Saturday, November 6, 1999
Updated: January 2, 4:19 PM ET
When superstars get traded
By David Schoenfield and Matt Szefc
Ken Griffey Jr. isn't the first superstar player to be traded, that's for sure. But certainly, it is an uncommon practice in all sports. Below is a list in descending order of 14 other superstar players traded in the primes of their careers and what happened to the teams involved (not including cash deals, such as those involving Babe Ruth or Julius Erving, or players traded who became stars, such as Sammy Sosa and Nolan Ryan).
Mike Piazza (May 15, 1998)
The trade: Los Angeles Dodgers traded Piazza and 3B Todd Zeile to the Florida Marlins for OF Gary Sheffield, 3B Bobby Bonilla, C Charles Johnson, OF Jim Eisenreich and P Manny Barrios.
The Dodgers dealt Piazza to the Marlins because he turned down the team's long-term extension offer. Los Angeles eventually got Todd Hundley to fill Piazza's spot and he had a dreadful 1999 season -- as did the Dodgers.
The Marlins, meanwhile, shipped Piazza to the Mets a week later for minor leaguers Preston Wilson, Eddie Yarnall and Geoff Goetz. Piazza led the Mets to the playoffs in '99, the club's first trip to the postseason since '88.
Winner: Mets. And they weren't even involved in the original deal.
Mark McGwire (July 31, 1997)
The trade: The Oakland A's sent McGwire to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitchers T.J. Mathews, Blake Stein and Eric Ludwick.
When the A's traded free-agent-to-be McGwire at the trading deadline in 1997 it was believed St. Louis would soon see the postseason while Oakland would continue its downward slide. Well, after winning the NL Central in 1996, the Cards haven't finished better than third since Big Mac's arrival. Don't blame McGwire though, as he's hit an astounding 159 homers since the trade.
The A's, meanwhile, made a run at a playoff spot in 1999 with their first winning season since 1992 and appear to have a promising future ahead of them. On the other hand, only one of the three pitchers acquired for McGwire is still with the team. How many games would Oakland have won with McGwire hitting cleanup?
Winner: Cardinals. Just check the ticket sales.
Eric Lindros (June 30, 1992)
The Nordiques had been the joke of the NHL, finishing in last place five straight seasons and with the league's worst overall record in '89-90 and '90-91. The trade rebuilt the franchise and Forsberg is considered one of the best all-around players in hockey. They immediately went from 20-48-12 to 47-27-10. They won their division in '94-95 and captured the Stanley Cup in 1996 after the franchise moved to Colorado.
Considered to still be one of the best players in the NHL, Lindros has yet to win a Stanley Cup for the Flyers, who reached the finals in 1997. The Flyers had finished under .500 for three straight seasons before acquiring Lindros.
The trade: The Quebec Nordiques traded the rights to Lindros to the Philadelphia Flyers for G Ron Hextall, C Mike Ricci, C Peter Forsberg, D Steve Duchesne, D Kerry Huffman, a first-round pick in 1993 (G Jocelyn Thibault), LW Chris Simon and a 1994 first-round pick.
Lindros told the Nordiques not to pick him in the 1991 draft because he said he wouldn't play for them, but the Nordiques took him anyway. After nearly a year passed, Quebec dealt Lindros to Philadelphia.
Charles Barkley (June 17, 1992)
The trade: The Philadelphia 76ers send Barkley to the Phoenix Suns for G Jeff Hornacek, F Tim Perry and C Andrew Lang.
Believing they didn't have a bright future with or without Barkley, the 76ers dealt Barkley to Phoenix. Sure enough, Philadelphia -- which had won 35 games in '91-92 -- went on to win no more than 26 games in each of the next three years and didn't make the playoffs again until '98-99. Barkley reaped immediate dividends for the Suns. He was the league MVP and led the Suns to the NBA Finals in '92-93.
Rickey Henderson (to New York Dec. 8, 1984)
(to Oakland June 21, 1989)
The trade, part I: Traded from the A's to the Yankees for OF Stan Javier, P Jay Howell, P Jose Rijo, P Eric Plunk and P Tim Birtsas.
The Yankees and A's swapped Henderson back and forth in the '80s with New York getting him in 1984 from Oakland, which then got the all-time stolen base leader back in 1989. Journeyman pitcher Eric Plunk will forever be linked with Henderson, as Plunk was included in both trades.
The first trade did little for the A's. They won 77 games in 1984 with Rickey, and won 77 and 76 the next two years. The Yankees went from 87 wins to 97 and 90 but finished second both years.
The trade, part II: Traded from the Yankees to the A's for P Greg Cadaret, P Eric Plunk and OF Luis Polonia.
Winner: Yankees. It would have worked better for the A's if they had kept Jose Rijo.
In 1989, the A's were reigning AL champs and the Yankees were on the decline. Henderson was eligible for free agency after the season. He helped Oakland win the World Series, re-signed with them and was named AL MVP in 1990. The Yankees turned into the worst team in baseball and got little in return.
Wayne Gretzky (Aug. 9, 1988)
The trade: The Edmonton Oilers traded Gretzky, D Marty McSorley and C Mike Krushelnyski to the Los Angeles Kings for C Jimmy Carson, LW Martin Gelinas, first-round picks in 1989 (traded to New Jersey), 1991 (LW Martin Rucinsky) and 1993 (D Nick Stajduhar) and cash.
The "Great One" was just 27 when Edmonton traded him after winning their fourth Stanley Cup of the '80s in 1988. Money was the big factor in this trade as the small-market Oilers could no longer satisfy the salary demands of Gretzky. Edmonton remained competitive, however, as the Oilers went on to win another Cup in 1990.
Gretzky led the NHL in scoring three times with the Kings, but the club improved only slightly in the standings. The Kings did reach the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993.
Eric Dickerson (Oct. 31, 1987)
Winner: Gretzky. He married Janet Jones.
The trade: The Los Angeles Rams traded Dickerson to the Indianapolis Colts in a three-team deal. The Rams acquired RB Owen Gill, RB Greg Bell, the Colts' first- and second-round picks in 1988, the Colts' first-round pick in 1989, the Bills' first-round pick in 1988 and the Bills' first- and second-round picks in 1989. (The Bills acquired LB Cornelius Bennett from the Colts.)
The Rams traded the disgruntled Dickerson to the Colts in midseason of the strike-inflicted 1987 season. The Rams had gone 11-5 in '85 and 10-6 in '86. They fell to 6-9 in '87 but recovered by winning 10 and 11 games in 1988 and '89 respectively. By 1990, they were 3-13.
The Colts had immediate short-term gains. After going 3-13 in '86, they made the playoffs by going 9-6 in '87. But Dickerson didn't produce much after 1988, and the Colts were 1-15 by 1991.
John Elway (May 2, 1983)
Winner: Bills. Bennett helped them to four Super Bowls.
The trade: The Baltimore Colts traded the rights to Elway to the Denver Broncos for QB Mark Herrmann, the rights to OT Chris Hinton and a 1984 first-round pick (G Ron Solt).
Elway was the first pick in the 1983 draft and the best quarterback prospect ever. He refused to play with the Colts, who traded him to Denver and you know what happened from there. The Colts, 0-8-1 in 1982, continued their losing ways thereafter, posting three more sub-.500 seasons before turning it around by going 9-6 in 1987 (their only winning season from 1978 to 1991).
Winner: Broncos in a landslide.
Tom Seaver (June 15,
The trade: The New York Mets dealt Seaver to the Cincinnati Reds for P Pat Zachry, OF Steve Henderson, IF Doug Flynn and OF Dan Norman.
The Mets traded their most recognizable player in Seaver in the midst of a lousy season in 1977. From there it only got worse for the Mets as they finished well under .500 the next three years, never winning more than 67 games. Seaver, meanwhile, went on to win 14 games after joining the Reds in 1977, although the Dodgers won the division title. He also won 16 games in '78 and '79 for Cincinnati and finished second in the '81 NL Cy Young vote.
Winner: Reds. The Nolan Ryan trade didn't work out, either.
Phil Esposito (Nov. 7, 1975)
The trade: The Boston Bruins traded Esposito and Carol Vadnais to the New York Rangers for Brad Park, Jean Ratelle and Joe Zanussi.
Esposito and Bobby Orr led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 1970 and '72; after losing in the Cup Finals in 1974, Esposito was traded to the Rangers early the next season. Esposito had ranked first or second in scoring eight consecutive seasons, but fell off immediately after the trade. Boston returned to the Cup finals in '77 and '78, losing both times to Montreal. The Rangers finished last their first three seasons after the trade.
Winner: Bruins. Traded Esposito at the right time.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (June 16, 1975)
The trade: The Milwaukee Bucks traded Abdul-Jabbar and Walt Wesley to the Lakers for C Elmore Smith, G Brian Winters, F Dave Meyers and F Junior Bridgeman.
Abdul-Jabbar led the Bucks to the NBA Finals in the '73-74 season and won his his third MVP trophy. Then, after Milwaukee finished below .500 (38-44) in '74-75, Abdul-Jabbar was dealt to the Lakers. The Bucks took years to recover from the blunder while Abdul-Jabbar went on to win three more MVPs and five more NBA titles.
Wilt Chamberlain (to Philadelphia, Jan. 15, 1965)
The trade, part II: The 76ers traded Chamberlain to the Lakers for G Archie Clark, C Darrell Imhoff, F Jerry Chambers and cash.
(to Los Angeles, July 5, 1968)
The trade, part I: The San Francisco Warriors traded Chamberlain to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Warriors had gone 48-32 in '63-64 and then went 17-63 the season they traded Chamberlain, although they were back in first place two years later. The 76ers went from 34-46 without Chamberlain to 40-40, 55-25 and 68-13 in '66-67 (and NBA championship).
A year after leading the 76ers to that championship, ending the Boston Celtics' run of eight straight titles, Chamberlain was traded to the Lakers. The following year the 76ers dropped seven games in the standings while the Lakers improved by three games and advanced to the finals before losing to Boston for a second straight year.
Winner: Lakers. They finally won a title in 1972 with Wilt in the middle.
Frank Robinson (Dec. 9, 1965)
The trade: The Reds traded Robinson to the Orioles for P Milt Pappas, P Jack Baldschun and OF Dick Simpson.
The Reds traded Robinson after the 1965 season, and he went on to have the best year of his career in '66 with the Orioles, winning the Triple Crown with 49 home runs and 122 RBI and leading the Orioles to the World Series title. The Orioles had finished in third place in 1964 and '65, but won 97 and 95 games. They won 97 with Robinson in 1966.
Cincinnati had gone 92-70 in 1964 and 89-73 in 1965. After a sub-.500 season in '66 (76-84), the Reds bounced back, however, by winning 87 and 83 games in '67 and '68 respectively.
Winner: Orioles. They also won pennants in 1969-71.
Rogers Hornsby (Dec. 20, 1926)
The trade: The St. Louis Cardinals traded Hornsby to the New York Giants for Frankie Frisch and Jimmy Ring.
This deal involved two Hall of Fame second baseman. Hornsby was the player-manager for the World Series champion Cardinals. His .317 average in '26 was considered a bad year since he had hit over .400 the previous two seasons. Without him, the Cardinals improved from 89 wins to 92 (although they finished second). They won the NL pennant again in 1928, the first of four pennants with Frisch. The Giants also improved, from 74 wins to 92. But Hornsby proved to be his usual big headache, and the Giants traded him to the Boston Braves. The Giants then won 93 games without him.
Winner: Cardinals. The Cardinals did quite well without Hornsby and Frisch played more years after the deal.