With Lee May being inducted into the Reds HOF this weekend, it got me thinking about the blockbuster trade between the Reds and Astros following the 1971 season. We all remember we got integral parts of the later Big Red Machine, but we sometimes overlook what we gave up. Frankly, it was a trade that was not as terribly unbalanced as some usually think.
The Reds sent Lee May, Tommy Helms and Jimmy Stewart to the Astros in exchange for Joe Morgan, Cesar Geronimo, Denis Menke, Jack Billingham and Ed Armbruster.
In 1971 Lee Mayhad batted .278 with 85 Runs, 154 Hits, 17 Doubles, 39 Homers, and 98 RBI. IIRC, he was selected as the Reds team MVP that year. He had been a two time All Star and batted .389 with 2 HR's an 8 RBI in the 1970 Series. Tommy Helms, also a two time All Star, with 2 Gold Gloves had been the 1966Rookie of the Year. He had batted .258 with 26 Doubles and 52 RBI's. Jimmy Stewart was a journeyman utilityman who had averaged 100 games in his three years with the Reds playing 1B, 2B, 3B, OF and even caught in one game. As an aside, he went on in his post career to be a scout for the Reds. I think he even headed up the scouting department at one point.
Up to 1971, Joe Morgan had appeared in 2 All Star games for the Astros, but had not been awarded any Gold Gloves. Cesar Geronimo was not an All Star and had no Gold Gloves with the Astros (surprisingly, Geronimo never played in an All Star game in his career - clearly his forte was not offense, but still, that did surprise me). Denis Menke had been an All Star in 1969 and 1970 and had played every infield position during his previous seasons with the Astros. Jack Billingham had a record of 32-31 in his four seasons with Houston. Ed Armbruster was a minor leaguer at the time, one of only five players in ML history from the Bahamas (the only Red) and would have his most famous moment laying down a bunt and colliding with Carlton Fisk, perhaps the second most famous play in what some consider the best Series ever.
Lee May would hit 81 homers with 288 RBI's in his four seasons with Houston and would finish with a fairly decent career that compares with the likes of George Foster, Willie Horton, Joe Adcock and Don Baylor. Tommy Helms would have 70 Doubles in his four seasons there and had a career high batting average of .287 in 1973.
Of course, Morgan would go on to win two MVP's, 5 Gold Gloves and play in three World Series with the Reds (and one more with Philly) and enter the HOF. Geronimo would win four Gold Gloves while playing in the same three WS as Morgan. Billingham won 19 games twice and finished 87-63 in his career with the Reds. Menke was a decent as a utility player with the Reds for two years before returning to the Astros for one final season (he was one of many former Braves to play for the Reds in the early 70's) and, Armbruster, of course played five years with the Reds and is known in Boston as "that ******* Armbruster".
Clearly the Reds got the better end of the deal, but what Houston got was not shabby.