Astros: Reviewing the Jimmy Wynn trade to the Dodgers

We take a look back at the trade in which the Houston Astros sent Jimmy Wynn to the Dodgers.

There are plenty of regrettable trades made by the Houston Astros over the years, but this one is always going to be among the worst. On Dec. 6, 1973, the team traded franchise icon Jimmy Wynn to the Dodgers for pitchers Claude Osteen and David Culpepper.

It marked the end of an 11-year Astros career for Wynn, whose number would eventually be retired by the club. But they traded him away too soon and got very little in return for him, which is the hallmark of a bad deal.

What the Astros Got

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Osteen was a veteran 34-year-old left-hander who was a three-time All-Star, including being given the honor in 1973, the year immediately preceding the trade. He’d pitched to a 3.09 ERA with 147 wins in nine seasons with the Dodgers.

In 21 starts and two relief appearances for the Astros in 1974, Osteen went 9-9 with a 3.71 ERA, walking more batters than he struck out and posting a 93 ERA+, indicating he was seven percent below league average. The team traded him to the Cardinals in August of that year, and he went 7-16 for the White Sox in 1975 before hanging up his spikes.

The young Culpepper never actually reached the major leagues. He worked to a combined 4.62 ERA in Triple-A over parts of three seasons.

What the Astros Gave Up

Set to play his age-32 season, Wynn was rejuvenated by his move to the Dodgers and his numbers reflected that. He hit .271/.387/.497 in 150 games in 1974 with 32 homers, 108 RBIs and 108 walks, making the All-Star team and finishing fifth in the MVP voting. He was an All-Star again in 1975, but his production tailed off later in the season.

He drew a major league-leading 127 walks for the Braves in 1976, but his batting average and power dropped off significantly. That was his last season as a full-time player, as he retired after struggling for the Yankees and Brewers in 1977.

The Final Verdict

The Dodgers got 12.4 WAR from Wynn in his two seasons in Los Angeles. The Astros got just 0.4 WAR from Osteen and nothing from Culpepper. So from an on-field standpoint, this was a clear win for the Dodgers.

Beyond that, it just wasn’t a good move. If you trade a franchise icon like Wynn, who admittedly had put up two subpar seasons in the previous three years, you still should get an impressive return. Osteen was accomplished, but he was also 34 years old. That’s not someone you expect to contribute for a long time.

Culpepper had pitched well in Double-A the previous two seasons and was only briefly exposed to Triple-A, so it wasn’t easy to see how he’d struggle. Still, he was a relief pitcher, and though there’s value in that, that shouldn’t be the only prospect you get back. The Astros should’ve gotten more for someone like Wynn.

But instead, Wynn underwent a renaissance in Chavez Ravine, albeit a relatively short-lived one. Having those seasons come in Houston would’ve been nice, but what’s done is done. The bottom line is the Astros just didn’t get enough for him.