As the 2009 MLB trade deadline looms, contenders and pretenders alike have half the key in the ignition to make a trade for a player or a few players that could make or break their season.
The hub for these players rests with MLB's downtrodden, as they try to unload contracts of their star players for players they hope will be future stars.
Their current stars are lip-licking opportunities for teams looking for a shot at glory, and a look through recent history shows how a team can be affected, either short-term with a deep playoff run or long-term by failing miserably, with one swap.
2000: Philadelphia Phillies trade Curt Schilling to Arizona Diamondbacks for Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, Travis Lee, and Vicente Padilla.
Of the five times Schilling has been traded, two of the times turned the tide for his new team—his trade to Arizona and his trade to Boston.
Both trades ended in World Series titles the following year, so to distinguish which one panned out best, it's a good idea to look at his personal stats. In this case, Arizona prevails—not to mention it was the deal actually swung by the trade deadline.
The year of the deal, Schilling only appeared in 13 games for Arizona, so his real effect would come the following season.
Schilling teamed with Randy Johnson to dominate NL hitters, and he won a career-high 22 games with a 2.98 ERA in 35 starts, bringing his team a World Series title.
2002: Cleveland Indians trade Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew to Montreal Expos for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, and Lee Stevens.
In the midst of a rare playoff hunt, the Expos went searching for an arm to complement the great season Tomokazu Ohka was having. They found their man in Bartolo Colon, who was in the middle of his best season to date with a 10-4 record and a 2.55 ERA.
To get him, Montreal sold the farm on the future, giving Cleveland three of their top prospects.
Colon had a solid second half, going 10-4 with a 3.31 ERA in his Expos career, but the team fell 19 games short of the division and missed the wild card. The following season, Colon left for the Chicago White Sox.
Meanwhile, Cleveland has seen Sizemore develop into one of the league's best outfielders and Lee win a Cy Young award last year.
2008: Cleveland Indians trade CC Sabathia to Milwaukee Brewers for Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson, and Taylor Green.
When the Sabathia sweepstakes opened up, no one but their biggest fans considered the Brewers a viable landing point. However, the Indians loved the young guns in the Brewers' farm system, especially power hitter LaPorta, and the Brew Crew was willing to part with their future.
Sabathia sparkled more than anyone thought he would have, going 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and seven complete games as a Brewer.
Despite teaming up with Ben Sheets and a group of young, promising hitters, Milwaukee and Sabathia never could take the Cubs over in the NL Central, and they lost to the eventual champion Phillies in the first round.
The next year, Sabathia split for the New York Yankees for the bigger paycheck, and the Indians are in a wait-and-see mode for their new top prospects.
1977: New York Mets trade Tom Seaver to Cincinnati Reds for Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, and Dan Norman.
Despite being a fan favorite and a centerpiece of the franchise for years, the Mets decided to trade Seaver with an eye to the future. Unfortunately for New York, the future proved to be pretty dim.
Seaver went on to an All-Star game with the Reds, won over 10 games five times, and took his team to the playoffs.
The Mets took a decidedly different path, however, finishing in last place in their division in five of the next seven seasons, with the other seasons finishing fifth.
1997: Oakland Athletics trade Mark McGwire to St. Louis Cardinals for T.J. Mathews, Eric Ludwick, and Blake Stein.
While the trade did not spark a deep playoff run, the acquisition of McGwire changed Cardinals history as it's known today.
In his first half of a season with the Cardinals, McGwire drilled 24 home runs with 42 RBI, leading his downtrodden team to a fourth-place finish.
McGwire, seemingly with some assistance, went on to break Roger Maris' record number of home runs in a race for the ages with Sammy Sosa the year after the deal, and he went on to some deep playoff runs in the future.
The A's got the raw end of the deal, as they saw themselves finish in last place in their division as they rebuilt in the years following the deal.
While he may not want to talk about the past, there is no question McGwire's deadline deal to the Cards changed it.
1998: Houston Astros trade Carlos Guillen, Freddy Garcia, and John Halama to Seattle Mariners for Randy Johnson.
Looking to distance themselves from the pack in the NL Central, the Astros made the decision that a dominant pitcher was the missing piece—and they got a big one.
After years of dominating in Seattle, Johnson did the same in Houston, going 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA for the second half of the season. He took his team to the playoffs as NL Central champions, but he did not have the people around him to make a deep run.
Despite a 1.93 ERA in two starts against the San Diego Padres, Johnson went 0-2 in the playoffs. He split for Arizona the next season, winning a World Series in 2001.
The Mariners enjoyed several successful seasons with their pieces, jump-starting the careers of future All-Stars Guillen and Garcia.
2008: Boston Red Sox trade Manny Ramirez to Los Angeles Dodgers and Craig Hanson and Brandon Moss to Pittsburgh Pirates.
Los Angeles Dodgers trade Bryan Morris and Andy LaRoche to Pittsburgh Pirates.
Pittsburgh Pirates trade Jason Bay and Josh Wilson to Boston Red Sox.
When his welcome ran out in Boston, Ramirez needed a change of scenery, and Los Angeles was more than welcome to give that to him.
The Dodgers ignored his jogging to first and the reputation of a team cancer and concentrated on his bat, and they reaped the benefits.
In his first half-season with the Dodgers, Manny hit .396 with 17 HR and 53 RBI, leading his team to a first-round playoff victory over the Cubs before falling to the Phillies in the NLCS.
After the 2008 season, Ramirez was suspended for 50 games for violating the league's steroid policy, and Boston is still enjoying the services of Jason Bay as his replacement.
1987: Detroit Tigers trade John Smoltz to Atlanta Braves for Doyle Alexander.
After starting 11-19 following a pair of third-place finishes, the 1987 Detroit Tigers took their low expectations and began to run with them, gaining ground in the AL East.
With the thought that they were one piece away from a title, the Tigers traded a minor league pitcher to the Braves for a former Cy Young winner.
The deal proved to work well for the Tigers in '87, as Alexander went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA, leading the team to the ALCS.
However, Alexander never got his ERA below 4.00 his final two seasons in Detroit, and Smoltz went on to win a World Series and a Cy Young and helped form a three-headed monster with the Braves in the 1990s.
2004: Boston Red Sox trade Nomar Garciaparra and Matt Murton to Chicago Cubs.
Montreal Expos trade Orlando Cabrera to Boston Red Sox.
Minnesota Twins trade Doug Mientkiewicz to Boston Red Sox.
(Note: More minor league players were used in this trade, but in a massive, four-team trade like this, let's concentrate on the players that played the largest roles.)
In a move that broke the hearts of Red Sox Nation and had many thinking of an extension of their curse, fan favorite Nomar Garciaparra was traded to the Cubs in a head-twisting four-team trade.
While the prognosticators had the Cubs winning the deal and the Red Sox the biggest losers, Garciaparra went on to play in only 105 games, hitting .289 in his year and a half in Chicago, and Boston took their end of the deal to a curse-breaking level.
Despite falling back 0-3 to the Yankees in the ALCS, the Red Sox worked some magic by becoming the first team ever to come back from such a deficit and went on to win the 2004 World Series.
The Cubs, meanwhile, are without Nomar and without a ring.
1964: Chicago Cubs trade Lou Brock to St. Louis Cardinals for Ernie Broglio.
Can you imagine a worse scenario for the Cubs than to trade away a man who would later enter the Hall of Fame and would help their rivals win a World Series title that same year?
That's what happened with Lou Brock.
At the time, Brock was a .260 hitter in two seasons with the Cubs, and Chicago was more interested in a proven, veteran pitcher. Broglio had gone 21-9 just three seasons prior, but he went 7-19 for the rest of his career in a Cubs uniform.
Meanwhile, Brock helped take the Cards to a World Series win over the Yankees, hitting .348 and stealing 33 bases. He then went on to lead the league in stolen bases the next eight years and batted over .300 the same number of years.