The Best Trade
Most discussions of baseball player trades seem to focus on lopsided deals, e.g., Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio. However, an old saying has it that the best trades (other than the ones you don’t make) are those that help both teams. With that in mind, I decided to attempt to find the most even trade in Major League Baseball history.
My methodology was to evaluate the trades by calculating the remaining career value above replacement for each player involved. I then ranked them by (Difference/Average Remaining Value). For remaining career value above replacement, I used a quick and dirty method. I took the remaining Total Player Rating (from Total Baseball III) for each player, and adjusted it by adding one win for each 280 outs by hitters or 120 innings pitched by pitchers. Since I wasn’t interested in trades which were basically “nothing for nothing,” I only considered trades with at least two regulars (at the time of the deal) changing teams. I also excluded trades involving cash. The source for the trades was Joe Reichler’s Baseball Trade Register, and I excluded any deal if it involved a still-active player.
A fairly close trade involving a couple of players always linked in my mind was the June 13, 1930, deal which sent Goose Goslin to the Browns for Heine Manush and General Crowder. The Senators won this by 19 to 24 (23%).
Another even trade of that era involving Hall-of-Famers playing the same position was the December 20, 1926, swap sending Frankie Frisch and Jimmy Ring to the Cardinals for Rogers Hornsby. Rogers only had three full years left, but they were good ones. I give it to St. Louis, 28 to 26 (7%). However, if one subscribes to the theory that a player can’t have negative value, it would be 30 to 26.
A huge deal that worked out for both sides came on December 15, 1920. Although the Yankees got the better of the Red Sox in many trades in this period, their swap of two starting pitchers and a shortstop resulted in a slight gain for Boston. Jack Quinn, Rip Collins, and Roger Peckinpaugh outpointed Joe Bush, Sam Jones, and Deacon Scott 57-46.
Another deal that looks even at first blush, and was: The Orioles-A’s April 2, 1976 trade of Don Baylor, Mike Torrez, et. al. for Reggie Jackson, Ken Holtzman, etc. This ended up Oakland 38, Baltimore 32. Of course, none of those guys spent too long with their new clubs.
A swap of starting pitchers didn’t produce much gain for either side when the Pirates sent Rick Rhoden to the Dodgers for Jerry Reuss in April of 1979. The result was 23 wins for the Pirates and 21 for LA.
In June of 1958, Roger Maris was a promising sophomore when the Indians traded him and two other players to Kansas City for Woodie Held and Vic Power. KC got the better of this trade, 23 to 21. Of course, less than two years later, the A’s sent Maris to the Yankees, but they got nearly full value for him: Norm Siebern and Don Larsen produced 19 marginal wins after the deal to 21 for Maris and Joe DeMaestri.
The Cardinals made a deal that turned out to be surprisingly even on October 7, 1969, with the Phillies. This was the infamous trade that sent Richie Allen, et. al. for Curt Flood, et.al. Flood didn’t report and was replaced in the trade by Willie Montanez. I score this one at 16 for the Phils and 17 for the Cards, or 6%. (Without negative values, the score would be 16 to 20.)
On December 11, 1935, the Yankees got rid of troublesome righty Johnny Allen by shipping him to Cleveland for pitchers Steve Sundra and Monte Pearson. This didn’t hurt the Yanks at all, since they won the trade 19.6 to 19.2 (2%)
An even more balanced trade of pitchers came on May 2, 1975, when the Dodgers traded Geoff Zahn and Buddy Solomon to the Cubs for Burt Hooton. It would be hard to imagine a more even deal, since the final score was 22.8 for LA and 23.1 for Chicago (1.4%).
However, the most even big trade I could find involved the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers. In December 1980, the Cards dealt future Hall-of-Famer Rollie Fingers, 5-time All-Star Ted Simmons, and future Cy Young Award winner Pete Vuckovich for Sixto Lezcano, David Green, Dave LaPoint and Lary Sorenson. With a surplus of relievers and catchers, the Cardinals could part with Fingers and Simmons in order to shore up their starting pitching and obtain Green, considered one of the best prospects at the time. As it worked out, the Brewers take this one by 15.4 to 15.2, a microscopic 1.2%.