Deadline Deals: Arizona Diamondbacks
With Major League Baseball's trading deadline fast approaching, the Arizona Diamondbacks are building for the future. The process has already started with relief pitcher Tony Pena and second baseman Felipe Lopez with still a week before the deadline.
This is not the first time Arizona has been active at the trade cutoff in their short history; having made several deals that aided in their postseason runs and one they almost made that could have changed the course of the franchise...
5. Nick Bierbrodt and Jason Conti to Tampa Bay for Albie Lopez and Mike DiFelice - 2001
The Diamondbacks were poised for a deep playoff run on the strength of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling's arms and an explosive offense, lead by a surging Luis Gonzalez.
But Arizona still felt they needed one more arm to solidify the rotation, so they dealt top pitching prospect Nick Bierbrodt and outfielder Jason Conti to Tampa Bay for starter Albie Lopez and catcher Mike Difelice.
Lopez was the Rays' most consistent starter and was believed to be a talented offense away from being a quality starter and the piece to put the Snakes over the hump.
While Lopez had a few quality starts, his time in the desert was average at best (4-7, 4.00 ERA in 13 starts) and never showed the same consistency as in Tampa. He never lived up to his billing as he rode the coat tails to a World Series ring.
Difelice ended up a "black eye" for the organization; being released after a month in Arizona following an assault arrest.
Bierbrodt and Conti never lived up to the potential they showed in Arizona's farm system, giving the advantage to Arizona based on the season's end result.
4. Dallas Buck, Wilkin Castillo and Micah Owings to Cincinnati for Adam Dunn - 2008
Following the Dodgers' acquisition of Manny Ramirez, Arizona was looking for an offensive boost of its own to help keep pace in the NL West.
They picked up Cincinnati slugger Adam Dunn to provide power in the middle of the lineup and stability at first base following Conor Jackson's move to the outfield.
Dunn's time in the desert was no where near as effective as Ramirez was for Los Angeles. "The Big Donkey" manged average numbers (.243 AVG, 8 HR, 26 RBI in 43 games) as Arizona faded down the stretch.
Owings, a pitcher known more for his skills at the plate than on the mound, has been inconsistent in his time with the Reds (6-10, 5.33 ERA in 18 appearances). But got over on his former team, driving in the winning run in their first meeting since the trade.
The advantage in this exchange will depend on what Buck and Castillo develop into...
3. Willie Blair and Jorge Fabregas to New York Mets for Nelson Figueroa and Bernard Gilkey - 1998
Willie Blair and Jorge Fabregas were acquired during the expansion draft to be veteran contributors and leaders on a team of young players.
Blair was slated to be the number two starter and Fabregas, the starting catcher. Blair (4-15, 5.34 ERA in 23 starts) struggled with pitch location and a lack of run support, while Fabregas was a liability at the plate with a .199 average.
In the end, both proved inconsistent and unable to provide leadership on a young team starving for it.
To remedy this, Arizona shipped Blair, Fabregas, and their combined $4 million salary to New York in return for pitching prospect Nelson Figueroa and veteran outfielder Bernard Gilkey.
Gilkey proved to be just what Arizona needed, providing veteran leadership for a young lockeroom as the Diamondbacks noticably improved in the second half of their first season.
Gilkey continued to be a solid contributor over the next couple seasons (.246 AVG, 11 HR, 50 RBI in 161 games), helping the Snakes win the NL West in just their second season. While Gilkey's numbers were never staggering, he helped them make the transition from expansion team to legitimate contender.
Blair and Fabregas were never the same players they were before Arizona, managing just one good season each for Detroit and Kansas City respectively.
Figueroa made just three appearances for Arizona before becoming a part of another major deadline deal...
2. Vladamir Nunez, Brad Penny and Abraham Nunez to Florida for Matt Mantei - 1999
In just their second season, Arizona had become a force in the National League behind new free agents Randy Johnson, Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finley, and the resurgence of veterans Jay Bell and Matt Williams.
However, the Diamondbacks were having problems closing out games, with veteran closer Gregg Olson struggling to get the job done.
At the deadline, Arizona pulled the trigger on a deal for young closer Matt Mantei; shipping three pitching prospects to Florida, including top arm Brad Penny.
Mantei established himself immediately; throwing a 100-mph fastball upstairs in his first pitch as a Diamondback. The "Iceman" became the dependable closer the Snakes needed; saving 22 games following the trade and helping them win the division.
Mantei battled arm problems over six seasons in Arizona with two stints as the closer, saving 74 games.
Penny has became an elite pitcher six years after the trade, but Mantei was the first "dominant" closer for the franchise and was a vital piece in getting them to the next level.
1. Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, Travis Lee and Vicente Padilla to Philadelphia for Curt Schilling - 2000
The 2000 season saw Arizona and San Francisco neck and neck for the lead in the NL West.
Arizona's pitching had taken a hit with veteran Todd Stottlemyre on the shelf and ace Randy Johnson getting little help from the rest of the rotation.
To gear up for their playoff run, Arizona picked up Philadelphia ace Curt Schilling, giving the Diamondbacks the pitching punch they needed.
However, Schilling was uneven in his first half-season in the desert (5-6, 3.69 ERA in 13 starts) and the team struggled following the trade, fading in the playoff chase.
The true measure of this trade's success would not come until the next season, when Schilling and Johnson lead Arizona to a World Series championship; making this the most successful deadline deal in franchise history.
But could it have brought more...
Matt Williams to Colorado for Larry Walker - 2002 (The trade that almost was)
In 2002, the Diamondbacks looked to be on the road to going deep into the playoffs once again behind the elite pitching of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, and the offensive firepower of Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finley.
However, veteran third baseman Matt Williams had become a liability on offense, knocking in just 40 runs for the year.
Colorado was toiling in the NL West basement and were looking to rebuild and add expiring contracts to free up payroll. They had been actively shopping Walker with the hope to move him by the deadline.
Walker wanted to be moved to a contender, but Williams wanted to stay put in the desert. A deal was agreed upon, but Williams exercised the no-trade clause in his contract and the deal was dead.
The timing could not have been worse as Gonzalez and Tony Womack were put on the shelf for the year following a collision with one another. Walker's bat was sorely missed as Arizona limped into the postseason and were swept by St. Louis in the NLDS.
Walker proved he still had plenty in the tank, being traded to St. Louis two years later and helping the Cardinals to a World Series title in his final season. Williams, meanwhile, continued to struggle and was released early on in 2003.
In hindsight, this trade might have changed the direction of the franchise and allowed Arizona to have more postseason success before being forced to rebuild.