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12/07/09 1:38 PM EST

Experts look back at best AL deals

Big impact made by moves involving free agents, trades

As the Winter Meetings approached, MLB.com club reporters asked experts on their clubs -- some general managers, some historians, others who just know the organization -- about the best deals their clubs have made, using the beginning of divisional play in 1969 as a benchmark.

Here are the moves that stand out in the American League:

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Trade: OF Adam Jones, LHP George Sherrill, RHP Kameron Mickolio and RHP Chris Tillman from Seattle for LHP Erik Bedard, Feb. 8, 2008.

Free Agent: 2B Roberto Alomar, Dec. 21, 1995. The Orioles definitely feel good about getting a young All-Star outfielder in Jones while setting loose a disgruntled starter who has descended into injury issues. They got 31 saves out of Sherrill before flipping him for two Minor Leaguers. And Alomar's three-year run in Baltimore saw him make three All-Star appearances and win two Gold Gloves.

Trade: RHP Pedro Martinez from Montreal for RHP Carl Pavano and a player to be named later (RHP Tony Armas Jr.), Nov. 18, 1997. Free Agent: OF Manny Ramirez, Dec. 19, 2000.

It's hard to argue with either of those two cogs of the World Series teams and how they got to Boston. Although many consider the less-expensive original signing of David Ortiz as a free agent to be a superior deal, Ramirez delivered the numbers on the field to go with his big eight-year, $160 million contract. And while the trade with the D-backs for Curt Schilling in November 2003 might have been the steal of the decade, the overall body of Martinez's work, including two Cy Young Awards, can't be ignored.

Trade: OF Paul O'Neill from Cincinnati for OF Roberto Kelly, Nov. 2, 1992.

Free Agent: RHP Catfish Hunter, Dec. 31, 1974.

The trade for O'Neill wasn't meant to be lopsided, and there were probably some who thought it could be the other way. But O'Neill provided more than great play in right field over the next nine years -- he provided leadership for what would become a dynasty. As for free agents, the Yankees have signed many over the years, but Hunter's signing for $3.75 million over five years -- technically before the system of free agency began -- "established a market value for players far above what they were getting and opened the doors to the modern system," as Yankees historian Marty Appel put it. Besides, he helped them to three pennants and two World Series titles.

Trade: 2B Roberto Alomar and OF Joe Carter from San Diego for 1B Fred McGriff and SS Tony Fernandez, Dec. 5, 1990. Free Agent: RHP Roger Clemens, Dec. 13, 1996.

The blockbuster with the Padres definitely had talent going both ways, huge talent. But the Jays went on to win the World Series in 1992-93, with Carter hitting the Game 6 winner in '93 and Alomar also playing a huge role. It was a franchise-changer. Toronto signed the likes of Dave Winfield, Dave Stewart, Paul Molitor and Jack Morris, but the signing of Clemens stands out because the right-hander appeared to be on the decline before winning back-to-back Cy Youngs with Toronto.

Trade: SS Jason Bartlett, RHP Matt Garza and Minor Leaguer Eduardo Morlan from Minnesota for OF Delmon Young, INF Brendan Harris and OF Jason Pridie, Nov. 28, 2007.

Free Agent: 1B Carlos Pena, Jan. 29, 2007.

Getting a starting shortstop and a starting pitcher for a World Series team pretty much qualifies any trade as good, and the Rays got that with Bartlett and Garza. Pena, meanwhile, signed for just $800,000 for the 2007 season after making more than $2.5 million the year before, and he wound up being the '07 Comeback Player of the Year and then a key part of the '08 World Series team as well.


CLEVELAND INDIANS Trade: OF Grady Sizemore, LHP Cliff Lee, 2B Brandon Phillips and 1B/OF Lee Stevens from Montreal for RHP Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew, June 27, 2002.

Free Agent: 2B Roberto AlomarRoberto Alomar, Dec. 1, 1998.

Depending on which era you choose, the deal with the Padres to get Carlos Baerga and Sandy Alomar Jr. certainly helped the Tribe in its impressive 1990s run, but Sizemore is now the face of the franchise and Lee provided Cleveland with a Cy Young season. As for Alomar, his '99 numbers -- 138 runs, 24 homers, 120 RBIs -- were just the start of a three-year run that were some of the finest of a potential Hall of Fame career.

Trade: OF Scott Podsednik, RHP Luis Vizcaino and Minor Leaguer Travis Hinton from Milwaukee for OF Carlos Lee, Dec. 13, 2004.

Free Agent: RHP Orlando Hernandez, Jan. 3, 2005.

These choices have a definitely recent shine to them -- but then, so does that 2005 World Series ring. While dealing a slugger in Lee, the White Sox picked up their leadoff man for that World Series team at the last minute of the 2004 meetings in Anaheim. And with the money saved in the exchange, the White Sox were able to add on Orlando Hernandez through free agency, and he was key to the world championship as well.

Trade: LHP Willie Hernandez and 1B Dave Bergman from Philadelphia for OF Glenn Wilson and OF/1B John Wockenfuss, March 24, 1984.

Free Agent: 1B Cecil Fielder, Jan. 15, 1990.

The Tigers already were loaded for bear heading into the 1984 season, and little did they know exactly what Hernandez would deliver. Finishing 68 games in 80 appearances with 32 saves and a 1.92 ERA over 140 1/3 innings, Hernandez did the unthinkable for the World Series winners -- sweeping the American League MVP and Cy Young Awards. He stayed six years, and Bergman served as the starting first baseman in '84 and stayed nine. First base became Fielder's in 1990, when he hit 51 homers, and that signing -- after Fielder spent a year in Japan, mind you -- led to 245 homers and 758 RBIs over six-plus seasons.

Trade: OF Amos Otis and RHP Bob Johnson from New York Mets for 3B Joe Foy, Dec. 3, 1969.

Free Agent: RHP David Cone, Dec. 8, 1992.

There have been other key trade acquisitions, including John Mayberry from the Astros. But A.O. had the longest-lasting impact, playing 14 years for the Royals -- one of the most solid players in their history with three Gold Glove Awards, five All-Star selections and five postseason appearances. As for Cone, he was traded by the Royals to the Mets in 1987, but signed to return for a three-year, $18 million deal personally orchestrated by owner Ewing Kauffman, hungry for one more World Series title to go with '85. That didn't happen, but Cone won a Cy Young Award, going 16-5 with a 2.94 ERA in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign.

Trade: RHP Joe Nathan, LHP Francisco Liriano and RHP Boof Bonser from San Francisco for C A.J. Pierzynski, Nov. 15, 2003.

Free Agent: Jack Morris, Feb. 5, 1991.

Getting an All-Star closer in any deal will more than suffice, and Nathan has been that. While the promise of Liriano rose quickly but has faltered since, this deal has been a boon for the Twins, even if Pierzynski was a key to the team's playoff resurgence. (Having an emerging catcher named Joe Mauer doesn't hurt, either.) When it comes to bang for the free-agent buck, Morris' homecoming to Minnesota, while brief, was a one-year bonanza. He won 18 games, had 10 complete games and earned World Series MVP honors with two wins in three starts -- including a 10-inning Game 7 shutout of the Braves to clinch it.


Trade: RHP Nolan Ryan, C Frank Estrada, RHP Don Rose and OF Leroy Stanton from the New York Mets for IF/OF Jim Fregosi, Dec. 10, 1971.

Free Agent: OF Vladimir Guerrero, Jan. 14, 2004.

Fregosi was an All-Star, but his trade wound up being a gift from heaven for the Angels. Ryan became the face of the franchise in the 1970s, posting 138 wins, 40 shutouts, four of his record seven no-hitters and 2,416 strikeouts while under the halo from 1972-79. As far as free agents are concerned, Guerrero's tenure as an MVP and member of five AL West winners stands out, even against Reggie Jackson's considerable presence in Anaheim.

Trade: RHP Dan Haren, 1B Daric Barton and RHP Kiko Calero from St. Louis for LHP Mark Mulder, Dec. 18, 2004.

Free Agent: DH Frank Thomas, Jan. 31, 2006.

The A's have done their share of wheeling and dealing over the years, but this rather near-sighted twosome stands the test of time. Acquiring Haren, even if three stellar seasons later he was flipped for more prospects, in a deal for Mulder turned out to be a case of aces passing in the night, one rocketing to stardom and the other descending. Plus, the A's have their starting first baseman in Barton still. Thomas, meanwhile, was hailed as the bargain of the decade -- a $500,000 base with incentives that eventually pushed the deal to about $2.5 million. After a season in which Thomas hit 39 homers with 114 RBIs while helping lead the A's (finally) to the AL Championship Series, it was well worth the bonuses. "He was relatively inexpensive, hugely productive, and a major and positive influence on our young players in the clubhouse," A's GM Billy Beane says now.

Trade: OF Jay Buhner and Minor Leaguers Rich Balabon and Troy Evers from New York Yankees for 1B Ken Phelps, July 21, 1988.

Free Agent: Ichiro Suzuki, Nov. 30, 2000.

Buhner became a bit of an icon in Seattle, sharing the stage with superstars Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez and Randy Johnson. Buhner had three consecutive 40-homer seasons and seemed to embody the Mariners' personality, eventually causing fans to shave their heads en masse. In 2001, Buhner and the rest of the Mariners saw the beginning of a new era with Ichiro's arrival -- technically, his rights were purchased from the Orix Blue Wave of the Japanese Pacific League. Although that first 116-win season hasn't been duplicated, Ichiro has set record after record with his nine consecutive 200-hit seasons, including an all-time mark of 262 in 2004.

Trade: RHP Charlie Hough from the Dodgers for cash, July 11, 1980.

Free Agent: RHP Nolan Ryan, Dec. 7, 1988.

All Hough did was go on to post the most victories in franchise history with 139 and frustrate hitters to no end with his fluttering knuckleball. Ryan, meanwhile, became the face of a third franchise, following up his stints with the Angels and Astros by taking his career to its Hall of Fame peak with the Rangers. The dramatic signing instantly made the Rangers a bigger threat, and his last five years were indeed special -- including two no-hitters and becoming the first pitcher to eclipse the 5,000-strikeout mark.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.