MLB's hot stove keeps getting hotter, with each new day seemingly bringing a juicy new trade rumor.
The biggest names likely to be on the trade market are Prince Fielder (if the Brewers drop from contention) and Jose Reyes, both of whom are set to become free agents and play for organizations that may have trouble paying them this offseason.
However, there are enough names being thrown around to keep everybody interested through the end of July.
But how often do big names really get dealt during the season? Surprisingly regularly, as it turns out. Here is a list of the best players to be traded during the season in the Wild Card Era.
In addition to limiting this article to the Wild Card Era, I must specify exactly the type of players listed:
1. The players on this list have to be established major leaguers when they are traded. No prospects (at the time) are considered for this list.
2. Each player must be in the prime of their career, meaning they had to have seasons of similar production both before and after the trade year. No big names who got traded for one last run (i.e. Manny Ramirez) on this list.
Without further ado, here is the list:
This wasn’t the first time Cone was dealt at the Deadline (the Blue Jays traded for him for the 1992 pennant stretch), and as such this deal helped cement Cone’s reputation as a hired gun in the 1990s.
In all fairness, he was great at that role, becoming a frontline starter for the wild card-winning Yankees in 1995 and spending the next four seasons as a frontline starter with the club. None of the players he was traded for amounted to much.
One of the most famous trades of the 1990s, McGwire was dealt smack-dab in the middle of a 58-homer season and became the anchor of the St. Louis lineup as the Cardinals fell short of the playoffs.
Of course, the best was yet to come for Big Mac, as his spirited home run chase with Sammy Sosa captivated all of sports in 1998.
Johnson was magnificent for the Astros down the stretch, going 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA and 116 strikeouts as the Astros charged toward the NL Central title.
However, the price was steep for that stretch drive, as both Garcia and Guillen developed into All Star-caliber players while Halama became a reliable back-of-the-rotation starter.
Acquired by Arizona to give the team a pair of aces atop the rotation, Schilling was good but not great during his first half-season with the Diamondbacks but lived up to his reputation as a big-game pitcher during the club’s 2001 World Series push.
Even better, none of the players traded for him came back to haunt the Diamondbacks down the road.
Beane inserted himself in the trade talks for Dye and brokered a three-way deal involving the Rockies that brought Dye’s big bat to Oakland.
Unfortunately, Dye suffered a broken kneecap on one of the freakiest injuries ever seen on a baseball field during the 2001 playoffs, and it may have cost the surging A’s a shot at making a run to the World Series.
At least the cost wasn’t particularly straining on the A’s in this one.
Looking back, this looks like the most one-sided deal in the history of MLB. The context of this one, however, is of vital importance: the Expos, who were unexpectedly contending at the time, had been threatened with contraction the previous offseason and made this high-profile move in an effort to possibly save the franchise.
There was also the prevailing view that, if they were going to be contracted, there wasn’t really a need to keep the prospects around.
So they decided to overpay for Colon, who pitched well in an Expos uniform but could not lead the team to the playoffs. Unfortunately for them, they wound up giving up three future all-stars in return.
Once again, Billy Beane inserted himself into a deal involving the Royals, though this time the Royals weren’t completely screwed over. Beltran was terrific for the Astros down the stretch, but like Randy Johnson, he could not guide the club to the World Series.
Also like Johnson, he bailed on the club after just a half-season. The Astros did not lose anything of significance in this trade, however, though the Royals did acquire a future frontline player in Teahen.
This was longtime GM John Schuerholtz’s final move with the Braves, and as such he wasn’t exactly stingy when it came to keeping prospects in the system.
Hoping to re-create the magic of the Fred McGriff trade a generation prior, Schuerholtz paid a king’s ransom to again bring an All-Star first basemen to the Braves lineup.
Teixeira was terrific during his time in Atlanta, but the prospect list that the Braves gave up helped the Rangers reach the World Series this past season.
Teixeira shows up again on this list, only this time it is the Braves hoping to re-stock their system. It didn’t exactly work, as Kotchman did little in a Braves uniform and Marek has yet to reach the big leagues.
The Angels, on the other hand, got three months of quality hitting out of Teixeira, only to watch him sign a huge contract with the Yankees in the offseason.
Out of contention and fearing (correctly) that they were about to lose him, the Indians made a surprise move by trading their longtime ace to a fellow small-market team.
Sabathia, meanwhile, was a revelation in Milwaukee, as the Brewers (who also knew he was gone after the season) seemingly ignored all caution and allowed Sabathia to throw as many pitches as he could for the final two months.
As a result, Sabathia actually led the NL in complete games and – in one of the great statistical anomalies in sports history – led both leagues in shutouts at the same time.
Having acquired him from Colorado expressly to trade him if they were out of contention, the A’s auctioned off Holliday to the highest bidder at the deadline and wound up sending him to St. Louis in a trade eerily reminiscent of the Mark McGwire trade the previous decade.
Holliday, who had been struggling earlier in the season, loved being back in the NL and went on a tear in helping the Cardinals get back into the playoffs.
He surprisingly re-signed with the club, too, so this deal has the potential to help St. Louis for years to come.
Much like the Sabathia trade the previous year, the Indians were hoping to sell high on a frontline ace – except that Lee was more valuable because he had an additional year until free agency.
Lee was good in the regular season but magnificent in the playoffs, going 4-0 in 5 starts and taking two games from the eventual world champion Yankees.
He also fell in love with the city, which would become very important after the Phillies traded him to Seattle that offseason…
The Mariners stunned baseball when they acquired Lee that offseason, but they fell out of contention and proceeded to auction him off to the highest bidder.
The Rangers beat out the Yankees (who had offered top prospect Jesus Montero) for Lee’s services, and Lee pushed the team into their first-ever World Series.
However, he would re-sign with the Phillies in the offseason, and the early returns for Seattle on this trade are very positive.
Having essentially swapped out Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay in the offseason, the Phillies were still looking for another frontline starter.
Oswalt, the longtime Astro, became available, and Oswalt would help lead the team back into the playoffs.
Anyone I missed?