Baseball has never seen an MVP Award winner change teams in season, playing for multiple franchises. But for Eddie Collins, it put him in a unique situation of changing teams as the reigning MVP. When the Hall of Famer won the top honor in 1914, hitting .344/.452/.452 with 14 triples and 58 stolen bases. He wasn’t the kind of player a team would trade, especially for a 27-year-old. Eventually, Philadelphia Athletics owner Connie Mack did so as Collins was sold to the Chicago White Sox for $50,000. Mack refused to negotiate a new contract with many players, including Collins. Over the next 12 seasons, Collins cemented himself as one of the best second basemen in baseball.
That historically rare part of baseball allows us to reflect on the other MVPs who found their way to new teams. Here are five players, including Ohtani, to win an MVP Award who landed with a different team in the following offseason, in reverse chronological order.
MVP Award Winners Suddenly In New Uniforms
Signed with San Francisco Giants for six years, $43.75 million (1992)
Barry Bonds was the best free agent available in 1992. He became a star with the Pittsburgh Pirates, recording 36 doubles, 34 home runs, 39 stolen bases, and 69 strikeouts with a .311/.456/.624 slash line. The San Francisco Giants eventually swooped in to sign the 28-year-old two-time National League MVP and became the highest-paid player in baseball history. His six-year, $43.75 million deal surpassed Cal Ripken’s record for total guaranteed money by more than $10 million. His $7.3 million per year pay beat Ryne Sandberg‘s record at the time.
Bonds’ career slash line as Giant is this: .312/.477/.666, which includes an insane .349/.559/.809 from 2001-2004. He was an All-Star in his first six and 12 15 seasons in the Bay Area. He won five more NL MVP Awards and led the Giants to the NL pennant in 2002.
Traded to New York Yankees (2003)
The Boston Red Sox were intensely close to acquiring Álex Rodríguez when the Texas Rangers made him available following the 2003 season. The blockbuster deal fell through when the MLBPA stepped in, opening the door for the Yankees to acquire the shortstop. The Yankees landed Rodríguez for Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later (Joaquin Arias). Rodríguez spent the final 12 seasons of his 22-year career in pinstripes, totaling 351 home runs. In his tenure with the Yankees, he hit .283/.378/.523 and 1,096 RBI. He made seven All-Star games and was a two-time AL MVP. He, of course, was a big part of the 2009 World Series championship team.
Traded to New York Yankees (2017)
The move to land Giancarlo Stanton was a long-awaited one for the Yankees. After he signed a 13-year, $325 million extension in 2015, the Miami Marlins knew that the only way to be financially released from the contract was to move him to a team that could afford that. The Yankees sent second baseman Starlin Castro and prospects Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers to the Marlins. Joining forces with Aaron Judge, the duo provided power in the lineup but a tendency to strike out. Stanton hit .266/.343/.509 with 38 home runs and 100 RBI in his first season in the Bronx. However, from there, things went south. He has only played in 549 games out of a possible 870. Despite being an All-Star in 2022, he appeared in 96 games this season and has slashed .190/.276/.426 with 24 home runs and 48 RBI.
Signed with Los Angeles Dodgers for ten years, $700 million (2023)
The reigning AL MVP agreed to a record-breaking 10-year, $700 million deal. As for free agent deals, this is the largest by dollar amount in MLB history by $340 million. That surpasses Judge’s nine-year, $360 million contract. It even shatters Max Scherzer‘s $43.3 million record for average annual value. Ohtani is locked up through 2033, which will be his age-39 season. The two-time unanimous MVP, three-time All-Star, and 2018 AL Rookie of the Year has been the most impressive two-way player baseball has ever seen. He slashed .274/.366/.556 with 171 home runs and a 148 OPS+ across six seasons. He posted a 3.01 ERA with 608 strikeouts, a 1.08 WHIP, and 142 ERA+ over five seasons on the mound.
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