On December 21, 2007, news broke that Josh Hamilton had been traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Texas Rangers for Edinson Volquez and Danny Herrera.
At the time, it was a fairly big trade; Hamilton had hit .292 with 19 home runs and 47 RBI in just 298 AB's for the Reds, while Volquez was a top prospect in the Rangers organization. Herrera was not a top prospect, but he has gone on to be a solid bullpen arm.
But we all know what became of Hamilton and Volquez.
In 2008, Volquez produced ace-like numbers, going 17-6 with an ERA of 3.21 in 32 starts. He had 206 strikeouts in just 196 innings.
But his performances were matched and raised by the then 27-year-old Hamilton. He hit .304 with 32 home runs and knocked in a league-leading 130 RBI in '08, his season highlighted with a stunning performance at the Home Run Derby, hitting a record 28 home runs in the first round.
But none of these spectacular stats mattered, as both the Reds and the Rangers found themselves under .500 and well out of the playoff race, when it was all done.
Fast forward two years.
Now the Rangers and Reds are both major contenders in their respective divisions, the Rangers holding a firm 8.5 game lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the Reds are deadlocked in a tight race with the St. Louis Cardinals.
While the Rangers are arguably the best team in baseball, with no glaring weakness, the Reds have some clear weaknesses.
One such weakness lies in their outfield.
Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs have both been incredibly disappointing in Cincinnati, so the Reds went out and got veteran Jim Edmonds. Reds manager Dusty Baker said that Edmonds will likely not play everyday, and will just fill in for Stubbs and Bruce, giving them the occasional days off.
Now, how much easier would life be if the Reds did not trade Josh Hamilton?
First of all, the Reds have plenty of pitching.
If the trade had never occurred, the Reds would likely have a rotation of Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, Johnny Cueto, Travis Wood, and either Sam LeCure or Matt Maloney, two 26-year-olds pitching very well at AAA.
While there is no clear-cut ace, (unless you count Cueto as an ace) it is full of very solid young pitchers.
Arroyo, Leake, Cueto, and Wood have all been fantastic in their time in Cincinnati so far in 2010.
Not to mention the Reds lived without Volquez for the first part of this season, and they're still in it.
With Hamilton in the lineup, the Reds would have an absolutely deadly second coming of the "Big Red Machine." A Reds lineup plus Hamilton would probably look something like this:
1. 2B Brandon Phillips
2. SS Paul Janish (Orlando Cabrera on DL)
3. 1B Joey Votto
4. CF Josh Hamilton (played CF in first year, still capable)
5. 3B Scott Rolen
6. LF Jonny Gomes
7. RF Jay Bruce
8. C Ramon Hernandez