Bain: The worst in-season trades since 1950

From SABR member Derek Bain at on October 21, 2016:

The in-season deal in modern baseball is typically proposed under the following circumstances:

  • A team may wish to trade a potential free agent that will likely sign with another team in the upcoming off-season. The expected return is minor-league talent.
  • Two teams wish to make a deal to upgrade at a specific position without weakening their current roster and/or give up any minor league talent of note.
  • A team that is out of contention near the trade deadline can offload veteran players to reduce payroll and acquire some cheap talent to help during a rebuilding period.

To determine the “worst” trades by every franchise (with “worst” being a relative term), I sorted the results of my research using the difference in the combined WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of the players involved in each trade, for the duration of their stint with the team that they were traded to. (Refer to the definition of WARdiff below). This article will look at “in-season trades” only. I am planning a follow-up article to address off-season deals. Please note that I have divided the transactions into two categories along the following timeframes:

In-Season Trades – trades occurring from April 1 through September 30

Off-Season Trades – trades occurring from October 1 through March 31

Further, I constrained my query of the Retrosheet transactions database to the 1950-2015 timeframe in an effort to correspond with the entries in the Baseball America Executive Database. I omitted all transactions which do not include Major League teams on both ends of the trade, including but not limited to trades with teams in minor leagues.

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Originally published: October 24, 2016. Last Updated: October 24, 2016.