer trades than other franchises. That said, the two deals listed above are the only two trades the Indians and Marlins have ever made, and it’s not like both trades were blockbusters. Their last deal involved Steve Falteisek going to Miami for Victor Rodriguez, a pair of minor leaguers who never appeared in the big leagues for either franchise. Their first trade swapped a pair of relievers who had some prior success, but who combined to throw a total of 43 innings in their careers after the trade. It’s fair to say that the Marlins and Indians have never made a trade of any real consequence. 

Twins/Astros: Last Trade 1999, Prior Trade 1989

It’s been over 15 years since the last time the Astros and Twins made a trade, and their George Williams for Josh Dimmick trade exchanged two players who would never see the majors after the trade. Dimmick, in fact, never made it out of A-ball, and 1999 was his last year as even a minor leaguer. Even their prior trade, which saw backup outfielder Mark Davidson go to Houston, didn’t bring back a big league player to the Twins, as player-to-be-named-later Greg Johnson turned out to be just a career minor leaguer. For whatever reason, it seems like the Astros and Twins just don’t seem particularly interested in exchanging major league talent. 

Tigers/Giants: Last Trade 1997, Prior Trade 1996

These two teams squared off in the 2012 World Series, so they are aware of each other’s existence, but you wouldn’t know that by their trade record. While they did make two trades within a seven month stretch, those deals included such household names as Marcus Jensen, Brian Johnson, Mark Lewis, and Jesse Ibarra. Their last notable deal? That occurred back in 1985, when the team traded a 23 year old rookie catcher named Bob Melvin. Yes, the same Bob Melvin who currently manages the Oakland A’s. 

Reds/Giants: Last trade 1995, Prior Trade 1994

Hey, look, it’s the Giants again. No team in baseball has as many trade droughts as San Francisco, who are about to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their last trade with Cincinnati. It was a fun one, though, as the teams exchanged eight players in an effort to get two sport star Deion Sanders to play baseball in the same city in which he had just won a Super Bowl with the 49ers. The Giants traded three major league players — pitchers Dave Burba and Mark Portugal, as well as center fielder Darren Lewis — to acquire Sanders, hoping he would become an icon in the city while starring for both teams playing at Candlestick Park. 

Instead, however, Sanders used his NFL free agency to sign with the Cowboys just two months later, and as part of that contract, he switched to football full-time at the end of the 1995 season. The all-Deion-all-the-time plan ended up leaving San Francisco with neither a football nor a baseball player, and whether it’s cause-and-effect or just a coincidence, the Giants have never seen fit to deal with the Reds since then.