With Monday’s 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline approaching, it’s an anxious time for general managers, as well as the owners who need to sign off on any last-minute swaps, as the clock ticks. There’s a lot to process, between the scouting reports, projections and the money obligations for the next two months and beyond. In considering all of these factors, it can be difficult to evaluate a deadline trade. Did the move get a contending team into the playoffs? Was the player a success the following season? And if the deal involved a prospect, did he turn out to be as advertised?
Keeping those things in mind, here’s a glance at some of the best deadline trades by the Mets and Yankees, ranked according to the positive impact on the club.
1. June 15, 1983: Cardinals trade Keith Hernandez for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey
This date used to be the deadline, and this swap was a fleecing by the Mets, who benefited from the Cardinals — and specifically manager Whitey Herzog — souring on Hernandez, both for a dip in his performance and drug use. That allowed Mets general manager Frank Cashen to buy low on a former batting champ and the 1979 co-MVP (with Willie Stargell) who was just 29. The Mets only won 68 games that season, but Hernandez became part of Cashen’s rebuilding vision that resulted in the ’86 title. The perennial Gold Glove winner batted .296 with a .383 on-base percentage during seven seasons in Flushing, then traded his spikes for a microphone as a beloved fixture on the Mets TV broadcast.
2. June 15, 1969: Expos trade Donn Clendenon for Steve Renko, Kevin Collins, Bill Carden, Dave Colon and Terry Dailey
Judging by the way Clendenon found his way to Flushing, it seems the “Miracle Mets” were destined to win the ’69 Series. Montreal first traded Clendenon to the Astros in January of that year, but he retired rather than report to Houston, forcing his return. Six months later, the Mets needed some offensive power to pair with their stellar rotation and acquired the first baseman, who at age 33 still turned out to be the perfect complement. He slugged 12 homers over the final 72 games to help the Mets erase an eight-game deficit to overtake the Cubs, then went deep three times during the World Series to earn MVP honors in a five-game upset of the Orioles.
3. July 31, 2015: Tigers trade Yoenis Cespedes for Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa
The Mets really hadn’t been connected to Cespedes in the days leading up to the deadline, but the deal came together fast, with Sandy Alderson & Co. putting the finishing touches on it with only minutes to spare. Cespedes was a pending free agent, and that probably helped spur him to a supernatural second half as he batted .287 with 17 home runs and 44 RBIs in 57 games to lead the Mets to the NL East title and ultimately the World Series. The Mets have signed him twice since, including to a four-year, $110-million contract last December, so what started as a rental evolved into much more. And that’s good, considering Fulmer has blossomed into an ace-caliber pitcher in Detroit, and Cessa is currently a serviceable swingman on the Yankees’ staff.
4. July 23/July 31 1999: Athletics trade Kenny Rogers for Leo Vasquez and Terrence Long; Rockies trade Darryl Hamilton and Chuck McElroy for Thomas Johns, Rigo Beltran and Brian McRae
Just eight days apart, these trades are lumped together as deadline difference-makers as both helped propel the Mets to their first playoff appearance since 1988. At first glance, Rogers probably elicits groans from the fan base for being stuck in that impossible NLCS spot. But the lefty went 5-1 with a 4.03 ERA and averaged over six innings in his 12 starts during the regular season. As for Hamilton, he batted .339 with an .898 OPS over 55 games that year before sliding over the next two and getting released in 2001.
5. July 28, 2011: Giants trade Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran and cash
There was some doubt Beltran, with a history of worsening knee issues, would even be able to complete the seven-year, $119-million contract he signed with the Mets in 2005. But Beltran appeared rejuvenated at the start of the ’11 season, batting .289 with 15 homers through 98 games, and that was enough to convince the Giants to surrender their top pitching prospect in Wheeler. At the time, it was considered a huge coup for Alderson, and despite a slow recovery from Tommy John surgery Wheeler still is considered to be part of the young rotation’s big upside.
1. July 28, 1995: Blue Jays trade David Cone for Marty Janzen, Jason Jarvis and Mike Gordon
Cone was the reigning Cy Young winner, having earned it from the strike-shortened ’94 season with the Royals, and the Yankees basically stole him from Toronto. He went 9-2 with a 3.82 ERA over 13 starts to return the Yankees to the playoffs for the first time since 1981, then went 55-38 with a 3.93 ERA during the next five years as part of rotation that won four World Series titles. He went 6-1 in 13 playoff starts for the Yankees.
2. July 31, 1996: Tigers trade Cecil Fielder for Ruben Sierra, Matt Drews and cash
George Steinbrenner’s appetite for big, splashy deals was on full display when the Yankees beat the then-midnight deadline with a few hours to spare in acquiring Fielder. The Yankees moved Daryl Strawberry to leftfield in order to accommodate Fielder at DH and the ex-Tiger deferred $2M of the next season’s $7 million salary to help make it happen. Fielder hit 13 homers with 37 RBIs in the final 53 games, but his greatest impact was during the ’96 postseason, when he ripped three home runs with 14 RBIs in 14 games to help power the Yankees to their first title since 1978.
3. June 29, 2000: Indians trade David Justice for Jake Westbrook, Zach Day and Ricky Ledee
Remarkably, Justice was the No. 3 trade target for the Yankees, who had their eyes on the Rangers’ Juan Gonzalez and the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa, but were unable to complete a deal for either one. Instead, Brian Cashman found out about Justice’s availability by accident, and worked to get the package done for the 34-year-old outfielder. Justice batted .305 with 20 homers, 60 RBIs and a .977 OPS during the remainder of that season, then earned ALCS MVP honors for going deep twice with eight RBIs in the six-game win over the Mariners.
4. July 31 / July 25 2016: Yankees trade Andrew Miller to Indians for J.P. Feyereisen, Justus Sheffield, Clint Frazier and Ben Heller; Yankees trade Aroldis Chapman to Cubs for Gleyber Torres, Adam Warren, Rashad Crawford and Billy McKinney
Last season, the Yankees held a fire sale for the first time in recent memory, with Cashman uncharacteristically waving the white flag. But the GM’s timing couldn’t have been better as the Yankees were sitting on two of the best relief pitchers in baseball — with the Indians and Cubs, longtime losers, desperate for bullpen help. Cashman parlayed that perfect storm into a tremendous haul, and although Gleyber Torres required Tommy John surgery earlier this season, Clint Frazier (4 HRs and 16 RBIs in 21 games) has earned himself an everyday outfield job ahead of schedule
5. July 31, 2003: Reds trade Aaron Boone for Brandon Claussen, Charlie Manning and cash
The Yankees were looking for a younger, and more productive replacement for the slumping Robin Ventura, who was traded to the Dodgers shortly after Cashman completed the swap for the 30-year-old Boone. Claussen was the Yankees’ top pitching prospect at the time, so using the chip on Boone seemed excessive, particularly when he batted just .254 with six home runs over the last 54 games. Still, Boone redeemed himself in a huge way by hitting one of the most memorable homers in baseball history, the 11th-inning walkoff shot in Game 7 against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield that propelled the Yankees over the Red Sox — again — and into the World Series.