Christmas is a time of giving. In a baseball sense, the only times teams give to each other is in trades. Unlike the mostly selfless act of gift-giving, you’re trying to help yourself when making trades, even if you do give something up.
However, sometimes the exchanges can be lopsided. In honor of the holiday, here are five of the biggest “gifts” in Yankees history.
5. David Cone
For the cost of 98.2 major league innings, the Yankees managed to get a four-time World Series-winning pitcher, perfect game thrower, and a beloved broadcaster.
The Yankees were closing in on a return to the playoffs, so they made a deal near the 1995 trade deadline and acquired David Cone from the Blue Jays. To get him, they sent Toronto three minor leaguers. Of the three, only one, Marty Janzen, reached the majors, but he didn’t do much of anything.
Cone, meanwhile, re-signed in the offseason, helped the Yankees to four World Series titles and produced one of the most iconic memories in franchise history.
A seventh round pick by the Pirates, Willie Randolph made his major league debut in 1975. After Pittsburgh made the NLCS, he played in two games off the bench, going 0-for-2 as the Pirates lost to the Reds. That winter, the Yankees and Pirates made a swap, with Randolph, Ken Brett, and Dock Ellis of the LSD no-hitter game coming to New York for Doc Medich.
Medich played one average season in Pittsburgh before being shipped off in another deal. Brett threw 2.1 inning total in a Yankees uniform, while Ellis had an okay year in 1976 before being traded early in the ‘77 season.
Exchanging those three is arguably a wash, but getting Randolph was quite the plus for the Yankees. In 13 years in the Bronx, Randolph was worth 54 wins according to Baseball Reference, playing second base on ‘77 and ‘78 World Series title teams. He would make six All-Star teams and be named a co-captain later in his career. Plus, he became a coach on the late 90s/early 00s dynasty Yankees teams, helping them to four more championships.
3. Red Ruffing
Ten years after another deal that you might’ve heard of that may or may not appear on this list, the Yankees and Red Sox made another trade in 1930.
Red Ruffing was the “ace” of the Red Sox in the late 20s. Ace is in quotation marks because he generally ranged between okay and bad. He just happened to be on the team in the worst era in franchise history, and he was the best they had. The team was dealing with financial issues and the Yankees came in to help them, acquiring Ruffing for bench outfielder Cedric Dust and $50,000, with Yankees owner Jacob Rupert also giving the Red Sox owner an additional $50,000 loan.
With some help from Bob Shawkey (a fellow trade gift), Ruffing reworked his delivery. In just two years, he was the Yankees’ best pitcher. He became a six-time All-Star, helped the Yankees to win six World Series titles, and would be elected to the Hall of fame in 1967.
The Red Sox are still in business, so technically it worked out for both sides, sorta.
The Yankees certainly didn’t get A-Rod for free. Alfonso Soriano had a very successful career in his later stops after being traded by the Yankees. However, the Yankees still very much got the better end of the deal.
Even for all his foibles that a certain segment of Yankees fandom will bring up, Rodríguez had a great career in New York. He won two MVPs, made seven All-Star teams, and was worth 54 WAR in pinstripes according to Baseball Reference.
In addition to Soriano, the Rangers also acquired Joaquín Árias as a player to be named later in the deal. The story goes that Texas was given a list of Yankees minor leaguers and told to pick one to be the PTBNL. They chose Árias, and he went on to play eight years in the majors. That’s not bad for a random trade add on. However, one of the other names on that PTBNL list was supposedly Robinson Canó. Double thanks, Rangers!
1. Babe Ruth
Who else would it be?
After a successful career as a pitcher with the Red Sox, Ruth started to become more known for his hitting in his later years in Boston. After some public criticism from Red Sox management, the team decided to sell him to the Yankees for a fairly big at the time $100,000. It turned out to be money very well spent.
After acquiring Ruth, the Yankees turned into a dynasty. He was the beginning of the turn from the middling team that used to be called the Highlanders into the most well known and successful franchise in MLB. Along the way he became the best player in the sport’s history and an icon.
As for the money, legend is that it was spent to fund Red Sox owner Harry Frazee’s play “No No Nanette.” It’s unclear if that’s true, but however it was spent, it was less useful than employing Babe Ruth.