Every year, Major League Baseball teams in playoff contention have to decide if they’re good enough to win World Series title or if they need additional roster upgrades to get to a championship level.
That’s why the traditional July 31 trade deadline can be so exciting. The clock is ticking as the phone lines are burning. And once the smoke clears, the stretch run officially begins.
Even though this year’s trade deadline has moved to Aug. 31 because of the shortened 2020 season, we can still look back at the top 10 trade deals of the past 20 years that just beat the deadline.
Perhaps one of today’s trades might possibly find a place on the list …
No. 10 (tie)
2003: The Yankees acquire 3B Aaron Boone from the Reds for LHPs Brandon Claussen, Charlie Manning.
2004: Red Sox get OF Dave Roberts from the Dodgers for OF prospect Henri Stanley.
We take the liberty of grouping these together because these seemingly minor trades paid off with a huge memorable postseason moment. Boone hit the walk-off home run in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Red Sox to send the Yankees to the 2003 World Series.
The following year, Roberts stole second base in the ninth inning of ALCS Game 4 with the Red Sox on the verge of being eliminated by the Yankees. He scored the tying run that fueled Boston to an improbable World Series title.
2011: The Giants acquire OF Carlos Beltran from the Mets for RHP Zack Wheeler.
This one was interesting because Beltran, 34, put up a .920 OPS for the Giants, but couldn’t get them back to the postseason to defend their World Series crown. He was only with the Giants for that season, but made it to the playoffs five times in the next six years. Wheeler, 21, eventually reached the majors in 2013 with the Mets and won 47 games for them before leaving this past winter as a free agent.
2019: Astros pick up RHP Zack Greinke from the Diamondbacks for four prospects (1B/OF Seth Beer, RHP Corbin Martin, RHP J.B. Bukauskas, OF Josh Rojas).
Greinke went 8-1 with a 3.02 ERA down the stretch as the Astros reached the World Series.
2009: The Reds trade 3B Edwin Encarnacion to the Blue Jays for 3B Scott Rolen.
At 34, Rolen seemed to be rolling toward the end of his career. He had battled injuries the previous two seasons, but had enjoyed a solid first half of 2009. Although he didn’t make an instant impact, he returned to his All-Star form the next two seasons in Cincinnati — winning a Gold Glove in 2010 and finishing 14th in the MVP balloting.
Encarnacion, meanwhile, took a little while to blossom. A poor defender, his career took off with the ability to DH. He broke out in his age-29 season, hitting .280 with 42 homers and 110 RBI in 2012. That marked the first of seven consecutive seasons of driving in at least 98 runs.
2018: The Pirates acquire RHP Chris Archer from the Rays for minor league RHPs Tyler Glasnow and Shane Baz and OF Austin Meadows.
The Pirates were initially lauded for landing an emerging ace who could keep their flickering playoff hopes alive. But Archer has struggled with injuries and the home run ball since arriving in Pittsburgh. Recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome this year, he’s probably played his last game for the Pirates.
Glasnow, 24, and Meadows, 23, had yet to establish themselves as major leaguers at the time of the trade, but both have shown exceptionally high ceilings since joining the Rays.
2015: The Mets acquire OF Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers for RHPs Luis Cessa and Michael Fulmer.
This deal worked out very well for both teams in the short term. Cespedes became an instant fan favorite in Queens, hitting .287 with 17 homers and 44 RBI in 57 games and leading the Mets to the World Series.
Fulmer reached the majors the following season, going 11-7 with a 3.06 ERA for the Tigers and winning AL Rookie of the Year honors. He made the AL All-Star team in 2017, but has battled injuries the past two seasons.
2004: The Red Sox trade SS Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs in a four-team deal that netted them 1B Doug Mientkiewicz from the Twins and SS Orlando Cabrera from the Expos.
It was huge news when the BoSox dealt away their five-time All-Star and franchise icon in the middle of a pennant race. But Garciaparra had just turned 31, and both Mientkiewicz and Cabrera played important roles in Boston winning the World Series and breaking the Curse of the Bambino.
2010: The Indians acquired RHP Corey Kluber from the Padres in a three-way deal that sent RHP Jake Westbrook to the Cardinals and OF Ryan Ludwick to the Padres.
Kluber, 24, had only made it to Class AA at the time of the trade, but he made his major league debut the following season and eventually became the ace of the Indians’ rotation — winning the AL Cy Young Award in 2014 and 2017.
2007: The Rangers trade 1B Mark Teixeira and RHP Ron Mahay to the Braves for SS Elvis Andrus, RP Neftali Feliz, SP Matt Harrison and C Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Atlanta couldn’t ask for much more production from Teixeira, 27, a two-time Gold Glover with 140 homers in his first four MLB seasons. He hit .317/.404/.615 with 17 home runs and 56 RBI in 54 games after the trade. But the Braves failed to make the playoffs that season … and the wealth of talent they gave up formed the nucleus of a Rangers team that reached back-to-back World Series in 2010 and 2011.
2008: The Dodgers acquire OF Manny Ramirez from the Red Sox in a three-way deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
How could we forget “Mannywood”? At age 36, Ramirez almost single-handedly carried the Dodgers to the NL West title. In just 53 games, Ramirez hit .396./489./743 with 17 home runs and 53 RBI. Amazingly, he even finished fourth in the NL MVP voting despite only two months in a Dodger uniform.