It’s the holiday season which means it’s the time of year when everyone is in an especially giving mood. Maybe you give an extra tip to the Starbucks barista, drop change in the Salvation Army bucket, volunteer at a shelter, bake cookies for the mailman, or buy a gift for that family member you’ve been avoiding all year. If you’re the general manager of a baseball team, you might even choose to give away a star player to a hated opponent. December is one of the most active trading months in major league baseball, and it’s littered with examples of uneven trades that altered the direction of both franchises involved.
All of this got me thinking: what were some of the best ‘gifts’ the Reds ever received? What were some of the best ‘gifts’ they gave away? I decided to examine every December trade in Reds franchise history, and then look up how much WAR each player accumulated after the trade.
According to my research the Reds have made 108 December trades, involving 319 players since 1900. A staggering 230 of the 319 players (72.1%) didn’t achieve a WAR of over two either with the Reds or after they were traded from the Reds. On the opposite end of the spectrum only 27 of the 319 players (8.4%) achieved a WAR over 10 either with the Reds or after they were traded.
We’re going to split the full results up into two separate articles. Check back tomorrow for Best December Gifts the Reds Have Ever Given. Below you’ll find the Best December Gifts the Reds Ever Received.
Best Gifts the Reds Ever Received
December 14th, 1934: Reds trade Mark Koenig and Allyn Stout to the New York Giants for Billy Myers
Coming off a fourth-straight last place finish, the Reds turned to the 93-win New York Giants for a classic veterans-for-youth trade. The Giants were looking to add depth in an attempt to overtake St. Louis, and the Reds were excited to find a 24 year old shortstop of the future.
Billy Myers was primarily known for his glove in the minors, but developed into a solid hitter and ultimately a leader on the 1940 World Series champion team. Myers hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh of Game 7 of the ‘40 World Series to break a 1-1 tie and give the Reds the title.
Mark Koenig and Allyn Stout combined for just 0.1 WAR for the rest of their careers, while Billy Myers accumulated 13.5 WAR with the Reds.
December 9th, 1957: Reds trade Don Gross to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Bob Purkey
The knuckleball-throwing Purkey was dealt to the Reds after posting an 11-14 record for a dismal Pirates team. Pittsburgh General Manager Joe Brown was looking for a left handed pitcher while the Reds were rebuilding their entire rotation. The Reds acquired seven new pitchers in December 1957 alone.
Purkey immediately became a fixture in the Reds rotation and a three time All Star. His best season was 1962 when he went 23-5 and finished third in Cy Young voting. The previous year he was a member of a Reds team that won that NL pennant before losing to the Yankees in the 1961 World Series. Roger Maris hit a ninth inning home run off of him to give the Yankees a 3-2 win in Game 3 of that series.
Purkey finished his Reds career with 21.9 WAR while Gross netted just 0.7 WAR over the rest of his career.
December 8th, 1987: Reds trade Dave Parker to the Oakland Athletics for Jose Rijo and Tim Birtsas
On December 8th, 1987 Pete Rose traded Dave Parker and his hefty (for the time) $1.2 million salary to the Oakland Athletics for eventual World Series MVP Jose Rijo and Tim Birtsas. On December 9th, 1987 Tim Sullivan of the Cincinnati Enquirer wasn’t buying it. Sullivan wrote:
“Officially, an exchange of players took place between the two baseball teams Tuesday afternoon in Dallas. But matters tend to get exaggerated some in Texas. The reality here is that the Reds succeeded mainly in dumping their biggest debit — the remaining $1.2 million year of Parker’s contract — and picked up two players who may not even make the club next spring.”
He went on to say:
“What the Reds have done is trade an exclamation point for two question marks — a bad deal on any typewriter”.
Just three years later Rijo would face that same A’s team in the 1990 World Series. Rijo won the championship and World Series MVP after going 2-0 and allowing just one earned run over 15.1 innings pitched.
Rijo eventually earned 36.6 WAR during his time in Cincinnati while Parker netted just 0.6 WAR over the remainder of his career.
December 12th, 1989: Reds trade Tim Leary and Van Snider to New York Yankees for Hal Morris and Rod Imes
During the 1989 offseason the Reds were already looking for ways to open up money to sign Eric Davis to a long term extension. Davis was on the record saying he’d be willing to accept a $16 million deal over five seasons. The previous week the Reds dealt John Franco and his $1.067 million salary to the Mets in exchange for Randy Myers. They declined to offer Bo Diaz arbitration which saved another $900k, and trading Tim Leary would clear up another almost $700k.
Pinella said Leary’s contract was a ‘consideration’, but “truthfully it’s not the reason we made the trade”. He went on to describe Morris like this:
“When (Mattingly) was a younger player, he had (a similar) inside-out swing. He hit the ball over, but his best swing was to left field. Morris reminds me a lot of that. I’m not saying he’s the next Don Mattingly, but he has a lot of the same characteristics”.
Pinella wasn’t too far off. Hal Morris definitely developed into a sorta Mattingly-lite everyday first baseman for the Reds. In his first season with the Reds he batted .340 and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, finishing behind David Justice and Delino DeShields.
Morris eventually accumulated 12.6 WAR while Leary just netted 0.5 WAR of the remainder of his career.
December 11th, 2014: Reds trade Mat Latos to Miami Marlins for Chad Wallach and Anthony DeSclafani
After looking at 108 different trades spanning nearly 120 years of baseball history one thing is certain — you have to take a long view of each of these trades. What looks good in 2016, might not look good in 2026. The Reds two trades on December 11th, 2014 (the other being Alfredo Simon for Eugenio Suarez and Jonathan Crawford) seem very well positioned to turn out positively for the franchise.
Mat Latos has bounced around with four teams since leaving the Reds while posting a (-0.5) WAR along the way. He’s this close to being out of baseball altogether. Meanwhile, Anthony Desclafani has developed into the most reliable starter on the Reds’ pitching staff. He went 9-5 in 20 starts last season, posting a 3.28 ERA and 1.216 WHIP. He’s the likely opening day starter for 2017. Even if the Reds were to trade him at some point this year or next, the deal is already a win for the Reds. If he sticks around for several years it could be one of the most lopsided in franchise history.
Don’t forget to check back tomorrow to see which December trades make the Reds look especially generous.
Spoiler Alert: It’s depressing.