Ron Darling knows all about the MLB trade deadline.
After spending nine years in the big leagues with the New York Mets, winning a World Series ring and earning an All-Star selection along the way, Darling was dealt not once but twice during the 1991 trade deadline rush.
"I think your first reaction is a little anger," explained the TBS MLB analyst while discussing his trade from Queens to Montreal in a conversation with Bleacher Report.
"Because your first thought is, 'Boy, I've given a lot to this team that's forgotten pretty quickly.' Two, that you don't really want to leave where you've been a long time. You know, your home is there, your friends are there, all that kind of stuff."
Then the big picture starts to come into focus.
"And once that anger subsides, you start to realize that you're with a team going nowhere. So, really all it's about and all it's ever been about is playing in the postseason. And as you warm to the idea, you start to think, 'Well, this could be pretty good for me.'"
Darling's tenure with Montreal ended up being extremely brief, spanning just three starts and 17 innings before the Expos jettisoned him to the Oakland Athletics on deadline day 1991. The right-handed starter landed in Oakland thanks to a phone call between a couple of managerial legends.
"But the funny story about it is that Tony La Russa and Jim Leyland were great buddies. And apparently the story goes that La Russa called Leyland and said, 'Darling is getting pounded over there in Montreal. Can he still pitch?' And apparently Leyland gave Tony the green light, and that's why I was moved to Oakland."
It's no easy task to switch clubs in the middle of a season.
“The weight of your starts is pretty tremendous. They've traded for you, they're looking for you to give them that spark that they need.”
Darling joined a squad in Oakland that included the likes of Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, Dave Henderson, Dave Stewart and Dennis Eckersley.
“It's really hard to understand the blood, sweat and tears that all those guys went through to get to that, whatever date it is. So, you try not to understand it. All you try to understand is that on your day, they traded for you to be great. And so you have that responsibility to be great.”
During the stretch run, Darling made 12 starts for the Athletics, posting a 4.08 ERA, as the club finished in fourth place in the American League West.
As Darling pointed out, position players face their own type of pressure when they swap teams halfway through a season.
“Now, an everyday player, the difference is that they're trading for you to catch fire. They're trading for your best years, your best moments on the back of your baseball card. That's what they're trading for.”
Either way, it's a lot of responsibility.
"When you get traded in midseason, it's like, 'Give us a little 10-2 down the stretch, please.'"
As Darling surveys the 2014 MLB trade block, he doesn't see many pitchers capable of making that kind of impact.
“There's not a ton of starters out there.”
The market is looking especially thin thanks to the incredible turnaround of the Tampa Bay Rays, which has significantly decreased the chances of David Price being available via trade.
“I think David Price is going to stay right where he is and this offseason might be some time when you see him go.”
One left-hander that Darling does think could be on the move is Cliff Lee.
“He's proven that if you get a Cliff Lee, and you get to the postseason, and he's heathy, that not only does he perform in the postseason—he performs at the highest level.”
The key qualifier there is if "he's healthy."
Since returning from the disabled list, the 35-year-old has been tagged for nine earned runs on 21 hits in 10.2 innings of work for the Philadelphia Phillies. Teams have until the end of August to evaluate Lee since his contract status makes him a virtual lock to slide through waivers unclaimed. The starter is pitching on a five-year, $120 million deal that runs through the 2015 season with an option for 2016.
Ian Kennedy of the San Diego Padres and Bartolo Colon of the New York Mets are two unheralded arms, who Darling views as potentially noteworthy pickups.
The market for bats is also light. When asked about that topic, Darling focused in on the last-place Colorado Rockies, who have two of the most dynamic players in baseball on their roster in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.
Darling tabbed the Rockies as a prime candidate to pull off a blockbuster this winter.
“When you have a couple of star players like the Rockies, and they absolutely don't want to let them go, they're as good as anyone going. But they have a team that's in turmoil. They have a team that need to replenish the farm system, and not in a little way—I'm talking about in a huge way.
“You might see a team like that making that kind of trade—whether it's Tulowitzki or CarGo.”
If either of those players hits the market in the offseason, there's sure to be plenty of bidders.
Ron Darling will be calling the Los Angeles Angels and Tampa Bay Rays game on TBS on Sunday, August 3 at 1:30 p.m. ET.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.