Ed Wade, the current GM of the Houston Astros and former GM of the Philadelphia Phillies, has what one can almost call a magnetic thirst for the middle reliever. He has not ever resisted the urge to throw untold millions and swap other players for the right to have as many as these creatures of the 6th-8th inning on his roster as possible.
Ah, but a baseball team does not have infinite resources. Somewhere along the line, something must be sacrificed. And in years past with the Phillies along with the current Astros incarnation, that has been both roster and minors depth.
Ed Wade was once the assistant GM to the Phillies under Lee Thomas (If I remember correctly,his son was in my brother's bunk at day camp in the early '90s). Little did we know that, when he ascended to the role of GM in 1998, that the overpaying for a middle reliever would be his calling card.
Let's review the principal acts of carnage (only acts in which a middle reliever was the main target are listed, some will have comments).
You will notice a theme, most of the relievers he has acquired have been on the wrong side of 30 or even 35. In other words, he was paying too much for past performance in the prime for a roster spot which is so volatile performance-wise from year to year. He hasn't learned after nearly 10 years of being a MLB GM that this strategy does not work.
2001: Traded Paul Byrd to the Royals for Jose Santiago
2001: Traded Bruce Chen and Adam Walker to the Mets for Dennis Cook and Turk Wendell
Such high hopes there were in the summer of 2001. All that was needed was a bullpen. Enter Cook with a 5.5+ ERA and Wendell with a 7+ ERA blowing myriad numbers of games. Their collective WHIP was over 2.
2002: Traded Reggie Taylor to the Reds for Hector Mercado
2002: Traded Cliff Politte to the Blue Jays for Dan Plesac
2002: Traded Scott Rolen and Doug Nickle to the Cardinals for Placido Polanco, Mike Timlin, and Bud Smith
Bad trade all around. But THE Mike Timlin, a 36 year old (good) reliever on the last year of his contract, was considered a centerpiece. Not to mention the already injured Smith.
2003: Traded Frank Myette to the Pirates for Mike Williams
He was an all-star that season! With a 6+ ERA! Then he retired!
2004: Traded Ricky Ledee and Alfredo Simon to the Giants for Felix Rodriguez
2004: Traded Josh Hancock and Anderson Machado to the Reds for Todd Jones
The pairing of Roberto Hernandez and Todd Jones in the late innings sure allowed a lot of runs to score.
2005: Traded Placido Polanco to the Tigers for Ugueth Urbina
2007: Traded Josh Anderson to the Braves for Oscar Villareal
Free Agent Signings
1998: Yorkis Perez
1999: Jim Poole, Jeff Brantley, Mike Jackson (signed for $3 million already injured and sat out the year)
2000: Jose Mesa (the only thing I liked about him was his red home glove and blue away glove), Rheal Cormier, Ricky Bottalico
2002: Terry Adams
2003: Tim Worrell(he had an undiagnosed psychological ailment, and then quit on the Phillies to force a trade to Arizona), Roberto Hernandez
2004: Aaron Fultz
2007: Doug Brocail ($2.5 million for a 40 year old),
2008: Shawn Chacon (released after strangling Wade in an altercation)
2009: Brandon Lyon (3 years, $15 million)