Some people love the holiday season and others would just as soon say “Bah Humbug” and hunker down until it’s over. Or, you could just embrace Jerry Seinfeld’s non-religious holiday of Festivus (for the rest of us). It seems that MLB General Managers approach the final days of July in the same manner. Some embrace it, others ignore it and many just can’t wait for it to end. Should they be a buyer or seller? In the era of the “Wild Card”, the decisions aren’t easy.
In the next week, a feeding frenzy could have premiere players going all over the place. As we look at the landscape on July 21st, some of the names being bandied about are Will Smith & Madison Bumgarner of the Giants, Marcus Stroman & Justin Smoak of the Blue Jays, Kirby Yates of the Padres as well as Nick Castellanos & Shane Greene of the Tigers.
For historical perspective, let’s look at some deadline deals over the last 20+ seasons and see how the players stats impacted the season…and, in some cases, the future.
> As “The Big Unit” is now a Hall of Famer, let’s start with Randy Johnson. On 7/31/98, the Mariners traded Johnson (in his walk year) to the Astros for Freddy Garcia & Carlos Guillen. In the last two months of the season, he went 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA and led Houston to the post-season.
> For all true Red Sox fans, the trade made on 7/31/04 will always be memorable because it helped bring the first title to Fenway Park since 1918. Nomar Garciaparra was dealt to the Cubs in a 4-team deal that brought back Doug Mientkiewicz & Orlando Cabrera. They also swapped a player named Henri Stanley for Dave Roberts and these three acquisitions were instrumental in the Sox success.
> Unsuspecting Dodgers fans created “Mannywood” in the Summer of ’08, when Manny Ramirez was acquired from the Red Sox on July 31st. The slugging leftfielder had two months that were other-worldly….396 BA, 17 HR’s & 53 RBI’s as he led the team to the NLCS. Of course, he was cheating but nobody cared. We’re still waiting for the infomercial promoting those female hormones.
> On 7/26/00, the D’Backs acquired Curt Schilling from the Phillies. In the next two seasons, he posted records of 22-6 & 23-7 while being Co-MVP of the 2001 World Series. Who did the Phillies get in the deal? Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, Travis Lee & Vicente Padilla.
> On July 31st, 1997, the Red Sox acquired two players from the Mariners. Derek Lowe made All-Star teams as both a reliever (2000) and starter (2002) before helping the BoSox to overcome the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004. Catcher Jason Varitek was a key figure in both the 2004 & 2007 World Series titles. Both were acquired for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb.
> Cliff Lee was a back-to-back deadline contributor. On 7/29/09, he was traded to the Phillies and won seven (7) games down the stretch. In the post-season, he was even better as he went 4-0 with 1.80 ERA. In the off-season, he was dealt to the Mariners but the following July, he moved again, this time to the Rangers and helped them to the World Series.
> The Mets needed to bolster their offense for the 2015 stretch run and added Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers in exchange for Luis Cessa & Michael Fullmer. Cespedes hit 17 HR’s the rest of the way with .941 OPS. The Mets went from 53-50 to 90-72 to capture the NL East.
> Scott Rolen had worn out his welcome in Philadelphia when the Phillies traded him to the Cardinals on 7/29/02. He had 14 HR’s & 44 RBI’s in the last two months of the season and then proceeded to make four consecutive All-Star teams with the Redbirds. The Phillies return on investment? Bud Smith, Mike Timlin & Placido Polanco.
> The Cardinals also had a somewhat successful trade on 7/31/97, when they dealt Blake Stein, T.J. Mathews & Eric Ludwick for a tall, muscular 1B named Mark McGwire. You might recall his 70 HR’s the following year.
> Speaking of curses, the Cubs ended their drought in 2016 and the key piece was Closer Aroldis Chapman. Acquired for Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney and Adam Warren, the fireballing Cuban posted 16 Saves with a 1.01 ERA and 46 K’s in 26+ innings. He added four additional Saves in the post-season.
Many other top-shelf players have moved in late July including Fred McGriff (’93), Roy Oswalt (’10), CC Sabathia (’08) & David Cone (’95).
As the old baseball cliché says, it takes years before a trade can be properly judged. The 2019 deals will be too new to rate, but fun to watch.