Brewers' trade history is marked by blockbusters, busts
About six weeks from now, if not sooner, Brewers fans could be celebrating Carlos Lee's contract extension or critiquing the trade that sent the left fielder out of town.
Nobody is certain how that one will play out at this point.
While waiting to see what happens, we thought it would be fun to discuss some of the best and worst trades in Brewers history. Our extensive research (OK, it wasn't that extensive), shows that the Brewers have actually fared reasonably well in trades.
Free agency is another matter, of course, but we'll save that for the off-season.
Whether you agree, disagree or simply would like to nominate a few candidates of your own to our trade list, feel free to use the talkback feature at the end of this story to add your input.
And now, on to the list:
THE BEST TRADES IN BREWERS HISTORY
On Dec. 12, 1980, the Brewers acquire catcher Ted Simmons, pitcher Pete Vuckovich and closer Rollie Fingers in exchange for outfielders Sixto Lezcano and David Green and pitchers Lary Sorensen and Dave LaPoint.
This deal paved the way for the Brewers to make the playoffs in 1981 and '82. Fingers, a future Hall of Famer, won the Cy Young Award in 1981, Vuckovich won it the following year. Simmons provided offense from behind the plate and leadership in the clubhouse.
Although it's almost unheard of to pick up two Cy Young winners in a single trade, this deal wasn't as lopsided as some Brewers fans would like to think. The Cardinals had a surplus of relievers and catchers and needed Sorensen and LaPoint to solidify their rotation and get Green, who was regarded as one of the top prospects in baseball at the time of this deal.
The Cardinals also beat the Brewers in the '82 World Series.
On Dec. 6, 1976, the Brewers traded popular first baseman George "Boomer" Scott and outfielder Bernie Carbo to Boston for a sweet-swinging first baseman named Cecil Cooper.
Cooper went on to be one of the top hitters in the American League for about a decade. Scott, who had started his career in Boston, hit 33 homers in 1977 but tailed off quickly after that. Carbo, a pivotal figure in the 1975 World Series, had been acquired by the Brewers on June 3, 1975 in exchange for Tom Murphy and Bobby Darwin.
On Aug. 30, 1982, the Brewers sent three players to be named later (Kevin Bass, Frank DiPino and Mike Madden) to Houston in exchange for Don Sutton. Sutton, a future Hall of Famer, validated this deal with strong pitching down the stretch, including a victory in the do-or-die final game of the regular season in Baltimore.
The Brewers traded Sutton to Oakland in the winter of 1984, receiving Ray Burris, Eric Barry and Ed Myers in return.
On Aug. 31, 1996, the Brewers dealt Kevin Seitzer to Cleveland for Jeromy Burnitz.
Seitzer, who had been a productive and popular player, was planning to retire after the season but was rejuvenated by his stint with the Indians and stuck around for another year.
Burnitz settled into the middle of the Milwaukee lineup and averaged about 30 homers and 100 RBI for five seasons before being dealt to New York at the 2001 Winter Meetings.
On June 15, 1977, the Brewers traded two minor-leaguers -- Dick O'Keefe and Garry Pyka -- to Cincinnati in exchange for left-hander Mike Caldwell.
Caldwell went 22-9 in his first full season in Milwaukee and went on to become a mainstay of the rotation for about six more years. He is regarded as one of the tougher competitors in franchise history.
SEXY DEAL, PART 2
On Dec. 1, 2003, the Brewers shipped popular first baseman Richie Sexson, lefty Shane Nance and outfielder Noochie Varner to Arizona for first baseman Lyle Overbay, catcher Chad Moeller, lefty Chris Capuano, lefty Jorge De La Rosa, shortstop Craig Counsell and second baseman Junior Spivey.
While we can't dub it the best deal in Brewers history, we can say that it's the most lopsided in the team's favor.
Capuano won 18 games last season. Overbay was shipped to Toronto for Dave Bush, Gabe Gross and Zach Jackson. Moeller is the Brewers' backup catcher. Spivey was spun into right-hander Tomo Ohka. Counsell babysat the shortstop spot for J.J. Hardy.
Sexson played 23 games for Arizona before going down with a shoulder injury. He then signed with Seattle as a free agent.
On Nov. 2, 1974, the Brewers made a trade strictly for public relations purposes and it was a home run. Milwaukee sent Dave May and a player to be named (Roger Alexander) to Atlanta in exchange for Hank Aaron.
Aaron spent two seasons as a designated hitter in a farewell tour, hit a few homers, generated some publicity and then saw his number retired by the club.
SEXY DEAL, PART 1
On July 28, 2000, the Brewers traded closer Bob Wickman and starters Jason Bere and Steve Woodard to Cleveland for first baseman Richie Sexson, Kane Davis, Paul Rigdon and Marco Scutaro.
Sexson was a two-time all-star with Milwaukee and played every inning of every game. Rigdon and Davis were injury-prone and did little for the Brewers, which matched what Bere and Woodard did in Cleveland.
The only thing keeping this trade from ranking high on our list was the fact that Wickman, still with the Indians, is the team's all-time leader in saves and the Brewers didn't recognize the talents of Scutaro, who has been a serviceable player for Oakland.
IF YOU CAN'T BEAT 'EM...
While playing for Detroit, Ben Oglivie tormented the Brewers so much that they went out and acquired him. On Dec. 9, 1977, the Brewers sent Jim Slaton and Rich Folkers to the Tigers for Oglivie, who became a key figure on their powerhouse teams.
The deal got even better a year later, when Slaton re-signed with the Brewers as a free agent.
On Dec. 13, 2004, the Brewers sent popular center fielder Scott Podsednik, Luis Vizcaino and (later) Travis Hinton to the Chicago White Sox for Carlos Lee, known as "El Caballo."
Melvin called it "a good baseball trade," at the time and neither side could complain. Lee has been the Brewers' most productive offensive player since he walked through the door and Podsednik helped the White Sox win the World Series.
On Oct. 23, 1981, the Brewers sent Rickey Keeton to Houston for a reliever named Pete Ladd. It wasn't considered a big deal at the time, but Ladd -- known for his gargantuan feet -- ended up playing a huge role for the Brewers when Fingers was injured in the '82 playoffs.
On Dec. 8, 1983, the Brewers dealt Ned Yost and Dan Scarpetta to Texas for catcher Jim Sundberg.
Sundberg went on to be an all-star in his only season with Milwaukee. Yost was a bust in Texas, but went on to become a coach and eventually manager of the Brewers.
On Dec. 16, 2004, the Brewers sent infielder Keith Ginter to Oakland for reliever Justin Lehr and outfielder Nelson Cruz.
Ginter, who had signed a multi-year deal, was squeezed out of the infield by Wes Helms, Bill Hall, Russell Branyan and others. Lehr was outrighted this spring, but Cruz is regarded as one of the better prospects in the Brewers' system.
On December 11, 2004, the Brewers traded closer Dan Kolb to Atlanta for Jose Capellan and Alec Zumwalt. Capellan is a promising reliever. Kolb was brutal in Atlanta and returned to the Brewers this year in a deal that sent Wes Obermueller to the Braves.
KITCHEN SINK TRADE
On Oct. 11, 1971, the Brewers traded Tommy Harper, Pat Skrable, Lew Krausse and Marty Pattin to Boston for Jim Lonborg, Ken Brett, Billy Conigliaro, Joe Lahoud, George Scott and Don Pavelitch.
Scott and Lonborg were early stars for the Brewers.
THE WORST TRADES IN BREWERS HISTORY
WINDY CITY WHITEWASH
On Jan. 12, 2000, the Brewers sent Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin to the White Sox for Jaime Navarro and John Snyder.
The results were nothing short of disastrous.
Eldred's season was cut short by injury, but he was 10-2 in 20 starts. Valentin hit 25 homers and had 68 extra-base hits. The Brewers were tired of his act at short (so they signed Jose Hernandez instead!), but Valentin deserved a chance to win an outfield job.
Navarro was released after a hideous start (0-6, 10.53 ERA). Snyder was about as gruesome (3-10, 6.17).
SO LONG, SHEFF
On March 26, 1992, the Brewers shipped disgruntled infielder Gary Sheffield and Geoff Kellogg to San Diego for Ricky Bones, Jose Valentin and Matt Mieske.
Given what Sheffield has done since, many would regard this trade as a bust. But, you have to remember the context. Outside of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, you'd be pressed to find another athlete who loathed Milwaukee as much as Sheffield, who paved his way out of town by ripping owner Bud Selig and -- as he admitted later -- throwing balls into the stands on purpose.
At the time of the trade, Sheffield hadn't done anything in the major leagues. The Brewers did the best they could and the three players the Brewers received were more than adequate. Bones was an all-star and opening day starter. Valentin was a productive player and Mieske mashed lefties when given the chance.
On June 6, 1983, the Brewers traded popular centerfielder Gorman Thomas, along with Ernie Camacho and Jamie Easterly, to Cleveland for Rick Manning and Rick Waits.
Thomas, one of the more beloved players in franchise history, was devastated by the deal and so were many of his fans. He ended up finishing his career with Milwaukee a few years later, but some fans had a hard time getting over this deal.
Manning was a likable guy, but never hit higher than .254 for the Brewers and is probably the only player to be booed by the home crowd after a game-winning hit. That's because his single "ended" Paul Molitor's 39-game hitting streak. Molitor was on deck in extra innings when Manning came through with his ill-timed hit.
On Nov. 17, 1992, the Brewers shipped outfielder Dante Bichette to Colorado for Kevin Reimer.
With the expansion draft approaching, the Brewers worked a deal to send Bichette, along with his defensive issues and $1.5 million contract, to the Rockies for Reimer, whose defense was even more deplorable than the man he was traded for.
Reimer hit .249 with 13 homers and 60 RBI, not exactly great production for a DH. Bichette became a triple-crown threat in hitter-friendly Coors Field and nearly won the National League MVP award after hitting .340 with 40 homers and 128 RBI in 1995. Playing at altitude helped, but Bichette put up productive seasons in Cincinnati and Boston after leaving the Rockies.
On Dec. 6, 1976, the Brewers shipped popular catcher Darrell Porter and pitcher Jim Colborn to Kansas City for Jamie Quirk, Jim Wohlford and a player to be named (Bob McClure).
Although McClure turned into a serviceable pitcher, the Brewers are ripped for trading Porter to this day. What some fans don't know, however, is that the Brewers were aware of Porter's problems with drugs and alcohol. After spending time in rehab in 1980, he went on to play a key role for St. Louis in the '82 World Series, but died of a cocaine overdose in 2002.
On January 14, 2000, the Brewers traded Alex Ochoa to Cincinnati for Mark Sweeney and Gene Altman.
This was Dean Taylor's first trade and he should have asked for a do-over. New manager Davey Lopes had worked with Sweeney in San Diego and valued him as a veteran reserve and positive clubhouse influence. The trouble was that Sweeney had undergone shoulder surgery in the off-season and could barely lift his arm when he arrived in spring training. The Brewers needed bodies at the time and really couldn't afford a pinch-hit specialist.
Ochoa was a five-tool player who never lived up to his advance billing, but may have blossomed with an everyday opportunity in Milwaukee.
Given Sweeney's injury, Taylor should have tried to void the trade. Given that he was new to the job, pride probably prevented him from doing that.
LITTLE FOR LIDLE
On Jan. 17, 1996, the Brewers traded pitching prospect Cory Lidle to the Mets for backup catcher Kelly Stinnett.
Lidle went on to be a decent pitcher in the majors, while Stinnett is part of the army of similar light-hitting backups who have played in Milwaukee. The Brewers lost Stinnett to Arizona in the 1997 expansion draft. Lidle is still pitching.
SHOULDERING A BURDEN
On June 9, 1990, the Brewers sent Glenn Braggs and Billy Bates to Cincinnati for Ron Robinson and Bob Sebra.
The Reds won the World Series, while the Brewers watched Robinson wallow in arm trouble.
MISSING THE MARK
On Sept. 5, 2002, the Brewers shipped infielder Mark Loretta to Houston in exchange for Wayne Franklin and Keith Ginter.
Loretta was expensive and a tad injury prone, but he was also talented and a solid citizen in the clubhouse and community. The Brewers moved him in an attempt to get younger and cheaper, but then had to watch him become an all-star in San Diego a few years later.
Ginter hit a few homers and Franklin gave the Brewers a few nice innings, but neither came close to all-star status.
NOTHING FOR 'NANDO
On December 20, 1999, the Brewers sent second baseman Fernando Vina to St. Louis for Juan Acevedo, Eliezer Alfonzo and Matt Parker.
Vina, whose scrappy play and leadoff skills made him a popular figure in Milwaukee, had some solid seasons for the Cardinals before succumbing to injury.
Acevedo had little impact and the other players didn't make it up the minor-league ladder with Milwaukee.
THE VAUGHN VALLEY
On July 31, 1996, the Brewers shipped impending free agent Greg Vaughn (and Gerald Parent) to San Diego for Bryce Florie, Ron Villone and Marc Newfield.
It was clear that the Brewers weren't going to be able to afford Vaughn, who went on in 1998 to hit 50 homers and help the Padres to the World Series and had some decent seasons for Cincinnati and Tampa Bay thereafter.
Florie and Villone were mediocre relievers, but this deal blew when Newfield did. After a promising second-half in 1996 (7 homers, 15 doubles and 31 RBI in 179 at-bats), Newfield reported to spring training the following year with a bulked-up physique and a slow bat. He was a non-factor the next two seasons and was released in the winter of '98.
On Feb. 24, 2001, the Brewers shipped outfielder Marquis Grissom and pitcher Rudy Lugo to Los Angeles for Devon White. This was about as even a trade as you can imagine. Grissom and White were both getting heat from the home fans and their salaries were a wash at $5 million. The problem with this deal was that White disappeared after the 2001 season, while Grissom continued to be a productive platoon-type player for nearly five years.
You seriously left out the Cirillo trade as one of the worst in Brewers' history? Milwaukee traded their all-time leader in career batting average for three garbage players, Jimmy Haynes, Henry Blanco, and Jamey Wright. Blanco made Craig Counsell look like a decent hitter! Easily the worst trade in Brewer history.
St. Germain said: You left out trades that almost happened, but never did. Like the one in the winter of 2003 when the Brewers almost traded the entire roster for 2 rosin bags, 3 Mizuno batting gloves, 3 ham sandwiches, and a portobella mushroom. It's too bad this one never went through. We could have used the ham sandwiches.
Thank You said: That was a very interesting history to the Brewers trading past. I'd have to say (although I may be biased due to my age of 27) that the trade with Arizona that brought Overbay and Clark to Milwaukee was one of the best deals. Simply because we are still feeling the positive effects even this past week: Capuano (12k's) and Zach Jackson pitching a great game earlier this week (overbay trade). So that is why I'm so partial to the "Sexy Deal" part 2.
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