Via Larry Brown Sports:
Mariano Rivera is a lifelong New York Yankee. He was signed by the team out of Panama, spent six seasons in the team’s minor league system, and made it up to the majors where he pitched 67 innings in 1995. At the time, Rivera was a starting pitcher who was just being converted into a reliever.
When the 26-year-old showed up for spring training in 1996, the team had a number of similar pitchers, so they discussed trading Rivera, former Yankees manager Joe Torre recalls.
“At spring training, there was some conversation about trading him, only because we had an abundance of those types of pitchers,” Torre said this week at a golf outing at Sleepy Hollow Country Club to support the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, via the New York Post. “I didn’t really know where he’d fit. We didn’t think closer because we had other people, but we thought he could contribute. … We really weren’t sure. Obviously, that was the best trade that the Yankees never made.”
The Yankees actually had John Wetteland closing in 1996, and he led the league with 43 saves and made the All-Star Game. After Wetteland signed with the Texas Rangers as a free agent, Rivera took over as closer and immediately began putting together his dominant, Hall of Fame career.
I can’t even imagine how much different baseball history would have been had they dealt Rivera. Like Torre says, that was the best trade never made.