Milwaukee Brewers: The Three Best Trades in Franchise History
By Eric Treuden
For a team like the Milwaukee Brewers who have only been around since their official inception in 1969 as the Seattle Pilots, the club has made some serious headlines in trades that they have made over the years.
Last season, the club was very active on the trade market, acquiring all of Eduardo Escobar, Jandel Gustave, Rowdy Tellez, Hunter Strickland, Willy Adames, John Axford, Daniel Norris and John Curtiss during the regular season and then Hunter Renfroe and Mike Brosseau once the offseason began.
But those trades pale in comparison to some of the stunners that the franchise has pulled off in the past. From future Hall of Famers to MVPs, the Brewers have made a few trades that were, at times, franchise-altering.
Let’s take a look at the three best trades the Milwaukee Brewers have made in franchise history.
Best Trade #1: Brewers trade OF Sixto Lezcano, OF David Green, RHP Lary Sorenson and LHP Dave LaPoint to the St. Louis Cardinals for RHP Pete Vuckovich, RHP Rollie Fingers, and C Ted Simmons
On December 12th, 1980, the Milwaukee Brewers made what is still to be considered the best, most franchise-altering trade in franchise history. The club sent four players to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for a Cy Young winner and two eventual Hall of Famers.
Sports Illustrated put it best when they wrote an article on the trade the next March titled, “The Trade That Made Milwaukee Famous.”
What the Brewers got:
At the time of the trade, Ted Simmons was already a six-time All-Star and a Silver Slugger Award winner with the Cardinals throughout his 13-year tenure with the club. Upon joining Milwaukee, he became a fan-favorite, spending the next five seasons as a Brewer, making two more All-Star Games, and posting a bWAR of 6.1.
Rollie Fingers came over to Milwaukee with five All-Star Game selections and three top 10 finishes in the Cy Young Award race. In his first season with the club, he promptly posted a 1.04 ERA in 47 games after allowing just nine earned runs in 78 innings.
Fingers led the AL in saves with 28 and won the Cy Young Award and the AL MVP Award. He spent a total of four seasons with the Brewers, ultimately posting a 2.54 ERA in 177 games with 97 saves and 3.9 bWAR, ending his career in the city that traded for him.
Pete Vuckovich, a right-handed starting pitcher, was decent for the Cardinals but was never quite a household name for the club. After the trade that sent him to Milwaukee, Vuckovich immediately tied for the AL-lead in wins with 14, finishing fourth in the Cy Young voting in 1981.
Then, in 1982, Vuckovich won the Cy Young Award on the heels of an 18-6 record with a 3.34 ERA and a miniscule 0.6 HR/9 rate, giving the Brewers two consecutive Cy Young winners coming from the same trade.
What the Brewers gave away:
Highly popular outfielder Sixto Lezcano was, at the time, the hardest player to part with in this trade. He was a durable player who drew a ton of walks, had some pop in his bat, and played excellent defense.
Upon his acquisition by St. Louis, his production completely flopped, and the club flipped him the next season to the Padres. Lezcano’s career after Milwaukee never came close to the production he had as a member of the Brewers, ultimately ending when he was just 31-years old.
Starting pitcher Lary Sorensen was another hard pill to swallow in this trade. An All-Star in 1978 at the young age of 22, he was another highly durable player for the Brewers who was a lock to make his start every fifth day and go extremely deep in ballgames, ultimately posting 50 complete games for the Brewers in just 119 starts.
Sorensen, like Lezcano, came nowhere close to his Brewers production as a member of the Cardinals and then five more teams after his one year stay in Missouri, retiring after his age-32 season.
20-year-old Dave LaPoint, a left-handed starting pitcher with just 15 innings under his belt, was another name included in the trade between the Brewers and Cardinals. LaPoint spent four seasons in St. Louis after they acquired him, including winning a World Series championship in 1982 for the club.
The late David Green was the final piece included in the deal. The speedy outfielder had not yet made his major league debut at the time of the trade. He, like LaPoint, received a World Series ring for his efforts on the 1982 Cardinals but was never much of a hitter at the big league level throughout his six-year career. Green tragically passed away in January of 2022 from respiratory failure at the young age of 61.