Commentary

A history of 'lose-lose' trades

Sometimes, neither side wins at the deadline; here's five modern examples

Originally Published: July 27, 2010
By David Golebiewski | FanGraphs

As the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches, general managers are busy working the phones for a deal that improves the current roster or lands intriguing, cost-controlled prospects who may play a prominent role in the years to come.

Baseball's trade deadline history includes both the lopsided swap -- such as the 1997 deal in which the Seattle Mariners sent Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek to the Boston Red Sox for Heathcliff Slocumb -- and the win-win trades, like the 2008 CC Sabathia blockbuster that netted the Milwaukee Brewers an ace for a playoff run (plus two free agent compensation draft picks) and gave the Cleveland Indians two potential starting position players in Michael Brantley and Matt LaPorta.

Getty ImagesDanny Tartabull's deal in 1995 was ultimately lose-lose.

Not every transaction this time of year makes an impact, though --- some trades provide both teams with a whole lot of nada.

Today, we'll focus on five of the biggest lose-lose trades made in June and July over the past 25 years, as measured by wins above replacement. All WAR values given for major leaguers are rest-of-contract numbers -- we're interested in the value of the service time teams acquired in a trade, not what they subsequently paid to retain a player by bidding on his services on the free-agent market. For prospects and young major leaguers, the value is the WAR contributed during their inexpensive, team-controlled seasons before they hit free agency. By looking at the production teams received (or in this case, didn't), we can get a feel for which deals gave general managers headaches and huge phone bills, but little on-field value. Despite winning five World Series in the past quarter-century, the Yankees still crack this list three times.