A player to be named later went each way in the deal with the Cubs for Drew Smyly. Usually, the only time you will ever hear that player’s name is when he is finally announced. It’s a procedural thing. Paperwork. The guy’s name is logged in, he is sent to the low minors, and you never hear about him again.
But there have been a few players-to-be-named later that actually turned into something later. Here are some of the better players that were throwaways in deals at the time, under the radar prospects, with no expectations.
David Ortiz was a PTBNL when Seattle traded him to Minnesota for Dave Hollins in 1996. It wasn’t until he signed as a free agent with Boston before the 2004 season that David Ortiz became David Ortiz.
When the Indians traded C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers, a player to be named later was part of the deal. When trying to work out exactly who that player would be, then-Brewers GM Bob Melvin made a deal with the Indians GM Chris Antonetti. If C.C. Sabathia helped Milwaukeed get to the playoffs, the Antonetti could pick the player he wanted. If they didn’t make the playoffs, Melvin would pick. They made the playoffs. Antonetti picked Michael Brantley.
The Cardinals traded minor league pitcher Luis Garcia to the Indians for left-handed pitcher Chuck Finley. A few weeks later they completed the deal with the player to be named later, Coco Crisp, who ended up with a pretty good 15-year career.
When the White Sox dealt Aaron Rowland to the Phillies for Jim Thome, they threw in Gio Gonzalez. Not long after, he was traded back to the White Sox, who then dealt him to Oakland, where his career took off.
Trying to bolster its already strong rotation for another World Series run, the Braves traded with the Pirates for starter Denny Neagle. Part of the deal was a PTBNL from Atlanta. A few days later, the Pirates plucked Jason Schmidt from Atlanta’s roster. He was good with the Pirates, but really rocketed to All-Star-caliber when he went to the Giants later in free agency.
In 1909 the Philadelphia Athletics traded $6000 and a PTBNL to Cleveland. That guy turned out to be Shoeless Joe Jackson, who hit .387 in limited action his first season with Cleveland, then .408 in his first full season. He ended up with a lifetime batter average of .356.