Summarizing the Redleg Trade Review series, today I’ll list my ten worst Reds trades ever. You can search all the trades that were reviewed by going to the Redleg Nation search engine at the upper right corner of the page. I don’t know if it’s a matter of perspective or exactly why it seems this way, but it sure seems that we’ve made a bunch of, let’s just say, not-so-profitable trades over the years.

1. December 15, 1900….Christy Mathewson traded to the New York Giants for pitcher Amos Rusie. I’ll make it simple: Christy Mathewson is one of the five best pitchers of all time, winning 373 lifetime games. He won one with the Reds. Amos Rusie is also a Hall of Fame pitcher. He won 245 lifetime games, zero with the Reds.

2. December 9, 1965: Frank Robinson is traded by the Cincinnati Reds to the Baltimore Orioles for Jack Baldschun, Milt Pappas and Dick Simpson. Unfortunately, this is one of the most famous baseball trades of all time with no good light shining on the Reds.

3. December 13, 1934: Johnny Mize is purchased by the Cincinnati Reds from the St. Louis Cardinals.
April 15, 1935: Returned to the St. Louis Cardinals by the Cincinnati Reds following previous purchase.

Johnny Mize failed a physical with the Reds who returned him to the Cardinals after the Reds had purchased his contract. A couple of operations later, Mize becomes a Hall of Fame first baseman with a .312 career batting average and 359 career home runs.

4. December 5, 1957: Curt Flood is traded by the Cincinnati Redlegs with Joe Taylor to the St. Louis Cardinals for Marty Kutyna, Willard Schmidt and Ted Wieand. The Reds didn’t have room for future long time centerfield Gold Glover, Curt Flood, and it probably cost them the 1964 pennant. The Reds finished one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals…for whom Flood batted .311 with 211 hits and won a Gold Glove.

5. Who needs talent to win or draw attendance?

a. 1903….Of Sam Crawford jumps to Detroit Tigers (AL)
b. 1904….Sold Jake Beckley to St. Louis Cardinals
c. 1904… traded OF Mike Donlin to New York Giants
d. 1906….sold OF Cy Seymour to New York Giants
e. 1906…traded 3b Harry Steinfeldt to Chicago Cubs for SP Jake Weimer
f. 1906….traded SP Orvall Overall to Chicago Cubs for SP Bob Wicker

I couldn’t choose just one of these…and you may want to add Christy Mathewson to this list, too. This was an entire franchise attitude. Reds owners said they couldn’t afford to pay their stars, so their self fulfilling prophecy took place as they were losers for the next decade and their attendance was low. Imagine how good a one-two punch of Mathewson and Noodles Hahn would’ve been, especially coupled with the hitters listed above and second baseman Miller Huggins…

6. Starting pitchers for reserve outfielders–the Big Red Machine days…

1976==Traded 1b Tony Perez and LHP Will McEnaney to Montreal for LHP Woodie Fryman and RHP Dale Murray and the following:

1. 1970–Traded LHP Steve Mingori to Cleveland Indians for Jay Ward.
2. 1971—Traded RHP Milt Wilcox to Cleveland for OF Ted Uhlaender
3. 1972–Traded OF Hal McRae and SP Wayne Simpson to KC for OF Richie Scheinblum and SP Roger Nelson
4. 1973—Traded LHP Ross Grimsley to Baltimore for Merv Rettenmund
5. 1975—Traded RHP Joaquin Andujar to Houston for two minor league pitchers
6. 1977—traded LHP Mike Caldwell to Milwaukee for two minor leaguers
7. 1977—traded RHP Bill Caudill, along with LHP Woodie Fryman to the Chicago Cubs for RHP Bill Bonham
8. 1977—Traded Shane Rawley to Mariners for Of Dave Collins

We loved what Bob Howsam did to bring us the Big Red Machine, but the Machine was grinding down through the 1970’s due to our lack of pitching. We were brought down due to over use of our young pitchers and dealing a rotation and bullpen worth of talent to other teams for spare parts, not to mention dealing away the first great DH of the American League in pure hitter Hal McRae. We should’ve gotten more in return. The McRae trade may have been worse than the Perez trade.

7. 1960’s talent firesale…

1960: Traded outfielder Tony Gonzalez to Philadelphia for OF Wally Post
1961: Traded LHP Claude Osteen to Washington for RHP Dave Sisler
1962: Outfielder Jimmy Wynn is drafted from the Reds by the Houston Colt .45’s in the “first-year draft”
1962: Traded 2B Cookie Rojas to Philadelphia for RHP Jim Owens
1963: Traded LHP Mike Cuellar to Detroit for “unknown reasons” (thought to have been released through the Mexican League where Cuellar was pitching)
1964: Traded OF-2b Cesar Tovar to Minnesota for LHP Gerry Arrigo

I guess we can add Curt Flood to this list, too. We had five legitimate centerfielders working through our system at the same time–Vada Pinson, Flood, Gonzalez, Wynn, Tovar. In my mind, we kept the best centerfielder in Pinson, but we dealt Flood, and didn’t protect a young Wynn who grew up in our back yard and and kept Tommy Harper instead, letting the others get away too for nothing. Of the gentlemen listed as being traded away, only Gonzalez was never an all-star and even he received MVP votes three times. What’s amazing is how little we got in return, and then we spent the 1960’s in the middle of the pack.

8. With the Nasty Boys, who needs more relievers?

February 15, 1988: Jeff Montgomery is traded by the Cincinnati Reds to the Kansas City Royals for Van Snider.
November 27, 1991: John Wetteland is traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers with Tim Belcher to the Cincinnati Reds for Eric Davis and Kip Gross.
December 11, 1991: John Wetteland is traded by the Cincinnati Reds with Bill Risley to the Montreal Expos for Willie Greene, Dave Martinez and Scott Ruskin
November 17, 1992: Trevor Hoffman is drafted by the Florida Marlins from the Cincinnati Reds as the 8th pick in the 1992 expansion draft.

I couldn’t choose just one here either, and you can add the John Franco for Randy Myers trade, too. The Reds traded a plethora of young all-star pitchers away, getting virtually nothing in return, and spent the next decade chasing down pitching.

Numbers 5-6-7-8 were all organizational era decisions. All four eras had large talent purges from different ownership groups and different general managers for various reasons, and all hurt the organization. The early 1900’s team was financially strapped; the 1960’s group had more talent than they need (expansion was on the way), and the 1970’s groups were looking for spare parts and immediate gratification rather than saving/developing for the future. We had so many quality relievers in the early 1990’s that I don’t think we valued them as highly as we should have. The same could be said for the plethora of starting pitchers we had in the early 1970’s.

9. December 26, 1995: David Wells is traded by the Cincinnati Reds to the Baltimore Orioles for Trovin Valdez (minors) and Curtis Goodwin. The Reds acquired Wells for the successful stretch drive of 1995, then traded him to the Orioles in the offseason. The Reds have been starving for starting pitching ever since. Wells won 160 more games, including a perfect game after being traded from the Reds.

10. June 15, 1949: Cincinnati Reds trade outfielders Hank Sauer and Frank Baumholtz to the Chicago Cubs for outfielders Peanuts Lowrey and Harry Walker.

February 16, 1953: Joe Adcock is traded as part of a 4-team trade by the Cincinnati Reds to the Milwaukee Braves. The Milwaukee Braves sent cash to the Cincinnati Reds. The Milwaukee Braves sent Earl Torgeson to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Brooklyn Dodgers sent Jim Pendleton to the Milwaukee Braves. The Brooklyn Dodgers sent Rocky Bridges to the Cincinnati Reds. The Philadelphia Phillies sent cash to the Milwaukee Braves. The Philadelphia Phillies sent Russ Meyer to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The Reds had a lack of offense in the early 1950’s…now you know why.

11. November 3, 1992: Paul O’Neill is traded by the Cincinnati Reds with Joe DeBerry (minors) to the New York Yankees for Roberto Kelly. O’Neill went on to become a fan favorite and all-star for the Yankees and starred in five World Series for the Yankees. Kelly became a traveling fourth outfielder.

11 Responses

  1. Dan

    Uh, Steve, by my count your “top 10 worst trades ever” list includes 34 trades.

    Can you pare this down? It’s too much for my pea brain to take in at once.

  2. Steve Price


    The sad part of your point is that I couldn’t do the flipside on best trades…and that’s where being a Reds fan can really be frustrating. Over the years we’ve dealt, in stages, huge groups of young talented players away and got very little, if anything, in return…then management would complain about not being able to keep the players they had because they cost too much. It sounds more to me we’ve been poor at talent evaluation and they’ve feared turning the teams over.

    To cut it to just 10 individual deals…we’ve done so many bad deals it’s hard to know where to start…then do I split them into trades or personnel decisions…worst personnel decision was not to take Babe Ruth in a pre-authorized minor league deal, but he was never actually Reds property…

    1. Trading Christy Mathewson
    2. Trading Frank Robinson
    3. Returning Johnny Mize
    4. Dealing Curt Flood
    5. Not fighting for Sam Crawford
    6. Not protecting Jimmy Wynn
    7. Not developing Mike Cuellar
    8. Trading Tony Perez
    9. Not protecting Trevor Hoffman in expansion draft.
    10 Trading Hal McRae

    Serious honorable mentions go to

    1. Hank Sauer–became MVP
    2. David Wells–I didn’t include him in top ten because we never intended to keep him
    3. Ross Grimsley/Joaquin Andujur–BRM would’ve lasted longer
    4. John Franco–we really misjudged Myers
    6. John Wetteland–Willie Greene instead? we really misjudged this one, too

  3. Steve Price

    This is the paragraph that explains the groups of trades:

    “Numbers 5-6-7-8 were all organizational era decisions. All four eras had large talent purges from different ownership groups and different general managers for various reasons, and all hurt the organization. The early 1900’s team was financially strapped; the 1960’s group had more talent than they needed (expansion was on the way), and the 1970’s groups were looking for spare parts and immediate gratification rather than saving/developing for the future. We had so many quality relievers in the early 1990’s that I don’t think we valued them as highly as we should have. The same could be said for the plethora of starting pitchers we had in the early 1970’s.”

  4. RiverCity Redleg

    Good stuff, Steve. It really puts the Reds’ history in a different perspective.

  5. Steve Price

    The odd part about the Howsam trades…

    Howsam apparently wasn’t out to “outsmart” the other GMs. Yes, he wanted to win, but he believed he had to trade value to get value and wasn’t afraid to take on some risk. From reading “Making the Big Red Machine”, Howsam says he first offered only Lee May to the Astros for Joe Morgan.

    He couldn’t believe it when the Astros said no. He thought they would jump all over it…he told them he needed more speed, and he knew the Astros had wanted a first baseman–in fact, they had been scouting both May and Perez. May had a better 1971, so Howsam offered them the guy coming off the best season and was really surprised when the Astros said it was because their manager, Harry Walker, wanted to keep Morgan. Insider information had said that Walker and Morgan didn’t get along, so it all seemed odd.

    So…TWO months later, Howsam later offers May and Helms because the Astros said they wouldn’t have a 2B if Morgan’s gone…but, only, if the Astros would give up Billingham and Geronimo. The Astros said no again.

    Talks convened at the winter meetings, and Howsam asks for more…insisting on Denis Menke to play 3b since Perez would be switching to 1b…the Astros ask for “super sub” Jimmy Stewart, who could play anywhere and everybody liked him. This is the part that gets me, and may be it’s a selling job, but this is a big deal to Howsam…he doesn’t want to give up Stewart…but, he really wants Morgan and Sparky really wants Morgan. He says “Well if I throw him in you have to give me another man.” Houston gives him a list of five players to choose from, and Howsam chooses Armbrister.

    Jimmy Stewart…three years with the Reds, 300 games, 453 plate appearances, a .252 Reds batting average with a .656 OPS was a big deal in the trade…

    Yet, in the next few years we deal Hal McRae and nearly an entire pitching staff for spare part outfielders. Look at the potential rotation that we dealt away (remember, they used four man rotations then): Andujar, Grimsley, Wilcox, and Caldwell with a relief staff of Mingori, Caudill, McEnaney, and Rawley. Three of those guys became 20-game winners and Wilcox (who didn’t win 20)won 17 one year and 119 for his career.

  6. JoseOle

    Well you can thank the Wells trade to Marge Schott. The story I read back in the day was Davids son had his Reds hat on backwards one day. Well Margie didn’t like that so she took it from him and told him that good little Reds don’t wear their hats that way. It made the boy cry and David Wells told the GM he would never pitch for Cincy again.

  7. RiverCity Redleg

    I think that may have been a story that got bigger and bigger every time it was told. From what I understood at the time, the Reds never intended to keep him, but just wanted a rent-a-player for the rest of the year and knew he would cost too much after that.

  8. Mark in CC

    Wells, as the story still goes, was going to make too much money. So he was sent along.

    Adcock was traded because he was basically the same player as “Big Klu”.

    The thing I remember about Howsam’s deal was that they were seldom one-sided. It seemed he was willing to give-up something to get something. Need for need.

    The story on the Mathewson deal was somewhat pre-fixed. If there had not been a prearrangmeent between the Giants and Reds to trade Mathewson to the Giants the Reds would not have been able to acquire him originally. Amos Rusie was more payment for services rendered that for a trade of Mathewson.

  9. Steve Price

    On Mathewson…the Reds owner, John Brush, was in the process of selling the Reds and buying the Giants.

    The Giants more or less released Mathewson after a bad trial; the Reds signed him and traded him to the Giants a week or two later for Rusie.

    Brush then bought the Giants.

    Wasn’t quite that tidy, but, as far as a set up goes, it was an “insider trading” job…