Out Of Town, Then Cooperstown-Bound: 10 Hall of Famers Traded At The Deadline

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Why Ivan Rodriguez's Hall of Fame selection is so significant
Thursday July 27th, 2017

This Sunday the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2017—most notably former first baseman Jeff Bagwell, outfielder Tim Raines and catcher Ivan Rodriguez—will be inducted in a ceremony in Cooperstown. The next day is the non-waiver trade deadline. Bagwell was famously part of an in-season trade, and Rodriguez was once dealt the day before the deadline, so naturally, we thought it was worth spotlighting the most memorable times a Hall of Famer was traded in such a deal. Below are 10 notable instances.

A note about the methodology used here: August waiver-deals are not included, so neither Bagwell (1990, Red Sox to Astros) nor John Smoltz (1987, Tigers to Braves) are mentioned. Nor are potential Hall of Famers, either active (Astros DH Carlos Beltran was traded in 2004, '11 and '16) or on the ballot (Curt Schilling was moved in 1988 as a prospect and in 2000 as a star). The trades are listed chronologically.

ROUNDTABLE: SI's panel answers the most pressing questions of the deadline

June 15, 1964: Lou Brock, Cubs to Cardinals

This is one of the most lopsided deals of all time: The Cubs sent the Cardinals a three-player package including pitchers Jack Spring and Paul Toth and a speedy 25-year-old outfielder who to that point had hit .257/.306/.383 with 20 homers and 50 steals in parts of four seasons. In exchange Chicago got pitchers Ernie Broglio and Bobby Shantz and outfielder Doug Clemens. Toth never pitched in the majors again, Spring and Shantz combined for fewer than 15 innings over the remainders of their careers and Clemens was replacement level fodder. Broglio, a former 20-game winner and the key piece for the Cubs, famously went 7-19 with a 4.50 ERA over the next 2 1/2 seasons with Chicago.

Brock, on the other hand, hit .348/.387/.527 with St. Louis the rest of the way, finishing with 200 hits, 14 homers and 43 steals overall and keying them to a pennant before hitting .300 in a World Series win over the Yankees. He would go on to set the single-season and all-time records for stolen bases, become the 14th member of the 3,000 hit club and batting a sizzling .391/.424/.655 with four homers and 14 steals in three World Series. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1985, his first year of eligibility.

June 13, 1975: Gaylord Perry, Indians to Rangers

The notorious spitballer and 1972 AL Cy Young winner was pitching alongside older brother Jim on an Indians team amid a 1-12 skid that would ensure they went nowhere. The Rangers, managed by Billy Martin and with a rotation led by another future Hall of Famer in Ferguson Jenkins, were at .500 (29-29) but had designs on contending in the AL West. They sent righties Jim Bibby and Jackie Brown plus lefty prospect Rick Waits and $100,000 to Cleveland in exchange for Perry, who pitched well after coming over (12-6, 3.03 ERA). In fact, his 124 ERA+ made him the only Texas starter above preventing runs at a better-than-average clip, and the team actually finished with a worse record than the Indians (79-83 vs. 79-80).

The next year Martin managed the Yankees to the pennant. Bibby and Waits became useful pitchers in Cleveland. Perry pitched well in Texas for two more seasons, then became the oldest Cy Young winner (39) in San Diego in 1978. He finished his career in 1983 with 314 wins and 3,534 strikeouts. In '91, his third year of eligibility, he got a plaque in Cooperstown.

June 15, 1976: Rollie Fingers, A's to Red Sox

Technically this was more of a sale than a trade given that there were no other players going back the other way, but it remains one of the most controversial transactions in baseball history. It didn't last, but there are photos to prove that it went down (that's Fingers being welcomed to Boston by shortstop Rico Petrocelli, above).

With the door to free agency having been opened the previous winter thanks to the arbitrators decision in the Andy Messersmith-Dave McNally case, A's owner Charlie Finley realized he wouldn't be able to keep the core of his team that had won five straight AL West titles from 1971 to '75 (including World Series titles in '72, '73 and '74) together past the end of the ‘76 season. In what Sports Illustrated's Ron Fimrite called "the biggest sale of human flesh in the history of sports," Finley sold Fingers, his top fireman, and outfielder/first baseman Joe Rudi to the Red Sox for $1 million apiece, and ace Vida Blue to the Yankees for $1.5 million.

Commissioner Bowie Kuhn didn’t like Finley or the precedent this set; exercising his "best interest of baseball" powers, he officially voided the sales on June 18, before any of the players had debuted for their new teams. Fingers finished out the year in Oakland, then signed a six-year, $1.6 million free agent deal with the Padres in December. He was elected to the Hall in 1992.

June 15, 1977: Tom Seaver, Mets to Reds

It was one of the darkest days in New York sports history when the Mets traded ace Tom Seaver—a pitcher so central to the team that one of his nicknames was "The Franchise"—to the Reds for four young and mostly forgettable players, namely pitcher Pat Zachary, infielder Doug Flynn and outfielders Dan Norman and Steve Henderson. The move was keyed by a salary dispute with Mets board chairman M. Donald Grant (acting on behalf of owner Lorinda de Roulet) and a war of words with New York Daily News columnist Dick Young, and it came just as the trade deadline—which wasn't moved to July 31 until 1986—was approaching. A trade sending a three-time Cy Young winner and ace of the 1969 Miracle Mets to the two-time defending world champions was so momentous that it landed the cover of SI; Larry Keith's story carried the immortal headline, "Tom Terrific Arms The Red Arsenal."

Though Tom was in fact terrific for Cincinnati, going 14-3 with a 2.34 ERA, the Reds finished second in the NL West. Seaver spent another 9 1/2 years in the majors, and even returned to the Mets in 1983. While he did not add another championship to his mantel, he helped Cincinnati to the NL West title in 1979 and finished second in the Cy Young voting behind Fernando Valenzuela in 1981. He finished with 311 wins and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992 with 98.8% of the vote, a record that stood until it was surpassed by another player on this list, Ken Griffey Jr., in 2016. 

July 31, 1987: Steve Carlton, Indians to Twins

By this point, the 42-year-old Carlton had assured himself a berth in Cooperstown, having won 328 games and four Cy Youngs while becoming the second pitcher to reach 4,000 strikeouts, after Nolan Ryan. The old lefty had not pitched well in his first year with Cleveland (5-9, 5.37 ERA), but had put up decent numbers in June (2.56 ERA in 31 2/3 innings over four starts) and shown signs of emerging from a rough patch with a pair of serviceable starts. The Twins, meanwhile, were in first place in the AL West but tired of watching the likes of Mike Smithson and 42-year-old Joe Niekro get lit up. They gave up a player to be named later for Carlton (it became righthanded pitcher Jeff Perry, a former first-round pick who never reached the majors).

Carlton won just one more game and did not appear in the postseason when 85-win Minnesota, led by future Hall of Famers Kirby Puckett and Bert Blyleven, upset the 98-win Tigers in the ALCS and the 95-win Cardinals to win the World Series. 

July 31, 1993: Rickey Henderson, A's to Blue Jays

The A's had already done the nearly-unthinkable by trading away native son Henderson once—to the Yankees, in December 1984—then brought him back in June of '89, in time to help them win that year's World Series over the Giants and another pennant in '90, the year Henderson won the AL MVP award. He broke Brock's all-time stolen base record in 1991 and fueled another division title in '92, but the A's lost to the Blue Jays, who went on to win their first World Series.

With Oakland slipping into wretchedness in 1993 (they would lose 94 games) and the speedster's free agency looming, Oakland dealt Henderson to Toronto for righty reliever Steve Karsay and a player to be named later (outfielder Jose Herrerra). Henderson hit just .215/.356/.319 after being acquired, and he scuffled in the postseason as well, but he ignited the ninth inning rally in Game 6 that was capped by Joe Carter's title-winning homer against Phillies reliever Mitch Williams. Less than two months after the champagne flowed, he returned to the A's yet again as a free agent, and he would have a fourth stint with them again before his career ended in 2003. He was a first-ballot inductee to the Hall of Fame in 2009.

July 31, 1998: Randy Johnson, Mariners to Astros

Aside from the Brock trade, this one had the biggest impact of any deal mentioned here. The Big Unit, who had won the 1995 AL Cy Young Award and led the Mariners to their first postseason berth that season and to their first division title two years later, was upset that Seattle hadn't offered him an extension beyond the '98 season. Johnson made it known that he would test free agency, and when both he and the Mariners were roughed up in 1998 (he had a 4.33 ERA in 23 starts, they were 48-59), the team traded him to Houston for righty Freddy Garcia, infielder Carlos Guillen and a player to be named later (lefty John Halama).

Johnson thoroughly dominated the NL, going 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA in 11 starts for the Astros, who pulled away from the NL Central pack for their second of three straight division titles. As with those other years, they were bumped off in the Division Series, this time against the Padres. Johnson lost both of his starts despite allowing just four runs while whiffing 17 in 14 innings. After the season, he would sign a four-year, $53.4 million deal with the Diamondbacks and begin the most dominant stretch of his career: He won the Cy Young in each season and helped Arizona win the World Series in 2001. That same year Garcia, Guillen and Halama helped the Mariners win a record 116 games, though they lost in the ALCS to a Yankees team that would then be felled by Johnson and the D-backs in the Fall Classic. Johnson finished his career with 303 wins and 4,875 strikeouts, second all-time; he was elected to the Hall with 97.3% of the vote in 2015. 

July 31, 2006: Greg Maddux, Cubs to Dodgers

The Smartest Pitcher Who Ever Lived had already bagged his four Cy Youngs and 327 wins when the Dodgers rescued him from a Cubs team bound for 96 losses. To get the 40-year-old righty, a pending free agent, Los Angeles traded good-field/no-hit shortstop Cesar Izturis straight up. Despite striking out just 4.4 batters per nine innings, Maddux went 6-3 with a 3.30 ERA in 12 starts for the Dodgers, who won the NL West, but both he and they were steamrolled by the Mets in the Division Series. Maddux signed with the Padres that winter and wound up returning for a second stint with the Dodgers after an August 2008 waiver deal that marked the final stop of his 23-year big league career. He finished with 355 wins, the eighth-highest total all time and the highest of any post-World War II righty, and received 97.2% of the vote in 2014. 

July 30, 2008: Ivan Rodriguez, Tigers to Yankees

After starring in Texas from 1991 to 2002 and then leading the Marlins to an unlikely world championship in 2003, the great backstop began a revival of the Tigers franchise when he signed a four-year, $40 million deal with Detroit, who had lost a humiliating 119 games in ’03. He earned All-Star honors four times and helped the Tigers to the AL pennant in 2006. His option for 2008 was picked up, but as the team slid out of contention it dealt Rodriguez to the Yankees in exchange for reliever Kyle Farnsworth. The deal was precipitated by New York's loss of Jorge Posada to season-ending right shoulder surgery. The Yankees were 58-48 at the time, two games back in the AL East and a game behind in the wild card race. While they went 31-25 the rest of the way, they missed the postseason for the first time since the 1994 strike, closing out the House That Ruth Built with a silent October.

Farnsworth was dreadful, putting up a 6.75 ERA before moving on to the Royals the next year for the next stop in his journeyman's career. As for Pudge, he hit just .219/.257/.323 during his Bronx stint, the beginning of the end of a career that ran through 2011. With his 14 All-Star appearances, 13 Gold Gloves and all-time records for games caught (2,427) and hits by a catcher (2,749, out of his total of 2,844), he received 76.0% of the vote this past winter and will be inducted on Sunday.

July 31, 2008: Ken Griffey Jr., Reds to White Sox

No longer “The Kid,” the 38-year-old Griffey was at the time of this deal in the final year of the nine-year, $116.5 million extension he had signed to facilitate his 2000 trade from the Mariners to the Reds. Though he had been an All-Star for the 13th time in his career the season before, he had slipped into mediocrity by that point, and 2008 didn’t reverse the trend. Traded in exchange for righty reliever Nick Masset and infielder Danny Richar, Griffey hit just .260/.347/.405 with three homers in 41 games for the White Sox, though his bat perked up in the final week as the team regained its recently-squandered AL Central lead, ultimately beating the Twins in a Game 163 tiebreaker.

After the season, Griffey returned to the Mariners for what would be a less-than-fruitful reunion. Even so, an impressive resumé highlighted by those All-Star appearances, 10 Gold Gloves and 630 home runs (sixth all-time) led to his receiving a record 99.3% of the writers’ vote when he became eligible in 2016. 

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