August 1 marks the trade deadline for Major League Baseball. Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Wade Miley have all already been dealt, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see more players on the move. Almost every year, one or two big trades seems to help define the playoff picture.
That said, some of the most interesting trades in baseball history are the ones that didn’t happen. Here are five big proposed trades that came close to completion and unraveled:
1. Barry Bonds to the New York Mets for Carlos Baerga, Alex Ochoa, and two pitchers: It seems hard to believe, but in October 1996, Barry Bonds wasn’t yet the cartoonish hulk who’d rewrite baseball’s record book, and the San Francisco Giants weren’t very good. Thus, Bonds seemed, at least briefly, expendable. The New York Post reported this proposed trade on October 18, the kind that gets a general manager fired a year or two later. Thankfully for Giants fans, Brian Sabean soon came to his senses.
2. Ted Williams for Joe DiMaggio: It was the ultimate fantasy for Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees diehards– move Ted Williams to a park with a more inviting right-field porch and unite Joe DiMaggio with his brother Dominic. Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey agreed on the trade while drinking with Yankees general manager and part-owner Larry MacPhail and then thought better of it the next day.
3. Shoeless Joe Jackson for Fritz Maisel: Years before he accepted money to help seven of his Chicago White Sox teammates throw the 1919 World Series, Jackson nearly got dealt for Maisel, a Deadball Era stolen base champ who’s faded into obscurity. Rob Neyer noted for The National Pastime Museum last November that the Yankees also turned down Tris Speaker for Maisel, with co-owner Tillinghast Huston saying, “We would like to have Speaker, but we won’t let Maisel go. Why should we trade a young fellow who has ten good years ahead of him for a veteran who may last only three or four years more at the most?”
4. Ty Cobb for Elmer Flick: This actually looked like a fairly even trade when the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Naps discussed it in March 1907. Cobb hadn’t yet established himself as a legend and was temperamental, while Flick was one of the game’s brightest stars. Cleveland nixed the deal, and Flick was soon slowed by stomach problems, retiring at 34. Hindsight’s 20-20.
5. Vida Blue for $1.75 million and minor leaguer Dave Revering: Charlie Finley must have known his run of success as owner of the Oakland A’s was ending after free agency entered the game in the mid-1970s. He attempted to sell a few of his best players, and MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn thwarted him at each turn. This trade, agreed to in December 1977, would have given the Cincinnati Reds a one-two punch at the top of its rotation of Blue and Tom Seaver. Instead, the A’s soon traded Blue to the Giants where he won 18 games.