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Top Five Baseball Trades In Bay Area History

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In light of the recent MLB trade deadline, I thought it would be fun to look at the various big trades that have occurred in the Bay Area. Both the Giants and A's have made their fair share of interesting deals. We countdown the 5 biggest.

Over the weekend the Major League Baseball trade deadline passed. The Giants added some needed bullpen help, while the A's were silent. Given that deadline passing, I thought it would be interesting to look back at some of the biggest trades in Bay Area baseball history. I expanded beyond just the trade deadline to include any trades. Additionally, no deals were considered that took place before either team was in the Bay Area (so no inclusion of the KC A's trading Roger Maris just before he broke Babe Ruth's home run record.

As you'll notice, I've combined some deals together. I did that in part to fit more trades in, but also because some of the trades just naturally fit together as one discussion point.

5. July 31, 1997 - A's deal Mark McGwire to the St. Louis Cardinals for Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews and Blake Stein

At this point in Big Mac's career, he had hit 363 home runs in what had turned into an injury-plagued career. In his first two full seasons with the Cardinals, McGwire shattered Roger Maris' home run record with 70, and followed that up with 65 in 1999. He struggled with injuries his final two seasons, but his legend was secure (no need to discuss the other part of his status in recent baseball history for now).

And what did the A's get in return? Well they got Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews, and Blake Stein. Together those three don't even amount to the proverbial pu pu platter. They appeared in 241 games (210 by Mathews, 31 by the rest). Mathews made 210 appearances, all in relief and compiled a 24-15 record with 8 saves and a 4.78 era....and he was the best of the bunch. Ludwick made 6 appearances, 5 starts and finished with a 1-4 record and an 8.25 era. Stein appeared in 25 games, making 21 starts and finishing 5-9 with a 6.60 era. All in all, it doesn't get much more lopsided than that.

Although McGwire's legacy is tarnished by steroids, the Bash Brothers era remains one of the most well known in recent baseball history. The deal itself was not a shocker. He was heading into free agency that offseason and the A's had no chance of re-signing him. Thus began a rebuilding period from which they would not truly emerge until winning the AL West in 2000.

4. July 5 and August 21, 1987 - Giants acquire Kevin Mitchell, Dave Dravecky and Craig Lefferts from the San Diego Padres for Chris Brown, Keith Comstock, Mark Davis, and Mark Grant; Giants acquire Rick Reuschel from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Scott Medvin and Jeff Robinson

I'm not the exactly a huge Giants fan, but I think these two deals were as key to the Giants making it to the 1989 World Series as anything else. While the Giants managed to get more out Mitchell than Reuschel, both players were incredibly key components to that pennant winning team.

Big Daddy was 38 and on the downside of his career when the Giants acquired him. However, for two seasons he was able to turn back the clock winning 19 games in 1988 and 17 games in 1989. Reuschel struggled in the World Series, but pitched the NLCS clinching game 5 against the Cubs, his original team. 1989 was Reuschel's last solid year as he retired two seasons later, but I'd imagine any Giants was happy for what they got out of Big Daddy.

The Giants landed Kevin Mitchell during the prime of his career and were the beneficiaries of his monstrous MVP season in 1989. Mitchell hit .291, with 47 HRs and 125 RBIs, with an OPS of 1.023. He was a key offensive cog in the 1989 NLCS and put together some great numbers at Candlestick before being dealt away in 1991.

3. December 16 and 18, 2004 - A's deal Tim Hudson to the Atlanta Braves for Juan Cruz, Dan Meyer and Charles Thomas; A's deal Mark Mulder to the St. Louis Cardinals for Daric Barton, Kiko Calero, and Dan Haren

The A's of the early '00s were built around the pitching of the Big 3 in Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito. They had some serious offensive weapons, but the pitching is what carried the day, on the field and in the marketing of the team. Following a 2004 season that was a bit of a disappointment (91 wins, no playoff appearance, blowing their shot at winning the division by losing 2 of 3 at home to the Angels the final weekend of the season), it was expected that there would be a bit of a shake-up. Mulder and Hudson were a year away from free agency and there was some talk of moving one of them.

Well, Billy Beane did not mess around as he stunned many folks by dealing away 2/3 of the Big 3 in three days. On December 16 he dealt Tim Hudson to the Braves for a package built around prospect Dan Meyer. On December 18 he dealt Mark Mulder to the St. Louis Cardinals in a package built around "phenom" prospect Daric Barton and strong pitching prospect Dan Haren.

I actually worked for the A's at that point and I remember the initial shock after the second trade went down. People eventually calmed down, but it was a bit stunning. What's even more stunning was how fortuitous Beane was in making the deals. While the net result was a mix of great, good, and awful, the Mulder deal was just as important in getting the A's to the 2006 ALCS as any other deal.

Dan Haren and Kiko Calero were both instant impact players. Calero was a rock for two seasons in the bullpen. Haren 14 or more games in all three seasons with the A's and helped rebuild a rotation that had plenty of holes after the trades. Daric Barton took some time to develop, but he has become an OBP machine for the team and a solid presence at first base. Although Barton is the only player left from that deal, even if it had been Barton for Mulder straight up, it might have been sufficient. Mulder won 16 games in his first season with the Cardinals, but everything fell apart immediately after that leading to his retirement following the 2003 season.

The Tim Hudson trade did not work out quite so well. While Hudson continues on as a bulldog, the A's got even less out of the three prospects from the Braves than they did in the McGwire trade. Cruz lasted one ineffective season, Dan Meyer couldn't sufficiently overcome injury problems, and Charles Thomas just stunk up the joint. The Mulder deal certainly evened it out, but seeing Hudson still dealing certainly doesn't make this deal sting any less.

2. November 14, 2003 - Giants acquire A.J. Pierzynski from the Minnesota Twins for Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser

This is a trade that Giants fans still get angry about. In looking back, while this was a pretty bad trade, injuries have potentially evened it out a bit. It's still lopsided, but not nearly what it could have been.

The Giants needed serious catching help as Benito Santiago had been on his last legs in 2003. The team acquired AJ Pierzynski, who hit .272 with 11 HRs and 77 RBIs. He had hit .312 the previous year, so the numbers were certainly a disappointment. However, the real problem came when Pierzynski was referred to as a cancer by some of his Giants teammates. This led to him being released that following offseason after one year with the team.

As for what the Giants dealt away? Prior to injury this season, Joe Nathan immediately turned into one of the best closers in MLB. Since the trade Nathan has 246 saves and a 1.87 era. If that had been it, this deal would have been incredibly lopsided.

The Giants also included Boof Bonser who has been adequate in a 5th starter role, but hasn't emerged like some thought he might. Where the deal could have gotten real ugly was the addition of Francisco Liriano to the deal. Liriano was a fireballing youngster whose upside was as high as anybody in baseball. After a brief cup of coffee in 2005, Liriano went 12-3 with a 2.16 era in 28 appearances (16 starts) in 2006. However, he developed pain in his arm which eventually led to offseason Tommy John surgery. He's been working to come back and appears to finally be getting back to form. The upside is not quite the same, but he's pitching solidly again for the Twins.

1. November 13, 1996 - Giants deal Matt Williams and Trent Hubbard to the Cleveland Indians for Jeff Kent, Julian Tavarez, Jose Vizcaino, and Joe Roa

We can't look at Brian Sabean's worst deal without also looking at arguably his best deal. Shortly after Brian Sabean took over as Giants general manager, he proceeded to make this trade. It certainly appeared as though his tenure as GM was going to be a short one. Even if he wasn't fired, he was likely to be lynched. Matt Williams was a fan favorite, and this deal resulted in a press conference in which Sabean had to declare that he was not an idiot.

Well, he proved everybody wrong with this deal as the Giants ended up making the playoffs that season and developed a solid base for the subsequent seasons. Matt Williams was certainly no slouch in Cleveland and Arizona. Cleveland obviously would have liked Kent's numbers, but Williams was a key cog in the Indians 1997 offense that got them to the World Series.

Things worked out quite well for the Giants thanks to this deal. Jeff Kent put up practically Hall of Fame caliber numbers thanks in part to getting to hit around Barry Bonds during his time in San Francisco. In six seasons with the Giants, Kent hit 175 HRs and hit .297. Julian Tavarez was solid out of the bullpen during his time in San Francisco, and even Jose Vizcaino was solid in his season with the team. All in all, a deal that worked out well for the Giants.


Honorable Mention

There were a variety of deals I had considered including, many of which could legitimately be considered ahead of these. Here's a quick list. It's a bit A's heavy, but the Giants have made their fair share of interesting deals:

1. Rickey Henderson traded by A's to Yankees in 1984 for Stan Javier, Eric Plunk, Jay Howell, and Tim Birtsas
2. Rickey Henderson traded by A's to the Blue Jays in 1993 for Steve Karsay and Jose Herrera
3. Vida Blue traded by the A's to the Giants in 1978 for a whole lot of nothing
4. Reggie Jackson and Ken Holtzman traded by A's to Orioles in 1976 for Don Baylor, Paul Mitchell, and Mike Torrez
5. Willie Mays traded by the Giants to the Mets in 1972
6. J.T. Snow acquired by the Giants from the Angels in 1996
7. Johnny Damon and Mark Ellis acquired by the A's in 2001
8. Jose Canseco traded by the A's to the Rangers for Ruben Sierra in 1992.
9. Candy Maldonado acquired by Giants from Dodgers in 1985