Newberg Report: Ten biggest August trades
July 31 deadline doesn't stop teams from trading
While July 31 is commonly circled on baseball calendars as the annual Trade Deadline, to call it a deadline at all is misleading. Until that date, a player can be traded during the season with no real constraints. There are procedural hurdles to clear thereafter, but trades do get made in August every year, and sometimes they turn out to be impact deals.
After July 31, any player on a 40-man roster must first clear revocable waivers in order to be dealt (and if he does clear, he can be traded without limitation). Almost all players in baseball are run through August waivers, and if a player is claimed within two days of being placed on waivers, his existing club has a few choices.
Most commonly, the club revokes waivers, pulling the player back, and we probably never hear about it. But the club is also permitted to try and work out a trade with the team that made the prevailing claim (within two days of the time he would have cleared waivers). If no trade is engineered during that time, the window shuts and neither the claiming team nor any other may trade for the player. The player's existing club can also unilaterally stick the claiming team with the player and his contract, but that's not what we're here to discuss.
Carl Pavano was traded in August last year. So was Scott Kazmir. And Jim Thome and Aubrey Huff and Billy Wagner. There will be players traded this month, and as active as Jon Daniels has been this summer -- before having the payroll flexibility he now arguably has -- it wouldn't be surprising to see Texas make another move to fortify a roster it expects to take to the post-season for the first time since 1999.
What follows are the 10 biggest August trades of the last 20 Rangers seasons, ranked from worst to best:
10. Aug. 29, 1990: Texas trades designated hitter Harold Baines to the Oakland Athletics for right-handers Scott Chiamparino and Joe Bitker (both players to be named, identified Sept. 4, 1990).
The Baines tenure in Texas lasted a year and a month, an unfortunate turn of events that saw future All-Stars Wilson Alvarez and Sammy Sosa go away and two right-handers come back to contribute 112 career innings that made fewer headlines than the fistfight Chiamparino reportedly started after being victimized by a Rangers clubhouse prank. Tom Grieve, the Rangers' general manager at the time, has since admitted that the club -- eight games out of first at the time of the 1989 deal to acquire Baines from the White Sox -- had no business thinking it was in the race. The trade to get Baines is among the poorest in franchise history; the lackluster return Texas got when it flipped Baines a year later didn't help to rehabilitate it.
9. Aug. 19, 2002: Texas trades right-hander Ismael Valdez to the Seattle Mariners for left-hander Derrick Van Dusen and outfielder/second baseman Jermaine Clark.
If Jon Daniels, who was a first-year baseball operations assistant with Texas, and A.J. Preller, who was working with the Dodgers at the time, were calling the shots when the Valdez trade was made, the return probably would have looked different. There's no chance the current crew would have accepted a guy like Clark; instead, Texas would have targeted someone like 17-year-old left-hander Cesar Jimenez in exchange for a dependable back-of-rotation type like Valdez.
8. Aug. 27, 1999: Texas trades outfielder Adrian Myers (player to be named, identified Sept. 22, 1999) to the Seattle Mariners for left-hander Jeff Fassero.
Perhaps wary of depending too heavily on rookie Mike Venafro and journeyman Mike Munoz down the stretch, Texas wanted one more left-hander around going into the final month of the 1999 season. Fassero made very little impact. Though he was decent in three September spot starts, he allowed multiple runs in three of four relief appearances and pitched once in the playoffs, mopping up at the end of an 8-0 Game 1 loss to the Yankees. Myers was a fringy outfield prospect who ran a bit but never hit enough to make the final jump from Triple-A to the big leagues.
7. Aug. 25, 2008: Texas trades left-hander Eddie Guardado to the Minnesota Twins for right-hander Mark Hamburger.
The Rangers gave Guardado a chance to help his longtime teammates, who at the time were tied with the White Sox atop the AL Central and would end the season in the same position before losing a one-game tiebreaker to Chicago. Guardado would return to Texas in the winter for one final season with the club, his final in the league. Meanwhile, Hamburger has broken through a bit in 2010, fanning 49 in 45.2 Bakersfield innings while scattering 38 hits and 15 unintentional walks and earning a promotion to the Frisco bullpen at the end of July.
6. Aug. 18, 2009: Texas trades right-hander Matt Nevarez and infielder Jose Vallejo (player to be named, identified Aug. 20, 2009) to the Houston Astros for catcher Ivan Rodriguez.
More than just a token homecoming, Rodriguez was picked up in mid-August once Jarrod Saltalamacchia went on the disabled list with a shoulder problem and he was expected to back Taylor Teagarden up as Texas tried to stay in the race. But the Rangers legend hit .345/.394/.621 over his first eight games and settled in as the club's starter behind the plate over the final six weeks of the season. Nevarez and Vallejo were expendable, toolsy prospects who made sensible additions to a weak Astros system. They've had disappointing 2010 seasons, Nevarez because of colossal command issues and Vallejo because of a hand injury that nearly wiped out his entire season, while Rodriguez was able to land a two-year offseason deal with the Nationals that Texas was unwilling to match.
5. Aug. 30, 1991: Texas trades third baseman Steve Buechele to the Pittsburgh Pirates for right-handers Kurt Miller and Hector Fajardo (the latter a player to be named, identified Sept. 6, 1991).
Buechele had been a midseason callup in 1985, when Texas had an opportunity to move veteran Buddy Bell to Cincinnati for a promising young arm in Jeff Russell, and six years later the Rangers found themselves in a similar situation. With third-base prospect Dean Palmer deemed ready for the big leagues, Texas moved Buechele to Pittsburgh for two upside arms in Miller and Fajardo. It was the right time to get Palmer up to Texas and an inspired deal for both teams, as Buechele hit over .300 for the Pirates in the postseason and Texas was able to boost a system thin on pitching with a couple right-handers that unfortunately failed to reach their high ceilings.
4. Aug. 8, 1995: Texas trades right-hander Wilson Heredia (player to be named, identified Aug. 11, 1995) and outfielder Scott Podsednik (player to be named, identified Oct. 8, 1995) to the Florida Marlins for right-hander Bobby Witt.
Viewed perhaps as a minor deal when made, as Texas was a hopeless 11 games out of first and reaching for its former starter to address a black hole at the back of the club's rotation, Witt would bounce back from a five-win 1995 to tie for the team lead with 16 victories in 1996, the franchise's first-ever playoff season. Heredia pitched well down the stretch for Florida's Double-A squad in 1995 but missed the 1996 season due to injury and ended up back with the Rangers on a waiver claim that winter. Podsednik had yet to emerge from short-season ball after two Minor League seasons and in fact was left off Florida's secondary roster in 1997 and retrieved by Texas as well, via the Rule 5 Draft.
3. Aug. 31, 1992: Texas trades outfielder Ruben Sierra and right-handers Jeff Russell and Bobby Witt (and cash) to the Oakland Athletics for outfielder Jose Canseco.
It's easy to pan this deal in hindsight, given the circus moments that Canseco had in Texas in 1993, but he had one of his most productive seasons in 1994 when he helped open The Ballpark in Arlington with a 31-homer, 90-RBI season over just 111 games in the strike-shortened season, landing AL Comeback Player of the Year honors. Texas would move him that winter to Boston, for Otis Nixon and current Rangers Minor League hitting instructor Luis Ortiz. Sierra, perhaps the biggest surprise of the four players to have slid through waivers, was only 26 but would never again be the MVP candidate that he had been multiple times in Texas. Russell set Dennis Eckersley up that summer before signing that winter with Boston, and Witt had a mediocre run over two-plus seasons in Oakland before moving on to Florida.
2. Aug. 8, 1996: Texas trades right-handers Ryan Dempster and Rick Helling (the latter a player to be named, identified Sept. 3, 1996) to the Florida Marlins for right-hander John Burkett.
Texas held a two-game division lead and a history devoid of postseason play when Doug Melvin traded for Burkett for the second time, the first of which had been a disaster (when he sent prospects Rich Aurilia and Desi Wilson to the Giants in December 1994 but ended up losing Burkett to free agency before the 1995 season ever began). Dempster was producing results just one year out of high school, and Helling, though he'd struggled in three big league seasons, was leading the Pacific Coast League in ERA and in strikeouts, and had thrown a perfect game for Oklahoma City five days after the Burkett trade was announced (three weeks before the deal was completed). It was an excellent trade for the Marlins, and one Texas would never take back, as Burkett went 5-2, 4.06 down the stretch, winning Game 160, the day before the club clinched its first playoff berth, and then recording the only postseason win this franchise has ever had, a complete-game, 6-2 win in Game 1 of the AL Division Series in New York.
1. Aug. 12, 1997: Texas trades left-hander Ed Vosberg to the Florida Marlins for right-hander Rick Helling.
Texas made the 1996 Burkett deal look even better a year later, when the Marlins sat in the Wild Card perch, three games ahead of the Mets, and had a rookie starter in Livan Hernandez whose Valenzuela-like explosion made Helling expendable, and felt they needed another left-on-left specialist in the bullpen despite the presence of southpaws Dennis Cook and Feliz Heredia. The Rangers had struck gold with Vosberg as a reclamation project whose first big league success came at age 32, and in 1997, well out of the race, they flipped the left-hander to Florida to get Helling back. The bulldog starter would win 20 games the next season -- he's the last Rangers pitcher to do so -- and was a key member of the Texas rotation from 1998 through 2001, the first two seasons of which marked the franchise's last two playoff appearances.
Jamey Newberg is a contributor to MLB.com. A Dallas lawyer, he has been an insane Texas Rangers fan since the days of scheduled doubleheaders, Bat Nights when they actually handed out a piece of lumber instead of a grocery store voucher, and Jim Umbarger. He has covered the Texas Rangers, from the big club down through the entire farm system, since 1998 on his website, NewbergReport.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.