55.3 bWAR. That's the amount of future value the Mariners shipped away on August 29, 1996. David Ortiz, then known as Davey Arias, was sent to the Twins in exchange for Dave Hollins, who was supposed to be an upgrade over Russ Davis at third base. Hollins would go on to "accumulate" 1.1 bWAR for the Mariners in 1996, and would be designated as a Free Agent shortly after the season ended. Trades don't get much more lopsided than this one.
It's always easy to point fingers with the benefit of hindsight. If the Mariners had known that Bedard wouldn't stay healthy and the Adam Jones would be a perennial all-star, they wouldn't have done that deal. You could say the same for the trades involving Omar, Tino, Hampton, and Varitek. But in many of those cases, there was a reasonable argument to be made that the trades made sense at the time. But not the Ortiz trade.
At the time, Arias was a 20 year old 1B playing for the Mariners Single A Affiliate in Appleton, Wisconsin, called the Timber Rattlers. His manager, Mike Goff, was asked by the Mariners front office during the early part of the season what players on his roster were untouchable, and he listed two players, one of whom was David Arias. Goff told them he wouldn't trade Arias for anyone.
Later that year, the Mariners had an off day in June between a home stand and a series against the Brewers, so they decided to stop in Appleton to play an exhibition game against the Timber Rattlers. (This sounds insane, but it actually happened.) As fate would have it, the exhibition game had to be cancelled due to rain, but the teams wanted to put on a show for the fans who had come out to see the Big Leaguers, so they put on an impromptu home run derby with ARod, Griffey and Wilson representing the Mariners, and Arias and two teammates representing the Timber Rattlers.
Arias stole the show, smashing 7 homers in the first round compared to 3 for ARod and 4 for Griffey. Fans and media members talked about how Arias's homers sounded different than the others. Griffey and ARod were awestruck by the raw power of the 20 year old Single A prospect.
"Don't tell me he was the player to be named later." Those were Goff's words when the FO called on August 29, 1996, and told him not to let Arias leave the clubhouse. Arias had been traded against Goff's advice, and now Goff had to break the news to him. Goff was furious with the Mariners, and heartbroken for the player. He later said it was like telling his son he'd been traded.
Baseball is a business, and sometimes the team has to make decisions that make business sense even though they hurt. Nobody has a crystal ball, and sometimes the process is perfect but the results just don't work out. And then there are trades like this, that simply never should have happened. David Ortiz should have been untouchable. His manager knew it, the Mariners players knew it, and his teammates in Single A knew it. The only ones who didn't know it were the ones who mattered.