FanGraphs: Trade-deadline blunders

The trade that netted Cliff Lee for the Indians might be the most lopsided deal ever. Getty Images

This is the time of year when general managers are constantly conversing with other GMs and reassuring fans that they're looking for the "right deal" or a "win-win situation." The elusive goal is a deal that works for both sides, but that's obviously easier said than done.

So let's take a look at some notable trade-deadline deals in baseball history and separate the talk from the truth. John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander and Jeff Bagwell for Larry Anderson were both stinkers and are often cited as some of baseball's worst, but both were completed in August and were waiver deals. Because of the rules of waiver trades, any team in baseball could have blocked them. In other words, all 28 teams not present in those swaps are somewhat at fault for letting those trades go through.

Instead, we'll be focusing on deals in June and July -- true deadline deals. Using the wins above replacement (WAR) that each team gave up, we can quickly appraise some of the most lopsided deals of the past 25 years. In this context, all WAR values are rest-of-contract numbers. When Mark McGwire was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1997, he had only two months of his contract left. Let's not burn the Oakland Athletics for those 70 home runs in 1998. For prospects, the value is the WAR accumulated during their cheap, arbitration-controlled years.

Now, on to the trades.