Five Most Controversial Trades in MLB History

Five Most Controversial Trades in MLB History

One of the most controversial trades in baseball history occurred a century ago when the Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees. Controversial trades in baseball have to number in the hundreds and potentially even thousands. Here are the top five most-controversial, starting with Babe Ruth.

Baseball’s All-Time Worst Trade: Babe Ruth

Although the Boston Red Sox had won the World Series in 1918, by 1920, owner Harry Frazee needed money to produce a Broadway musical. The Red Sox curse that lasted almost 100 years is usually traced back to Frazee’s terrible trade. In exchange for $125,000 and a $300,000 loan, Frazee let Babe Ruth go to the New York Yankees where he went on to make history while the Red Sox were doomed to decades of missed opportunities and playoff failure.

Cubs Trade Lou Brock

Lou Brock’s name became synonymous with the St. Louis Cardinals and he retired as MLB’s all-time stolen base leader in 1979. An all-round excellent fielder and hitter, Brock led the Cardinals to the National League championship in 1964. But the Chicago Cubs had Brock first. They traded him to St. Louis for pitcher Ernie Broglio in 1964. Broglio seemed like the best bet at the time, but he won only 4 games with the Cubs in 1966, and only played another two years. Hall of Famer Brock was one of the best players in baseball for almost 20 years.

Mets Trade Nolan Ryan

Back in 1971, the New York Mets traded young Nolan Ryan along with three other players to the California Angels in return for Jim Fregosi, a strong-performing shortstop. Fregosi only played a couple of years for the Mets before being sent on to Texas. Nolan Ryan went on to make history, throwing seven no-hitters for the Angels and leading the American League in strikeouts. Ryan eventually had his number retired by three different teams, and is by far the leader in career strikeouts with over 5,700.

A’s Trade Mark McGwire

Although his playing career has become controversial due to performance-enhancing drugs, Mark McGwire’s hitting career is legendary. In 1997, beating the free agent deadline, the Oakland A’s traded McGwire to the St. Louis Cardinals. There’s no telling how much McGwire could have commanded during free agency, but the A’s got three mediocre players in return. The season he was traded, Big Mac ended up breaking Roger Maris’ single season home run record and hit another 65 homers in 1999.

Reds Trade Frank Robinson to Orioles

Hall of Famer Frank Robinson is one of baseball’s best all-round players and most-loved Baltimore Orioles. In December, 1975, Cincinnati Reds manager Bill DeWitt thought that at age 30, Robinson was too old to contribute, so he traded him to the Orioles in exchange for pitcher Milt Pappas and two other players. Robinson went on to propel the Orioles to two World Series championships while Pappas played two average seasons and the others contributed very little to the Cincinnati team.

Before Curt Flood challenged MLB’s monopoly in trading, owners could trade players any time they liked. After 1975, MLB players got the right to declare free agency after six years of play with any one team. Owners still frequently make trades before players become free agents. Sometimes the trades are so bad that fans wonder for years what the front office was thinking.


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