Manny Ramirez and the 6 Biggest Impact Midseason MLB Trades Since 1990
Every baseball fan knows and looks forward to July 31st and what that date means on the baseball calendar. Each summer the rumor mill is abuzz with talk of potential trades, of what each team needs in its quest to capture a World Series title, and what they will have to give up to get that talent. Most of the deals discussed---whether in the media, the local bar or the front office of a major league team---never take place. Very few deals are consummated each summer, and of those that are rarely do they work out as well as intended. For every deal that works out there are four or five Eric Gagne’s.
Ahead I will attempt to look at the best, most impact-full trades that have taken place over the last 20 seasons. The criteria is simple: the deals must have taken place in the summer---not the previous offseason and the players involved must have impacted the pennant race. Mark McGwire was dealt to St. Louis in 1997, but they were never truly in the race and finished under five hundred and in fourth place in their division.
I hope I can make this fun and entertaining, and I am absolutely certain that I am going to forget or leave off a player who made as big---or bigger---of an impact than those listed. I hope you like it.
(Dis)Honorable Mention: Larry Andersen, Boston Red Sox, 1990
On the eve of roster expansion on August 30, 1990 the Boston Red Sox sent a third base prospect to the Houston Astros for veteran setup man Larry Andersen. Boston wanted an extra reliever down the stretch to help hold off a charge from the Toronto Blue Jays. Andersen did what was asked, appearing in fifteen games and pitching effectively. Boston failed to end the curse that year, losing the Athletics in the ALCS, and the third base prospect (blocked by Wade Boggs) they traded to Houston developed in the 1991 N.L Rookie of the Year and 1994 N.L. MVP Jeff Bagwell, who went to have a Hall of Fame-type career for the Astros.
Honorable Mention: Curt Schilling to Arizona Diamondbacks, 2000
After years of losing with the Philadelphia Phillies Curt Schilling wanted to go to a contender, and requested a trade. On July 26, 2000 the Phillies attempted to honor Schilling’s request, sending him to the Arizona Diamondbacks for four players, the biggest name among them Travis Lee. After the Schilling trade the Diamondbacks did not improve as much as they hoped, and both the player and team faltered down the stretch, eventually landing in third place in a competitive NL West. (The following year the Diamondbacks were rewarded for their aggressiveness, dethroning the 3-time defending World Champion New York Yankees.) None of the players the Diamondbacks sent to Philadelphia amounted to much, or helped turn around the Phillies franchise.
Number 6: Aaron Boone to the New York Yankees, 2003
On deadline day in 2003 the Yankees sent a couple of minor leaguers to the Cincinnati Reds for Aaron Boone, who would serve as a utility infielder for them down the stretch. While Boone did not play particularly well for the Yankees---hitting just .254 with minimal power---he will always be remembered in Yankee lure for his iconic 11th inning home run off Tim Wakefield in game 7 of the ALCS to capture the American League Pennant.
Number 5: David Justice to the New York Yankees, 2000
Three years before acquiring Aaron Boone the Yankees traded for slugger and former Mrs. Halle Berry, David Justice. Justice was the consummate power hitter on the field, and had been to the playoffs almost every season of his career with the Braves and Indians. Cleveland was nearing the end of their mid-90s run of greatness, and felt Justice, who was having a down year (by his standards) was at the end of the line. They acquired Ricky Ledee, Jake Westbrook and Zach Day for Justice, and then watched him bat .305 with 20 homers and 60 RBIs in just 78 games with the Yankees, helping them to yet another World Championship.
Number 4: Manny Ramirez to the Los Angles Dodgers, 2008
Manny Ramirez had worn out his welcome in Boston. After 7+ seasons in Boston Ramirez wanted out, and like the coward he is, he quit on his team. Boston had enough of “Manny being Manny” and shipped him to the Dodgers, getting Jason Bay from Pittsburgh in return in the three-team deal. Ramirez went on to have one of the best two months of his life with Los Angeles, batting nearly .400 and knocking in 53 runs in 53 games. Ramirez carried the Dodgers to the NL West title, where they eventually fell to the Phillies in the NLCS. The Dodgers mistakenly rewarded Ramirez with a two-year, big money extension after the season, when no one else in their right mind would have given him that money.
Number 3: Cliff Lee to the Philadelphia Phillies, 2009
With Cole Hamels not pitching like the ace he had in 2008 the Phillies needed another starter for their playoff push. All the talk was about Roy Halladay, but then two days before the July 31st deadline GM Ruben Amaro sent a package of four minor leaguers to Cleveland for Cliff Lee, who instantly became a fan favorite. He pitched well---while not brilliantly---down the stretch, going 7-4 with an ERA around 3.50, but then absolutely shined in October, going 4-0 in five starts with an ERA of under 2.00. He nearly single-handedly defeated the Yankees in the World Series, but not even the great Cliff Lee could master it.
(Lee’s trade to Texas the following season could also be listed, but his time in Philadelphia was more impact-full as he didn’t pitch as well for Texas as he had the year before, losing two games---including the clincher---in the fall classic to the Giants.)
Number 2: David Cone to the Toronto Blue Jays, 1992
In late summer 1992, with the Blue Jays in a heated battle for the AL East crown, they sent prospect Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson to the New York Mets in exchange for workhorse right-hander David Cone. They paired him with 2-time World Champion Jack Morris to create a formidable duo come October. Cone only made seven starts for the Blue Jays in the regular season---going 4-3 with a 2.55 ERA---and the trade cost the Blue Jays a potential HOF player, but pitched well-enough in October to help the Blue Jays send baseball’s ultimate trophy north of the border for the first time.
Number 1: Fred McGriff to the Atlanta Braves, 1993
In the midst of a fire sale (How many have they had?) by the San Diego Padres, the Atlanta Braves acquired slugging first baseman Fred McGriff for a few no-name players who never amounted to much in the major leagues.
Atlanta, who had trailed the San Francisco Giants by as much as 10 games at the midseason point, dealt for McGriff who instantly transformed their lineup. His presence transformed their club instrumentally and became the difference in the NL West in the final year before the wild card inclusion.
San Francisco led by 7.5 games as late as August 22, but faltered from there on out, finishing with 103 wins and just short of the playoffs. Barry Bonds won his third MVP that year as he had the best statistics in baseball, but that year it should have gone to McGriff who led the Braves to the division title over the Bonds-led Giants, who suffered his only slump of the year in late August, early September when the Braves mounted their biggest charge of the year.
No midseason acquisition has ever done as much to transform an entire team than Fred McGriff did for the 1993 Atlanta Braves.