Best trades in Giants history: Ranking 10 deals that paid dividends
10. J.T. Snow from Angels (1996)
Giants receive: 1B J.T. Snow
Angels receive: LHP Allen Watson, RHP Fausto Macey
Snow was already a two-time Gold Glove Award winner, but his numbers dipped in 1996, and Angels GM Bill Bavasi thought he was getting a top-end starter in Watson, who ended up posting a 5.28 ERA in two seasons and becoming a reliever. Snow was a wizard around the bag and won the Gold Glove in his first four seasons in San Francisco, along with a .273/.366/.462 slash line, 86 homers and 377 RBI. He was a perfect fit alongside Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent, and in the 2000 NLDS, he hit one of the biggest homers in franchise history.
Aside from Watson, the Angels got Macey, a 21-year-old who was at one point a top-five prospect for the Giants. He never made the big leagues.
9. Javier Lopez from Pirates (2010)
Giants receive: LHP Javier Lopez
Pirates receive: OF John Bowker, RHP Joe Martinez
The Giants don't win any of the three titles without the Core Four, which fell into place when Lopez was acquired on deadline day in 2010. He had developed into a good reliever in Boston and had a 2.79 ERA in 50 appearances for the Pirates. In San Francisco, he turned into one of the better matchup plays of his generation and proved to be a dominant postseason performer.
Lopez had a 2.47 ERA in seven years with the Giants. In the playoffs, he faced 47 batters -- mostly slugging lefties -- and allowed just five hits. The contributions to three championship clubs give him an edge over the pitchers who nearly made this list. Giants fans had high hopes for Bowker, but he took just 109 big league at-bats after the trade. Martinez made just eight more appearances.
8. Robb Nen from Marlins (1997)
Giants receive: RHP Robb Nen
Marlins receive: RHP Joe Fontenot, RHP Mick Pageler, RHP Mike Villano
Years before the Giants got fleeced for All-Star closer Joe Nathan, they pulled off their own heist to get Nen, who had saved 108 games for the Marlins. He was a three-time All-Star in San Francisco and finished fourth in the Cy Young voting in 2000, when he saved 41 games with a 1.50 ERA. Nen had a 2.43 ERA in five seasons for the Giants before his shoulder gave out, and he closed out seven wins in the 2002 postseason as they nearly ended the title drought.
Fontenot was the only one of the three traded pitchers to reach the big leagues. He had a 6.33 ERA in eight starts in 1998.
7. Jason Schmidt from Pirates (2001)
Giants receive: RHP Jason Schmidt, OF John Vander Wal
Pirates receive: RHP Ryan Vogelsong, OF Armando Rios
Brian Sabean almost never came out on the losing end when he swapped pitchers, and few deals worked out better than this one. Schmidt was a solid starter in Pittsburgh but became one of the NL's best pitchers in San Francisco. He went 78-37 with a 3.36 ERA in six seasons, making three All-Star teams and twice finishing in the top four in Cy Young voting. Schmidt had a 2.34 ERA in 2003 and finished second in Cy Young voting to Dodgers closer Eric Gagne.
Vogelsong ultimately became more well-known as a Giants starter, but it took him a decade to get there. He struggled as a Pirate and primarily pitched out of the bullpen. Rios had been a solid outfielder for the Giants but he hit just one homer in 211 at-bats for the Pirates and later admitted he had taken PEDs while in San Francisco.
6. Vida Blue from A's (1978)
Giants receive: LHP Vida Blue
A's receive: C Gary Alexander, RHP Dave Heaverlo, RHP Phil Huffman, LHP John Henry Johnson, OF Gary Thomasson, RHP Alan Wirth, SS Mario Guerrero
The Giants and A's have made one trade in the last 16 years, and it was for a minor league reliever who had been DFA'd. But 42 years ago, they completed a blockbuster, making Blue a household name on both sides of the bridge. Blue was an MVP and perennial Cy Young candidate in Oakland, and he carried that over in 1978, throwing 258 innings with a 2.79 ERA. After a rough 1979 season, Blue had two more All-Star seasons for the Giants before getting dealt again.
The Giants sent seven players (and $300,000) to the A's and didn't get burned by any of them. Guerrero, a light-hitting shortstop, was the only one to play more than two full seasons in Oakland. Johnson (3.39 ERA as a starter in 1978) was the most useful of the bunch.
5. Marco Scutaro from Rockies (2012)
Giants receive: 2B Marco Scutaro
Rockies receive: SS Charlie Culberson
A trade that drew very little national attention ended up having the biggest impact on the 2012 season. Scutaro was a journeyman who was having a replacement-level year for the Rockies, but the Giants put the 36-year-old at second base and watched him hit .362 and provide 2.1 WAR in just 61 games. He was named MVP of the NLCS, overcoming a dirty takeout slide from Matt Holiday to pick up 14 hits in 28 at-bats.
That run, capped by Scutaro turning skyward and embracing the rain, is one of the more memorable ones in franchise history. The price was Culberson, a former first-rounder who years later became a nice bench bat for the Dodgers and Braves. Culberson, who remains close with many of the Giants' biggest stars, had his own big moment in 2016, when his walk-off clinched the NL West for the Dodgers in Vin Scully's final home game.
4. Jeff Kent from Indians (1996)
Giants receive: 2B Jeff Kent, RHP Julian Tavarez, INF Jose Vizcaino, RHP Joe Roa
Indians receive: 3B Matt Williams, OF Trent Hubbard
Sabean's first major move as GM was so unpopular in the city that he called an informal news conference a few days later to announce, "I'm not an idiot." He was soon proven to be a very shrewd executive. Trading Williams, a fan favorite, brought back Kent, who put up Hall-of-Fame caliber numbers while making three All-Star teams and winning the 2002 MVP award. Kent had a .903 OPS as a Giant, with 175 homers and 689 RBI in six seasons.
Vizcaino was the everyday shortstop for the 1997 team that won the division, and Tavarez was a workhorse for the bullpen. Roa and Hubbard, the Players To Be Named Later, hung around the big leagues for years but did little for the two teams in this deal. Williams hit 32 homers in one season in Cleveland before getting dealt to Arizona, where he won a title in 2001. He was still a good player well into his 30s, but this one worked out well for Sabean and the Giants.
3. Kevin Mitchell from Padres (1987)
Giants receive: OF Kevin Mitchell, LHP Dave Dravecky, LHP Craig Lefferts
Padres receive: 3B Chris Brown, LHP Keith Comstock, LHP Mark Davis, RHP Mark Grant
The 1989 reunion the Giants held last year included three players who came over in the same midseason trade. Mitchell broke through two years after the deal, leading the league with 47 homers and 125 RBI while winning the MVP award. He hit 35 more homers the next year and made his second All-Star team. Dravecky had a 3.20 ERA the rest of the season and made two strong postseason starts that year before cancer changed his career. He won the Willie Mac Award in 1989 and remains part of the organization.
Lefferts was dominant out of the 'pen in three seasons with the Giants.
This list is full of players who helped the Giants win titles, and these three nearly did. Parts of the deal worked out for the Padre, too. Grant had four reliable seasons, ultimately settling in the bullpen. Davis had started a lot in San Francisco but thrived as a closer in San Diego, saving 44 games in 1989 and winning the Cy Young Award.
2. Hunter Pence from Phillies (2012)
Giants receive: OF Hunter Pence
Phillies receive: OF Nate Schierholtz, C Tommy Joseph, RHP Seth Rosin
The Reverend was part of deadline blockbusters in back-to-back seasons, and the latter one helped the Giants win two more titles and delivered one of the most beloved players in franchise history. Pence's OPS dropped over 100 points after the deal but he helped lead the Giants through a thrilling postseason. He followed that with back-to-back 20 homer years and his All-Star campaign in 2014 helped the Giants sneak into October, where Madison Bumgarner did the rest.
Joseph was the prize for the Phillies, a slugging catcher who scouts compared to Paul Konerko. Multiple concussions halted his development and moved him to first, where he hit 43 homers in 2016-17, his only big league seasons. Schierholtz hit 21 homers for the 2013 Cubs but was soon out of the game. Rosin pitched six big-league innings.
1. Christy Mathewson from Reds (1900)
Giants receive: RHP Christy Mathewson
Reds receive: RHP Amos Rusie
Go through the franchise record books and you won't find Bumgarner, Lincecum or Marichal at the top of most lists. Just about every significant pitching record the Giants have is held by Mathewson, a Hall-of-Famer who pitched 17 seasons for the New York Giants. That was a much different era, but the numbers are still eye-popping: 373 wins, 2.13 career ERA, 2,507 strikeouts, 435 complete games, 79 shutouts.
The Giants had actually purchased Mathewson's contract from the New England League earlier in 1900 but they returned him after six poor appearances. When the Reds then acquired him, the Giants sent them Rusie, who had won 234 games for them and later made the Hall of Fame. He pitched three games for the Reds and then retired. Mathewson is third in MLB history in wins. That's a deal Farhan Zaidi and future generations will never be able to top.