MLB Waiver Wire: The 10 Best Waiver Transactions Since 1990

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2010

MLB Waiver Wire: The 10 Best Waiver Transactions Since 1990

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    While the July 31st trade deadline gets all the hype, the wheeling and dealing is far from over, as each season there are a number of moves made through waivers after the deadline.

    Just last season, big names like Jason Giambi, Jim Thome, and Alex Rios all found new homes well into August, and with the buzz surrounding Adam Dunn among others, this season could again see difference making players moved after the deadline.

    Looking back over the last 20 years, I have assembled what I feel are the ten best waiver deals. Some teams acquired a big player to push them over the top in the pennant race, while others stole a prospect from a contender who turned into a star. Either way, these are the ten best of the last 20 years.

    Looking ahead, the Blue Jays claimed Jose Bautista off waivers in a deal with the Pirates back in 2008, and that move could very well find its way onto this list if he continues to lauch home runs.

    Anyway, here are my top ten waiver moves. Feel free to chime in with any I may have missed.

Zane Smith, 1990

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    Date: August 8th, 1990

    Deal: Traded by Expos to Pirates for Moises Alou, Scott Ruskin, and Willie Greene

    Stats After Acquisition
    Smith: 10 Starts, 6-2, 1.30 ERA, 3 CG, 2 SHO
    Alou: .200 BA, 0 HR, 0 RBI
    Ruskin: 23 Games, 1-0, 2.28 ERA
    Greene: N/A

    In a tight race for the NL East crown and in desperate need of another starting pitcher to flank ace Doug Drabek, the Pirates dealt one of their top prospects in Moises Alou to acquire Smith.

    The Pirates got what they wanted, as Smith was brilliant down the stretch, helping propel the Pirates into the playoffs. While they bowed out to the Reds in the NLCS, the Pirates season was still a successful one.

    Smith earned himself a four-year contract in the off-season with the Pirates, and he responded with a 16-10 campaign the following season, and overall went 47-41 in parts of six seasons in Pittsburgh.

    Alou was a full-time starter for the Expos by 1992, after being the "player to be named later" of the deal, and enjoyed a solid 17 season career.

Jeff Bagwell, 1990

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    Date: August 30th, 1990

    Deal: Traded by the Red Sox to Astros for Larry Anderson

    Stats After Acquisition
    Bagwell: N/A
    Anderson: 15 Games, 1.23 ERA

    The trading of a top flight prospect in an attempt to shore up a shaky bullpen is nothing new come trade deadline time, but this one goes down as the biggest blunder of all time as far as those deals go.

    Anderson posted a 1.23 ERA in 15 late season appearances for the Red Sox, as he did help the team make a playoff appearance. However, he was not quite as good in October, with a 6.00 ERA in three appearances.

    Bagwell was the Astros' starting first baseman by the following season, winning the Rookie of the Year and never looking back on his way to what will almost certainly be a Hall of Fame career.

    So definitely more so for what Bagwell turned into than for Anderson's decent late season numbers, this one cracks the list.

Candy Maldonado, 1991

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    Date: August 9th, 1991

    Deal: Traded by Brewers to Blue Jays for Rob Wishnevski and William Suero

    Stats After Acquisition
    Maldanodo: .277 BA, 7 HR, 28 RBI
    Wishnevski: N/A
    Suero: N/A

    With so many great deals made by the Blue Jays in the process of building their back-to-back World Series champion teams, the acquisition of Maldonado often goes overlooked, but he helped shore up what was a huge hole in left field.

    After finishing out the end of the 1991 season, Maldonado had a year left on his contract and he served as the full-time left fielder during the 1992 season, hitting ..272 BA, 20 HR, 66 RBI for the eventual World Series winners.

    The following season he left for the Cubs in free agency, and left field was once again a hole for the Jays, although they still managed to repeat as World Champs.

David Cone, 1992

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    Date: August 27th, 1992

    Deal: Traded by Mets to Blue Jays for Jeff Kent and Ryan Thompson

    Stats After Acquisition
    Cone: 7 Starts, 4-3, 2.55 ERA, 8.0 K/9
    Kent: .239 BA, 3 HR, 15 RBI
    Thompson: .222 BA, 3 HR, 10 RBI (ML Debut)

    The definition of a rental player, Cone spent under three months with the Blue Jays, and was on to his next stop in Kansas City as a free agent the following season, but he more than made his mark on the Blue Jays.

    On a pitching staff that already featured Jack Morris, Jimmy Key, Juan Guzman, and Todd Stottlemyre, Cone made what was already the best rotation in baseball even better as he logged  22.1 innings over four postseason starts, doing his part to help bring a championship to the Jays.

    Kent, on the other hand, emerged as a legitimate starter the following season, hitting .270 BA, 21 HR, 80 RBI for the Mets in his first full season in the majors, as this trade played out as a rare move that worked out well for both sides.

Jose Canseco, 1992

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    Date: August 31st, 1992

    Deal: Traded by A's to Rangers for Ruben Sierra, Bobby Witt, Jeff Russell, and cash.

    Stats After Acquisition
    Canseco: .233 BA, 4 HR, 15 RBI
    Sierra: .277 BA, 3 HR, 17 RBI
    Witt: 6 Starts, 1-1, 3.41 ERA, 25 Ks
    Russell: 8 Games, 2-0, 2 Saves, 0.00 ERA

    While this deal did not quite work out to the point either team would have liked, it cracks the list because of the sheer magnitude of players that changed hands in this deal.

    In the midst of a pennant race, the A's dealt one of their superstars in Canseco for three players who could immediately contribute at a high level. Witt gave them a starter, Russell a reliable setup man, and Sierra a power bat to make up for the loss of Canseco.

    The Rangers got one of the game's premier sluggers, and a chance to build towards next season.

    The A's did make the playoffs, thanks in part to the trade, but were knocked out by the Blue Jays, while Canseco rounded back in to form with a big season in 1994, but the Rangers were never able to become legitimate contenders.

    Still, a gutsy trade by both sides and worthy of a spot on this list despite it not quite working out.

Jeromy Burnitz, 1996

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    Date: August 31st, 1996

    Deal: Traded by Indians to Brewers for Kevin Seitzer

    Stats After Acquisition
    Burnitz: .236 BA, 2 HR, 14 RBI
    Seitzer: .386 BA, 1 HR, 16 RBI

    With a glaring hole at third base and an overabundence of outfielders, the Indians dealt the promising Burnitz to the Brewers for veteran Kevin Seitzer.

    The move paid immediate dividens for the Indians, as Seitzer got hot for the stretch run and then drove in four runs in four postseason games before the Indians were eventually eliminated.

    Burntiz, however, turned out to be quite a find for the Brewers, as he posted a .287 BA, 27 HR, 85 RBI season in his first full season in Milwaukee, and only got better from there, hitting 165 longballs in six seasons.

David Eckstein/Ben Weber, 2000

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    Date: Eckstein- August 16th, 2000 
               Weber- August 30th, 2000

    Deal: Eckstein- Selected off waivers from Red Sox
               Weber- Selected off waivers from Giants

    Stats After Acquisition
    Eckstein: N/A
    Weber: 10 Games, 1-0, 1.84 ERA

    At the end of the 2000 season, with the Angels out of contention, the team made a pair of under the radar moves that would pay off immensey by the 2002 season when the team won the World Series.

    First they acquired a the scrappy Eckstein, and by the following season he was the team's starting SS, hitting .285 BA, 4 HR, 41 RBI, 29 SB as the team's leadoff hitter and finishing fourth in Rookie of the Year voting.

    He would be even better the following season, hitting .293 BA, 8 HR, 63 RBI, 21 SB, finishing 11th in MVP voting and serving as a catalyst for the eventual champs.

    Then they acquired Weber, who would serve as the team's top setup man, pitching in 181 games from 2001-2003 and posting a 2,86 ERA with seven saves.

Woody Williams, 2001

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    Date: August 2nd, 2001

    Deal: Traded by Padres to Cardinals for Ray Lankford and cash

    Stats After Acquisition
    Williams: 11 Starts, 7-1, 2.28 ERA, 52 Ks
    Lankford: .288 BA, 4 HR, 19 RBI

    It is never easy to part with a player that has spent his entire career with a franchise, but the Cardinals picked the perfect time to pull the trigger on dealing Lankford who, at 34, was not the player he once was but still had some value.

    Williams led the Cardinals to the playoffs, and went seven innings and gave up only one run in his lone postseason start, as the Cardinals were bounced from the playoffs by the Diamondbacks.

    The deal continued to pay off for the Cardinals after the 2001 season as well, as Williams stuck around for three more seasons, going 45-22 overall in his four seasons with the team, including an 18-9 season in 2003.

Brian Giles, 2003

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    Date: August 26th, 2003

    Deal: Traded by Pirates to Padres for Jason Bay, Oliver Perez, and Corey Stewart

    Stats After Acquisition
    Giles: .298 BA, 4 HR, 18 RBI
    Bay: .291 BA, 3 HR, 12 RBI
    Perez: 5 Starts, 0-3, 5.87 ERA, 24 Ks
    Stewart: N/A

    As is the case with most above average players on the Pirates, the time came for Giles to be shipped off to find success elsewhere after four fantastic seasons in Pittsburgh in which he averaged .309 BA, 37 HR, 109 RBI.

    The Padres stepped in to acquire the slugger, as they looked ahead to next season and the possibility of a lineup that featured Ryan Klesko, Phil Nevin, and now Giles at its heart, although things didn't quite work out.

    However, for once, the Pirates managed to make the most of the trade and fetched a pretty impressive return, at least right off the bat.

    Perez showed the makings of a future ace, winning 12 games and piling up 239 Ks in 196 innings for a league best 11.0 K/9 in 2004, before falling off badly.

    Bay took home Rookie of the Year honors the following season, and immediately became the Pirates most dangerous hitter, filling the hold left by Giles in the lineup and adding some speed to boot. He was eventually dealt to the Red Sox in a much less impressive deal.

Larry Walker, 2004

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    Date: August 6th, 2004

    Deal: Traded by Rockies to Cardinals for Chris Narveson, Jason Burch, and Luis Martinez

    Stats After Acquisition
    Walker: .280 BA, 11 HR, 27 RBI
    Narveson: N/A
    Martinez: N/A
    Burch: N/A

    With a stacked lineup that already featured a trio of .300 BA, 30 HR, 100 RBI guys in Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, and Scott Rolen, along with the always dangerous Reggie Sanders and Edgar Renteria, the Cardinals made a move to push them over the top in acquiring Walker from the Rockies.

    While injuries limited him to just 38 games with the Rockies before the trade, Walker seemed to just be hitting his stride as the Cardinals picked him up, as he found his power stroke, hitting 11 HR in 44 regular season games, and then another six in the postseason, as the Cardinals won the NL pennant before falling to the Red Sox in the World Series.

    Walker retired one season later, but for that October he was once again the player that made him one of the most feared sluggers in all of baseball in the 1990s.