Swap worked out for Phillies, who landed Hall of Fame lefty
By Doug Miller
It was 44 years ago today, Feb. 25, 1972, and Spring Training was in full swing.
Rick Wise was a 26-year-old All-Star pitcher for the Phillies coming off a 1971 season during which he went 17-14 with a 2.88 ERA and tossed a no-hitter in which he hit two home runs. He was preparing for a big follow-up campaign and had completed the day's drills.
Wise was kicking back in his apartment in Clearwater, Fla., when the team's traveling secretary showed up at his door. But the visit wasn't about the arrangements for the next day's tee time or a spot on a fishing charter on the next off-day. It was to tell Wise that he'd been traded to the Cardinals for another All-Star pitcher, 27-year-old left-hander Steve Carlton.
The situation was common, but the end result was far from normal.
"It was all about contract negotiations," Wise told MLB.com. "It was as simple as that. We were both at loggerheads with both our teams. I was making $25,000 after seven years in the big leagues and I wanted to double my salary, which I thought I deserved. I was offered a $10,000 raise, and I said no. Steve wanted more money, too.
"So they traded us for each other, and we ended up both signing for exactly what we wanted from our old clubs. Go figure. I don't know. It was just because the management must have been thinking, 'We'll show you.' It was a ridiculous trade."
And it's now a famous trade, one that we look back on for today's Throwback Thursday. Carlton went on to go 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA, 310 strikeouts, 30 complete games and eight shutouts in 346 1/3 innings for a 59-win Phillies club in 1972 in one of the four National League Cy Young Award seasons in his Hall of Fame career. "Lefty" finished up 16 years later with 329 wins and 4,136 strikeouts, and he cruised into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994, with 95.6 percent of the vote the first time he was on the ballot.
"I've always said that the trade coming over from the Cardinals, who were at that time competing for a championship every year, to a then-last-place Philadelphia ballclub was sort of a blessing in disguise for me," Carlton said during his Hall of Fame induction speech in 1994.
"It gave me the opportunity to really, seriously put my ideas into play and into focus even stronger and concentrate even greater than I'd ever done before."
Wise wasn't Carlton, but he was plenty good himself. He went 16-16 with a 3.11 ERA in 1972, logging 269 innings and throwing 20 complete games, then actually outpitched Carlton in '73, going 16-12 with a 3.37 ERA and making another All-Star team while Carlton went 13-20 with a 3.90 ERA for Philadelphia.
Wise was never close to Hall of Fame quality, but he ended up playing 18 years in the Majors and won 188 games.
"I'm proud of my career," Wise said. "Very proud."
The one-for-one swap was a good example of a fun but unfortunately increasingly rare transaction in the Major Leagues: the challenge trade.
Here's the concept: One team has an established, successful Major Leaguer, but the circumstances dictate that the player is worth trading. Another team is in a similar situation, so a phone call is made, an offer is put together and boom: Here's your good player, here's my good player; and time will tell who made the right call. (In a perfect world, a la Wise for Carlton, both players occupy the same position.)
On Feb. 25, 1972, the Phillies ultimately made the right call. But the fun of the challenge trade is that you just never know.
In honor of #TBT and the Carlton-for-Wise swap, here are a handful of other memorable challenge trades:
April 17, 1960: Indians trade Rocky Colavito to the Tigers for Harvey Kuenn
Colavito tied for the American League lead with 42 long balls in 1959, and Kuenn had won the batting title the same year by hitting .353. It seems like a straight-up deal, a "baseball trade," as the old-schoolers call it. The Tigers got the better of the deal, though. Colavito averaged almost 35 homers a year for the next four seasons with Detroit, and Kuenn hit .308 for Cleveland in 1960 before being traded again.
June 15, 1964: Cubs trade Lou Brock, Jack Spring and Paul Toth to the Cardinals for Ernie Broglio, Doug Clemens and Bobby Shantz
Forget about Spring, Toth, Clemens and Shantz. Those names were just throw-ins for a deal that was all about Broglio for Brock. Broglio was able to lure a young talent like Brock in the deal because he had won 18 games in 1963. But he had a bad start in St. Louis in '64 and wasn't overly effective for Chicago after the trade. Brock became a Hall of Famer and one of the best leadoff men ever.
Dec. 5, 1990: Padres trade Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter to the Blue Jays for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez
In an even more rare four-player challenge trade, young Alomar had just become an All-Star and Carter was doing his usual slugging when the Padres decided to ship them off to the Blue Jays for another slugger (McGriff) and an older, more proven infielder (Fernandez). Toronto profited big time from this swap, with both players contributing to two World Series titles (1992 and '93) and Carter hitting a walk-off homer off Mitch Williams to secure the '93 Fall Classic for the Blue Jays.
Nov. 3, 1992: Yankees trade Roberto Kelly to the Reds for Paul O'Neill and Joe De Berry
De Berry was a Minor Leaguer and did not factor into what was essentially a one-for-one swap of solid big league outfielders in their prime. Kelly was a power-and-speed threat, and O'Neill had shown glimpses of his potential with an All-Star season in 1991. The deal worked out for the Yankees, with O'Neill coming into his own almost immediately and going on to become the "Warrior" right-field icon of the club's 1996-2000 dynasty.
Nov. 19, 1993: Dodgers trade Pedro Martinez to the Expos for Delino DeShields
Martinez went 10-5 with a 2.61 ERA primarily in middle relief as a 21-year-old, and despite 119 strikeouts in 107 innings, the Dodgers had concerns about how his slight frame would hold up, and they found a veteran infielder in DeShields who had just hit .295 with a .389 on-base percentage and 43 stolen bases. Pedro became Pedro in Montreal, and DeShields was a solid-but-not-spectacular player from that point on.
The Rangers had top prospect Jurickson Profar seemingly ready to take over for the three-time All-Star Kinsler at second base, and they were looking for more power in their lineup. The Tigers had another $168 million to pay first baseman Fielder over seven years and wanted to move Miguel Cabrera from the hot corner to first. So the trade was made, with Detroit sending $30 million to Texas to complete it. So far, it's worked out pretty well for both teams.
And isn't that what a challenge trade is all about?
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.