added 09/03/2012 by Bob Hulsey
Baseball-Reference.com continues to come out with useful tools to help baseball researchers in any number of ways. One new invention this year is a franchise trade history tracker where you can insert the names of any two major league franchises and it will list every player transaction between the two clubs.
General Managers often seem to have "favorite" trading partners. Ed Wade was accused of favoring the Phillies. Spec Richardson seemed to make constant deals with the Braves. Paul Richards, the first Houston general manager, came from Baltimore and brought along several former Orioles. Then there was the bond between Tal Smith and his son Randy, who served as GM of the Padres and Tigers back in the 1990s.
So who have the Astros done business with the most? According to B-R, it's not any of the above. And the winner, with 33 transactions, doesn't even have a close second.
It's the St. Louis Cardinals. The Braves are second with 23.
One could quibble with the methodology of their lists (Rule V claims are not included nor are waiver claims) but I doubt you would see much difference in the standings.
If you'd like a chronological breakdown of Astros transactions, visit our All-Time Trades and Transactions page, which we've kept up to date as the seasons progressed. Jeff Luhnow has kept me very busy this year with this page and, given his familiarity with the Cardinals, I expect the Redbirds to maintain or expand their lead for years to come.
Here is the breakdown of all 29 other trading partners in alphabetical order through September 1st, 2012 with a few of the highlights. Click on a player name and you're likely to find out more on their Astros Daily player profile.
Anaheim/California - 10
These two teams have not consummated a trade since the fateful 1981 swap of Ken Forsch for Dickie Thon. Before that, Houston's best acquisition was utilityman Julio Gotay (1966) and the worst was selling off lefty George Brunet (1964).
Arizona - 3
One of the newest expansion teams, there just isn't much history here. The deal to acquire Jose Valverde (2007) for Chris Burke, Chad Qualls and Juan Gutierrez stands out the best. I'd say Ed Wade won that deal even though Valverde left in free agency two years later. We currently have Mike Foltynewicz as a prospect in our farm system due to Jose's signing with Detroit.
Atlanta/Milwaukee - 23
Frequent partners during the 60s, it was once rumored that the two teams would swap their entire rosters in 1964 when Judge Roy Hofheinz was desperate for marketable names and the Braves needed money before moving to Atlanta. That never happened. But the Astros did get an aging Hall-of-Famer, Eddie Mathews, from them on the last day of 1966. The best deal, though, was acquiring Joe Niekro from them (1975) for a tidy $35,000. Niekro went on to be the winningest pitcher in Astros history.
Baltimore - 15
A few major deals have been struck between the two, most recently when Ed Wade sent Luke Scott and four others to the Orioles for Miguel Tejada (2007). Many were critical of the deal but I think we came out better than they did. None was better than when we sent them Glenn Davis for Steve Finley, Curt Schilling and Pete Harnisch (1991). As trades go, it was an absolute steal by Bill Wood but, as we will see, the Astros dealt away Schilling and Finley before they became great players, perhaps costing us future titles. No doubt the worst was when Mike Cuellar was dealt to Baltimore (1968) where the lefty proceeded to win 143 games over eight seasons while Curt Blefary lasted only a year with Houston.
Boston - 19
Despite the frequency, not many notable deals have been struck although the Astros did send Bob Watson to them in 1979. Of course, everyone remembers our best trade with the BoSox, the one where we sent reliever Larry Andersen at the trade deadline for a AA third baseman named Jeff Bagwell (1990). You can decide for yourself if the Carl Everett for Adam Everett (1999) deal was a net win or a net loss.
Chicago Cubs - 18
A lot of deals that leave you going "meh" although one comes with a story. After Joe Pepitone "retired" (1970), he came out of retirement when we agreed to sell him to the Cubs. Because the terms were lopsided, the Cubs gave us a make-up trade after the season to obtain Roger Metzger. Both teams denied the quid pro quo but it's a story I'm sticking with.
Chicago White Sox - 10
The Colt .45s acquired an aging Nellie Fox (1963) who not only would someday join the Hall-of-Fame posthumously but he also mentored another Hall-of-Famer, Joe Morgan, who had been rushed to the majors. Unfortunately, Fox would die young from cancer at age 47.
Cincinnati - 18
The only franchise who was a constant division rival through the entire 51 National League years, the Reds have not been afraid to deal with us. Among the trades was a 1981 shocker that sent Cesar Cedeno away for Ray Knight. No doubt the best deal was when we acquired Joaquin Andujar (1975) for two minor leaguers and the worst was when we sent Joe Morgan, Jack Billingham and Cesar Geronimo to the Reds for Lee May and Tommy Helms (1971). No knock on May or Helms but the unhappy Morgan put it all together when he arrived in Cincinnati and won two MVP awards.
Cleveland - 15
An early benefit came when we purchased Walt Bond from the Indians at the end of 1963. Bond provided the power bat for the next two seasons. Our best deal was when we sent Jeriome Robertson to The Tribe for minor leaguer Luke Scott and kept Rule V pick Willy Taveras. However, the most significant trade was when Ed Taubensee was acquired for a young Kenny Lofton (1991). 2400 hits and six All-Star games later, Lofton is still one of the most regrettable ones who got away.
Colorado - 7
Little to see here but the most memorable was when Houston acquired Jason Jennings for Willy Taveras and two pitchers (2006). Jennings was a flop for the Astros while the two pitchers, predictably, struggled in Colorado where curveballs go to die. Taveras was a useful piece as long as his speed held up.
Detroit - 16
The Tal Smith-Randy Smith pipeline between these two teams was fun and confusing to watch. Brad Ausmus factored in three deals (1996, 1999, 2000), while Doug Brocail, Jose Lima and C.J. Nitkowski were dealt twice. The 1996 blockbuster was the most beneficial as Houston got Ausmus, Lima and slugger Daryle Ward which became a ticket to three division titles.
Florida/Miami - 8
While unloading Carlos Lee (2012) may yet pay dividends, it's hard to beat the trade Gerry Hunsicker made to acquire Moises Alou for three prospects who failed to pan out (1997). Yes, it was a firesale deal, but Alou delivered on two division titlists.
Kansas City - 12
Dealing away John Mayberry (1971) for two relievers was our worst trade with the Royals. The best, some would say, was the three-way with Kansas City and Oakland where the Astros gave up Octavio Dotel and John Buck for Carlos Beltran, who starred in the 2004 playoffs. The dividends were short-lived but the memories are not.
Los Angeles Dodgers - 10
The most notable deal between these two clubs was the one that sent Jim Wynn out west for Claude Osteen (1973). Wynn had an MVP-like year in 1974 but both veterans were soon reaching the end of the line. The Dodgers also sent Jeffrey Leonard and Rafael Landestoy to us for Joe Ferguson (1978) which played a factor in Houston's first pennant run.
Milwaukee/Seattle - 12
Nothing huge between these two clubs but the most notable was the 1982 swap that sent Kevin Bass, Frank DiPino and Mike Madden to Houston for aging Hall-of-Famer Don Sutton. Houston also added Danny Darwin (1986) in a separate deal. The Seattle Pilots did send us Jim Bouton (1969) which put the Astros in the classic tome "Ball Four".
Minnesota - 8
Several yawners here with the only significant deal sending pitcher Mark Portugal to Houston after the 1988 season for Todd McClure. Portugal would win 52 games over five seasons with the Astros and was almost traded for Sammy Sosa when Sosa was a struggling young hitter with the White Sox.
New York Mets - 21
It should be no surprise that the expansion twins traded a lot of junk over the years. The Mets' best deal was getting Jerry Grote from us (1965) while our best move was getting Mike Scott for Danny Heep (1982) then teaching him the split-fingered fastball. The second best heist was acquiring Carl Everett for John Hudek (1997).
New York Yankees - 15
Noteworthy was the 1985 swap that sent Joe Niekro to the Bombers for Jim Deshaies, not just because Deshaies won 61 games over seven seasons in Houston but because he makes watching Astro games more tolerable over the past five horrendous seasons. Other than that, the best move was acquiring utilityman Mike Lamb for a minor league pitcher (2004). Lamb would hit five postseason homers for Houston.
Oakland/Kansas City - 10
Little to note here other than the aforementioned Carlos Beltran three-way trade (2004) however the Astros got a sweet deal swapping Willie Crawford to the A's for versatile Denny Walling (1977) who became a key part of two division titles.
Philadelphia - 18
While numerous prospects will ultimately decide whether the Hunter Pence trade (2011) will be among our best all-time, there's no doubting the worst deal we made with the Phils - sending Curt Schilling there for Jason Grimsley (1992) and nobody can blame Ed Wade for that one.
Pittsburgh - 12
The interesting thing is how many of Houston's managers have Pirate roots, including two we acquired by trade as players - Art Howe (1975) and Phil Garner (1981). Harry Walker, Bill Virdon and Terry Collins also had the Buccos in their background before coming to Houston. Overall, those five skippers had a 1792-1742 record (.507) with the Astros which looks pretty good considering where the franchise is now.
San Diego - 15
Everything else between these two teams is dwarfed by the 1994 mega-trade which sent Ken Caminiti, Steve Finley and others to the coast for Derek Bell, Ricky Gutierrez and others. Caminiti and Finley, whether artificially enhanced or not, became stars as Padres with Caminiti winning the MVP in 1996 and San Diego spoiling the Astros' best-ever season in 1998. Some say the trade was a thinly-disguised salary dump during the 1994 strike but one has to wonder what type of powerhouse the Astros could have been if that deal had never happened.
San Francisco - 14
The controversial Bob Knepper came to the Astros in 1980 for Enos Cabell. Soon afterwards, the Giants got revenge by sending head case Mike Ivie to Houston for Jeffrey Leonard and Dave Bergman. Little else to note other than the Colt .45s bought Yankee no-hit legend Don Larsen from the Giants in 1964 which was the sort of headliners Judge Hofheinz wanted in order to sell tickets back then.
Seattle - 11
Some still debate whether getting Randy Johnson in 1998 from the Mariners was worth giving up Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen and John Halama. The Big Unit could have done for the Astros what Carlos Beltran did for them six years later but, alas, the Padres got the better pitching that year. Still, getting Mike Hampton and Tiny Felder for Eric Anthony (1993) was sweet and so was getting Craig Reynolds for Floyd Bannister (1978).
St. Louis - 33
Despite all the moves, few stand out. Some names like Jerry Reuss, Dave Giusti, Larry Dierker, Johnny Edwards, Mike Cuellar and Pedro Feliz have crossed paths between Texas and Missouri. The best was buying Jose Cruz from the Redbirds in 1974. The worst was sending them Joaquin Andujar in 1981. There was a freeze between 1988 and 2010 but expect that to thaw now that Jeff Luhnow is the GM and the two teams will no longer be in the same division.
Tampa Bay - 7
One of the newer kids on the block, they've been a more active trade partner than some of the others. The Astros got Brandon Backe from the Rays (2003) while sending them Ben Zobrist (2006) and Dan Wheeler (2007), two pieces of their 2008 pennant club.
Texas/Washington - 7
The in-state rivals certainly haven't shared much over the years. The only trade of any note was when the Astros sent aging Ivan Rodriguez back to the Rangers (2009) for a last hurrah. I wouldn't expect the two teams to be any more active in the future.
Toronto - 6
We'll need to wait and see what emerges from July's mega-trade that sent J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter north of the border for five prospects (2012). For now, the best deal we've made with them was when Alan Ashby came over from the expansion Jays (1978). Perhaps someday the wags will conclude who got the better of the Brett Wallace - Anthony Gose swap (2010).
Washington/Montreal - 15
It would take too long here to discuss the Rusty Staub debacle (1969) but you can read more about it in the All Time Worst Trades. Other than that, there's little to discuss, Neither the Astros or Expos knew what that they had when they traded Mike Marshall (1970) who would win a Cy Young Award with the Dodgers in 1974. Perhaps the best player the Astros have received was Sean Berry (1995) although Dave Veres was a solid reliever and Raul Chavez somehow wound his way back to Houston in time to be with the playoff Astros of 2004 and 2005.
No doubt, the art of the deal has changed a bit since the 1960s but one thing remains the same. Teams hope to get better than they gave up. Although salaries and payrolls often factor into why seemingly lopsided trades are done, nobody has a foolproof crystal ball to tell them whether they are making a good trade or a bad trade. Surely, going forward, the Astros will make plenty of both although more common is apt to be the type where neither side made out particularly well. A review of all the trades make clear that few made a huge difference except to the players changing uniforms.
Yet the chance to get another Bagwell or Cruz keeps the transaction wires churning and fans opining. It may be tough on some players but trades are a fun part of baseball and that's why they'll continue to happen.