10 Most Impactful Trade Deadline Moves of the Past 10 Years
The landscape of the 2013 Major League Baseball season will change over the next week.
From major to minor moves at the non-waiver trade deadline, proven veterans will be added for the stretch run, while franchises cast away the futures of unproven products.
In some cases, the results will be disastrous. On Thursday, Zack Wheeler of the New York Mets continued his strong opening act in the big leagues, moving to 4-1 with a 3.72 ERA during a victory over the Atlanta Braves. Meanwhile, the team that traded him at the deadline two years ago, the San Francisco Giants, continues to struggle in 2013 due to a lack of pitching depth.
On the other hand, a major deadline move can be the difference between missing the postseason or reaching October. In 1998, the Houston Astros gave up a haul for Randy Johnson, but reaped the benefits of the Big Unit dominating the National League down the stretch to lead the Astros to the NL Central title.
Over the past decade, there has been no shortage of major moves around July 31.
Here are the 10 most impactful trade deadline moves of the past 10 years.
2003: Cubs Acquire Ramirez and Lofton from Pirates
If not for the trade between the Cubs and Pirates in late July of 2003, the name "Steve Bartman" wouldn't elicit anger and frustration from the city of Chicago.
Yes, eventually the 2003 Cubs season ended in heartbreak in Wrigley Field, but simply qualifying for the postseason and advancing to the National League Championship Series was a major achievement, buoyed by adding Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton into a lineup that already included Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou.
Ramirez, 25 years old at the time, added 15 home runs and slugged .491 down the stretch. Lofton, a veteran nearing the end of a borderline Hall of Fame career, posted a 120 OPS-plus and scored 39 runs after assuming the leadoff duties upon arriving in Chicago.
Prior to the disappointing finish, the Cubs looked like a World Series team. They wouldn't have been close without Ramirez and Lofton.
2003: Twins Acquire Shannon Stewart from Blue Jays
While it's easy to forget now while watching a listless Twins team play in Target Field, the franchise had a run of dominance in the 2000s, and the Metrodome was rocking in October.
During the 2003 season, despite the star power of Torii Hunter, underrated bat of Corey Koskie, glove of Doug Mientkiewicz and emergence of Johan Santana in the rotation, the Twins wouldn't have reached October baseball without adding outfielder Shannon Stewart in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays.
In the second half of the season, Stewart caught fire in the Twin Cities, hitting .322, posting a 124 OPS-plus, scoring 43 runs and driving in 38 as the Twins captured the American League Central title.
Minnesota bought low on an on-base machine, trading for Stewart in the midst of a down year (.347 in Toronto), instead banking on a player who had posted a .371 OBP from 1997-2002.
Not surprisingly, Stewart posted a .384 OBP in 65 games for the 2003 Twins.
2004: Boston Shakes Things Up
One of the greatest comeback stories in the history of sports probably wouldn't have occurred if Theo Epstein didn't have the guts to trade a Red Sox icon in an effort to shake up the culture and direction of the 2004 team.
When Boston moved Nomar Garciaparra just hours before the trade deadline, bringing back Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz, surprise and shock shot across the game of baseball.
Months later, after Mientkiewicz's defense and Cabrera's durable, steadying presence at shortstop helped the Red Sox make a remarkable run at the American League Wild Card, the narrative changed.
Nomar, the former five-time All-Star who refused a contract extension in spring training, became the distraction and reason for the 2004 Red Sox's disappointing first half. In his absence, the team took off, capturing a World Series for the first time since 1918.
2004: Carlos Beltran Ignites Houston
Through the first 88 games of the 2004 season, the Houston Astros were one of the sport's most disappointing teams. When the team fired manager Jimy Williams amidst a 44-44 start, the franchise seemed poised to waste a roster that included Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge, Jeff Kent and Lance Berkman.
Of course, everything changed when the team acquired center fielder Carlos Beltran in a trade with the Kansas City Royals.
According to Baseball-Reference, during his 90 regular-season games in Houston, Beltran smashed 23 home runs, stole 28 bases and provided the team with 4.5 wins above replacement in just over half a season, but that proved to just be a precursor to bigger things in October.
When the postseason arrived, Beltran put on one of the greatest shows in the history of the sport, carrying the Astros to the brink of a World Series by hitting eight home runs in 12 playoff games.
2006: Brian Cashman Steals Bobby Abreu from Philadelphia
Despite giving the Philadelphia Phillies nine years of star-level production (.938 OPS, All-Star appearances, Silver Slugger awards, top-14 MVP finishes and Gold Gloves), the franchise decided to move on from Bobby Abreu at the 2006 trade deadline.
Enter New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to scoop up an on-base machine, perfect No. 3 hitter and key component to another charge to the postseason.
During Abreu's 58 games with the 2006 Yankees, the right fielder starred, hitting .330/.419/.507, highlighted by a five-game sweep of the Red Sox in August that featured an offensive onslaught by the eventual AL East champions.
In that series, Abreu reached base a whopping 17 times in 27 plate appearances, solidifying Cashman's move in the matter of four outrageous days in Fenway Park.
2008: Sabathia Drags the Brewers to the Postseason
Four prospects for three months of impending free agent CC Sabathia certainly seemed like a gamble by the 2008 Milwaukee Brewers, but ultimately, the franchise hit a lottery ticket, acquiring a possible future Hall of Fame pitcher for the greatest 17-start stretch of his career.
Sabathia virtually put the Brewers on his back, often pitching on three days' rest down the stretch of the season, sacrificing his arm and possible free agency for a shot at the postseason in Milwaukee.
When the dust cleared, Sabathia earned every penny of his eventual mega-deal from the New York Yankees, posting a 1.65 ERA in 130.2 vital innings for Milwaukee.
From Matt Garza to Bud Norris to Jake Peavy, any deadline move for a starting pitcher will ultimately struggle to live up to the impact Sabathia had on the Brew Crew.
In a three-way deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox, the Los Angeles Dodgers took a flier on a mercurial star who saw his team lose patience with insubordinate behavior and aloof attitude.
Of course, when the subject involved Manny Ramirez, another major plot point headlined any discussion: production.
One of the best right-handed hitters in the history of the sport arrived in Los Angeles with the task of helping the Dodgers reach the postseason during Joe Torre's first season as manager.
Two months later, the Dodgers were in the National League Championship Series in major part because of Ramirez's ridiculous .396/.489/.743 slash line during the season's final two months.
If Sabathia's dominance in Milwaukee changed the landscape of pitching in the National League, Ramirez's bat shifted the offensive axis of power in baseball.
2009: Cliff Lee Transforms the Phillies
If baseball fans refer to Cliff Lee as a "hired gun," it's for good reason.
From the moment the Cleveland Indians traded their ace to the Philadelphia Phillies, Lee's ability to thrive from the jump and lead his new staff to great heights has separated him from most pitchers in the sport.
In 2009, Lee arrived in Philadelphia as the team tried to make back-to-back World Series appearances.
While the 2008 squad relied on offensive fireworks and Cole Hamels atop the pitching rotation, the 2009 version of the Phillies needed to find Hamels, in the midst of a down year, help in the form of a sturdy, durable strike-thrower.
Lee thrived in Philadelphia, winning seven of 11 decisions, but truly became a fan favorite after posting a 4-0 record and allowing just seven earned runs in 40 postseason innings during the Phils' return to the Fall Classic.
2010: Cliff Lee 2.0, Texas-Sized Impact
Just one year later, after a detour in Seattle, Cliff Lee arrived in Texas.
Once again, he thrived, helping to lead the Rangers to the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
After arriving in an intra-division deal with the Seattle Mariners, Lee gave Texas 108 innings to solidify their rotation, but once again made his mark in October.
During the ALDS and ALCS against Tampa Bay and New York, respectively, Lee allowed just two earned runs in 24 dominant innings.
2011: Fister Emerges for Tigers
In 2013, it's easy to think of the Detroit Tigers as the class of the American League. After all, they've become stalwarts atop the American League Central and postseason fixtures, playing deep into October in each of the last two seasons.
Two trade deadlines ago, hours before acquiring starting pitcher Doug Fister from the Seattle Mariners, Detroit was far from the power they are now. On July 31, 2011, the Tigers woke up with just three games separating Cleveland and Chicago from themselves and the top of the division.
At 3-12, Fister was hardly an eye-popping trade, but the Tigers astutely saw that the then-27-year-old right-handed pitcher was far better than his record after receiving league-worst run support from his Seattle teammates.
Within weeks, Detroit was rewarded for their gamble.
Fister pitched an 8-1 record down the stretch, posting a sterling 1.79 ERA across 70.1 innings and becoming a tremendous 1-2 punch along with Justin Verlander.
Agree with the list? Which trades would you add?
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