If there’s one thing the Seattle Mariners’ front office has been good at over the years, it’s making horrible trades.
From Bill Bavasi, to Pat Gillick, to Woody Woodward, to Dick Balderson, to Hal Keller and more, the M’s have had a track record of general management that has been apt to pull the trigger on questionable moves that simply did not pan out. Which is why we’ve taken the liberty of compiling 30 of these deals and ranking them in order to bring you the very worst of the worst.
Next time you clamor for a trade, just remember these past mistakes, The 30 Worst Trades in Seattle Mariners History.
30. David Bell to San Francisco for Desi Relaford and cash (1/25/02)
Having just netted Jeff Cirillo in a trade one month earlier, the M’s no longer had a spot for Bell. So they pawned their old three-bagger off on the Giants for utility infielder Desi Relaford, an ex-Mariners prospect who the team had once upon time squandered on an aging Terry Mulholland. The only winner in this deal was the cash, which came in handy when paying off Cirillo’s salary a few years later.
29. Henry Cotto and Jeff Darwin to Florida for Dave Magadan (6/27/93)
+Dave Magadan to Florida for Jeff Darwin and cash (11/9/93)
= Dave Magadan and Henry Cotto to Florida for Jeff Darwin and cash
You know that scene in Father of the Bride Part II where Steve Martin’s character sells his beautiful home on a crazy whim, then realizing the error of his ways attempts to rectify the situation by buying back the house for more than he sold it for? That’s essentially what this was. Except that Jeff Darwin was more like a double-wide trailer.
28. John Mabry and Tom Davey to San Diego for Al Martin (7/31/00)
Not that Mabry or Davey were exceptional baseball players, but there were just so many things wrong with Al Martin that we could devote an entire Top 11 list to the former outfielder’s problems, beginning and ending with the fact that he’s crazy.
27. Joe Mays and Jeremy Palki to Minnesota for Roberto Kelly (8/20/97)
The once-proud Kelly was an absolute bust during the M’s 1997 playoff run. Mays, on the other hand, turned into a serviceable starting pitcher who won 17 games for the Twinkies in 2001.
26. Miguel Cairo and Bill Risley to Toronto for Edwin Hurtado and Paul Menhart (12/18/95)
What’s that? You didn’t know the Mariners were at one time the owners of a younger, flourishing, completely untainted version of the pinch-running, 2008 edition of Miguel Cairo?
25. Mike Blowers to Los Angeles Dodgers for Miguel Cairo and Willis Otanez (11/29/05)
Blowers would never again replicate the success he had with the ’95 M’s, but Seattle couldn’t do much with the so-called talent they obtained in capitalizing on Blow’s peaking value. We all know what happened to Cairo, and Otanez never made an impact in the bigs.
24. Freddy Garcia and Ben Davis to Chicago White Sox for Miguel Olivo, Jeremy Reed, and Mike Morse (6/27/04)
In hindsight, losing Freddy didn’t hurt the franchise too badly, seeing as how The Chief was last seen in the minor leagues throwing fastballs around 85 MPH. Still, at the time of the deal Garcia was considered an emerging ace and the M’s simply struck out in returning value on their investment.
23. Phil Bradley and Tim Fortugno to Philadelphia for Glenn Wilson, Mike Jackson, and Dave Brundage (12/9/87)
As a kid, I would often peruse the Sunday sports section for the statistics of the Mariners’ minor league affiliates. I liked to see who we had on the farm, and what those guys were doing. Under “Calgary Cannons,” I can recall seeing the name “Dave Brundage” for what seemed like my entire childhood. Eventually Brundage would become a manager in the M’s minor league system. That’s pretty much all you need to know about this trade.
22. Julio Cruz to Chicago White Sox for Tony Bernazard (6/15/83)
Remember Tony Bernazard? Neither do I. Next.
21. Matt Thornton to Chicago White Sox for Joe Borchard (3/20/06)
Borchard was a dual threat at Stanford, quarterbacking the football team while hitting home runs for the baseball team. Too bad he couldn’t hit home runs outside the Pac 10.
20. Randy Winn to San Francisco for Jesse Foppert and Yorvit Torrealba (7/30/05)
I miss Randy Winn. That’s all.
19. Shawn Estes and Wilson Delgado to San Francisco for Salomon Torres (5/21/95)
It took an abrupt retirement, four-year hiatus from pitching, and a minor league coaching gig to convince Salomon Torres that he needed to validate this trade (and Estes’ 1997 All-Star appearance) by having the longest playing career out of the three men involved. I can almost picture Sal hopping up and down, clicking his heels in glee.
18. Danny Tartabull and Rick Luecken to Kansas City for Scott Bankhead, Mike Kingery, and Steve Shields (12/10/86)
Tartabull can thank the M’s brass for indirectly landing him a cameo appearance on Seinfeld. On behalf of Seattle, you’re welcome.
17. Asdrubal Cabrera to Cleveland for Eduardo Perez (6/30/06)
Somehow I knew this trade might not work out when, less than a year later, I turned on Baseball Tonight and wouldn’t you know it, there’s Eduardo Perez in a suit.
16. Chris Snelling and Emiliano Fruto to Washington for Jose Vidro (12/18/06)
First off, I really liked Chris Snelling and so did a lot of other Mariners’ fans. Who cares if the guy is the epitome of unfulfilled promise? At least he’s not Jose Effing Vidro.
15. Carlos Guillen to Detroit for Ramon Santiago and Juan Gonzalez (1/8/04)
Two things to note about this trade. One, it’s not THE Juan Gonzalez, merely a crappy minor league infielder with the same name. And two, after Santiago fulfilled his one-year commitment to the M’s, he signed a free agent contract with Detroit. Talk about a kick in the nuts.
14. Dave Henderson and Spike Owen to Boston for Rey Quinones, Mike Brown, John Christensen, and Mike Trujillo (8/17/86)
By 1990, Quinones, Brown, Christensen, and Trujillo were all out of the big leagues for good. That same year, Dave Henderson won a World Series title with Oakland. By 1991, Hendu was an All-Star. It’s okay though. He rewarded Seattleites for their good-faith effort by opening a state-of-the-art batting cage in the area in the late-1990s.
13. Shin-Soo Choo and Shawn Nottingham to Cleveland for Ben Broussard (8/24/06)
At the time this deal was made, it didn’t look half bad. Broussard was an up-and-comer relegated to a backup role in Cleveland, while Choo had never really been able to put his talent to use in the majors. Not three years later, Choo is turning into a star in the Indians’ outfield, and Broussard is off playing his guitar somewhere.
12. Jamie Moyer to Philadelphia for Andrew Barb and Andy Baldwin (8/19/06)
Playing high school baseball in the area, I remember Redmond native Andrew Barb as a lanky catcher who could hit for decent average and power and….wait, what’s that? He’s a pitcher now? Why would they make him a pitcher? He never pitched in high school! Maybe that explains why he never rose above A-ball. At least the 26-year-old Baldwin is in Tacoma. There’s still hope, people!
11. Jose Cruz, Jr. to Toronto for Paul Spoljaric and Mike Timlin (7/31/97)
Once again using hindsight as our barometer, this trade doesn’t look too entirely terrible these days. Unfortunately, on the day the deal was made, Cruz was still considered the Mariners’ top prospect, and Timlin and Spoljaric were essentially journeymen who could fill out a bullpen. Though he never lived up to the potential the M’s saw in him, Cruz did become a starting outfielder for a number of teams, while Timlin found success elsewhere, and Spoljaric was nothing short of a bust.
10. Brian Fuentes, Denny Stark, and Jose Paniagua to Colorado for Jeff Cirillo (12/16/01)
Most of the trades on this list are considered bad because of what the Mariners gave away. With all due respect to Fuentes (who has turned himself into a valuable relief pitcher), Stark (now back with the M’s), and Paniagua (out of baseball), this trade was a complete dud because of what we got in return. Pat Gillick’s one big mistake brought us a hole at third base and a contract that we had to pay out long after we’d washed our hands of Cirillo.
9. Bill Swift, Dave Burba, and Mike Jackson to San Francisco for Kevin Mitchell and Mike Remlinger (12/11/91)
What I knew about Kevin Mitchell then, and what I still know about him today: There is a character in the movie Ernest Goes To Jail that looks exactly — and I mean, exactly — like him. Down to the gold tooth and everything. Go check it out, you’ll see what I mean.
8. Rafael Soriano to Atlanta for Horacio Ramirez (12/7/06)
I entitle this trade “The Worst Trade In Mariners History That Everyone Not Named Bill Bavasi Knew Was Horrible From The Very Second It Was Announced.” But we need starting pitching, everyone, you don’t understand, Horacio fills a need! Hey, Bill, let me ask you something. Where’d you get your education? F.U.?
7. Tino Martinez, Jeff Nelson, and Jim Mecir to New York Yankees for Sterling Hitchcock and Russ Davis (12/7/95)
Rusty’s biggest contribution to the franchise can be found here. Hitchcock was merely another left-handed starting pitcher who tantalized the M’s with his potential (think Horacio Ramirez, but not as bad). Tino and Nelly went onto greatness and championships in the Bronx, while the throw-in Mecir actually became a pretty good setup man with Tampa and Oakland.
6. Omar Vizquel to Cleveland for Felix Fermin, Reggie Jefferson, and cash (12/20/93)
I was nine years old in 1993, and remember getting the gift I’d always wanted for Christmas that year. No, not a light-hitting shortstop, or a non-hitting DH, but a pro model teal Mariners cap from my dad. Always wanted a cap like that. Unfortunately it came packaged with the aforementioned Fermin and Jefferson.
5. Mike Hampton and Mike Felder to Houston for Eric Anthony (12/10/93)
As if the Vizquel trade wasn’t bad enough, just ten days earlier the Mariners gave away a top-of-the-rotation starter as a throw-in to a deal involving two outfielders that neither team really wanted. In 1999 (the same year the M’s were trotting Jeff Fassero and his 7.38 ERA out to the mound every fifth day), Hampton won 22 games for the Astros, had an ERA under 3.00, finished second in NL Cy Young voting (to Randy Johnson, no less), and made his first of two All-Star appearances. Whoops.
4. Ken Griffey, Jr. to Cincinnati for Mike Cameron, Brett Tomko, Antonio Perez, and Jake Meyer (2/10/00)
The M’s had no choice but to deal their unhappy superstar at the time, but you think they could have acquired more than just Mike Cameron and the Pips in return for one of the greatest players in baseball history. Now that Ken’s finally back in a Mariners uniform, he becomes the 10th player on our list to return for a second tour of duty in Seattle after being traded away.
3. Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman, Kam Mickolio, and Tony Butler to Baltimore for Erik Bedard (2/8/08)
Basically, Erik Bedard is baseball’s version of Herschel Walker. Twenty years from now, we’ll find out that his aloof behavior and subpar performances were a result of multiple personalities, not unlike those that plagued the former Vikings running back. As for the players the M’s shipped to Baltimore? Jones is batting .370, with eight home runs, 26 RBI, and 35 runs scored; Sherrill was an All-Star in ’08 who notched 31 saves; and Tillman and Mickolio are ranked No. 2 and No. 10, respectively, on Baseball America’s list of the Orioles’ Top Prospects. And thus we close on the book on the Bill Bavasi era.
2. David Arias to Minnesota for Dave Hollins (8/29/96)
You may not have heard of David Arias, but you’ve probably heard of David Ortiz. They’re the same guy, albeit with different surnames. It’s not often a team royally screws the pooch in a post-deadline trade, but the M’s did just that in 1996 when they felt the sudden urge to acquire a pinch hitter for a failed run at the postseason. In exchange, they gave away one of the greatest power hitters of our generation and arguably one of the most popular major leaguers in the game today.
1. Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek to Boston for Heathcliff Slocumb (7/31/97)
Imagine holding two candy bars that you really want to eat when someone offers you a piece of poop that looks like a candy bar in exchange. For some inexplicable reason you make the swap, perhaps thinking that the piece of poop you acquired was actually a bigger, better candy bar than both the candy bars you already had.
Immediately after you’ve made the trade, you realize that your first guess was right, and you’re stuck with a disgusting piece of crap with a hairy chest full of man boobs that doesn’t wear undershirts and can’t seem to keep his jersey buttoned. That’s basically the juxtaposition of this deal, which to this day is not only the worst in franchise history, but consistently rated as one of baseball’s worst trades of all time.