A highly underrated career just came to an understated end when Mike Cameron announced his retirement, a couple of months after signing a minor league contract with the Nationals. Cameron never was the flashiest player, and his batting averages trended low. But he drew walks, hit for decent power, ran the bases well and played excellent defense in center field, enough to give him 46.7 career wins above replacement, per Baseball-Reference.com.
Cameron also served as one piece of a blockbuster trade. Back in 2000, the Reds dealt Cameron and three other players to the Mariners for a guy by the name of Ken Griffey Jr. Cameron's retirement brought to mind the question of where he might rank among the best players ever traded for a Hall of Famer, once Griffey is inevitably enshrined at Cooperstown in 2016.
The answer is that he'd be close to this top five.
Note: Several trades have involved Hall of Famers on both sides. These players are not included.
The most accomplished pitcher ever born in Idaho, Jackson split most of his career between two sides of a rivalry, pitching eight seasons for the Cardinals and three for the Cubs. Chicago then made a wise trade early in the 1966 season, dealing Jackson and Bob Buhl to the Phillies for a package that included a 23-year-old Ferguson Jenkins, who went on to win 167 games for the Cubs in his HOF career. Jackson put together three solid seasons for Philly but then retired after the Expos selected him in the 1968 expansion draft. The right-hander finished his career with 194 wins, a 113 ERA+ and 55.6 WAR, including four seasons with at least 5. He later served in the Idaho Legislature.
The Crime Dog was traded four times in his career, but no deal packed more starpower than the one between the Blue Jays and Padres in December 1990. McGriff, coming off a .300/.400/.530 season, was sent to San Diego along with Tony Fernandez in exchange for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar. That pair helped lead the Jays to two World Series titles, and Alomar was inducted into the Hall last year. McGriff, who received 23.9 percent of the HOF vote this year, enjoyed a 19-year career in which he racked up 2,490 hits, 493 home runs, a 134 OPS+ and 50.5 WAR. He also made one of the most famous celebrity endorsements in sports history.
These days, baseball fans might know Fregosi mostly from his generally mediocre managerial career, during which he compiled a .484 winning percentage with four teams (although he did lead the Phillies to the 1993 World Series). But before that, he had a tremendous run as a big league shortstop with the Angels. From 1960 to 1970, Fregosi led all MLB shortstops in WAR (43.5) and was in the top five in hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI and OPS. Injuries, including a tumor in his foot, struck Fregosi in 1971, and although he hung around until 1978, he never was an effective player again. The Angels avoided the decline by trading him to the Mets in 1971 for four players, including a young Nolan Ryan.
The Indians signed Havana-born Saturnino Orestes Armas (Arrieta) Minoso out of the Negro Leagues in 1948 on the advice of Abe Saperstein, who later made the Harlem Globetrotters famous. In that spirit of stunts, Minoso made brief appearances with the White Sox in 1976 and 1980, then with the independent St. Paul Saints in 1993 and 2003, becoming pro baseball’s first seven-decade player. Minoso also was traded from the Indians to the White Sox, back to the Indians and then back to the White Sox, with the middle trade featuring an exchange for Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn. But Minoso also was a terrific player, notching a career OPS+ of 130 and 52.8 WAR, including 8.3 in 1954.
Like Fregosi, Torre is known more as a manager and likely will reach Cooperstown on the strength of the 4,329 victories and four World Series titles he compiled from the dugout. But despite never receiving more than 22.2 percent of the vote in his 15 years on the ballot, Torre has at least a borderline HOF case as a player, with 55.6 WAR in 18 seasons. A catcher, first baseman and third baseman, Torre played with the Braves until 1969, when they dealt him to the Cardinals for Orlando Cepeda. Atlanta got two solid seasons from Cepeda, but St. Louis got six from Torre, including 1971, when he hit .363/.421/.555 to pile up 6.8 WAR, a batting title and an MVP award.
Honorable mentions: Sam McDowell (traded for Gaylord Perry), Bobo Newsom (Rick Ferrell), Bob Elliott (Billy Herman), Urban Shocker (Eddie Plank), Tommy Leach (Jack Chesboro).
Could join soon: David Wells (Roger Clemens), Gary Sheffield (Mike Piazza, Trevor Hoffman), David Cone (Jeff Kent).
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