MLB Trade Deadline: 40 Most Shocking Deadline Blockbusters of All Time
Every year during the trade deadline, it seems like there's at least one shocking blockbuster that comes out of nowhere. They are already happening this year as well.
These trades not only involved major players, but they were ones no one saw coming, even with all the trade rumors that fly around.
Here are 40 of the most shocking deadline deals ever, noted in reverse chronological order. The trade could have been shocking either at the time or in hindsight to make the list. Also, the trade needs to take place in June or July, though I made two fairly obvious exceptions.
2012: Hanley Ramirez to LA Dodgers
The Miami Marlins spent the 2011 offseason buying up free agents, and as a result hoped to make a run this year. However, they are stuck under .500, but even in spite of that it didn't look like they would give up so quickly.
They shipped out Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to Detroit, which made sense since Sanchez was in a contract year and Infante was a bargain. Hanley Ramirez, however, was a shocking move.
He was sent to the Dodgers for Nathan Eovaldi and others, so not only did they not get much for him, but they traded a player with $30 million plus and two years left on his deal.
2012: Ichiro to New York Yankees
Ichiro was someone who felt like he would stay on the Mariners for the rest of his career. Yes, his talents were perhaps wasted there, but his skills have been diminishing.
Nonetheless, what added to the shock was the Mariners trading Ichiro to the Yankees for two pitchers, Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell. Ichiro was only one of two players on the Mariners hitting .260 or more (Michael Saunders is at .262), so you at least think they would have gotten a bat in return.
As for the Yankees, it further improves their lineup, even if it doesn't help the left field plateau situation at all.
2011: Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland Indians
The year 2011 saw many teams pop up out of nowhere, including the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cleveland Indians, and at least one Cinderella team has to make a major move. Even so, the move itself was shocking.
Ubaldo Jimenez, who was making a start against the Padres when the trade went down, was sent to the Indians for nearly all of their big prospects, namely Alex White and Drew Pomeranz. What adds to the shock is that it has so far not been a good move for either side.
2010: Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia Phillies
The Houston Astros had a major trade piece in Roy Oswalt that they needed to ship out, and since he was effective despite a 6-12 record, the Phillies gave him a shot, trading for J.A. Happ and others.
Oswalt was elite with the Astros, going 8-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 13 games for them. His 2011 outing was a lot less glamorous, but he was key in helping the Phillies finish first in the NL East.
2010: Kerry Wood to New York Yankees
In 2010, it became clear that the Kerry Wood experiment was not working in Cleveland. Wood had a 6.30 ERA through 23 games, yet even he was able to be part of a deadline deal.
They shipped Wood to the Yankees, who ended up paying most of the $10 million he was owed. Given his numbers, that amount was shocking, even if the Yankees had to give up nothing of value for a player who ended up performing quite well.
2010: Cliff Lee to Texas Rangers
Cliff Lee has been traded a lot more often than you would expect from an ace. What's more is that three were deadline deals. His trade from the Indians was expected, but the other two were shocking.
The Rangers badly wanted to win the West, and made the plunge by trading with the rival Mariners. They acquired Lee for many players, namely Justin Smoak, who recently was sent to the minors.
Lee was decent in the regular season, but a key part of why they got to the World Series, so even though he was a rental, he did was he was brought in to do, for the most part anyway.
2009: Jake Peavy to Chicago White Sox
It's not surprising to see a big name in his contract year traded to another team. It's much more surprising when the team has been hovering around .500 all year, which the White Sox were when they traded for Jake Peavy.
The White Sox sent out four players to get Peavy, and ended up with a headache for 2010 and 2011. He's been great so far this year, but making that move, especially when pitching was not their weakness, was a shock.
2008: Manny Ramirez to LA Dodgers
Manny Ramirez had worn out his time with the Boston Red Sox in 2008, and it was obvious he was going to be traded. Being traded to the Dodgers in a three-team deal wasn't that shocking either.
It was what he did after joining L.A. that makes the list. In 53 games, he hit .396 with 17 home runs, and had the type of season that players only dream of. He finished fourth in NL MVP voting despite how few games he played in.
2008: CC Sabathia to Milwaukee Brewers
Sabathia's case was almost identical to Ramirez's, aside from Manny's demeanor perhaps. Sabathia was in a contract year and was not going to be re-signed, and his trade was unsurprising. Plus, Milwaukee needed that ace to make a playoff run.
They got him by trading Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, and others to Cleveland. Sabathia was insane with Milwaukee, going 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA, and helping himself earn a top-tier baseball contract with the Yankees that offseason.
2007: Mark Teixeira to Atlanta Braves
When Mark Teixeira was traded from the Braves at the 2008 deadline, it seemed like a given, since he was good but not great there. The year before, they got him from the Rangers at the 2007 deadline, which was shocking at the time and even more so in hindsight.
Texas got a good portion of their future from this very deal in Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Teixeira hit .295 in about a season's worth of games, which was down for him but something the Yankees would sure love to see out of him nowadays.
2004: Nomar Garciaparra to Chicago Cubs
The omnibus 2004 trade was shocking not only due to Nomar Garciaparra's departure from Boston, but due to it being a giant four-player deal that's tough even now to figure out.
For the most part, it was a jumble of players cancelling each other out. Nomar, who was a great yet oft-injured player for the Red Sox, was what made it big, since his departure ended the best part of his career while Boston went on to win the World Series.
2003: Aramis Ramirez to Chicago Cubs
In 2003, the Chicago Cubs were in the thick of a pennant race and were able to rob the Pirates in what has been a rather underrated trade, all things considered.
The Pirates sent Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez over to the Cubs for virtually nothing. Lofton provided the greatness he always does in a deadline deal, but Ramirez has many good years for the Cubs.
The fact that the Pirates couldn't get anyone of any value for both players, let alone one, is what makes the deal shocking.
2002: Bartolo Colon to Montreal Expos
Okay, so this one wasn't quite a deadline deal, but given how huge it was for both involved teams, I find it close enough to the deadline to add to the list.
Bartolo Colon was dealt to the Expos, who were looking to make a playoff push, for Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, and Cliff Lee. Those are three very familiar names to baseball fans, Lee in particular.
It was a doubly shocking move. It sent the Indians into rebuilding mode at the time, and it was shocking in hindsight since it helped them far more than Colon ever would have.
2000: Curt Schilling to Arizona Diamondbacks
The Arizona Diamondbacks, in their third year of existence were already able to make a playoff push. They had ace Randy Johnson, but they needed a second man for a one-two punch.
As a result, they acquired Curt Schilling from the Phillies for four players, certainly none of whom had back-to-back second place Cy finishes or won a World Series in 2001 like Schilling and the Diamondbacks did.
1998: Randy Johnson to Houston Astros
In 1998, Randy Johnson had a rare year where he actually struggled a bit. His ERA was over four and he was pitching about .500 ball. He still had elite strikeout numbers though and was useful to anyone who wanted him.
The Astros felt a change of scenery would help, and acquired him for Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, and John Halama. Garcia and Guillen were nice for Seattle, but Johnson was elite, to put it bluntly.
He went 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA in 11 games to go with 116 strikeouts. He was great in the postseason too, but a lack of offense kept the 102-win Astros from going far in the playoffs.
1997: Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek to Boston Red Sox
This trade, quite simply, ended up being shocking on so many levels. Jason Varitek was a catching prospect and Lowe a rookie starter, while Heathcliff Slocumb was a closer, and not a very good one.
In 1997, Slocumb had a 5.79 ERA with Boston, but Seattle wanted bullpen help bad enough that they traded both players above to get him. He improved with Seattle but was far from elite, while Lowe and Varitek are now part of Red Sox lore.
1997: Mark McGwire to St. Louis Cardinals
Mark McGwire had emerged in 1997 as not just an elite power hitter, but one that would be remembered. He had 52 in 1996 and ended up with 58 that year, and the fact that he was traded midseason just makes it more shocking.
The Cardinals acquired him from the Athletics for three pitchers, none of whom had even close to the impact McGwire did. The Cardinals were already out of the pennant race in 1997, but the year after was when he made history.
1996: Cecil Fielder to New York Yankees
Cecil Fielder found his place as the power bat of the Detroit Tigers in the early 1990s. He was still producing in 1996, but with the Tigers going nowhere, they made a move and shipped him to the contending Yankees.
Fielder played about as well with the Yankees as he did with the Tigers. What made the move shocking, however, was that the Tigers got in return essentially a poor man's Fielder in Ruben Sierra and a pitching prospect who never made the majors. Certainly a man with his power could have gotten the Tigers more in return.
1995: David Cone to New York Yankees
The Kansas City Royals made a shocking move in the 1994 offseason by trading Cy Young winner David Cone to the Toronto Blue Jays, which the Jays used to make a playoff run in 1995.
Instead, they stunk despite Cone pitching great, and shipped the rental to the Yankees for three players, none of whom amounted to anything. Cone, meanwhile, went 9-2 with his new team, and later won 20 games in 1998 with them.
1993: Fred McGriff to Atlanta Braves
While Fred McGriff was somewhat a journeyman during his career, he's best remembered, at least to me, as a member of the Atlanta Braves. How he became a member of the club is what makes the list.
The Padres went into fire sale mode in 1993, making two moves that were shocking for entirely different reasons. This was simply the shock of getting rid of one of their best hitters for three guys who didn't do much.
The Braves, meanwhile, got a force in the middle of their lineup, hitting .293 with 130 home runs in five years, numbers which are better when you factor in that three of those years were abbreviated (1993 due to the trade, 1994-95 due to the strike).
1993: Gary Sheffield to Florida Marlins
This trade was a shocker both at the time and in hindsight. Gary Sheffield finished third in MVP voting in 1992, yet he was traded a season later to the expansion Florida Marlins.
Sheffield wasn't elite with the Marlins, but did have moments of greatness, particularly in 1996. Who the Marlins gave up for him made the trade worth it for the Padres; they got Trevor Hoffman, the all-time best closer not named Mariano Rivera.
1993: Rickey Henderson to Toronto Blue Jays
1993 was a crazy year for trades. Perhaps the Padres shipping off their talent wasn't all that much of a shock, but the Oakland Athletics trading the face of their franchise certainly was.
The Blue Jays wanted that extra guy for a playoff push, and they acquired Henderson for Steve Karsay and another player. Not only did Rickey return to Oakland the following year, but he was not any good with Toronto, only hitting .215, though he did have 22 stolen bases.
1990: Jeff Bagwell to Houston Astros
The first of two deals that weren't part of the original trade deadline, but rather the later August deadline, the Red Sox felt that they needed Larry Andersen for a playoff push, so they picked him up from the Astros.
He was having a career year, and was elite for Boston, but they lost the ALCS and that was that. Houston, meanwhile, snagged a future face of the franchise in Jeff Bagwell, who went on to be an elite talent for 15 seasons.
1988: Mike Boddicker to Boston Red Sox
In 1988, the Baltimore Orioles were going nowhere, and they had a former 20-game winner in Mike Boddicker that they could ship off. The Red Sox needed another arm behind Clemens, so they traded for him.
He went 7-3 with a 2.63 ERA and pitched well over the next two years as well. The shock, however, comes in who the Orioles got.
They got two prospects named Brady Anderson and Curt Schilling, and even though Schilling was squandered in another trade, they were still able to rob Boston of some great players.
1988: Jay Buhner to Seattle Mariners
The New York Yankees were looking to add some power to their lineup in 1988, and the Seattle Mariners had veteran DH Ken Phelps. They made the trade, bringing him on for parts of two seasons, but the shock was that they had their power hitter the whole time.
They traded Jay Buhner to get him, a move that lives on in Yankee infamy as Buhner went on to hit 307 home runs with the Mariners, spending the rest of his career there.
1987: John Smoltz to Atlanta Braves
The second of two August deals, it's surprising just how had these two ended up in hindsight, though the deals did what they were intended to do. The Tigers wanted to make a playoff push, and acquired Doyle Alexander from Atlanta.
He had a career year, going 9-0 in 11 starts. As amazing as he was, they fell in the ALCS, and the Braves got John Smoltz in return, who went on to anchor the Braves rotation in the 1990s along with Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.
1984: Rick Sutcliffe to Chicago Cubs
If there's one person that epitomizes the trade deadline star more than anyone, it's the original, Rick Sutcliffe. The pitcher was struggling with the Indians in 1984, and they shipped him over to the Cubs, who felt that he could improve at Wrigley Field.
No one saw what happened next coming. In 20 games, he went 16-1 with a 2.69 ERA, and was so utterly dominant that he won the Cy Young Award despite only being in the NL half a year. He also led the Cubs to the NLCS and remained with the team through 1991.
1983: Keith Hernandez to New York Mets
In 1983, neither the Cardinals nor Mets were really progressing, but both were gearing for future playoff runs. Despite many good seasons and an MVP win, the Cardinals traded Keith Hernandez to the Mets for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey.
It was a move that seemed to come out of nowhere, and not only could he have been the difference for the Cardinals in 1985, but he was instrumental in the Mets winning the 1986 World Series.
1977: Dave Kingman to San Diego Padres
Dave Kingman's 1977 season may have been one of the most tumultuous of all time, as he played with four teams when it was all said and done. Only one of the moves counts as a deadline deal, and it was shocking since it didn't seem to serve much of a purpose.
The Mets traded Kingman to San Diego after his average fell to .209, receiving Paul Siebert and Bobby Valentine. He improved with the Padres, but they had a terrible record, and he was shockingly cut given that he wasn't playing all that bad with the Padres.
1977: Tom Seaver to Cincinnati Reds
It seemed like Tom Seaver was on the way out of New York in 1977, but it didn't make his departure any less shocking for Mets fans, and his arrival in Cincinnati was certainly shocking after they traded four players to acquire him.
Despite winning two straight World Series, the Reds couldn't do it again. Seaver went 14-3 for them and for the next few years remained an elite pitcher, but he never made it back to the World Series with the Reds.
1967: Don McMahon to Chicago White Sox
In 1967, the Boston Red Sox were finally looking to go back to the World Series, and 37-year-old Don McMahon was pitching well as a reliever. The Red Sox traded McMahon and another player to the White Sox to snag Jerry Adair and improve their hitting.
Adair performed well, but McMahon was the shock. He had a 1.67 ERA in 52 games, and helped give Chicago the best pitching staff in the league that year. He continued that into 1968 and earned himself a trade to the World Series-winning Tigers.
1964: Lou Brock to St. Louis Cardinals
We all knew this one was coming. In 1964, the Cubs were going nowhere while the Cardinals were ready for a World Series run. They wanted Ernie Broglio to help them out, and the Cardinals surprisingly let him go.
In return, they got Lou Brock, one of the all-time greatest, and he started contributing the second he landed in St. Louis. Broglio, meanwhile, never got off the ground, and it became one of the most lopsided trades ever.
1951: Andy Pafko to Brooklyn Dodgers
In 1951, the Cubs were cellar dwellers, while the Brooklyn Dodgers were looking to win yet another NL pennant. This time, they wanted an extra power bat, so the two sides made a big trade.
Andy Pafko and three others went to the Dodgers, while four, namely Gene Hermanski, went to the Cubs. The other seven had modest impacts, but Pafko continued to showcase the power he had in Chicago, though it had diminished slightly.
Still, 18 home runs in 84 games was great, even if it didn't keep the New York Giants from making an improbable run and the Dodgers from completely collapsing.
1945: Hank Borowy to Chicago Cubs
The New York Yankees remained a force even during the war years. Despite everyone being at war, new stars emerged such as Spud Chandler, Johnny Lindell, and Hank Borowy. Borowy made his debut in 1942 and remained dominant.
Despite a 10-5 record in 1945, he was on the market. The Cubs were in the pennant hunt, so they acquired him for just under $100,000. He went 11-2 for the Cubs, then 2-2 in the World Series before flaming out after the stars returned from the war.
1941: Lloyd Waner to Cincinati Reds
Hall of Famer Lloyd Waner spent 15 years with the Pirates before he was traded in 1941. Originally, he was sent to the Braves, where he hit .412 in 19 games. That's when the deadline deal struck.
The Cincinnati Reds wanted another World Series title, and traded for him, giving up Johnny Hutchings. Waner failed to make close to the same impression he did on the Braves, but it was still shocking that the Braves were able to turn a 19 game stint into a legitimate trade.
1937: Wes Ferrell to Washington Senators
The Boston Red Sox and Washington Senators were not exactly contenders in 1937. Both were miles behind the Yankees for the AL crown, but that didn't stop them from making a blockbuster move.
The Red Sox sent Wes Ferrell, Mel Almada and Rick Ferrell to the Senators, and received Ben Chapman and Bobo Newsom. Newsom and Ferrell bounced back from terrible starts under the new scenery, but it ended up being a case of players bouncing back a bit under a new environment, nothing more.
1933: Lefty O'Doul to New York Giants
After leading the league in hitting yet again in 1932 with a .368 average, Lefty O'Doul fell apart in 1933. The 36-year old was only hitting .252, but the Giants felt he still had something to offer, and pulled the trigger on acquiring him.
They sent Sam Leslie to the Dodgers and got both him and Watty Clark. O'Doul hit .306 for them and helped them win a World Series title, and retired after a solid outing the following season.
1930: Goose Goslin to St. Louis Browns
In the 1920s, and for that matter most of the early history of baseball, mid-season trades were not common. Generally, if a player changed teams, it was because he was waived.
Still, a few stars were surprisingly traded, such as Goose Goslin. The elite left fielder for the Senators for a decade was shipped to the Browns in 1930 after appearing to be past his prime. What was shocking is that despite the second-tier status of both teams, this was a win-win.
General Crowder led the AL in wins twice, Heinie Manush hit .328 in six years with Washington, and Goslin hit .317 in three years for St. Louis. All three received many MVP votes over the next few years.
1919: Carl Mays to New York Yankees
Everyone knows that Babe Ruth was sent to the Yankees during the 1919 offseason, but six months earlier, the Yankees-Red Sox dominoes were already starting to fall, and the biggest one was none other than Ruth's original roommate, pitcher Carl Mays.
Mays was traded to the Yankees after only going 5-11 for Boston that year, and the Red Sox got Bob McGraw, Allen Russell, and $40,000. Mays won 26 and 27 games the next two years, and had 80 wins in five years with New York.
1910: Shoeless Joe Jackson to Leveland Naps
Over 100 years ago, the Philadelphia A's were trying to win the 1910 World Series, and wanted a veteran outfielder to push them over. They got him by acquiring Bris Lord from the Cleveland Naps.
They sent over Morrie Rath and a player to be named later. That player just happened to be Shoeless Joe Jackson, who became an all-time great for the Naps and White Sox. The A's needed an outfielder when they had one of the best ones all along, go figure.
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