5 franchise-changing trades still impacting the game
By Dan O'Dowd
With more and more players being signed to long-term deals before reaching free agency, teams must look to the trade market more than ever if they want to drastically change their long-term outlook.
This summer, there is potential for a few franchise-altering trades, with Cole Hamels among a few star players who could be available.
That said, franchise-changing trades are about as rare as a 100-win season, and it takes a few years before we can properly evaluate them. With that in mind, here are my top five franchise-changing trades that are currently impacting clubs in 2015.
5. Kluber to Cleveland
On July 31, 2010, the Indians, Cardinals and Padres worked out a three-team deal, with right-hander Jake Westbrook going from the Indians to the Cards, lefty Nick Greenwood from the Padres to the Cardinals, outfielder Ryan Ludwick going to the Padres from the Cards, and righty Corey Kluber going from San Diego to Cleveland.
At the time, Kluber was a 24-year-old starter with a 3.45 ERA that season for Double-A San Antonio. A fourth-round pick in 2007 out of Stetson, he was seen as a prospect, but far from a sure thing. In other words, the kind of guy who gets included in a deal featuring players like Ludwick and Westbrook.
The Indians' pro scouting department deserves a lot of credit for seeing beyond the numbers and targeting Kluber in that deal. He now fronts one of the most overpowering rotations in the game, and the Indians recently locked him up through 2021.
4. Toronto gets Bautista
It was a trade that even hardcore Blue Jays fans probably didn't notice. On Aug. 21, 2008, then-GM J.P. Ricciardi acquired third baseman Jose Bautista from the Pirates for a player to be named later, who ended up being catcher Robinzon Diaz.
Bautistsa had shown flashes of power earlier in his career, and the Blue Jays were able to harness that, adding a leg kick to his swing. Since the start of the 2009 season, only Miguel Cabrera (220 home runs) has hit more homers than Bautista's 205.
3. KC's Greinke bounty
On Dec. 19, 2010, Royals GM Dayton Moore made a very unpopular decision within his market, trading Zack Greinke, a homegrown No. 1 starter and the '09 American League Cy Young Award winner, to Milwaukee for a package of prospects.
Greinke was two years away from free agency at the time, and Moore decided to move Greinke while his value was at its highest. As part of the return for Greinke, the Royals acquired center fielder Lorenzo Cain, shortstop Alcides Escobar and right-hander Jake Odorizzi from the Brewers. The trade was unpopular in Kansas City at the time, but it had a two-pronged positive impact.
For starters, Cain and Escobar were two key members of the Royals' pennant-winning club in 2014, and Cain appears to be a late-blooming star. Odorizzi was a piece of the trade that helped bring James Shields to Kansas City from the Rays. Shields was the ace of that club that went to the World Series before signing with the Padres as a free agent this past winter.
2. O's flip Bedard for a bundle
In 2007, Erik Bedard was one of the top starters in the game, leading the AL in strikeouts per nine (10.9) and hits allowed per nine (7.0) for Baltimore. Andy MacPhail, then the GM of the Orioles, cashed in on that sell-high candidate in a big way.
On Feb. 8, 2008, MacPhail shipped Bedard to Seattle for closer George Sherrill and four prospects: center fielder Adam Jones, righty Chris Tillman, left-hander Tony Butler and right-hander Kam Mickolio.
Bedard would battle injuries in Seattle, and he posted a 31-48 record over the rest of his career. Meanwhile, Jones and Tillman became integral parts of two postseason clubs in Baltimore, helping to end the O's 14-year playoff drought in 2012. Jones is a perennial 30-homer threat and the face of the franchise, while Tillman has become a staff workhorse, winning 29 games between '13-14 and surpassing 200 innings pitched in both seasons.
1. Miggy comes to Detroit
While the Marlins changed course this past winter with the huge contract they gave Giancarlo Stanton, they once were a franchise that would not give out long-term deals to homegrown players. And when Cabrera emerged as a Hall of Fame-caliber superstar in the mid-2000s, it seemed inevitable that they would trade him.
That time came on Dec. 4, 2007, when the Marlins sent Miggy and Dontrelle Willis -- then a promising young pitcher in his own right -- to Detroit for a six-player package fronted by center fielder Cameron Maybin and lefty Andrew Miller, who were arguably two of the top 20 prospects in the game at the time.
While Willis never recaptured the success he had in Miami, Cabrera made the trade more than worth it. He signed a long-term extension the following March and has since won three AL batting titles, two AL MVP Awards and an AL Triple Crown, helping lead the Tigers to four straight division titles (and counting) as well as a World Series appearance.
Cabrera is well on his way to Cooperstown, and it's rare for a player of that caliber to be traded in his prime. As for the Tigers, when you trade two elite prospects, you can only dream of this kind of return.
Dan O'Dowd is an MLB Network analyst and MLB.com columnist who served as general manager of the Rockies for 15 years, building a National League pennant winner in 2007. Prior to his time with Colorado, he worked in the front offices of the Orioles and Indians. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.