This week is the final week all teams in Major League Baseball can make trades without players having to pass through waivers. Teams contending for the playoffs may be looking for that one final piece to their roster as they gear up for August and September runs for October. Other teams that have not exceeded expectations may be looking to unload contracts that don’t fit their present or future baseball operation plans.
In years past, many teams look to upgrade for a postseason run in ways that don’t deplete their entire farm system. Some teams look for an extra bat off the bench, one more reliever, or a #5 starter. But, how frequently do teams trade for superstars on July 31 every year? It actually happens quite often. The first big trade occurred this past Sunday, where the Royals acquired the ace they needed to make a legitimate run at a World Series title in Johnny Cueto. The former Reds ace came at a big cost however, as the Royals had to give up three top prospects, including left handed pitcher Brandon Finnegan who played a key role in the Royals’ bullpen during their October run a season ago.
The next few days can be telling for any Major League Baseball franchise. Front office personnel are forced to evaluate whether or not they have a legitimate shot at a World Series championship in the present season. If so, is it worth it to acquire players in a process that may make their team compromise its future? Below, I will detail eight July trades that have gone down in recent memory. Some of these have worked and some have not. Many of these historic trades will be used by general managers this week to justify any potential deals they may end up making.
July 7, 2008
Brewers Receive: P CC Sabathia
Indians Receive: 1B/OF Matt LaPorta, P Zach Jackson, P Rob Bryson, and a player to be named later (OF Michael Brantley)
In 2008, the Brewers had a legitimate chance to earn their first postseason berth since making the World Series all the way back in 1982. Their lineup was great 1-9, as 2008 marked Ryan Braun’s first full season in the Majors. Their starting pitching, however, was subpar after losing Yovani Gallardo early in the season to a torn knee ligament. Outside of Gallardo, the rotation consisted of Ben Sheets, Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, and Manny Parra. General Manager Doug Melvin knew he needed to go out and acquire an ace, so he did so in acquiring the free agent to-be Sabathia. Sabathia gave the Brewers everything they wanted and more in 2008 and he was one of the main reasons the Brewers snapped their historic postseason drought. In his 17 starts for the Brewers in 2008, Sabathia went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA. The Brewers unfortunately were unable to escape the NLDS that year, losing to the eventual World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies in four games. After the season, Sabathia signed a $180 million dollar contract with the Yankees. In regards to the return that the Indians received, the main piece at the time was Matt LaPorta, who was the seventh overall pick by the Brewers in the 2007 draft. He had the power potential to be a quality major league player, but only lasted parts of four seasons in the Majors, last appearing in the 2012 season. But, the player of to be named later in the trade was Michael Brantley, who has turned into an All-Star outfielder for the Indians over the last few years.
Dodgers Receive: OF Manny Ramirez
Red Sox Receive: OF Jason Bay
Pirates Receive: 3B Andy LaRoche, P Bryan Morris, P Craig Hansen, and 1B/OF Brandon Moss
“Manny being Manny” was the story all over Major League Baseball in 2008. After playing a monumental role in both the 2004 and 2007 World Series championships for the Red Sox, all of Boston began growing tired of all of Manny’s antics, both on and off the field. It was clear during the last week of July 2008 that the Red Sox had been ready to move on, even though they were once again in the running for another possible World Series championship. The Dodgers had struggled to make headlines during the mid-late 2000s and needed one more power bat to increase their chances of making the postseason in a poor NL West division in 2008. Manny’s bat instantly clogged the cleanup spot in the lineup, and the Dodgers were able to win the NL West with only a 84-78 record that year. It turned out that a change in scenery was exactly what he needed, as Manny hit a booming .396 for the Dodgers in 53 games in 2008, along with accumulating 17 home runs and 53 RBI. He battled injuries in 2009 and 2010, and was eventually traded to the Chicago White Sox midway through the 2010 season. He was never the same player after 2008. The Red Sox were able to acquire a player, in Jason Bay, that was an elite outfielder at the time. He had a year and a half remaining on his contract at the time of the trade. Bay was an instant success in Boston, both in 2008 and 2009, and one of the main reasons the Red Sox had success in 2008 (lost to the Rays in 7 games in the ALCS that season) after trading Manny. After coming over from Pittsburgh, Bay hit .293 for the Sox in 49 games in 2008, to go along with 9 home runs and 37 RBI. In 2009, he finished 7th in MVP voting after hitting .267 with 36 home runs, 119 RBI, and 13 stolen bases. He signed a big contract with the New York Mets after the 2009 season and never was able to put up big numbers ever again after playing in Boston. The only players Pittsburgh acquired that have achieved some sort of MLB success are Morris and Moss, but neither player still plays for Pittsburgh. LaRoche, the brother of current White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche, was never able to live up to the hype of being a top prospect.
Tigers Receive: P David Price
Rays Receive: P Drew Smyly, 2B Nick Franklin, and SS Willy Adames
Mariners Receive: OF Austin Jackson
Almost a year ago, the Tigers surprised all of baseball by improving their already strong starting rotation for a possible World Series run. By acquiring Price, the Tigers were now able to throw out a five man starting rotation of Price, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello. Still, the Tigers were unable to exceed their expectations in 2014, as they got swept by the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS. Price was not his elite self when traded to Detroit, as he went 4-4 with a 3.59 ERA in 11 starts. He pitched great in his one playoff start, allowing two runs in 8 innings of work. Price has pitched well to-date in 2015, boasting a 9-3 record in his first 20 starts of the year to go along with a 2.31 ERA. Price, who will be a free agent at the end of the 2015 season, is hearing his name appear in rumors once again during Trade Deadline week, as the Tigers are close to falling out of postseason contention. Teams like the Dodgers could look to acquire an ace these next few days. Austin Jackson has a year and a half remaining on his contract with the Mariners, and has not fared too well in Seattle. He has only hit .243 in 129 games. For the Rays, Franklin and Adames have not seen much time in the Majors. Smyly has battled injury during his tenure in Tampa Bay, but could turn into a quality major league pitcher.
Astros Receive: P Randy Johnson
Mariners Receive: SS Carlos Guillen, P Freddy Garcia, and a player to be named later (P John Halama)
Having fallen out of contention mid-way through the 1998 season, the Mariners decided to trade free agent to-be Randy Johnson, realizing that they could net a high return for the future Hall-of-Famer. Johnson had won the Cy Young Award with the Mariners in 1995, after going 18-2 with a 2.48 ERA and leading the Mariners to the ALCS. At the time of his trade in 1998, Johnson had been struggling, and was only 9-10 on the year with a disappointing 4.33 ERA. But, after arriving in Houston, the Big Unit was dominant, going 10-1 in his 11 starts with the Astros to go along with a miniscule 1.28 ERA. The Astros were able to go 102-60 that year, but lost in the NLDS to the San Diego Padres, who eventually made it to the World Series. The Mariners were able to net a very good return in the deal, as all three players they acquired sustained success in the Majors. Debuting for the Mariners in 1999, Garcia finished the season with a 17-8 record and a 4.07 ERA, finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting and ninth in Cy Young Award voting. He made the All-Star team in 2001 and 2002 for the Mariners. Guillen never sustained a lot of success during his time in Seattle, but did have a very successful Major League career, particularly while playing for Detroit. Halama won 11, 14, and 10 games, respectively for the Mariners during the 1999-2001 seasons. He pitched for parts of nine seasons in the Majors.
Cubs Receive: 3B Aramis Ramirez, OF Kenny Lofton
Pirates Receive: IF Jose Hernandez, P Matt Bruback, and a player to be named later (IF Bobby Hill)
The 2003 Cubs were a famous team in Major League Baseball History, but not for the right reasons. 2003 was the season that created the Steve Bartman curse. Many people do not remember the personnel of the 2003 Cubs, outside of maybe Sammy Sosa and Kerry Wood. The Cubs were on the verge of breaking the 95 year World Series championship drought, but blew a 3-1 series lead to the Marlins, who then went on and beat the Yankees in the World Series. That season, the Cubs made big news during the 2003 trade deadline, acquiring a 25 year-old third baseman with a lot of power to anchor the middle of their lineup for the years to come, along with a veteran outfielder with proven postseason success. Ramirez ended up hitting .259 with 15 home runs and 39 RBI for the Cubs after coming over from Pittsburgh in 2003, and spent an additional eight seasons on the North Side of Chicago as the Cubs starting third baseman before signing with the Brewers for the 2012 season. In his eight and a half seasons with the Cubs, Ramirez hit 239 home runs to go along with a .294 batting average. Lofton only spent that half of a season in a Cubs uniform, hitting .327 with 3 home runs, 20 RBI, and 12 stolen bases after coming over mid-season. The Pirates, in retrospect, did not get a lot in return for Ramirez and Lofton. Hernandez was a journeyman, as he made the NL All-Star Team in 2002 with the Brewers, after hitting .288 with 24 home runs and 73 RBI. But, he also led the Majors in strikeouts. He actually played on three different teams in 2003, and appeared in 58 games for the Pirates. In those 58 games, he hit .223 with 3 home runs and 21 RBI. Bruback never made it to the Majors, and Hill lasted parts of four seasons in the Majors. Hill’s best season came in 2004, where he appeared in 126 games for the Pirates, playing both second base and third base. He hit .269 with 2 home runs and 27 RBI and never saw another game in the Majors after 2005.
Cubs Receive: SS Nomar Garciaparra, OF Matt Murton
Red Sox Receive: SS Orlando Cabrera, 1B Doug Mientkiewicz
Montreal Expos Receive: P Francis Beltran, IF Alex Gonzalez, IF Brendan Harris
Minnesota Twins Receive: P Justin Jones
At the time, this trade broke my heart. Nomar was my favorite Major League Baseball player growing up, and I felt like I could never forgive the Red Sox for trading my childhood hero, half a year after nearly making it to the World Series (AARON FREAKING BOONE). Looking back on it, this trade broke the Curse of the Bambino. Nomar was the man, and exactly what young baseball players aspired to be. Few remember how he was nearly as good as Jeter, A-Rod, and Miguel Tejada in his prime. Injuries unfortunately shaped Nomar’s career, as he battled them nearly every season. In 2004, the Red Sox were right there in the thick of a pennant race, but Nomar couldn’t stay healthy. He had only appeared in 38 games at the time of the trade, so the Sox knew they had to go out and acquire a player with some consistency at the shortstop position. The player they got, Orlando “The O Dog” Cabrera, was a dirt dog, and he immediately made a name for himself in Boston. He played Gold Glove-caliber defense, and came up with many clutch hits during the historic World Series run, which included an improbable comeback against the Yankees after being down in the ALCS 3-0 in 2004. He hit .294 with 6 home runs and 31 RBI in 58 games for the Sox after coming over in the trade, and left the following year via free agency. The other player the Sox acquired in the deal, Doug Mientkiewicz, played a huge role on the 2004 Red Sox as well, giving the Sox another left-handed bat and Gold Glove defense at first base to complement Kevin Millar. Nomar went on to play a season and a half for the Cubs. The Cubs did not make the postseason in 2004 or 2005, and Nomar only played a combined 105 games in those two seasons. Justin Jones never threw a pitch in the Majors, and Gonzalez and Harris were career utility infielders. Murton was a journeyman outfielder.
Atlanta Braves Receive: 1B Mark Teixeira, P Ron Mahay
Texas Rangers Receive: SS Elvis Andrus, P Neftali Feliz, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, P Matt Harrison, P Beau Jones
Looking back eight years later, this trade appears to be one of the most lopsided Deadline Day trades in recent history. In 2007, the Braves needed a big time move to even begin thinking about the postseason, and decided to upgrade at first base, which was a position of need. Teixeira, at the time, had a year and a half remaining on his contract, and there were thoughts that he could stay in Atlanta even after his contract was up. Instead, the Braves finished third in the NL East in 2007, and they then traded Teixeira a year later to the LA Angels in a trade deadline deal in 2008. Mahay spent most of his career as a left handed specialist, and had a good second half of the season with the Braves in 2007, going 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 30 games out of the bullpen. Mahay was 36 years old at the time of the trade. The haul that the Rangers received was extremely significant. Andrus and Harrison are still producing at the Major League Level, and were both big reasons for the Rangers World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. Andrus has been the Rangers full time shortstop since 2009. He has made two All Star game appearances. His best year came in 2011, where he hit .279 with 5 home runs, 60 RBI and 37 stolen bases. Harrison has battled with injuries since 2013, and has only made 8 starts since the beginning of the 2013 season. However, he put strong seasons together in 2011 and 2012, and made and All-Star appearance in 2012, where he went 18-11 with a 3.29 ERA in 32 starts. Feliz pitched in parts of seven seasons for the Rangers, until recently being designated for assignment signing with Detroit. He was the closer during the Rangers 2010 and 2011 World Series appearance teams. He closed out 72 games during those two years, and put up a 2.73 ERA in 2010 and 2.74 ERA in 2011. He has battled with injuries over the last few seasons. Saltalamacchia was perhaps the best prospect the Rangers acquired at the time of the trade, but he has never turned into the player many thought he would be. He spent parts of four seasons in Texas, but never played in more than 84 games in a single season with the Rangers. His best seasons came in Boston between 2011-2013. He currently plays for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Beau Jones never pitched an inning in the Major Leagues.
Texas Rangers Receive: P Cliff Lee, P Mark Lowe
Seattle Mariners Receive: 1B Justin Smoak, P Blake Beavan, P Josh Lueke, IF/OF Matt Lawson
Lee had been a big mid-season trade acquisition just a season ago, as the Indians had sent him to the Phillies in a 2009 mid-season trade. He was traded again that offseason to the Mariners, who then traded him to Texas in July of 2010. Lee was the ace that the Rangers needed in 2010 in order to make their first World Series appearance in franchise history. At the time of the trade, Lee had an 8-3 record to go along with a 2.34 ERA for Seattle. His regular season numbers in Texas were not too great, as he was only 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA. However, he won three games in the postseason for the Rangers in 2010, but also lost two games in the World Series to the Giants. Lee left in the offseason to sign a big free agent contract to return to Philadelphia. Luckily for the Rangers, none of the players that the Mariners acquired in the trade have ended up making a significant impact in the Major Leagues. Justin Smoak was the most sought after player that the Mariners had acquired. A first round pick of the Rangers in the 2008 draft, Smoak has yet to put together a season with a batting average of over .238. He hit 20 home runs in 2013 and 19 in 2012, but his career batting average of .225 has never helped a team achieve success. He currently is a bat off the bench for the Toronto Blue Jays, and is still only 28 years old. Beavan has only appeared in 13 games since 2013, and has battled injuries throughout his career. His best season came in 2012, where he went 11-11 with a 4.43 ERA in 26 starts for the Mariners. He was recently in the Diamondbacks farm system, but was released just a couple weeks ago. Lueke has yet to appear in a Major League Game in 2015, and last appeared in a game for Tampa Bay in 2014. He carries a career 6.16 ERA in 72 games. Lawson has never appeared in the Major Leagues.