There are no small trades. Baseball executives remind themselves of that often, and it’s a refrain for fans to keep in mind at this juncture of the baseball calendar. When the the non-waiver trade deadline passes at 4 p.m. Monday, the biggest stars on the block may have stayed put. No matter what transpires, though, a deadline deal made with this year in mind may resonate in the future.
Sometimes, overlooked trades involving mid-tier prospects and complementary pieces are the ones that matter the most. If a trade doesn’t change this pennant race, it may still leave a dent on a future season. Here are five players who came to their current contending teams in recent deadline trades that feel a lot bigger now than they did at the time.
Jake Arrieta, Cubs
The Baltimore Orioles wanted a rotation upgrade in 2013, and Arrieta had come to feel like dead weight, a one-time prospect who had fallen well short of his potential. The Cubs thought they might be able to steal a controllable starter who could helped by a change of scenery. A lot of teams talk themselves into that with a lot of players, and they almost never turn into Jake Arrieta. The Cubs also picked up set-up man Pedro Strop for Steve Clevenger and the at-the-time big name in the deal, Scott Feldman.
Wilson Ramos, Nationals
By 2010, the Minnesota Twins had improbably established themselves as a perpetual contender, but one that always fell short of October success. Their talented roster in 2010 convinced them to acquire all-star closer Matt Capps from Washington. It cost them Class AAA catcher Wilson Ramos, at the time deemed expendable because Joe Mauer was blocking him. Mauer hasn’t been a regular catcher for years, Capps helped but couldn’t push Minnesota over the hump and Ramos is an all-star, part of the franchise bedrock.
Tanner Roark, Nationals
The 2010 deadline was good to the 2016 Nats. Just under the gun, the Texas Rangers, seeking infield depth, sent two Class A pitchers to the Nationals for Cristian Guzman. Roark plodded through the Nationals’ minor league system, surfaced in the majors in late 2013 and has done nothing since but become a crucial and reliable cog in the Nationals’ rotation. For the Rangers, Guzman reached base 10 times in 50 plate appearances over 15 games, got left off the postseason roster and never set foot on a big league diamond again. As one Rangers evaluator said last winter: “Whoops.”
Carlos Santana, Indians
The trade people remember from the 2008 deadline is the seismic deal that sent Manny Ramirez from Boston to Los Angeles. Another Dodgers deal still lingers over this season almost decade later. A couple of days before the creation of Mannywood, the Dodgers acquired third baseman Casey Blake from the Indians for two prospects, including 22-year-old catcher Carlos Santana. Eight years later, Santana is a power-hitting designated hitter who sits in the middle of a loaded Indians lineup.
Chris Davis, Orioles
The Rangers needed to bolster their bullpen in 2011 and targeted Koji Uehara. In order to pry him from Baltimore, they sent young right-hander Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis, a hulking strikeout machine who had struggled to stick in the majors. He has become another change-of-scenery miracle. Since 2011, he’s hit more homers – 181 – than any player in baseball, and he stayed in Baltimore long-term after signing a seven-year, $161 million contract this winter.