CHICAGO – As of late Friday night, it was all quiet on the trading front. Sort of.
The Red Sox are considering all their options for upgrading their pitching staff, but no deal was considered imminent. That comes as no real surprise, since the Sox typically like to sneak their deals in just under the July 31 trade deadline for non-waiver trades, as if in homage to Indiana Jones yanking his hat from beneath the crushing weight of a closing door.
In the nine seasons under GM Theo Epstein, the Sox have pulled off 20 trades during what would traditionally be considered trade deadline season – the period that commences with the second half of the season and runs through the trade deadline. Of those, 10 have come on the final day – and frequently in the final minutes – of the deadline.
The Sox have made July 31 trades in six of the last eight years under Epstein, a reflection of the idea that nothing motivates negotiations quite like a deadline. The Sox have been both buyers and sellers on the last day of July, a date that permits the fullest view of the landscape of who is available and at what cost, often forcing sellers to drop their prices or inciting buyers to raise their bids.
The Sox embrace the trade deadline as an opportunity both to improve their club in the short term and to address some needs beyond the season at hand. As such, they have been among the most aggressive teams in baseball at this time of year on an annual basis.
Yet as much as the July 31 deadline is treated with a sense of urgency by fans and the media, and as easy as it is to become convinced that championships are won and lost by the movement of players at this time of year, it is fascinating to note how untrue that notion is.
Aside from the two Red Sox World Series winners in 2004 and 2007, there have been almost no blockbusters involving teams that went on to win championships during Epstein’s tenure. More often, teams that went on to win championships have either done nothing at the deadline or seen small tweaks assume unexpectedly enormous significance.
Here is a look at the trade deadline deals made by Epstein over the last eight years, as well as by the eventual World Series winner in each of those summers in the final days of July:
The Red Sox dealt for the future with a pair of trades on July 31, making one deal for a catcher of the future in Jarrod Saltalamacchia and another to bolster the team’s corps of minor league pitchers in acquiring right-hander Daniel Turpen.
One year later, Saltalamacchia has emerged as a key regular on the Red Sox, splitting everyday duties with Jason Varitek while gaining the trust of the pitching staff and emerging as an above-average offensive contributor.
“I thought it was a lot of foresight when Theo did that,” said manager Terry Francona on Friday. “Obviously we weren't going to play him a lot when we got him. But I think that was the hope - that he could be our catcher. I think we stated that this winter with a lot of conviction, that we thought he could do it and we were willing to be patient. I think we're getting paid for that right now."
The Giants, meanwhile, did what appeared to be little more than tinkering around the margins of their club, acquiring one right-handed and one left-handed reliever. Yet both Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez assumed huge roles, as both delivered outstanding performances down the stretch to help propel the Giants to the postseason, and Lopez was a key performer as a shutdown left-on-left reliever during the postseason, a reminder that in a small sample, even apparently minimal deals can have a huge impact.
Red Sox –
- Traded three minor leaguers (RHP Roman Mendez, 1B Chris McGuiness and C Michael Thomas) to the Rangers for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia on July 31.
- Traded reliever Ramon Ramirez for minor leaguer Daniel Turpen on July 31.
World Series winner (Giants) –
- Traded minor leaguer Daniel Turpen to the Red Sox for reliever Ramon Ramirez on July 31.
- Traded OF John Bowker and RHP Joe Martinez to the Pirates for LHP Javier Lopez on July 31.
The Sox had their busiest trade deadline period, at least in terms of the volume of trades they made, striking five deals in a 10-day span, including two on July 31. The centerpiece was the deal to land catcher Victor Martinez, which addressed not only a need for the 2009 season (at a time when catcher Jason Varitek’s offense had cratered) but also for the 2010 campaign, since Martinez had a very club-friendly club option for that year.
The Yankees were criticized roundly that year for their failure to make a deadline move, aside from a tweak to land a utility man in Jerry Hairston Jr. Yet it turned out that the Yankees didn’t need to make a move, as they went on to win the World Series.
Red Sox –
- Traded shortstop Julio Lugo to the Cardinals for outfielder Chris Duncan on July 22.
- Traded two minor leaguers (SS Argenis Diaz and RHP Hunter Strickland) to the Pirates for first baseman Adam LaRoche on July 22.
- Traded outfielder Mark Kotsay to the White Sox for outfielder Brian Anderson on July 28.
- Traded three pitchers (RHP Justin Masterson, LHP Nick Hagadone, RHP Bryan Price) to the Indians for catcher Victor Martinez on July 31
- Traded first baseman Adam LaRoche to Braves for first baseman Casey Kotchman on July 31
World Series winner (Yankees) –
- Traded minor league C Chase Weems to the Reds for UT Jerry Hairston
The Red Sox were in a position where they felt compelled to deal Manny Ramirez following a bizarre sequence of antics: sitting out of games with invented knee injuries, calling impromptu press conferences demanding that he be traded (“Enough is enough!” having become a common refrain), pushing the team’s traveling secretary and more.
But they couldn’t dump him without getting a compelling replacement back. It took until the last seconds before the trade deadline to work out the three-way deal that brought Jason Bay to Boston as Ramirez’ replacement.
The Phillies, meanwhile, had made their big move just before the trade deadline season opened in earnest, acquiring right-hander Joe Blanton from the A’s on the last day before the second half began. Blanton went 2-0 in three postseason starts, all of which the Phillies won.
Red Sox –
- Traded outfielder Manny Ramirez and cash to the Dodgers and minor leaguers Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss to the Pirates as part of a three-team deal for Pirates outfielder Jason Bay on July 31.
World Series winner (Phillies) –
- Traded three minor leaguers (LHP Josh Outman, OF Matt Spencer, INF Adrian Cardenas) to the A's for RHP Joe Blanton on July 17.
The 2007 Sox were a fairly well-balanced lot that arguably bore the most resemblance to the 2011 version of the club. The team had spent heavily in the offseason (J.D. Drew, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Julio Lugo) to build a championship-caliber club one year after missing the playoffs. They were successful in doing so.
That year, the Sox had rotation concerns with Curt Schilling working his way back from injury and with the back of the rotation being handled on a somewhat ad hoc basis (23 starts for Julian Tavarez?). The team tried to land Mark Buehrle, but could not pry him from the White Sox. The Sox then looked to address the deficient outfield production of Drew, making a run at Jermaine Dye. Again, the White Sox held onto their middle-of-the-order contributor.
And so, the Sox used the full scope of the deadline to assess how they could make their best available upgrade. In the hours before the deadline, they reached a deal with the Rangers for reliever Eric Gagne, hoping to fortify a bullpen that had been one of their foremost strengths.
Gagne tanked while failing to adapt to a new relief role, but the cost in prospects represented an acceptable risk to the Sox (Murphy has been a steady but unspectacular third or fourth outfielder, the team sold high on Gabbard, and Beltre remains a work in progress as a 21-year-old struggling in Double-A). The Sox offset some of the loss in prospects with a draft pick they received when Gagne departed as a free agent.
The Sox have never had to rue this decision since they won the World Series, and because the prospects simply haven't come back to haunt them to this point.
Red Sox –
- Traded three minor players (minor league OFs David Murphy and Engel Beltre, LHP Kason Gabbard) to the Rangers for reliever Eric Gagne on July 31
- Traded RHP Joel Pineiro and cash to the Cardinals for minor league OF Sean Danielson on July 31
World Series winner (Red Sox)
The Sox thought that their pitching would prove a bit short in 2006, and they were right. A catastrophic sequence of health concerns savaged the pitching staff, and while the team tried to find upgrades – most notably, exploring the availability of Astros pitchers Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge – they couldn’t find an acceptable deal and stood pat at the deadline, save for a minor move for reliever Bryan Corey.
In fact, there were few moves to be made that trade deadline season, save for a salary dump of Bobby Abreu by the Phillies (who sent the outfielder to the Yankees). The Cardinals made a pair of easy-to-ignore deals in acquiring second baseman Ronnie Belliard from the Indians and reliever Jorge Sosa from the Braves.
Belliard became a regular second baseman, albeit one who delivered almost no offensive production. Sosa performed poorly and was left off the playoff roster. Yet even though those two players failed to add any impact, and even though they were, quite frankly, not a good team, the 83-78 Cardinals became the team with the worst record ever to win the World Series.
Red Sox –
- Traded minor league RHP Luis Mendoza to the Rangers for reliever Bryan Corey on July 30.
World Series winner (Cardinals) –
- Traded Hector Luna to the Indians for second baseman Ronnie Belliard on July 30.
- Traded minor-league right-hander Rich Scalamandre to the Braves for reliever Jorge Sosa on July 31.
One year after the Red Sox won the World Series, their pitching staff was worse for wear. Injuries to key 2004 contributors such as Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke left both the rotation and bullpen in bad shape. The Sox wanted to improve, but GM Theo Epstein would say after the deadline that year that the cost of milk had been too great to stomach at the deadline that year.
The team instead made its biggest upgrade by promoting wide-eyed prospect Jonathan Papelbon to make his big league debut on July 31. Between Papelbon and a powerful offense, the Sox had enough to make the playoffs, but were quickly erased in a three-game sweep by a White Sox team with vastly superior pitching.
As for those aforementioned White Sox, they were able to make only a minor upgrade at the deadline, striking a deal for utility man Geoff Blum. Blum made almost no discernible impact in the regular season (hitting .200 with a .506 OPS), but he slugged a pinch-hit homer in his only at-bat of the World Series to send Chicago to victory in the 14th inning of Game 2.
Red Sox –
- Traded minor league RHP Scott Cassidy to the Padres for OF Adam Hyzdu on July 19
- Traded two minor leaguers (LHP Juan Cedeno and OF Chip Ambres) to the Royals for 2B Tony Graffanino on July 19
- Traded two minor leaguers (SS Kenny Perez and RHP Kyle Bono) to the Diamondbacks for OF Jose Cruz and cash on July 30
World Series winner (White Sox) –
- Traded minor league left-hander Ryan Meaux to the Padres for utility man Geoff Blum on July 31
Whether it was injuries, concern about his clubhouse presence of both, the Red Sox made a bold move minutes before the trade deadline on July 31, cutting ties with franchise icon Nomar Garciaparra in order to upgrade a horrific defense that was on pace to rank among the worst in major league history. The team also made complementary moves at and shortly after the deadline, adding the likes of Dave Roberts and left-handed reliever Mike Myers. The result was a well-balanced roster that stormed through the end of the regular season and through the postseason.
Red Sox –
- Traded minor league 3B John Hattig to the Blue Jays for reliever Terry Adams on July 24
- Traded minor league OF Henri Stanley to the Dodgers for OF Dave Roberts on July 31
- Traded SS Nomar Garciaparra and minor league OF Matt Murton as part of a four-team deal for SS Orlando Cabrera (from the Expos) and 1B Doug Mientkiewicz (from the Twins) on July 31
World Series winner (Red Sox)
The Sox had a historically good offense, a team that set records for slugging percentage and extra-base hits. Yet they also featured a pitching staff that had glaring deficiencies in both the rotation and bullpen.
The Sox traded early and often to try to reshape their bullpen in 2003, starting with a trade for Byung-Hyun Kim in May and going right through the deadline with the acquisitions of left-hander Scott Sauerbeck and right-hander Scott Williamson, while also adding starter Jeff Suppan in the final hours before the deadline.
Interestingly, few of the moves had consistent returns. Kim stabilized the bullpen at times as a closer, but fell out of favor down the stretch and during the postseason, when many of his teammates felt he quit on them when declaring himself unavailable for the ALCS. Williamson and Sauerbeck were bad during the regular season, though Williamson became a strong contributor in the playoffs. Suppan was bad during the regular season and had no real place in the team’s pitching plans in October.
The Marlins made a series of huge moves just outside of the traditional hot period of the trade deadline period. Days before the end of the first half, they traded a minor league first baseman by the name of Adrian Gonzalez to the Rangers for back-end reliever Ugueth Urbina, who became a late-innings force. (Here’s a look back at that deal.) And in August, they signed Sox castoff Chad Fox, who did everything with the Marlins that the Sox had hoped he would do – but didn’t – in Boston. But the Marlins didn’t make a true deadline move in their run to a title.
Red Sox –
- Traded RHP Brandon Lyon and minor league RHP Anastacio Martinez to the Pirates for LHP Scott Sauerbeck and minor league LHP Mike Gonzalez on July 22
- Traded minor league LHP Phil Dumatrait and player to be named (minor league LHP Tyler Pelland) for reliever Scott Williamson on July 30, 2011
- Traded two minor leaguers (2B Freddy Sanchez and LHP Mike Gonzalez) to the Pirates for RHPs Jeff Suppan, Brandon Lyon and Anastacio Martinez on July 31
World Series winner (Florida Marlins)