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The Tuesday Discussion – The Best Yankees Trade Ever

This week we asked:

What was the best trade the Yankees ever made?

Our writers responded:


Lincoln Mitchell – After the 1975 season the Yankees sent Doc Medich to the Pirates for Dock Ellis. It was a good trade. Medich had been a good pitcher for the Yankees, but was never more than a league average pitcher after the Yankees traded him away. Ellis won 17 games for the Yankees in 1976 and won game three of the ALCS that year as well. It was a nice trade. What made it the best trade in team history was that the Pirates, believing Rennie Stennett, was the star second baseman of the future, sent one of their top prospects who was also a second baseman, to the Yankees in the trade. Willie Randolph went on to become one of the best second baseman in Yankees history, fielding his position beautifully and, drawing walks and hitting well enough to have a .374 OBP during his 13 years with the Yankees and accumulating the 11th most WAR of any Yankee player.”


Ed Botti – Some say Babe Ruth was sold, some say he was traded for money. So let’s leave him off this discussion.

Looking back at some of the great trades that have been made by the Yankees, brings plenty to mind. Roger Maris, David Cone, Ed Figueroa, Mickey Rivers, Willie Randolph, Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez, and A-Rod were all trades that worked out quite well.

There are four that in my mind stick out. Greg Nettles, Sparky Lyle, Rickey Henderson, and Paul O’Neill.

Graig Nettles, a fantastic player was acquired from the Indians for Rusty Torrez, Charlie Spikes, Jerry Kenney and Johnny Ellis.

He became one of the best third baseman in the league, and always seemed to come up big. He was main piece of the 1977 and 1978 World Series winning teams.

He would eventually become team caption from 1982-1984.

Lyle played a key role in the 1977 World Championship team, and was acquired for Danny Cater from the Red Sox. A great Closer! He won a Cy Young in 1977. This trade was a lopsided deal.

Rickey Henderson, one of my all-time favorite players was acquired by the Yankees in exchange for Tim Birtsas, Jay Howell, Stan Javier, Eric Plunk and Jose Rijo.

Rickey was an unbelievable player, and made the mid 80’s line up fun to watch. But, they never won with him, not his fault by any stretch of the imagination.

Winning is what matters. So I am going to go with that 11/2/92 trade Gene Michael made with the Reds to land Paul O’Neill for Roberto Kelly.

The “Warrior” won a batting title the next season, helped change the attitude of the team, and played a major part in winning 4 championships in 5 years.

He played with a fire burning in him, he hustled, he was clutch, he played hurt and had a cannon for an arm.


Paul Semendinger – I don’t know if it was the greatest trade ever, but John Ellis, Jerry Kenny, Charlie Spikes, and Rusty Torres for Graig Nettles was a great one that brought the Yankees the player who would be my favorite.

Getting Sparky Lyle for Danny Cater was also a great trade.


Mike Whiteman – In May of 1930 the Yanks dealt Cedric Durst, a lifetime .246 hitting spare outfielder and cash (always helps!) to Boston for Red Ruffing, a starting pitcher with a career mark of 39-96, 4.61 at the time.

Durst batted .245 for the Red Sox the rest of the 1930 season, and then was released. He had a nice career in the Pacific Coast League, but never played in Majors again. Ruffing won 231 games over the next fifteen years with the Yanks and became a Hall of Famer.


James Vlietstra – Based on my research from the New York Yankees have had trades involving 13 Hall Of Farmers:

Dazzy Vance, Waite Hoyt, Babe Ruth, Burleigh Grimes, Johnny Mike, Enos Slaughter, Bobby Cox, Gaylord Perry,Rickey Henderson, Dave Winfield, Lee Smith, Randy Johnson, and Ivan Rodriguez.

Another 9 either should be or will be:

Lou Piniella, Jim Kaat, Tommy John, Fred McGriff, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Kenny Lofton, Gary Sheffield, and Ichiro Suzuki.

A trio of trades that caught my attention:

December 16, 1953 involving Eddie Robinson, the oldest living MLB ballplayer.

December 11, 1959

Don Larsen, Hank Bauer, Marc Throneberry, and Norm Siebern In exchange for Joe DeMaestri, Kent Hadley, and Roger Maris.

Maris went on to win the next two MVP awards.

December 7, 1995

Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock in exchange for Jim Mecir, Jeff Nelson, and Tino Martinez.

The Yankees went on to win four of the next World Series championship.

However, by far, the most lopsided trade in MLB history took place on January 3, 1920. That is the day that the Yankees purchased the rights to Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox for a sum of $100,000 plus other financial considerations including a loan.

Prior to the sale, the Yankees had no World Series appearances. By Ruth’s retirement, they had been there 7 times and won Four championships.

A term that is thrown around a lot these day Is GOAT. GREATEST OF ALL TIME. That’s truly what Ruth became. His bigger than life persona brought the sport back from reeling after the Black Sox scandal and propelled it into the roaring 20s and cemented it as The National Pastime.

At the time of the trade, Hall Of Famer Roger Connor was in the midst of his string of 42 consecutive years in the MLB’s top 10 career HR hitters. Connor’s run atop the list was halted at 26 years in 1921 when Ruth hit number 139. In 1933, there was a tie for second all-time between Roger Hornsby and Lou Gehrig with 299. Ruth was at 686.

Eventually, Ruth retired with 714. He stayed at the top until 1974 when Hank Aaron surpassed him. Here, 100 years later, Ruth still sits at number three.

To me, the Yankees trade for Babe Ruth from the rival Red Sox is the best trade in franchise history.


Patrick Gunn – It’s hard not to pick Babe Ruth for this one. The Gleyber Torres trade from the Cubs has the potential to recoup a ton of value (including, not only from Torres himself, but from the subsequent Warren trade that garnered the Yankees international signing bonus pool money), but Ruth accumulated 142.8 wins above replacement (via Baseball-Reference) after being acquired by the Yankees for just money.


Chris O’Connor – The Babe Ruth trade is the best trade of all time, but that is too easy of an answer so I will give another. In 1930, the Yankees received 25 year-old Red Ruffing from the Red Sox for Cedric Durst and $50,000. Ruffing had struggled with the Red Sox, going 39-96 with a 4.61 ERA. He broke out with the Yankees; in his 15 years with the team, he had a record of 231-124 with a 3.47 ERA. He also made six All Star teams and won six World Series. Durst, meanwhile, played in just 100 games with Boston in 1930. He produced negative WAR in those games and was out of baseball after the year. Though the Babe Ruth trade deservedly gets all of the attention in best Yankees trades of all time, the Ruffing trade was an underrated, but important, part of sustaining the Yankees dynasty in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

*** Ethan Semendinger – The only true answer to this question is, you guessed it, Babe Ruth. However, it’s surprising to me that the Alex Rodriguez trade with the Rangers hasn’t been truly mentioned yet. A-Rod would go on to win 2 MVP Awards with the Yankees (2005, 2007), provided 4.5 bWAR per year during his Yankees tenure (54 bWAR over 12 seasons), and provided many special baseball moments for the Yankees over the years (500 HR, 600 HR, 3000 Hits, etc.). While his 12 years as a Yankee only saw 1 World Series (2009), the deal helped keep the Yankees atop the AL East and/or serious contenders for the World Series during most of the 2000’s and early 2010’s. Plus, unlike prior deals with Ruth, Maris, etc. there was also a much tougher path to the World Series for these more recent Yankees teams.

Alex Rodriguez will always be an interesting player in Yankees and baseball history. Not unlike the Babe Ruth deal, he was taken away from the Red Sox because the Yankees were willing to spend the money to get better, no matter what it took. (I’m looking at you Hal!) Would the Yankees have been better with him playing shortstop and Jeter at third? (Maybe, maybe not. Remember he did have lots of knee problems at the end of his career that may have come earlier had he played short. But this will always be an interesting “what if”.) He’s likely to become a Hall of Famer as it appears writers are more forgiving of the steroid era and will likely don a Yankees hat.

He was a player of incredible highs…and incredible lows (2014 year long suspension), but the Yankees had acquired a long-term superstar, who locked down 3rd base for over a decade. That’s what you always hope for in a trade and it’s one of the better deals in Yankees history.


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