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Five Up, Five Down: Trades in Cincinnati Sports History


Division Series - San Francisco Giants v Cincinnati Reds - Game Four Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

If you are a Cincinnati Reds fan, or a baseball fan in general, you are probably monitoring the MLB trade market pretty tightly. If you just love trades, you are probably doing something similar. If you are both, then this is one of the best parts of the baseball season. Rumors swirl, deals get made and the fortunes of franchises shift.

But trades are not just a baseball thing. Player swapping happens in all four of the “major” sports in the United States, including football, basketball and hockey. That means every city has its own transaction highs and lows and Cincinnati is no different. Even if the Cincinnati Bearcats can’t make trades, that doesn’t mean the professional teams they share a city with can’t. So let’s rank the ones that have been made by professional sports teams in Cincinnati.

Johnny’s Five Up

1. Joe Morgan Gets All the Ladies

The most important trade in the history of National League baseball is Joe Morgan to the Reds in 1971. Flanked by Cesar Geronimo and Jack “Actually Your Father” Billingham, this deal saw the Houston Astros crumble and the rise of the Big Red Machine. The Astros wouldn’t recover until 1986.

2. Don’t let the Door Hit You, Frank

Frank Robinson played some great years of ball with the Orioles, don’t get me wrong, but Bill DeWitt had the right idea. (The “old 30” line doesn’t hold up, but the need for change did). The players acquired didn’t amount to much, but the Big Red Machine couldn’t have coalesced around a locker room issue like the one alleged between Robinson and Pinson. Robinson needed to go. Pinson needed to go. Youth flourished in the vacuum.

3. Bet on Charlie Hustle

In 1984 the Expos were in the middle of their 15th annual rebuilding year, and they dealt Pete Rose back home to Cincinnati. Like teammates Gary Carter, Terry Francona, Tim Raines, Andre Dawson and Jeff Reardon, he went on to have a great career with another team. Also he bet on baseball games a lot which made Reds games exciting! He turned Mr. Redlegs into Mr. Brokenlegs when he wouldn’t pay up.

4. The Ricky Williams Non-Deal

Mike Brown didn’t want to deal with Master P, and I can respect that. And look at the guys that the fabled nine draft picks would have gotten for the Bengals. Cade McNown, D’Wayne Bates, Nate Stimson, Khari Samuel, Desmond Clark, Billy Miller, LaVar Arrington and Lloyd Harrison. Feature attractions for any team. Akili Smith? Now there’s a guy you can depend upon!

5. Christy Matthewson Was a Liability Anyway

Yeah, yeah, you lived a clean-cut lifestyle, and you died of TB like the rest of us. Amos “the Hoosier Thunderbolt” Rusie on the other hand lived to the unfathomably old age of 61. A man of vigor, to be certain.

San Diego Chargers v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Johnny’s Five Down

1. The Carson Palmer Mortgage:

Everyone thinks that Marvin’s so smart because he was able to make Andy Dalton workable. Dre Kirkpatrick and Gio Bernard were both noisy nothings in the grand scheme of the Bengals’ history. Kirkpatrick’s always been a platoon guy, and without Adam Jones, his weaknesses become more and more apparent yearly. Bernard’s best play was getting destroyed by Ryan Shazier. Andy Dalton made three Pro Bowls because Tom Brady thinks red jerseys are unlucky. On the whole, the Bungles managed to make themselves win the Off-Season Deal Participation Award. Great job with your two-hour time in the 5k Fun Run. Carson wouldn’t have solved any problems, but acting like this trade was a stroke of genius is lying to history.

2. Eric the Red’s Voyage West

Dealing Eric Davis for Tim Belcher and John friggin’ Wetteland is like swapping a Bugatti Veyron for a Vespa. Yes, you’ll get to your destination, but you’ll be so embarrassed when you get there that you’ll be too shy to talk to girls.

3. Boomer on Broadway

Trading Boomer Esiason to the Jets was the first step in making the Cincinnati Bengals the cannon-fodder team that they are. More a Mike Brown move than a Paul Brown move. Take a poop with your pants on, Mike Brown.

4. More like Don Hoax

Whammy Douglas, Jim Pendleton and Johnny Powers? Wow, let’s give up Smoky Burgess, Harvey Haddix and Don Hoak so that Pittsburgh can win the pennant. It’s great that the Reds got Frank Thomas in this deal. The downside is that it’s the wrong Frank Thomas, because Big Hurt wasn’t born until 1968.


For Tony Perez. Sparky was clearly in the sauce that day.

Cincinnati Bengals v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Clayton’s Five Up

1. Reds acquire Joe Morgan from Astros for Lee May and Tommy Helms (1971)

Watch out for that Joe Morgan guy. He might have himself a career.

2. Reds Acquire Tom Seaver from Mets (1977)

Be bold. Make something happen. That’s what the Reds did in the Summer of 1977. “Tom Terrific” came over and posted a 14-3 mark for the Reds, who fell short of yet another NL West crown that season. Seaver pitched well for three more seasons for the Reds. The guys the Reds gave up amounted to little more than a bag of balls and a batting tee. Good deal.

3. Bengals acquire James Brooks from San Diego (1984)

Cincinnati flipped running backs with San Diego before the 1984 season. San Diego acquired Pete Johnson, who had been a stalwart in the Cincinnati backfield in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but proved to be near the end of his career. The Bengals picked up Brooks, who earned four Pro Bowl nods and helped guide the Bengals to an AFC Championship in 1988.

4. Bengals acquire Reggie Nelson from Jacksonville (2010)

In exchange for David Jones and a conditional pick that fizzled, the Bengals got themselves six seasons of excellent free safety play. In 2015, Nelson led the NFL in interceptions and garnered a Pro Bowl selection before signing as a free agent with Oakland.

5. Bengals acquire Brian Leonard from St. Louis (2009)

The star of Hard Knocks got his start in Cincinnati after landing there in a deal for D-lineman Orien Harris. Leonard was a versatile backfield contributor for four seasons in Cincinnati (2009-2012).

Kansas City Royals v Cleveland Indians

Clayton’s Five Down

1. Reds trade Frank Robinson to Baltimore (1965)

Milt Pappas had a pretty good career but not a Hall of Fame, MVP-in-both-leagues, 500 home runs Frank Robinson career.

2. Reds Trade Curt Flood to St. Louis (1957)

Curt Flood provided the Cardinals with more than a decade’s worth of standout play in center field. He was a major contributor on their 1964 and 1967 World Series winning clubs. Not to besmirch the legacies of Ted Wieand, Willard Schmidt and Marty Kutyna, but none of them reached quite that level.

3. Reds Trade Shane Rawley to Mariners (1977)

Southpaw Shane Rawley won himself 111 career games and earned a 1986 NL All Star Team bid. Outfielder Dave Collins, whom the Reds acquired in the deal, did not.

4. Reds Trade Ross Grimsley to Baltimore (1973)

See No. 3. Just insert “124 Wins,” “Merv Rettenmund,” and “Got sued in 1975 for pegging a heckler in the rightfield bleachers at Fenway Park with a ball.”

5. Nothing to See Here. The Bengals Always Make Great Deals. Don’t you see all of their Super Bowl rings?

Ken Griffey Jr.

Phil’s Five Up

1. Cincinnati Reds trade with the Seattle Mariners for Ken Griffey Jr. (2000)

Griffey was the most exciting position player of his era and the Reds were able to flip Mike Cameron, Antonio Perez, Brett Tomko and Jake Meyer for his services. In his first season, Griffey hit 40 home runs, had an OPS of .942 and made his 11th-straight All Star game. Although he would never match that production again as a Red, it was still awesome to see him in a Reds uniform for nine years.

2. Cincinnati Reds trade a player to be named later to Cleveland for Brandon Phillips (2006)

The Reds both traded for and traded away Phillips. Dat Dude was originally drafted by the Montreal Expos and then made his way to Cleveland in 2002 when the Expos traded him, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Lee Stevens for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew. I’d say Cleveland got plenty in return for Colon, especially since he only pitched 17 games for Montreal. That’s even when you consider the fact that Phillips really didn’t hit his stride until he was dealt to the Reds in 2006. In 11 years he was worth 31.2 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference, before he was traded to the Atlanta Braves in 2017.

What makes this deal even better is the Reds gave up pretty much nothing. Phillips was dealt for a player to be named later. That player turned out to be pitcher Jeff Stevens, who never appeared in a game in Cleveland and was worth -0.7 WAR before his career ended.

3. Cincinnati Reds acquire Joe Morgan and others from the Houston Astros in exchange for Lee May, Tommy Helms and Jimmy Stewart (1971)

Those first two deals earned their ranking for both objective and subjective reasons. Griffey and BP or two of my personal favorite players. Now we are looking at a deal that was just objectively excellent. Morgan had already played 10 years in the big leagues before his first team, the Houston Astros, dealt him to Cincinnati. In his first season after the trade, Morgan came in fourth in MVP voting and led baseball in runs, walks and on-base percentage. He made the All Star game that year and the next seven, winning back-to-back MVPs in 1975 and 1976 and helping to form the Big Red Machine.

There were some good players that the Astros got in return, especially power-hitting Lee May, who hit 354 career home runs, but all three of the guys Morgan was traded for accounted for only 34.3 combined WAR in their careers. Morgan was worth 58.0 in his eight years with Cincinnati alone.

4. Cincinnati Bengals acquire James Brooks from the San Diego Chargers in exchange for Pete Johnson

I’ll let our pals over at Cincy Jungle take this one.

5. Cincinnati Reds acquire Tom Seaver from the New York Mets in exchange for Doug Flynn, Steven Henderson, Dan Norman and Pat Zachry

When you can deal for a three-time Cy Young winner, you’ve got to do it.

Honorable Mention: Reds trading for Scott Rolen (2009). Reds trading for Bronson Arroyo (2006). Reds trading Todd Frazier (2015). Bengals trading Carson Palmer (2011)

Tony Perez looks on Photo by: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Phil’s Five Down

In descending order, as always

5. Cincinnati Reds Aaron Boone to the New York Yankees for Brandon Claussen and Charlie Manning

In addition to runnning Down the Drive, I also moonlight as a writer at Over the Monster. The OTM writer in me knows that this deal led to this:

4. Cincinnati Reds trade Tony Perez (and Will McEnaney) to the Montreal Expos for Woodie Fryman and Dale Murray (1976)

Perez had just finished his age-34 season when the Reds sent him to Montreal. Despite his increasing age, Perez still managed to be a worthwhile big leaguer after being dealt. Fryman and Murray were not so much, at least for the Reds, as both were off the team by the end of 1978.

3. Cincinnati Reds trade Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles for Milt Pappas, Dick Thompson and Jack Baldschun (1965)

The Reds traded Robinson and in his first year in Baltimore he won an MVP award while leading the majors in runs, home runs, RBI, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+ and total bases. I feel like the Reds could have used a guy like that.

2. Cincinnati Bengals DO NOT trade with the New Orleans Saints in 1999

1. Cincinnati Royals trade Oscar Robertson to the Milwaukee Bucks for Flynn Robinson and Charlie Paulk (1970)

Even if the Royals would move out of Cincinnati two years later and become the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, how could they trade away the best Bearcat ever?!

Disagree with us? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter or via a FanPost. Also, if you want us to rank something specific next week, let us know.