Five unforgettable trade deadline deals

Major League Baseball’s trade deadline is a date every baseball fan circles on their calendar.

Despite the circumstances and the deadline being rescheduled for Aug. 31, this year is no different.

The attraction is simple. While there’s no guarantee something substantial will happen, there’s always a chance something could happen that will be talked about for years to come.

[Follow the 2020 MLB trade deadline with Yahoo Sports’ deal tracker]

This year, the odds of a blockbuster are slimmer than most. The COVID-19 pandemic has shortened the season to 60 games, while MLB has expanded the postseason field to 16. Those changes will significantly alter how teams approach the deadline, thus limiting the chances of something earth-shattering taking place.

But what if something earth-shattering does happen? Nobody wants to miss out on that, just like nobody wanted to miss out on these five trades that shook up the baseball world.

Let’s take a look back, beginning with the day Manny Ramirez became a Dodger.

On July 31, 2008, Manny Ramirez was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-team, six player deal. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
On July 31, 2008, Manny Ramirez was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-team, six player deal. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Manny Ramirez era ends in Boston

The deal: Boston Red Sox traded Manny Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of a three-team, six-player deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  

The date: July 31, 2008

Why it was memorable: When has anything involving Manny Ramirez not been memorable? 

This was particularly memorable, though, because of the circumstances. Ramirez’s relationship with the Red Sox was strained over the final years of his eight-year, $160 million contract, and that’s putting it mildly. 

The Red Sox had grown tired of Ramirez’s “Manny being Manny” antics. On the other side, Ramirez was fed up with constantly being mentioned in trade rumors. It came to a head when Ramirez told reporters “the Red Sox don't deserve a player like me.” He later added, “I've seen how the Red Sox have mistreated other great players when they didn't want them to try to turn the fans against them.”

Clearly, the relationship was not salvageable. 

Ramirez played three more seasons with the Dodgers, Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, but was never really the same after leaving Boston. His last MLB appearance was in 2011. Ramirez isn’t completely done though. He just signed with the Sydney Blue Sox in Australia.

This trade included another big name. The Red Sox acquired Jason Bay from Pittsburgh. At the time, Bay was seemingly entering the prime of a standout career. He lived up to the hype when he hit 36 homers for Boston in 2009. The next season, he signed with the New York Mets. From there, Bay went into a steep decline that led to his retirement at age 34. 

Dodgers acquire Yu Darvish with minutes to spare

The deal: Texas Rangers traded Yu Darvish to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy and Brendon Davis.

The date: July 31, 2017

Why it was memorable: The MLB trade deadline had its own version of a buzzer-beater. As the final minutes ticked down, the Dodgers turned the deadline upside down by finalizing a deal for Yu Darvish.  

The Dodgers rotation was already well-stocked with Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and Rich Hill leading the way, but Darvish solidified their status as the team to beat in the National League. That would hold true all the way to the World Series, where Darvish faltered and lost two games as the Dodgers fell to the Astros in seven games.

Of course, we're all now aware of the unbelievable circumstances that surrounded that series and almost certainly impacted Darvish's performance

The following winter, Darvish signed a six-year, $126 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. After two injury-plagued seasons, he’s among the frontrunners for the NL Cy Young this season with a 1.70 ERA through 37 innings.

Houston Astros Randy Johnson delivers the first pitch of game one of the National League division playoffs between the San Diego Padres and the Astros in Houston, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 1998. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Houston Astros Randy Johnson delivers the first pitch of game one of the National League division playoffs between the San Diego Padres and the Astros in Houston, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 1998. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Astros acquire Randy Johnson from Mariners

The deal: Seattle Mariners traded Randy Johnson to the Houston Astros for Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen and a player to be named later (John Halama). 

The date: July 31, 1998

Why it was memorable: The Hall of Fame left-hander had become such a staple in Seattle that it was shocking to see him pitch elsewhere.

We grew used to it, of course, because Johnson continued his domination during his brief three-month stint with Houston and beyond with the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he won four straight Cy Young awards from 1999-2002.

Johnson provided Houston with exactly what it needed. He was a true ace, posting a 10-1 record along with a 1.28 ERA and 116 strikeouts in just 11 games. The Astros finished the season with 102 wins, but were quickly eliminated by the San Diego Padres in the NLDS. 

Big Mac heads to St. Louis

The deal: Oakland Athletics traded Mark McGwire to the St. Louis Cardinals for Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews and Blake Stein.

The date: July 31, 1997

Why it was memorable: At the time, it was a huge deal seeing one of baseball's most elite power hitters changing addresses. Of course, it became an even bigger deal the following summer when McGwire hit a then record 70 home runs. 

McGwire had established himself quickly, hitting 49 home runs as a rookie in 1987. That, too, was a record until Aaron Judge broke it in 2017. While injuries slowed “Big Mac” down quite a bit during the early ‘90s, he emerged again with 52 home runs in 1996 and 58 between Oakland and St. Louis in 1997. 

In 2010, McGwire would admit to using steroids during his career. That put a dark cloud over his accomplishments and strained his relationship with the Cardinals’ organization and their fans. They are all back on good terms now after McGwire was inducted into the Cardinals’ Hall of Fame in 2017. 

Mariners trade Ichiro to the Yankees

The deal: Seattle Mariners traded Ichiro Suzuki to the New York Yankees for Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell.

The date: July 23, 2012

Why it was memorable: Much like Randy Johnson 14 years earlier, Ichiro had become such a staple in Seattle that it was stunning to see him traded. That he was traded to MLB’s most storied franchise added another layer of shock, but also provided Ichiro with his biggest stage to showcase his talent. 

Unfortunately, Ichiro's time in New York wasn't as memorable as the Yankees had hoped. In two-plus seasons, he posted a .281/.314/.364 batting line with 13 homers and 84 RBIs. That's a noted dip from his production in Seattle, where he essentially wrapped up a Hall of Fame plaque in just 12 seasons. 

Ichiro returned to Seattle in 2018 after spending three seasons with the Miami Marlins. He finished his MLB career with 3,089 hits. Ichiro recorded 1,278 hits during his professional career in Japan, making him baseball's true hit king in the eyes of many. 

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