#1: John Smoltz
In 1985, the Detroit Tigers drafted a little known pitcher from Waverly High School in Lansing, Michigan. He then played for one full season and a partial with the Tigers minor league system. In Lakeland, he had a 3.56 ERA and 1.219 WHIP. Then, mid-way through the 1987 season, the Tigers traded him to Atlanta. He quickly moved through their minor league system and made his major league debut in 1988. The rest of his time with the Atlanta Braves is legendary, so legendary that he now a member of the Hall of Fame.
The 1987 trade was for a pitcher named Doyle Alexander. At the time, the trade seemed to make sense. He was a veteran pitcher with solid statistics and he filled a role for three years in Detroit. He even received an invitation to the All-Star Game in 1988. Alexander was added to the Tigers rotation to help them make their way to the postseason in 1987. He did deliver, even though the team lost to the Minnesota Twins and their ace Jack Morris.
On the flipside, Smoltz won the MVP award in 1992 and the World Series championship in 1995. He pitched in 25 post-season series. Alexander pitched in four series. Who would have known that Smoltz would be one of the best pitchers of the 1990s alongside his teammates, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine? All three became Hall of Fame members within one year of each other. All three were enshrined in their first year on the ballot.
Even though General Manager Bill Lajoie did make several good moves when he took care of the Tigers, this was not one of his finest. It is frequently ranked as one of the worst moves any baseball team has ever made. Hindsight sure can be 20-20.