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May 04, 2020

Worst Week: The worst trades in Philadelphia sports history

We took a look at the worst draft picks in the history of Philadelphia sports — and now it's time to turn to another method of player acquisition: trades.

We limited our list from using a few kinds of trades to start, including draft pick for draft pick, which made up the vast majority of Eagles trades (and trades in the NFL). Focusing mainly on player-for-player trades takes away a little bit of the hindsight at play when evaluating draft picks, which are more often a crapshoot and which have different levels of value to different teams.

Our method of assessment also looked at the situation that led to each trade. In the example of Charles Barkley to the Suns, for one, the soon-to-be NBA MVP demanded to be traded after the Sixers missed the playoffs, yet again, in the early 1990s. With very little negotiating power, it's hard to expect much by way of a fair return. 

We'll begin with some trades that were clearly bad for Philly, but which didn't quite measure up to the one-sided nature of the transactions in our top 10:

Dishonorable mention:

Phillies trade away Scott Rolen, 2002

The Phillies got Placido Polanco in this trade, and he was... okay. But the decision to jettison Rolen pretty much left the Phillies with a void at third bass all throughout their run of contention in the late 2000s. Will Alec Bohm finally give them a long term answer at the hot corner?

Flyers trade away Justin Williams, 2004

Williams scored 682 points in his post-Flyers NHL career and won the Conn Smyth award when the Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2014. The Flyers' return in his trade — Danny Markov — played 34 games for Philly scoring just five points. He was later flipped for a third-round pick.

Eagles trade up to draft Mike Mamula, 1995

The Eagles traded two firsts and two seconds to the Buccaneers in order to trade up for Mike Mamula. Mamula was... fine. Nothing great but not a total bust as a pass-rusher. But, the Bucs turned the Eagles' picks into Warren Sapp, who the Eagles also passed on, and Derrick Brooks, who helped them win a Super Bowl. In addition to passing on those two Hall of Famers, the Eagles also passed on two others: Ty Law and Curtis Martin.

Sixers trade for Andrew Bynum, 2012

This trade was so bad, it more or less forced the Sixers to begin The Process. Bynum, of course, never played for the Sixers while Andre Iguodala went on to great things. Philly also parted with Nik Vucevic, who turned into a pretty good center, and Mo Harkless. 

Phillies trade away Gio Gonzalez and Gavin Floyd, 2007

The Phillies didn't know it at the time, but they traded away a pair of starters who may have been useful as they began to win NL East titles. Instead, they added Freddy Garcia (WAR of -0.3 during his time with Phillies) in exchange for hurlers who combined to produce a WAR of 48.2 after leaving Philly.

And now, we unveil the 10 worst trades ever made by Philadelphia sports franchises:

10. Flyers trade away Sergei Bobrovsky — 2012

PHILLY TEAM LOSES: Sergei Bobrovsky 
PHILLY TEAM GAINS2012 2nd-round, 4th-round pick, and 2013 4th-round pick

The Flyers might have finally found their long-term goaltender in Carter Hart, but prior to his ascension (one that fans hope continues when the NHL returns), the team had some issues finding their man between the pipes. After Bobrovsky finished in the top seven for the Calder Cup and had a pretty impressive rookie season in 2010-11, the Flyers decided to part ways with the talented 23-year-old when he began a sophomore slump. They wanted to make room for free agent signee Ilya Bryzgolov — who of course didn't work out.

With the Blue Jackets, Bobrovsky was a five-time All-Star and two-time Vezina Trophy winner. In eight seasons post-Flyers, Bob has a .918 save percentage and 2.50 goals against average with 235 quality starts and 34 shutouts. In that same span, the Flyers' have had 16 different goalies start a game, all combining for worse numbers than Bobrovsky has all by himself.

9. Phillies trade away Grover Cleveland Alexander — 1917

PHILLY TEAM LOSES: Grover Cleveland Alexander, Bill Killefer
PHILLY TEAM GAINSMike Prendergast, Pickles Dillhoefer, $60,000

The Phillies made a really, really bad trade over 100 years ago — so bad that we had to include it even though nearly everyone who has ever watched these players play is long dead. Grover Cleveland Alexander was an alcoholic, and that may have been part of the reason he was shipped away from Philly in 1917 (after he went 30-3 with a 1.83 ERA). In the 11 seasons following, GCA won 183 games with a 2.91 ERA. He won a World Series in Chicago and solidified his Hall of Fame credentials. 

Dillhoefer (who was called Dill Pickles because 1910s baseball was awesome), played eight games for the Phillies, hitting .091. Prendergast pitched in 38 games in Philly, going 13-15 before retiring at age 30. When asked why the trade was made, then Phillies' owner said it was because he needed the $60,000. 

8. Sixers trade away Moses Malone — 1986

PHILLY TEAM LOSES: Moses Malone, Terry Catledge and two first-round picks
PHILLY TEAM GAINS: Cliff Robinson, Jeff Ruland

The mitigating factors for this trade are that Malone was 31 and the Sixers were looking to rebuild. However, Malone had a lot more basketball left to play, as he made three All-Star Games in a row over the next three years with Washington and Atlanta. He also averaged a double-double for four more seasons before becoming a role player off the bench for his last five years in the league. An injury in 1985-86 led the Sixers to try and sell him for whatever they could.

However, they really, really overpaid to move on from his services. The Sixers sent two first round picks to the Bullets in order to acquire Cliff Robinson (who wasn't bad with the Sixers, averaging 16.8 points per game in three seasons there) and Ruland, who played two games for the Sixers before retiring for four years due to injury. Ruland returned to the Sixers for a comeback bid in 1991, but played just 13 games before suffering an Achilles injury after a Celtics team employee allegedly rammed a luggage cart into his leg

The Malone Era in Philly ended with a whimper, to be sure.

7. Flyers trade away Patrick Sharp — 2005

PHILLY TEAM LOSES: Patrick Sharp, Eric Meloche
PHILLY TEAM GAINS: Matt Ellison, 2006 third rounder

Sharp is another Flyers winger who wound up becoming a star and winning a Stanley Cup after being traded for chump change. After scoring 15 total points during his tenure in Philly, Sharp scored 20 or more goals eight times with the Blackhawks and Stars, making four All-Star teams and hoisting a championship trophy in Chicago.

Ellison, the centerpiece of their return for Sharp played just seven total NHL games for the Flyers. The third-round pick was later flipped (and became Ryan White). As in all of these trades, hindsight is 20-20, but the Flyers do appear to give up on prospects perhaps a bit too soon.

6. Sixers trade away Wilt Chamberlain — 1968

PHILLY TEAM LOSES: Wilt Chamberlain
PHILLY TEAM GAINS: Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark, Darrall Imhoff

When Chamberlain was sent west to L.A. in 1968, it was the first time in NBA history that a reigning MVP was traded. The big man asked for a trade, but the motivations are not completely known. Did Chamberlain force the Sixers hand? Dr. Jack Ramsey once said that Chamberlain threatened to simply go to the ABA, so Philly had no choice but to move him. It's because of this we can't completely blame the 76ers for getting a horrible return on Chamberlain, who would go on to make four All-Star games in his final five NBA seasons while adding an NBA title in 1972.

Chambers never played for the Sixers — he served in the military and was later flipped for George Wilson, a marginal player who played for just one season in Philadelphia. Clark was an All-Star in Philly who averaged 18.2 points per game before he was swapped for Fred Carter and Kevin Loughery (each did prove to be solid players who had short stints in Philly). Imhoff was an All-Star in Los Angeles but was never as good in two seasons with the Sixers and traded for two pretty bad players. 

5. Phillies trade away Curt Schilling — 2000

PHILLY TEAM GAINS: Travis Lee, Omar Daal, Vicente Padilla, Nelson Figueroa

The four players the Phillies received in exchange for Schilling combined to produce 9.1 wins above replacement for the Phillies, as they would all serve very limited tenures playing in the city. Schilling was good for 43.6 WAR over the last eight seasons of his career, as he pitched all the way to age 40. 

Schilling, of course, was the hero for not one (the Diamondbacks in 2001), not two (the Red Sox in 2004), but three (also the Red Sox in 2007) pitching staffs to win World Series titles. He made three All-Star games after leaving the Phillies and won 111 of his 216 games. 

4. Sixers trade away Charles Barkley — 1992

PHILLY TEAM LOSES: Charles Barkley
PHILLY TEAM GAINS: Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang, Tim Perry

The Barkley Era Sixers never made it past the second round of the playoffs, despite the forward routinely posting some of the best numbers in basketball at the time. After the team missed the playoffs outright in 1992, the 28-year-old had had enough and demanded a trade. Based on the trade alone, this could be the No. 1 worst for the city of all time. Barkley won an MVP the next season and would lead the Suns to the NBA Finals. But the fact that Barkley was known to be forcing Philly's hand surely made it impossible for them to get what he was worth.

According to reports, a trade with the Lakers fell through before Barkley was sent to Phoenix. In the trade that went through, Jeff Hornacek was the centerpiece and he played very well for one season in Philly. But the team then traded him away for Jeff Malone and a first-round pick (used on B.J. Tyler... whoever that was). Andrew Lang scored 5.3 points per game in one season in Philly, while Tim Perry lasted four seasons as a marginal starter before being flipped as part of the Derrick Coleman trade. Barkley was one of the greatest Sixers ever, but the front office didn't give him a chance to win, and then didn't get anything when they traded him. 

3. Flyers trade for Eric Lindros — 1992

PHILLY TEAM LOSES: Peter Forsberg, Steve Duchesne, Kerry Huffman, Mike Ricci, Ron Hextall, 2 first rounders

Lindros was a great Flyer when he was healthy, making six straight All-Star games, winning the Hart Trophy (for league MVP) in 1995, and leading the team to a Stanley Cup loss in 1997. He No. 88 was retired by the team and he was, for sure, an all-time team great. However, injuries and a contract issue that made him miss all of 2000 forced the Flyers to flip him to the Rangers for two nobodies (Jan Hlavac, Pavel Brendl), a contributor (Kim Johnsson) and a wasted draft pick. His career ended when he was 33 due to injuries.

Meanwhile, the team paid a heavy price for eight years of Lindros and one losing Stanley Cup run. Quebec (the team he was traded from) moved to Colorado in 1995 and the Avalanche won a Stanley Cup title in 1996 and another in 2001. Forsberg was an eight-time All-Star who won Rookie of the Year immediately after the Flyers traded him as a 21-year-old. He scored 20 goals six times and was the leader of the Avalanche locker room for a decade. Duchesne played for six other franchises and made it to seven All-Star Games and Ricci won a title in Colorado before becoming a prominent defensive-minded center for 14 more fruitful NHL seasons. Luckily the surrendered draft picks didn't pan out or it would be an even worse "what if."

2. Phillies trade away Ryne Sandberg — 1982

PHILLY TEAM LOSES: Ryne Sandberg, Larry Bowa

Contemplating a different outcome for, say, the Phillies 1993 World Series loss is a fool's errand — after all, there's no way to know what could have happened if say... the second baseman was Ryne Sandberg instead of Mickey Morandini. But lets ponder for a moment. In 1993, Morandini had a WAR of 0.3, hitting .247 with a OPS of .664. That same season, Sandberg hit .309 with an OPS of .772. Would having a better second baseman have made a difference?We'll never know. What we do know is that the Phillies made a really bad trade in 1982 when they sent Sandberg, then a prospect, to the Cubs along with Larry Bowa.

DeJesus was good for 2.9 wins above replacement during three seasons with the Phillies, hitting .249 before they flipped him in 1985 for a mediocre relief pitcher. Sandberg meanwhile, made 10 All-Star Games, won nine gold gloves, seven silver slugger awards, the NL MVP in 1984 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005. Unfortunately for the Phils, when he was brought back as a manager in 2013 he wasn't nearly as good.

1. Phillies trade away Ferguson Jenkins — 1968

PHILLY TEAM LOSES: Ferguson Jenkins, John Herrnstein, Adolfo Phillips
PHILLY TEAM GAINS: Bob Buhl, Larry Jackson

Fergie Jenkins pitched in eight games for the Phillies as a reliever before they decided to send him to Chicago in exchange for two players who we will complain about later. With the Cubs and later the Rangers and Red Sox, Jenkins became one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, winning 284 games and punching a ticket to Cooperstown. In an era that was much more closer in resemblance to modern day as far as pitching is concerned, Jenkins won 20 games or more for six straight seasons. Then, after one down year, he went 25-12 in 1974. He is a Cy Young award-winner and was in the top-10 in strikeouts 10 times. Jenkins pitched for 19 seasons and an incredible 4,500 innings over his incredible career, posting a post-Phillies WAR of 81.7.

In return for Jenkins and two relatively minor players, Philly received Buhl and Jackson. Buhl was 37 when he came over in the trade and pitched one full season with a 4.77 ERA and a few games the next year before retiring. Jackson arrived in Philadelphia as a four-time All-Star but at age 35, he only had three years of pitching left in him (though he did post a 2.95 ERA over that span). 

In summation, the Phillies sent a generational pitching talent who made the Hall of Fame to the Cubs in exchange for a 37-year-old and a 35-year-old, both of whom combined to play just over four seasons for the team in total. Did the organization not see that Jenkins had talent? Or were they just completely and utterly incompetent?

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