4 Cincinnati Reds trade heists people don’t talk about enough

The Reds have robbed some teams blind in the past.

Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo / Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

You win some, you lose some. That's the way trades work in Major League Baseball. Over the years, the Cincinnati Reds have won some trades and they've lost some trades.

Every single Reds fan will tell you that the trade for Joe Morgan in November of 1971 was the greatest trade in franchise history. Those same fans will tell you that December 9, 1965 saw the Reds pull off the dumbest trade in baseball history. That was the day the Reds traded Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Milt Pappas.

But some trades don't get enough fanfare because they don't include a future Hall of Famer or don't lead to a dynasty and two World Series championships. But those trades are still meaningful, especially when the player in question was acquired for next to nothing. What were four of the greatest trade heists in Reds history?

Reds steal Eugenio Suárez from the Tigers

  • Date: December 11, 2014
  • Trade Details: Reds receive 3B Eugenio Suárez and RHP Jonathon Crawford from the Tigers for Alfredo Simón

The Detroit Tigers would like a do-over. But you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube, and you can't undo the trade that brought one of the most likable players to the city of Cincinnati. Walt Jocketty the Reds GM at the time, absolutely fleeced the Tigers.

Coming off an All-Star season in Cincinnati, the Reds decided to move on from Alfredo Simón. In 2014, the then-33-year-old hurler posted a 15-10 with a 3.44 ERA. But the Reds were in the midst of a rebuild. While Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce were still on the team at the time, it was obvious to most casual observers that the Reds weren't serious contenders.

Eugenio Suárez had just made his major league debut the year before and hit .242/.316/.336 in 85 games for Detroit. But the Tigers were convinced that Jose Iglesias, who would later join the Reds as a free agent, was their shortstop of the future. The Tigers sent Suárez and a minor league pitcher to the Reds in exchange for Simón.

Suárez went on to become one of the most popular Reds players during his tenure in Cincinnati. Geno hit 144 homers during his Reds career, including 49 in 2019. That number broke the record for most home runs in a single season by a Venezuelan-born player; a record previously held by Andrés Galarraga. Simón went 13-12 with a 5.05 ERA in Detroit before returning to Cincinnati as a free agent the following season.

Reds trade for World Series champion Bronson Arroyo

  • Date: March 20, 2006
  • Trade Details: Reds acquire RHP Bronson Arroyo from the Red Sox in exchange for OF Wily Mo Peña

Former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky was widely criticized during his time at the helm, but he pulled off a couple trades that greatly benefited the organization. One of which was the Reds acquisition of Bronson Arroyo. Cincinnati swung a deal with the Boston Red Sox prior to the 2006 season that brought one of the most beloved players in Reds history to the Queen City.

It's not often that opposing general managers pull a fast one on Theo Epstein, but Krivsky got the better end of this deal. In exchange for Arroyo, the Reds sent underperforming outfield Wily Mo Peńa to Beantown. Peńa had phenomenal power, but that's about where his talent stopped.

During his Reds career, Peńa mashed 51 homers in 302 games. But the slugger also struck out 288 times. Cincinnati, at the time, also had Adam Dunn on the roster, so Peńa became expendable. But the Reds needed rotation help, as the offseason trade for Dave Williams left a lot to the imagination.

Arroyo went to the All-Star Game during his first season in Cincinnati, and became a franchise icon. Along with Aaron Harang, Arroyo led the Reds rotation to a resurgence that would eventually see the Reds win the NL Central for the first time in 25 years. Arroyo was elected to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2023 and revered by the entire fanbase for his high leg kick and cool demeanor.

Reds land All-Star 2B Brandon Phillips for PTBNL

  • Date: April 7, 2006
  • Trade Details: Reds receive 2B Brandon Phillips from Cleveland in exchange for RHP Jeff Stevens

This trade alone is why Krivsky should receive more credit during his tenure as Reds General Manager. In the same year that Cincinnati stole Arroyo from Boston, the Reds absolutely pulled a fast one on their in-state rival.

It's certainly up for debate, but there might not be a better trade in Reds history that landing Brandon Phillips for a player to be named later. That player eventually became Jeff Stevens, who never played a major league game for Cleveland.

Phillips on the other hand went on to become a Gold Glove Award-winning second baseman and was the face of the franchise for the better part of a decade. Phillips was part of three All-Star teams during his Reds tenure and won the Silver Slugger Award in 2011. Phillips is oftentimes remembered for a smile that could light up a room, but also brought flare, style, and power to an organization that was lacking in all three areas.

Phillips, along with Arroyo, Harang, Joey Votto, and Jay Bruce, helped to usher in a new era of baseball. Reds fans are hopeful that the influx of talented young players like Hunter Greene, Elly De La Cruz, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and Spencer Steer will have a similar effect.

Phillips is likely to follow in Arroyo's footsteps and be the next inductee into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame. The longtime second baseman will appear on the ballot in 2024.

Reds add future MVP George Foster

  • Date: May 29, 1971
  • Trade Details: Reds acquire George Foster from San Francisco Giants for SS Frank Duffy and RHP Vern Geishert

Most Reds fans will point to the acquisition of Joe Morgan as the key trade in building the Big Red Machine into the juggernaut that it was during the 1970s. And though that may be true, the sneaky-good trade for George Foster cannot go unnoticed.

Foster didn't have the immediate impact of Morgan. While he was installed as the Reds centerfielder in 1971 following an injury to Bobby Tolan, the majority of Foster's early career with Cincinnati was spent in the minor leagues. After playing 140 games in 1971, Foster combined to play just 76 games the following two seasons.

But Reds manager Sparky Anderson changed the entire dynamic of the Big Red Machine when he moved Pete Rose from the outfield to third base and inserted Foster into left field. And thus, the Great Eight was born.

Foster was part of two World Series championship teams and won the NL MVP in 1977 while leading the National League in home runs (52) and RBI (149). Foster's career is criminally underrated, and while he doesn't have a bust in Cooperstown, the Alabama native was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2003.

As for Frank Duffy, he played in just 21 games for the Giants before being traded in the offseason. Vern Geishert never made it back to the majors after being traded that summer.

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