Brad Bortone: ¬†June 19, 1989 – Mets trade Roger McDowell and Len Dykstra to Philadelphia for Juan Samuel, a second baseman asked to play center field. In one knee-jerk maneuver, the Mets began the final dismantling of their 1986 championship team, while simultaneously setting the stage for an endless parade of big name/small production acquisitions that would define them for decades. (Now please excuse me while I go sit in a corner and rock silently for a few minutes.)
Andy Smith:¬†Coming into 1997, the Pirates weren’t expected to do anything but lose 100 games. The last remaining pieces of the early decade division winning teams had been dealt away previous winter as part of a complete rebuild. Yet somehow, thanks a little to a surprisingly solid pitching staff, and a lot to luck and a terrible NL Central, the Pirates found themselves still in contention for the playoffs on August 31. Earlier that week, yet another shortstop (the immortal Kevin Polcovich) headed to the DL. Polcovich was the latest casualty in a season that saw the Pirates run through guys at the position like Spinal Tap ran through drummers. From the Cubs, GM Cam Bonifay acquired SS Shawon Dunston, a real live veteran major-leaguer making above the league minimum. The Pirates, who were paying their entire roster, less than the White Sox were paying Albert Belle, were going for it. For a team clinging to every extra penny, the move was a sign that maybe this could really happen. That Pirates team, despite Dunston’s best efforts, fell just short of the Astros for the division crown. But the fact that the collection of misfit talent forced management to increase payroll, and, in turn, allowed us fans to dream a little longer, may have been a more impressive accomplishment than making the postseason.
Landon Evanson:¬†On July 16, 2003 the Twins traded Bobby Kielty to the Blue Jays for Shannon Stewart in a deal that literally turned Minnesota’s season around. The Twins were 44-49 and 7.5 games behind Kansas City in the AL Central standings when GM Terry Ryan pulled the trigger, and it may have been the trade of his career. Stewart went on to bat .322 with a .384 on-base percentage as the Twins finished 46-23 (.667) to close out the season with their second consecutive division title while Stewart’s efforts garnered fourth in AL MVP voting. Icing on the cake? Stewart blasted a game-tying, three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth and drove in all four runs of a 4-3 victory over the Royals to pull within a half game of KC on August 21 and made a ninth inning, Game 1-saving snag that helped the Twins win the division series opener against the Yankees that October.
Patrick Smith:¬†There are lots of famous Orioles trades. Frank Robinson from the Reds for Milt Pappas and two sacks of potatoes. Ken Singleton and Mike Torrez from Montreal for a washed-up Dave McNally and Rich Coggins. A 1976 deal that pretty much exchanged all the Yankees for all the Orioles. And honorable mention for the deal that sent Koji Uehara to Texas for Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter. But to me, the winner is this one in 2008: From Seattle, Baltimore gets Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, George Sherrill, another reliever and an outfield prospect for … Erik Bedard.
Seth Tearz:¬†I became an Angel fan in 1986. Wally World invaded Orange County and the Angels grabbed the Western division title. Wally Joyner was my favorite player for years. Twenty-two years later, home grown Angels Casey Kotchman, 25, was in his second season as¬†the starting first baseman and the Angels were sniffing another division title. But management had World Series plans. On July 29, 2008, they traded Kotchman and minor league pitcher Stephen Marek to Atlanta for Mark Teixiera. The switch-hitter slugged 13 home runs and 12 doubles in 54 games on his way to a slash of .358/.449/.632. The Angels won the division but lost to Boston in the ALDS. Tex went 4-7 with 4 BB. That winter he signed his monster deal with the Yankees. As compensation, the Angels received the Yankees first round pick, 25th overall. They used it to draft Mike Trout.
Peter Robins-Brown:¬†The John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander trade in 1987 is one that I’ll defend to the death (Alexander went 9-1 down the stretch for a Tigers team that, despite getting knocked out in the ALCS, was probably the best in all of baseball that year). But the more recent deal where the Tigers sent Jacob Turner and, I believe, a few of those players from Major League who you only saw in the background and never had any speaking lines to the Marlins for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante is my favorite deadline deal of the past 10 years.
Scott Fendley:¬†Oh, how can we forget the four waway (how can any of us forget a four wayway): NOMAH! to the Cubs along with the Ginger, Matt Murton, Alex (WHO SHOULD HAVE MADE THAT PLAY ON THE GODDAMN GROUNDER IN GAME SIX AGAINST THE MARLINS AND NO ONE WOULD REMEMBER¬†WHO BARTMAN WAS AND YES I AM STILL BITTER) Gonzalez, Francis Beltran and Brendan Harris to the Expos, a minor leaguer to the Twins, and Doug Mientkewicz and Orlando Cabrera to the SAWX…
Keith Good:¬†The 2002 Expos’ fire sale to Cleveland: Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew. If only Eric Wedge hadn’t run Phillips out of Cleveland and Run Sizemore into injury.
Duke Jackson:¬†David Cone to the Yankees on 7/28/95 from Toronto. The Yankees were just coming out of the Steinbrenner Cold War doldrums in 1994, but since the season was strike-shortened, Yankee fans had¬†no idea whether to believe the team was finally turning it around. But by late-July ’95, at 41-42, the team was more pretender than contender. Enter David Cone, World Series winner and the hired gun of the ’90s. All of a sudden, the Yankees were legit again. Cone started on the 29th, pitched eight innings and struck out nine against the Twins, picking up the 4-2 win. Sure, the ’95 season didn’t end ideally, but the seeds of a dynasty were planted. The Yankees were back.