When it comes to pulling off a trade, three is sometimes not a crowd, but a necessity.
While almost all deals involve two teams working out an exchange, sometimes the addition of a third brings some previously absent element into the mix that allows everyone to get what they want. It also makes things a bit more complicated, and perhaps more exciting, for fans, as they try to figure out who got the upper hand.
With that in mind, here is a look back at 10 of the most significant three-way trades from recent history — plus a bonus four-teamer:
Dec. 13, 2018: Switching sluggers
INDIANS GOT: Carlos Santana (from SEA), Jake Bauers (TB)
MARINERS GOT: Edwin Encarnacion (from CLE), competitive balance pick, cash
RAYS GOT: Yandy Diaz (CLE), Cole Sulser (CLE)
As part of their offseason restructuring, the Mariners took Santana as part of a deal with the Phillies, then flipped him (and the two guaranteed seasons left on his contract) for Encarnacion (and his one season). Meanwhile, the Indians reunited with Santana, who had been a big part of the team’s success in recent years before signing with Philly after 2017. This deal also featured an intriguing exchange of talented but relatively unproven young hitters, with Bauers going to Cleveland and Diaz to Tampa Bay.
July 30, 2015: A baker’s dozen
BRAVES GOT: Hector Olivera (from LAD), Paco Rodriguez (LAD), Zachary Bird (LAD), competitive balance pick (MIA)
DODGERS GOT: Alex Wood (ATL), Jose Peraza (ATL), Bronson Arroyo (ATL), Luis Avilan (ATL), Jim Johnson (ATL), Mat Latos (MIA), Mike Morse (MIA)
MARLINS GOT: Victor Araujo (LAD), Kevin Guzman (LAD), Jeff Brigham (MIA)
This ludicrously complicated deal stands out more for its sheer size and strangeness than any impact it had on the field. Of the 13 players involved, Wood has provided far and away the most production for his acquiring team, becoming a key rotation piece in L.A. Notably, Peraza became part of another three-team deal less than six months later, going to Cincinnati as part of a transaction that also involved the White Sox acquiring Todd Frazier.
Dec. 9, 2014: Trea to D.C. — eventually
NATIONALS GOT: Trea Turner (PTBNL from SD), Joe Ross (SD)
PADRES GOT: Wil Myers (TB), Ryan Hanigan (TB), Jose Castillo (TB), Gerardo Reyes (TB)
RAYS GOT: Steven Souza Jr. (WSH), Jake Bauers (SD), Rene Rivera (SD), Burch Smith (SD), Travis Ott (WSH)
While it could be viewed as two distinct trades, this deal was effectively a three-way concoction — and one that might leave a bad taste for fans of the Padres and Rays. That’s because of the emergence of Turner, who was selected 13th overall in the 2014 MLB Draft and could not be officially included in the trade until a year after that, under the rules in effect at the time. Turner since has become a star shortstop and one of MLB’s top basestealers in Washington. Both Bauers and Souza since have been involved in other three-team trades, with Souza going to Arizona in February 2018, and Bauers to Cleveland as noted above.
Dec. 5, 2014: Didi to NYC
D-BACKS GOT: Robbie Ray (from DET), Domingo Leyba (DET)
TIGERS GOT: Shane Greene (NYY)
YANKEES GOT: Didi Gregorius (ARI)
This was Gregorius’ second big three-teamer in two years (see below), and it thrust him into quite a spotlight. Derek Jeter had just wrapped up his career in the Bronx, and the Yankees needed a shortstop. Gregorius stepped in admirably and since then has gradually shaken off his label as a defensive specialist. Greene and Ray also have tasted some success, with Ray an All-Star in 2017 for Arizona.
July 31, 2014: Tigers meet Rays’ Price
MARINERS GOT: Austin Jackson (from DET)
RAYS GOT: Willy Adames (DET), Drew Smyly (DET), Nick Franklin (SEA)
TIGERS GOT: David Price (TB)
The prize of the Trade Deadline, Price ultimately spent exactly one year in Detroit before he was dealt to Toronto in 2015, but he gave the Tigers a 2.90 ERA over 32 starts. It still remains to be seen how much they gave up for that performance, with Adames showing promise as a Rays rookie in ’18 after years as a top prospect.
Dec. 11, 2012: Didi, Part I
D-BACKS GOT: Gregorius (from CIN), Tony Sipp (CLE), Lars Anderson (CLE)
INDIANS GOT: Trevor Bauer (ARI), Bryan Shaw (ARI), Matt Albers (ARI), Drew Stubbs (CIN)
REDS GOT: Shin-Soo Choo (CLE), Jason Donald (CLE)
Quite a bit of talent changed hands in this trade. Cleveland made out particularly well, taking advantage of Arizona’s impatience with Bauer (the third overall pick in 2011) and also landing Shaw, who became a key bullpen piece for the next five seasons. Cincinnati only got one season of Choo before he reached free agency, but it featured a .423 OBP. Gregorius’ tenure in the desert also was brief, as previously discussed.
July 31, 2010: Klubot, activate
CARDINALS GOT: Jake Westbrook (from CLE), Nick Greenwood (SD)
INDIANS GOT: Corey Kluber (SD)
PADRES GOT: Ryan Ludwick (STL)
St. Louis got a solid veteran starting pitcher in Westbrook, while Ludwick struggled in San Diego. Kluber wasn’t a household name at the time, as a former fourth-round pick who was in Double-A, but four years later, he was the American League Cy Young Award winner.
Dec. 8, 2009: Max value
D-BACKS GOT: Ian Kennedy (from NYY), Edwin Jackson (DET)
TIGERS GOT: Max Scherzer (ARI), Austin Jackson (NYY), Phil Coke (NYY), Daniel Schlereth (ARI)
YANKEES GOT: Curtis Granderson (DET)
This is just a fun trade all around, though less so for the D-backs, who got decent value over three-plus seasons from Kennedy and a no-hitter from Jackson while giving up too early on Scherzer. The 11th overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft made only 37 starts for Arizona before continuing his development in Detroit, where he won his first Cy Young Award in ’13. The Tigers came away with not only Scherzer, but five seasons of a valuable starting center fielder (Jackson). Granderson put together four productive seasons in the Bronx — including two with 40-plus homers — before moving on to the Mets.
Dec. 11, 2008: “It was a mess”
INDIANS GOT: Joe Smith (from NYM), Luis Valbuena (SEA)
MARINERS GOT: Franklin Gutierrez (CLE), Jason Vargas (NYM), Aaron Heilman (NYM), Endy Chavez (NYM), Ezequiel Carrera (NYM), Mike Carp (NYM), Maikel Cleto (NYM)
METS GOT: J.J. Putz (SEA), Sean Green (SEA), Jeremy Reed (SEA)
Ten years later, it’s hard to say this was a true blockbuster. Smith’s “mess” assessment — recently shared with MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince — seems more accurate. But this massive deal executed at the 2008 Winter Meetings remains fascinating. It ultimately backfired on the Mets, who got little from Putz, previously a top closer in Seattle. Smith, Vargas, Gutierrez, and the late Valbuena went on to greater success afterward, though none of the dozen players involved was bound for stardom.
July 31, 2008: Mannywood is born
DODGERS GOT: Manny Ramirez (from BOS)
PIRATES GOT: Brandon Moss (BOS), Craig Hansen (BOS), Andy LaRoche (LAD), Bryan Morris (LAD)
RED SOX GOT: Jason Bay (PIT)
Ramirez’s highly successful and tumultuous tenure in Boston finally came to an end, as he was shipped off to L.A. The immediate result was an all-time great stretch run that included a .396/.489/.743 slash line and 17 home runs in 53 games. The Sox didn’t come away empty-handed, either, as Bay posted a 36-homer, 119-RBI season in 2009. No such luck for the Bucs, with only Moss going on to success — after he’d moved on from Pittsburgh.
July 31, 2004: Tour de fource
CUBS GOT: Nomar Garciaparra (from BOS), Matt Murton (BOS)
EXPOS GOT: Alex Gonzalez (CHC), Brendan Harris (CHC), Francis Beltran (CHC)
RED SOX GOT: Orlando Cabrera (MON), Doug Mientkiewicz (MIN)
TWINS GOT: Justin Jones (CHC)
While this technically wasn’t a three-team trade, it’s certainly worth mentioning here, as a rare example of a deal that required more than three clubs to complete. It took place a month after Carlos Beltran went from the Royals to the Astros in a three-way transaction that also had major postseason implications. In this case, Garciaparra was the biggest name involved, as a five-time All-Star and two-time batting champion. But Cabrera brought a steadier glove at shortstop and played well in his short stint in Boston before leaving as a free agent. Mientkiewicz secured his own place in Sox history, catching the final out of the World Series at first base as the club snapped its infamous championship drought.