With the calendar turning to July just yesterday, we have officially entered the prime time for trading across Major League Baseball. While technically the trade deadline is still a few weeks away, recent years have shown that often some of the larger deals will take place in the preceding weeks rather than on the eve of the deadline. So to get you in the mood for the whirlwind of moves taking place over the next 30 days, I thought we'd take a look back at some of the deadline moves from five years ago, in July of 2008. In true BtBS fashion, we'll look at the process and the outcome to each deal. And away we go!
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The Date: July 7, 2008
The Process: After several failed attempts at working out a contract extension, Cleveland all but knew their 27-year-old ace Sabathia would walk after the season. Although Milwaukee seemed like an unlikely destination for the lefty, considering their payroll and small chances of resigning Sabathia, GM Doug Melvin saw an opportunity for his team to reach the postseason for the first time in 26 years and he took it. In return Cleveland received what seemed like a giant haul, getting 1B/OF Matt LaPorta who had ranked as Baseball America's 23rd best prospect entering the season, and a quality pitching prospect in Jackson.
The Outcome: Sabathia had been pitching well for Cleveland, but put together the best string of his career once arriving in Milwaukee. He made 17 regular season starts for the Brewers, totaling a 1.65 ERA over 130.2 innings which was good enough for a 4.9 rWAR, and the team did in fact make its first trip to the playoffs in over a quarter century, losing to the Phillies in the NLDS. Had the team had more postseason success we would probably still talk about Sabathia's performance as one of the all-time greats, but instead he will have to settle as being one of the best deadline acquisitions ever.
Cleveland, on the other hand, didn't fare quite as well in the deal. LaPorta has posted a .238/.301/.393 line across 1068 career plate appearances. Jackson has started just 17 games in the big leagues, and Bryson has not reached the big leagues. Despite watching him sign with the Yankees in the offseason (and subsequently spending the compensation pick on Kentrail Davis), there is no doubt the Brewers won this deal.
Photo credit: USA Today Sports
The Trade: Three Way Deal - The Los Angeles Dodgers receive OF Manny Ramirez, the Boston Red Sox receive OF Jason Bay, and the Pittsburgh Pirates receive 3B Andy LaRoche, RHP Craig Hansen, RHP Bryan Morris, and OF Brandon Moss.
The Date: July 31, 2008
The Process: Tired of his antics and off the field drama, Red Sox' GM Theo Epstein decided to get rid of Manny Ramirez once and for all with the Dodgers more than happy to take him off their hands. To make the deal work, Pittsburgh sent Jason Bay, along with his $6 million contract, to Boston in exchange for four prospects, chief among them LaRoche who ranked 31st among prospects entering the year. I'm sure it was perceived this way at the time, but it must be said that this was an unbelievably ballsy move by Epstein and the Sox front office. Boston was clinging to a two-game lead over Tampa Bay in the AL-east and attempting to repeat as World Series champions and traded one of the best right-handed hitters of all time, and certainly the best offensive player on the team. The Dodgers, however, were also taking a risk as Ramirez was in the final year of his contract and the deal negated the two club options the Red Sox held for 2009 and 2010. Essentially they gave up two of their top prospects for a rental, just as Milwaukee had done with Sabathia.
The Outcome: Almost to spite the Red Sox front office, Ramirez turned in quite possible the strongest stretch of his career, posting a 1.232 OPS and driving in 53 runs in 53 games for Los Angeles. And as he has done from time to time, Ramirez save his best for the postseason, hitting an unreal .520/.667/1.080 in the playoffs, almost lifting the Dodgers to the World Series. Manny would re-sign with Los Angeles, playing another season and a half for the team but never quite regaining the magic of 2008 and leaving with a tainted reputation, but I'm sure there aren't many fans that regret that move.
No slouch himself, Bay played well down the stretch hitting 9 home runs and doing the best he could to make the Sox forget about what Ramirez was doing across the country. The team did again make the playoffs, but they were defeated in 7 games by the Rays. There's no way of knowing what would have happened, but had Ramirez still been in Boston maybe one more of those games swing in the Sox favor. Bay played one more season in Boston, blasting 36 home runs before signing a four-year, $66 million contract with the Mets in the offseason. Sure he wasn't Manny Ramirez, but Bay was about as good a return as the Sox could have gotten given the situation. Still, Boston missed a chance in 2008 and has not won a World Series since.
Pittsburgh got the worst of the deal as the only player they acquired that has turned into even a decent Major League player is Brandon Moss, and unfortunately for the Buccos that was after he moved on to Oakland.
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The Date: July 29, 2008
The Process: The Angeles, owners of the best record in baseball, had a need for a middle of the order threat. Enter the switch-hitting Teixeira, months away from becoming a free agent that the Braves had little chances of resigning. With little leverage, the Braves failed to get even 10% of the haul they gave up to get the slugger (SS Elvis Andrus, LHP Matt Harrison, RHP Neftali Feliz, C Jarrod Saltalamachia), ending up with Kotchman, a very average first baseman, and a Double-A reliever in Marek.
The Outcome: If you're a Braves fan, you may want to 1) hate Mark Teixeria and 2) continue on to the next trade. Teixeira played really well while in Los Angeles, posting a 181 OPS+ over 54 regular season games, helping the team to their first 100-win season in team history. Yet despite his .467 average in the ALDS, the Halos yet again fell short in the playoffs. They then watched the Yankees snatch up Teixeira in the offseason with an 8-year, $180 million contract, leaving with two measly compensation picks in place of the first baseman. Due to some fantastic scouting though, the Angels were able to turn those picks into Tyler Skaggs (40th overall) and Mike Trout (25th overall). In theory the Braves gave up Trout (15.0 rWAR and counting), Elvis Andrus (13.9 rWAR), and Matt Harrison (9.2 rWAR), plus Feliz, Skaggs, and Saltalmachhia for Teixeira, while the Angels were able to package Kotchman and Marek for two months of Teix, Skaggs, and Trout. Let's move on before we turn the knife anymore on the Braves fans reading.
The Next Level
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The Date: July 8, 2008
The Proccess: No more than 24 hours after Milwaukee acquired Sabathia, the Cubs decided to add their own ace. Funny as it may seem now to call Rich Harden an ace, the righty was in the midst of his best (and healthiest) season, with a 2.34 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 77 innings for Oakland. Billy Beane jumped at the chance to rid himself of the injury prone Harden, getting back a package of four quality players, without any true standout prospect.
The Outcome: Surprisingly enough, almost all of these players dealt at the deadline performed remarkably well for their new team. Harden was every bit as good as advertised, posting a 1.77 ERA and striking out 31.3% of the batters he faced while on the North Side, but he did so in nearly 60 fewer innings than Sabathia. Still, the Cubs also made the playoffs so the deal was not a loss by any stretch. Harden would pitch one more year in Chicago, throwing 141 innings with a 4.35 FIP.
Until this year, the trade for Oakland looked like a bit of a loss. Gallagher bounced between relieving and starting, never really finding a groove in Oakland, Patterson became a decent utility player, but never an everyday option with any of the teams he has played for and Murton never emerged as so many thought he would, that is until he headed overseas to Japan. Interestingly enough though, this trade is starting to look like a huge win for the A's as Josh Donaldson is in the middle of a breakout campaign. The 27-year-old now third-baseman is raking with Oakland, compiling a 151 RC+ to date this year and looking like he's a cornerstone player for the franchise. We still need to see more from him, but right now we can chalk this up as a win for the Athletics.
Photo credit: Eric Hartline: US Presswire
The Process: Desperately looking for starting pitching to replace Adam Eaton, the Phillies gave up three of their better young players for Blanton, a pitcher who had pitched rather poorly so far that season. Then again when Adam Eaton has to throw 107 innings for your team, anything may be an upgrade. More surprising was that 10 days apart the A's shipped away 40% of their starting rotation at a time that they were only six games behind the Angeles in the American League West. The team had obviously looked at its situation and decided against going for it that year, a tough call to make sometimes.
The Outcome: Blanton pitched much better for the Phillies, and he had an impressive postseason performance, including this home run in Game 5 of the World Series:
Even if Cardenas and Outman turned into the second coming of Chase Utley and Cole Hamels, I think the old adage that "Flags Fly Forever" would have applied as Philadelphia captured their first ring since 1980. Unfortunately for the A's, neither player turned out be very good, and the team doesn't have much to show for sending Blanton to Philly.
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The Date: July 26, 2008
The Process: Before shipping Andy LaRoche out for Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers replaced the rookie with Casey Blake, a solid veteran bat who had a 121 OPS+ for the Tribe. In exchange LA sent back two prospects, neither top-100 talents.
The Outcome: Blake hit right in line with league average while with the Dodgers, helping them advance to the NLCS. Still, his performance probably did not warrant the price the Dodgers paid, as Santana has become one of the best offensive backstops in the game, contributing 11.7 rWAR in Cleveland. Funny that the Indians actually received a much greater return for Casey Blake than they did for C.C. Sabathia, isn't it?
The Hall of Famers
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The Trades: The Cincinnati Reds trade OF Ken Griffey Jr. to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for RHP Nick Masset and INF Danny Richar. The Detroit Tigers send C Ivan Rodriguez to the New York Yankees in exchange for RHP Kyle Farnsworth.
The Process: Trying to catch lightning in a bottle, both the White Sox and Yankees turned to all-time greats in Griffey Jr. and Pudge, giving up very little beyond salary relief in the process.
The Outcome: Truthfully, I forgot that Junior ever played for the White Sox, as neither player played particularly well for their new teams. The Yankees missed the playoffs, and Chicago was knocked out in the divisional round by Tampa Bay, and both Rodriguez and Griffey were out of baseball within three years.
Six other trades were made that July with the "name" players including Arthur Rhodes, Ray Durham, Xavier Nady, Jon Rauch, Randy Wolf, and Tony Clark. The best prospect that was dealt in any of these deals was probably OF Jose Tabata in the Nady deal, but even he didn't nearly live up to his expectations.
All in all, 2008 gave us a very eventful month of deals, which helped turn the postseason into one of the more entertaining ones in recent memory. Here's hoping that five years later, we can expect a similar month of action.
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