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Friday Five: Traded prospects

Infielder Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays

Infielder Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays bats against the St. Louis Cardinals at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (July 3, 2011) Credit: Getty

Continuing our trade-deadline series, this week, let's look at the five best prospects that were acquired in the middle of the season.

The random rule I established: I considered only players with no major-league experience prior to being traded. The teams picking them up went solely on what they saw in minor-league games.

1. JEFF BAGWELL, Houston

This trade occurred such a long time ago that I can't even find a story about it on line. But on August 30, 1990, the Red Sox - trying to bolster their bullpen for the playoffs - traded their minor-league infielder Bagwell (he played third base, second base and first base) for Andersen, who was 37 years old and an impending free agent at the time.

Anderson pitched in 15 regular-season games for the Bosox, then three more in the 1990 ALCS, in which he tallied a 6.00 ERA in three innings. Bagwell? He put together a monster career, he's one of the Astros' all-time greats and he might just make the Hall of Fame someday.

Yeah, yeah, we know about the suspicions that led to him getting less than 50 percent of the vote on his first ballot last January, and if you look at his minor-league numbers, he certainly didn't project to be a guy who would go deep 449 times in the big leagues.

But we're not here to debate or discuss that. All we know for sure is that Bagwell turned into a marvelous player.

2. JOHN SMOLTZ, Atlanta

Your classic short-term/long-term exchange. The Tigers, needing some help for the 1987 pennant race, worked a deal with the Braves in which they acquired Doyle Alexander, who proceeded to go 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 11 starts as Detroit won the AL East.

In return, Braves GM Bobby Cox received Smoltz, a 20-year-old pitching at Double-A. And that worked out pretty well for Atlanta.


When the Mariners acquired Garcia, Carlos Guillen and John Halama from Houston, in return for Randy Johnson, the general industry consensus was that Mariners GM Woody Woodward had done wrong by his fan base. And the Big Unit dominated for the Astros, as we discussed last week.

Garcia certainly didn't replicate Johnson's Seattle run. Yet he became the Mariners' ace in Seattle's playoff runs of 2000 and 2001.Given that the Mariners weren't going to re-sign Johnson - he had a tendency to wear out his welcome, his Hall of Fame performance notwithstanding - they did pretty well with Garcia.

4. BEN ZOBRIST, Tampa Bay

When the Devil Rays traded Aubrey Huff to the Astros in 2006, let's just say that it didn't clog up the yakosphere, even before Neil Best invented the term. 

Zobrist was one of the two minor leaguers Tampa Bay received, and remember, at this point, they were still the "Devil Rays" both in name and in inept spirit. Little did we know that first-year baseball operations head Andrew Friedman was putting together something special.

The Rays' offense is hurting _ they beat the Yankees last night thanks to a strong effort by "Big Game James" Shields _ but Zobrist has been a multiple-position, solid-hitting asset for a while now. Very few saw this coming back then.

5. (tie) ELVIS ANDRUS and NEFTALI FELIZ, Texas. When the Rangers traded Mark Teixeira to Atlanta back in 2007, second-year GM Jon Daniels took an interesting approach to the return package. He received one major-league-ready player (or so everyone thought) in catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but rather than complement that with other guys close to the show, he trusted his scouts' recommendations of the shortstop Andrus, then about to turn 19, and the pitcher Feliz, then 19.

That's some darn good scouting. Andrus finished second to Oakland's Andrew Bailey in the 2009 AL Rookie of the Year Award, and Feliz won the same honor last year.

--Going back to last week's Friday Five, by the way, I received some good Friday Feedback regarding my top five July rentals.

Poppy asked why I didn't include Rick Sutcliffe, who joined the 1984 Cubs midseason and went onto win the National League Cy Young Award. And on Twitter, Dave Simon (not the one who created "The Wire") wondered how Carlos Beltran of the 2004 Astros didn't make the cut.

Well, I evaded both charges on a technicality. They were both June acquisitions, and the headline read "July rentals."

In truth, however, I wholly forgot about Sutcliffe, and I had Beltran in my original list and somehow failed to transfer him over. I should've called the item "Summer rentals," thereby saluting the lousy John Candy film, and included those two.

--Have a great day.

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