The Five Worst and Best Trades in Padres History

Credit: AP Photo

Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

With the trade deadline closing fast, it’s time to take a look back at the Padres’ history of trades, for better or for worse.

Every team has that one that got away, the one deal they shouldn’t have made, the “how did we not see this coming” kind of trade. It’s not unique to the Padres. Every team also has a trade or two they can credit for some of the best players in their team’s history, just like the Padres can, it’s not all bad.

Let’s take a look back and the five worst and best trades in San Diego Padres history.

Worst

5. December 6, 2010: Adrian Gonzalez traded to the Boston Red Sox for a player to be named later, Rey FuentesCasey Kelly, and Anthony Rizzo. The Boston Red Sox sent Eric Patterson (December 16, 2010) to the San Diego Padres to complete the trade.

Adrian Gonzalez’s name will come up a few times here. He was the face of the franchise for half of a decade, the hometown kid from Eastlake High School. The Padres knew he was going to be very expensive to extend, so instead of dealing with it, they traded him to Boston and their fat wallets. Just like that, a player that carried the entire team for five years and put San Diego back on the map with All-Star bids and big home run numbers was gone.

In return, the Padres got Rey Fuentes, who had just 36 total plate appearances for the Padres, batting .152. Casey Kelly also did not do much in a Padres uniform, pitching in nine games with a 6.69 ERA while struggling to stay healthy. Eric Patterson was the player to be named later, and he never hit above the Mendoza Line in 47 total games for San Diego. And then there is Anthony Rizzo…we will get to him in a second.

After leaving San Diego, Gonzalez continued to mash. His 2011 in Boston was stellar, batting .338 with 27 home runs, 117 RBI, a .957 OPS, a major league-high 213 hits and he earned himself another All-Star bid, a Gold Glove and his first Silver Slugger. He could have done all that in San Diego for at least two or three more years. He had four more seasons of an OPS higher than .800 after leaving the Padres and then just tortured San Diego to no end as a member of the Dodgers for six seasons, winning another Silver Slugger and earning another All-Star bid in Dodger Blue.

4. January 6, 2012: Anthony Rizzo with Zach Cates traded to the Chicago Cubs for Kyung-Min Na (minors) and Andrew Cashner.

After trading away Adrian Gonzalez after the 2010 season, the next big thing seemed to be Anthony Rizzo at first base. Rizzo was called up in 2011 for a brief stint with the Padres and hit just .141 with one home run in 49 games. The Friars seemed to think that was enough to give up on him as he was shipped off to Chicago for a promising young pitcher, Andrew Cashner. He became part of the Padres’ rotation in 2013, starting 26 games with a solid 3.09 ERA and a 111 ERA+. 2014 was his best year as a Padre, with a 2.55 ERA and 132 ERA+ in an injury-shortened season of 19 starts. He never really recovered from there, posting a 4.72 ERA the remainder of his Padres career. He totaled just 3.4 WAR in five seasons with the team.

Credit: AP Photo

Rizzo went to Chicago and burst onto the scene immediately in 2012, with 15 home runs and a .285 average in limited action. He grew to be a three-time All-Star. Between 2014 and 2017, he earned three straight All-Star bids, posted four straight seasons of at least 31 home runs and no worse than a .273 batting average, with a 143 OPS+ in that span. Rizzo is a career .271 hitter with 210 home runs and a .857 OPS, averaging 3.9 WAR per season, which is more than Cashner had in his total career in San Diego.

3. July 31, 2010: Traded Corey Kluber as part of a three-team trade to the Cleveland Indians. The San Diego Padres sent Nick Greenwood to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cleveland Indians sent Jake Westbrook to the St. Louis Cardinals. The St. Louis Cardinals sent Ryan Ludwick to the San Diego Padres.

In the messy three-team trade, there sat a hidden gem in Corey Kluber. The Padres threw him in this deal to acquire slugger Ryan Ludwick to aid in the 2010 season. Ludwick flamed out extremely fast in San Diego, batting just .228 with 17 home runs over 160 games, spanning half of two seasons. What makes this hurt more is that once Ludwick signed with the Reds just a season later, he returned to form, hitting 26 home runs with a 130 OPS+. Perhaps he was a product of a hitter-friendly ballpark but either way, he was a colossal bust in San Diego.

Meanwhile, the unheralded Kluber patiently worked his way through the Indians’ system until breaking through in 2011. In 2014, he established himself as a star pitcher in this league. Not missing a single start all year, Kluber posted a 2.44 ERA with 269 strikeouts and a 160 ERA+, earning himself his first Cy Young award. He would win another Cy Young in 2017 when he led the league in wins, ERA, and ERA+. He is now a three-time All-Star and an ace on the Indians staff that is always in contention.

Padres fans had to shutter and look away during the 2016 World Series, when the aforementioned Anthony Rizzo and Kluber faced off in the World Series, each player playing a big role in their team’s arrival in the Fall Classic.

2. December 10, 1981: Ozzie Smith traded with a player to be named later and Steve Mura to the St. Louis Cardinals for a player to be named later, Sixto Lezcano and Garry Templeton. The San Diego Padres sent Al Olmsted (February 19, 1982) to the St. Louis Cardinals to complete the trade. The St. Louis Cardinals sent Luis DeLeon (February 19, 1982) to the San Diego Padres to complete the trade.

This trade is one of the most lopsided ones in not only team history, but maybe even baseball history, based on what we know now. Who knows, perhaps in a decade the likes of Kluber or Rizzo will bump this one down the list, but for now, this is one of the worst. Any time you are dealing with a future Hall of Famer being traded, it gets ugly. Ozzie “The Wizard” Smith, played for the Padres for four seasons. To be fair, he never hit well in San Diego, batting .231 with a .573 OPS in those years. So the Padres felt like they could trade their sure-handed shortstop to St. Louis.

Credit: AP Photo

The main piece the Friars got in return was Garry Templeton, who himself would become one of the franchise’s best shortstops. He alone keeps this from being the worst trade in Padres history. He was no Wizard, but for the better part of 10 seasons, he was their everyday shortstop and hit .252 with a .632 OPS, which were upgrades from Ozzie’s bat at the time. He accumulated 10.1 WAR over those seasons and was even an All-Star in 1985.

However, despite Templeton becoming a franchise mainstay, Smith’s Hall of Fame career dwarfs Templeton’s. Smith quickly became one of the best defenders in all of baseball, and many still consider him the greatest defensive baseball player in history. He won a whopping 13 Gold Gloves, all of them consecutively. He was a 15-time All-Star and was the shortstop Silver Slugger winner in 1987 when he hit .303. He led the Cardinals to the 1982 World Series title and was even NLCS MVP in 1985. He earned an astounding 65.9 WAR over his career in St. Louis, which is better than the likes of Dave Winfield, Gary Sheffield, and Ichiro Suzuki.

1. December 5, 1990: Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff.

Like the Smith trade, this is a very bad trade now that we can look back almost 30 years later. However, Roberto Alomar was a good player before he ever left San Diego. In 1990, he was an All-Star with a .287 average and .721 OPS, playing what would eventually be Gold Glove-caliber defense at second base. Then before the 1991 season, he was dealt with Joe Carter, who was coming off of a 24 homer season, to Toronto. All four names in this deal are easily recognizable by dedicated baseball fans.

Tony Fernandez was not some scrub thrown into the deal. He was a three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glover before arriving in San Diego. However, he lasted just two seasons with the Padres, hitting .274 with a 95 OPS+, and 3.2 WAR over those two seasons, appearing in the All-Star Game in 1992.

Credit: MLB

McGriff certainly brought his clout to San Diego, with three straight 34-plus homer seasons and a Silver Slugger award leading up to the trade. There was not much of a drop off in production during his two and a half years in San Diego. He hit .281 with a .906 OPS and 84 homers in those two-plus seasons including 35 dingers in 1992, earning him his first of five All-Star bids. However, it paled in comparison to what Alomar and Carter accomplished in Toronto.

Alomar was an All-Star and Glove Glover every single one of his five seasons in Toronto including finishing sixth in MVP voting three straight years. In 1992, he led the Blue Jays to the playoffs and was named ALCS MVP when he hit .423 with two homers in six games, helping the Blue Jays win the AL pennant. They went on to win the World Series that year. Alomar built a Hall of Fame resume with 12 All-Star appearances, 10 Gold Gloves, and four Silver Sluggers and helped the Blue Jays repeat as champions in 1993.

Speaking of 1993, the other piece the Friars sent to Toronto, Joe Carter, immortalized himself with his famous walk-off, World Series-clinching home run in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series against the Phillies. Aside from one of the most iconic moments in baseball history, Carter had three straight years of at least 33 home runs in Toronto and earned five All-Star selections after leaving San Diego. What hurts the most about this trade is that San Diego gave Toronto two franchise cornerstones that helped them win back-to-back World Series championships while, 29 years later, the Padres are still trying to win their first.

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.

8 thoughts on “The Five Worst and Best Trades in Padres History

  1. Anybody that doesn’t have George Hendrick going to St. Louis for Eric Rasmussen on the list doesn’t know much Padres’ history.

  2. Templeton was good, but giving up Ozzie Smith? Tempy will only see the HOF if he buys a ticket, Ozzie is royalty, one of the top 10 of all time.

  3. No mention of the Wil Myers trade? Trea Turner, Jake Bauers, and Joe Ross! Can you imagine Trea Turner AND Tatis up the middle, or on the left side, and at the top of the line-up?! Now were stuck with having to (soon) pay a player millions of dollars not to play for the team, a player for which the Padres gave up so much (Bauers and Ross are still very young, and still developing, and TT is already an all-star shortstop with power and speed).

    No mention of the Grandal trade for Matt Kemp!? That, too, was brutal because of what was given up, and what was received (a cancerous player who they struggled to give and away and still are still paying out millions of dollars for, for Joe Wieland, Yasmani Grandal, and Zach Eflin).

    What about the Kimbrell trade?! Extremely high value player at the time. Other relievers were receiving incredible value in trades (Miller; Giles; Chapman; etc), and the Padres got … nothing (sorry, while it is still early, Logan Allen is not going to be of much value). This is eerily similar to the Gonzales trade (same team, 4 players received, nothing of value).

    1. You mean the Joe Ross that followed in the family footsteps and already missed one season to injury. The Joe Ross that is a whole 3 WAR in 69 games n 290 inn w career mark of 17 and 17? The Jake Bauer’s that’s had 2 chance at playing near 100 games and can’t muster even league average production with a 25% SO rate. Even Trea has had one exceptional rookie season and the rest have been a league ave offensive player who will steal you 40 bases.

      Hindsite is always 20 20 and yes Washington got the better end but not sure it’s a top 5 worst. The extension was the problem and they should have waited one more year and seen Wil for what he is. He would be gone at the end of this season. It’s not like they didn’t get Jose Castillo, and if the can develope Gerardo Reyes into something even better. Even Jeff Luhnow let Josh Hader, JD Martinez, and Ramon Laureano in his miss category.

  4. It’s not easy to disagree with one of my favorite writers on this site, but I do here…especially on the McGriff-Alomar trade being the worst in team history.

    To preface, I would not have traded Robbie Alomar, as he was 22 and a star in the making. That said, the Padres got a great return for him and Joe Carter in SS Tony Fernandez and 1B Fred McGriff. Getting Fernandez was crucial, as Templeton was aging, and there wasn’t a replacement on the horizon. Tony’s hitting was a vast improvement over “Tempy’s,” and McGriff was one of the most consistent power hitters of his generation, slamming 30-plus homers eight times in his career.

    When they had McGriff and Fernandez in their lineup (1991-92), the Padres were a good team, and just a key piece or two away from being real contenders.

    The only reason why this gets labeled a bad trade is because less than two years later, Padres management had a fire-sale, and pawned off McGriff, Fernandez, and others for basically peanuts.For McGriff, they got three guys who never panned out, and for Fernandez, they acquired Wally Whitehurst (yup, Wally Whitehurst). It’s these trades — especially McGriff’s — that deserve to be ranked among the worst trades ever in Padres history.

    1. I appreciate the input, Greg! That was a tough one to quantify for sure. I hold it a bit heavier because we gave Toronto two cornerstones in their early 90s dynasty. Of course, McGriff was a great player and I should have mentioned how he was dealt for very little, much like how the Padres handled Rizzo.

    2. Greg, you and I are on a small list who don’t think this was as bad a trade as it’s made out to be. At the time we needed a shortstop badly and Fernandez was an all star ( even with us).

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