In 23 years of Marlins baseball, we have seen highs and lows: World Series championships, and painful fire sales. The Marlins have a brief but rich history and have impressively won two World Series in their first 20 seasons as an expansion team, but perhaps the most scrutinized part of Marlins' past is their trade history. With that in mind, here is a look back at the Marlins five worst trades since 1993.
5. July 11, 2003 Adrian Gonzalez and two minor league players to the Rangers for Ugueth Urbina
As the Marlins were making a run at the postseason in 2003, they became desperate for a closer. The Marlins found their man in Ugueth Urbina, sending three minor leaguers to the Rangers in order to acquire him. The most notable of these was one Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez was coming off of a broken hand and some within the Marlins organization thought that he would never be able to fully recover.
It’s safe to say that Adrian Gonzalez proved them wrong. Gonzalez would only go on to play parts of two seasons in Texas but through 13 seasons in the major leagues, Gonzalez is a .290 career hitter with over 300 home runs, five all-star appearances and four gold gloves.
As for Urbina, he would play an integral role in the Marlins World Series run; if he hadn’t, this trade would probably be higher up on the list. Nonetheless, Urbina was only a rental and hit free agency following the 2003 season. Urbina saw his major league career end in 2005 at the age of 31, when he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for attempted murder, but that story is for another time. While Urbina served his sentence in federal prison, Adrian Gonzalez continued to put up impressive numbers for the Padres, Red Sox and Dodgers.
4. November 25, 2003: Derek Lee to the Cubs for Hee-Seop Choi and Mike Nannini
Following the Marlins 2003 World Series victory, their payroll was set to make a major jump from $54 million to the $85 million. The Marlins were forced to part with a couple position players in order to keep their pitching rotation in tact and Derek Lee was one of the casualties.
Prior to the Marlins trade with the Cubs, Lee was coming off of a stellar season in which he hit .271 with 31 home runs and 91 RBI, while winning a gold glove at first base. In return for the 27 year-old Derek Lee, the Marlins received first baseman Hee-Seop Choi and a minor leaguer, Mike Nannini.
Choi was not a total disaster for the Fish; in fact, he played rather well before being traded to the Dodgers in a package for Juan Encarnacion and Paul Lo Duca, hitting 15 home runs in just 95 games. Despite his decent play, the Marlins trade of Hee-Seop Choi was evidence that the team did not see him as the long term answer at first base.
The Cubs however, found their long term solution on the right side of the infield. In his seven years with the Cubs, Lee would go on to hit .298 with 179 home runs and won himself two gold gloves. Derek Lee enjoyed a fantastic career, retiring in 2011 with the Pittsburgh Pirates but not before accumulating nearly 2,000 hits and 331 home runs. The Marlins have seemingly been looking for a long term answer at first base since the trade.
3. May 22, 1998: Mike Piazza to the Mets for Preston Wilson and two minor league players
During the painful fire sale of 1998 that enraged many Marlins fans, Marlins ownership gave the fans something to be excited about: The team had acquired the game’s premier catcher, Mike Piazza. For Marlins fans, unfortunately, it was too good to be true.
Eight days later the Fish shipped the Hall-of-Famer out to the Mets for Preston Wilson and a couple minor league players. Preston Wilson would put together a few solid campaigns for the Marlins but not nearly as impressive as Piazza’s hall-of-fame career. What makes the Piazza trade particularly terrible is what the Fish gave up for Piazza in order to ultimately swap him for Preston Wilson. The Marlins traded all-star outfielder Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, Charles Johnson, Jim Eisenreich and Manuel Barrios in return for Piazza and Todd Zeile.
Sheffield would go on to hit over 500 home runs in his career, 129 of them in his four years with the Dodgers while owning a career .292 average. Charles Johnson, coming off of an all-star season, would only play one season with the Dodgers but he would go on to finish his career with a .245 batting average while winning four gold gloves and making two all star appearances. Bobby Bonilla, perhaps most well known for his famous differed contract with the Mets that allows him to still be paid $1 million annually today, was starting to wind down his career and would only play four more seasons where he would battle injury before eventually retiring with the Cardinals. The loss of Gary Sheffield and Charles Johnson left a gaping hole in the Marlins outfield and behind the plate contributing to a 54-108 record that season.
2. Nov. 11, 1997: Moises Alou to the Astros for three minor league pitchers
The infamous fire sale following the Marlins 1997 World Series victory over the Indians led to many questionable trades, but the Marlins trade of Moises Alou could be the worst. Alou was traded to the Houston Astros for minor leaguers Manuel Berrios, Oscar Henriquez and Mark Johnson. Moises Alou was traded coming off of a 1997 season with the Marlins that saw him hit .292 with 115 RBI. In his three seasons with the Astros, Alou posted an incredible .331 batting average and hit roughly 32 home runs a season, while knocking in over 100 RBI in all three seasons. Alou would later move on to the Cubs, then Giants and finally retire with the Mets, at the age of 41. He finished as a career a .303 hitter with 332 home runs and over 2,100 hits.
As for the Marlins return, Manuel Berrios, who has strangely appeared more in this article than he did in a Marlins uniform, pitched a total of two and two-thirds innings with the Marlins before being packaged in the Mike Piazza trade. Oscar Henriquez would pitch 20 innings for the Fish, giving up a whopping 19 runs, good for an 8.55 ERA. Last and certainly least, Mark Johnson would never make an appearance for the Marlins. Johnson would make it to the big leagues for part of one season with the Tigers before being sent back down to the minors where he would finish his career.
The Marlins have been notorious for trading players in the beginning of newly signed contracts and that is exactly what they did with Moises Alou. Alou was traded one year into his 5 year $25 million contract. With the numbers Alou put up in Houston, the Marlins traded away a very team friendly contract.
1. Dec. 5, 2007: Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis for six Detroit Tigers prospects
I’m sure most of you saw this one coming from a mile away. Nine years later, the Miguel Cabrera trade is still a major sore spot for Marlins fans. The Marlins were known to be actively shopping Cabrera in the 2007 offseason and received offers from a handful of teams who were willing to fork over their top prospects and then some for the 24 year-old superstar. The Dodgers and Angels were said to be in deep talks with the Fish. The Marlins asking price for both teams was nothing short of a tall order. The Marlins wanted the Dodgers to part with four of the following: Chad Billingsley, James Loney, Matt Kemp, Andy Laroche, and their top pitching prospect at the time, Clayton Kershaw.
The Marlins asking price for the Angels was just as steep, the Fish asked for their top prospect Nick Adenhart, second baseman Howie Kendrick and another major league ready pitcher and outfielder. The Marlins set the bar high and rightfully so, when being asked to part with one of the game's great young stars and a pitcher two years off of a 22-win season in Dontrelle Willis. The Dodgers would ultimately not meet the Marlins asking price and talks with the Angels, though they became very serious, fell through.
The Marlins would settle for a package of six prospects from the Tigers. A package that included two of the games top prospects, Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, as well as several more of the Tigers top prospects, pitchers, Dallas Trahern, Burke Badenhop, Frankie De La Cruz and catcher Mike Rabelo. At the time, the package sent from the Detroit Tigers was viewed favorably but a retrospective look, taking into account the under-performance involved, doesn't treat it as kindly.
Andrew Miller, who is now one of the games best relievers, was solely used as a starter for the Marlins and struggled mightily. Miller finished his Marlins career with a 10-20 record and an abysmal 5.89 ERA before he was shipped out to Boston. Cameron Maybin would not be much better, in just 144 games with the Fish, Maybin hit an unimpressive .257 at the dish, with 151 strikeouts. The Marlins would give up on Maybin as well, sending him out to San Diego for relievers Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica. Mike Rabelo appeared in 34 games as a Marlin in 2008, serving as a backup catcher but would never see the major leagues again.
Unfortunately, it just gets worse for the Marlins. Frankie De La Cruz, a pitcher the Marlins had high expectations for due to his ability to light up the radar gun, pitched nine innings in a Marlins uniform. In those nine innings, De La Cruz surrendered 20 runs, which earned himself an 18.00 ERA. Dallas Trahern would never even make it to the Major leagues in his career, bouncing around from one minor league team to another.
Perhaps the scariest part of this deal is the fact that pitcher, Burke Badenhop may have been their most valuable asset, and I throw the term asset out loosely in this nightmare of a trade. Badenhop or "the Hopper" pitched in over 250 innings for the Marlins over four seasons serving as a long reliever; He registered a 4.34 ERA. It’s safe to say this trade was catastrophic for the Marlins and in hindsight it could be one of the worst trades in baseball history. While the Marlins have tried to erase the trade from their memory, Miguel Cabrera has continued his hall-of-fame career, hitting .325 with two MVPs and seven all-star appearances in nine years as a Tiger as he approaches the 500 home run milestone.
Next time I'll flip the script and check out the five best trades in Marlins history.