During last night’s Cardinal/Brewer telecast on FSN, our friend Dan McLaughlin suggested that Matt Holliday could be the best trade-deadline acquisition ever.
That’s a big statement, but you certainly can make a case. Let’s take a look. To qualify, the team that made the trade had to go to the playoffs. Because the deadline used to be June 15, any deal after that will count. And we’ll start with the local team and expand from there…
Lou Brock, 1964 Cardinals, June 15 for Ernie Broglio.
The Cards were 28-31 and seven games back when they made the deal. They would fall to eleven games behind on August 23 before rallying to win the pennant. After getting Brock, the Cardinals went 65-38, a .631 clip…and won the World Series over the Yankees in seven games. Brock hit .348 with 42 extra base hits in 103 games. He stole 33 bases and scored 81 runs in sparking the offense. It’s VERY safe to say the Redbirds wouldn’t have won the pennant without Lou, and Broglio was out of baseball two years later. So the best deadline deal bar is set high.
Cesar Cedeno, 1985 Cardinals, August 29 for minor leaguer Mark Jackson. Cedeno was acquired to fill in for the injured Jack Clark. The Cards had won 7-of-8 and were 77-47 when the deal was made. They went 24-14 with Cedeno, who hit .434 with six homers and 19 RBI. The lead when Cedeno came aboard was two games, and it took more than a month to expand the edge to three and then four games. In the post-season, when many Cardinals were hurt or quit hitting, he was 4-27 with one RBI. Cedeno helped maintain a team that played .630 ball, but it’s impossible to say his impact was greater than Brock’s. In fact, I’d say the myth of this deal is greater than the reality.
Will Clark, 2000 Cardinals, July 31 for minor leaguer Jose Leon.
The Cardinals were 58-47 when they got Clark, but Mark McGwire was hurt and they had lost four of five. They went 37-20 thereafter, as he hit .345 with 12 homers and 42 RBI in 53 games. This one was huge. It’s hard to imagine that team could have held off a serious pursuer. But the Reds won 85 games and finished in second. I have to believe Tony LaRussa would have found a way to squeeze 86 out of that club. Big time deal, just not in my top four.
Scott Rolen, 2002 Cardinals, July 29 for Placido Polanco, Bud Smith and Mike Timlin.
After the tragic death of Darryl Kile, the ’02 club had already found it’s sea legs at 58-44 when Rolen was acquired. In fact, their five game division lead was sliced to one game within eight days of his arrival. To their credit, the Cards pulled away, playing .650 ball after the trade. Rolen hit .278 with 14 homers and 44 RBI in 55 games for the ’02 Cardinals, and of course provided spectacular defense. Would that team have won without the Rolen trade? Probably. Polanco was pretty good, and don’t forget that Chuck Finley was acquired on the same day. So far, this one is number three on the list for me.
Randy Johnson, 1998 Astros, July 31 for Carlos Guillen, Freddie Garcia and John Halama.
The Big Unit helped Houston pull away in the NL Central, as their 3-game lead ballooned to a thirteen game division win over the Cubs. Johnson was brilliant, going 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA in his two months. This is one deal where we have to count the post-season, because that’s why Johnson was acquired. And, the Astros lost in the first round to San Diego. Nice deal, but not close to the greatest.
Carlos Beltran, 2004 Astros, June 24 for Ocavio Dotel and John Buck (three team deal).
The Astros were 38-34, five games behind the Cardinals, when the deal was made, and finished thirteen games behind, winning 92 games and the Wild Card. Beltran hit .258 with 23 homers and 53 RBI, and a .926 OPS, but did kill the Cards in the NLCS, which Houston lost. A nice player, but not a massive impact on his team.
Rick Sutcliffe, 1984 Cubs, June 13 for Joe Carter, Mel Hall and Don Schulze.
The Cubs were 34-25, and had a 1.5 game lead when the deal was made. He went 16-1, and the team went 18-2 in his starts. They won the division by 6.5. The team went 78-63 in games Sutcliffe didn’t start. If the Cubs hadn’t made the deal, and they had gone 10-10 in those starts, 88-73 wasn’t good enough to win the division. Sutcliffe was the difference between a playoff spot and October golf. This one goes to number two on the list.
Manny Ramirez, 2008 Dodgers, July 31 for Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris (three team deal).
L.A. was a .500 team, 54-54 when they made the deal, and went 30-23 thereafter. Manny hit .396 with 17 homers, 14 doubles, and 53 RBI in 53 games, with a 1.232 OPS in the last two months with L.A. Safe to say the Dodgers don’t make the playoffs without the deal. From a business standpoint, Manny sold lots and lots of tickets. So because he added not only a division championship, but money to the till, I’m going to put Manny at #2…ahead of Sutcliffe and behind Brock…for now.
Holliday, 2009 Cardinals, July 24 for Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortenson and Shane Peterson.
The Cardinals were 52-46 when they commenced play on July 24, and have gone 31-11 since. Could Albert Pujols’ Cards, with an outfield of Rick Ankiel, Colby Rasmus and Ryan Ludwick…and probably Chris Duncan…done that? Probably not. However, with this year’s Cardinal pitching, I believe they still would have stayed in first place and won the division. That being said, Holliday is hitting .381 with 26 extra base hits (12 homers) and 41 RBI in 42 games. His OPS is 1.143. Pretty darn good. Holliday is another deal where the impact can be judged by post-season success…so we’ll have to wait and see.
I have trouble believing Holliday is going to have as much regular season impact as Brock, Ramirez or Sutcliffe, because I think the Cardinals would have made the playoffs anyway. But to do what he’s doing is remarkable, and there’s no doubt his trade to the Cardinals is one of the best deadline deals ever.