The Greatest Deadline Deals in MLB History
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Some deals involve bigger names than others. Some players acquired just before the trade deadline have made a huge impact on the regular season and/or the postseason, and others may have contributed with one really important play, such as David Roberts' stolen base in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS.
Down 4-3 in the ninth inning and three outs away from being swept by the New York Yankees, Kevin Millar drew a leadoff walk against future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. Inserted as a pinch runner, Roberts stole second—his lone stolen base of the postseason—and later scored on an RBI single by Bill Mueller to tie the game at four. The Boston Red Sox won, 6-4, on a walkoff homer by David Ortiz three innings later.
The win allowed the Red Sox's postseason to continue. They won seven straight games and were world champions for the first time since 1918. If not for the seemingly minor acquisition of the 32-year-old Roberts (from the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor league outfielder Henri Stanley) on July 31, that magical season could've ended with a four-game sweep at the hands of the rival Yankees.
Here are nine more of the greatest deadline deals that turned out to be winners for the contending teams that made them.
8. A's Trade Mark McGwire to Cardinals (July 1997)
The Mark McGwire era in St. Louis (1997-2001), which began on July 31, 1997, when the Oakland A's traded him for pitchers Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews and Blake Stein, didn't include a World Series appearance, and it was also tainted by his admitted steroid use.
But there's no questioning the positive impact it had on the game, which had seen a lack of interest from fans since the strike-shortened season of 1994.
All eyes were on McGwire and the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1998 season, as he approached Roger Maris' all-time record of 61 homers, tied it, surpassed it and finally finished his season with 70 long balls.
His overall numbers in 1998-99 (135 HR, 294 RBI, 295 BB), his last two healthy big league seasons, don't mean as much on paper anymore. But it doesn't take away from the unbelievable excitement that baseball fans experienced at the time.
7. Mariners Trade Randy Johnson to Astros (July 1998)
The Houston Astros' 1998 season ended with a NLDS loss, their second of what would be four NLDS losses between 1997-2001, to the red-hot San Diego Padres, but it still goes down as one of the best in club history. The acquisition of Randy Johnson on July 31, 1998, from the Seattle Mariners for second baseman Carlos Guillen and pitchers Freddy Garcia and John Halama had a lot to do with it.
A free-agent-to-be rental, the price was still high for the 35-year-old, but the Astros took the risk by giving up two of their top prospects—Guillen and Garcia—to land the ace lefty. It paid off. Johnson was completely dominant down the stretch, winning 10 of his 11 starts, tossing four shutouts and striking out at least 10 hitters seven times. He had just one non-quality start.
Although the 'Stros lost both of his playoff starts, Johnson was still very good (14 IP, 3 ER, 12 H, 2 BB, 17 K). He was just out-dueled by Kevin Brown and Sterling Hitchcock, who were nearly unhittable during the Padres' playoff run.
6. Indians Trade Cliff Lee to Phillies (July 2009)
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Their season may have fallen two wins short of a World Series title—they lost to the Yankees in six games—but it was not Cliff Lee's fault, who was acquired from the Cleveland Indians on July 29, 2009, along with outfielder Ben Francisco for a package of prospects, including catcher Lou Marson, infielder Jason Donald and pitchers Carlos Carrasco and Jason Knapp.
The 31-year-old lefty went 7-4 down the stretch with a 3.39 ERA in 12 starts. It was the postseason, however, when Lee was at his best. He went 4-0 in his five starts with only seven earned runs allowed in 40 innings (1.58 ERA) with six walks and 33 strikeouts.
5. Padres Trade Fred McGriff to Braves (July 1993)
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Not all the deals during the Padres' fire sale were bad. As a matter of fact, some turned out very good. But none were worse than sending first baseman Fred McGriff to the Atlanta Braves for pitcher Donnie Elliott and outfielders Vince Moore and Melvin Nieves on July 18, 1993.
At 29 and in the prime of his career, McGriff was still under contract for two more seasons after 1993. The Padres got almost zero production out of the young trio acquired, while the "Crime Dog" had a huge impact in the Braves' late-season surge to surpass the San Francisco Giants and capture the division title on the last day of the season, as well as postseason appearances in 1995, 1996 and 1997.
In 68 games with Atlanta in 1993, McGriff had a .310/.392/.612 slash line with 19 homers and 55 runs batted in, while the Braves went 51-17 over that span. They were as far back as 10 games on July 22.
4. Tigers Trade Cecil Fielder to Yankees (July 1996)
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Cecil Fielder was still one of the elite sluggers in the game when the Yankees acquired him on July 31, 1996, from the Detroit Tigers for Ruben Sierra and minor league pitcher Matt Drews. They didn't appear to need much help at the time, considering they had a 63-42 record and a 10-game lead in the division.
But it turned out that they needed all the help they could get to hold onto the division lead, which had shrunk to 2.5 games on September 15. The Yankees barely held on to win the division, despite a 29-28 record in August and September. Fielder did his part, however, posting an .837 OPS with 13 homers in 53 regular-season games.
The 33-year-old was even better in the postseason with 16 hits in 52 at-bats, including three homers and 14 runs batted in as the Yankees won their first World Series championship since 1978. Fielder's performance declined over the next two seasons, and he was out of the majors by 1999.
3. Blue Jays Trade David Cone to Yankees (July 1995)
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The AL Cy Young Award winner in the strike-shortened 1994 season with the Kansas City Royals, David Cone was traded to Toronto at the start of the following season for three minor leaguers, then traded to the Yankees on July 28, 1995, for pitchers Marty Janzen, Jason Jarvis and Mike Gordon.
At 32, Cone proved to still have plenty left in the tank, finishing with a 9-2 record with a 3.82 ERA in 13 starts as the Yankees made it to the postseason as a wild card before getting knocked out in the ALDS by the Mariners. It was the Yankees' first postseason appearance in 14 seasons.
The organization, once again, began accumulating World Series championships the following season. By 2000, they had added and hung four more championship banners in Yankee Stadium, bringing their franchise total to 26. Cone played a big part in three of those and won a total of 55 games from 1996-2000 with a 3.93 ERA, two All-Star selections and two top-six Cy Young finishes.
2. Rockies Trade Marco Scutaro to Giants (July 2012)
Marco Scutaro's acquisition from the Colorado Rockies for infielder Charlie Culberson on July 27, 2012, wasn't supposed to have a major impact on the pennant race. General manager Brian Sabean thought he was getting a veteran who could get starts at the middle infield spots over the offensively challenged Brandon Crawford and Ryan Theriot and could fill in occasionally at the hot corner with Pablo Sandoval injured.
The 36-year-old veteran ended up playing 46 regular-season games at second base and 15 at third base, so his versatility did help some. Surprisingly, it was Scutaro's bat that made the most impact. He hit .362 in 61 games as the Giants slowly pulled away in the NL West to capture the division title.
He wasn't done, though. Although he cooled off in the NLDS and World Series (7-for-36), Scutaro was the NLCS MVP with 14 hits in 28 at-bats during a tough seven-game series against the Cardinals. After winning the World Series, the Giants re-signed their late-season hero to a three-year contract in the offseason.
1. Phillies Trade Curt Schilling to Diamondbacks (July 2000)
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When the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired Curt Schilling from the Phillies on July 26, 2000, for first baseman Travis Lee and pitchers Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa and Vicente Padilla, they were tied for first place and had high expectations for the remainder of the season.
It wasn't meant to be. A month-and-a-half later, they were out of the race, although Schilling had pitched well (3.69 ERA, four complete games in 13 starts).
The deal really started to pay dividends the following season when the 35-year-old Schilling went 22-6 with a 2.98 ERA in 256.2 innings pitched with 37 walks and 293 strikeouts to help lead the D'backs to a division title.
Things only got better in the playoffs as the Diamondbacks rode their ace to a World Series championship in just their fourth season of existence. Schilling went 4-0 in six starts with only six earned runs allowed in 48.1 innings with six walks and 56 strikeouts, three complete games and a World Series MVP.
After a 21-win season in 2002 and an injury-plagued season in 2003, Schilling was traded to Boston the following offseason, where he was about to become a World Series hero once again.