View From Studio 3: Uneven deals part of Deadline fun
"What the hell did you trade Jay Buhner for?!" -- Frank Costanza to George Steinbrenner on "Seinfeld"
That line, delivered with perfect timing, inflection and urgency remains as funny and appropriate today as it was two decades ago. For a baseball fan, that line will go down as perhaps the most brilliant in the history of television.
(Just for laughs or if you're extremely bored, try replacing Buhner's name with any other name and do your best Frank Costanza impersonation.)
Great way to pass the time in traffic or at a boring party.
Keep reading. We'll do it again numerous times.
If you've ever felt the pain of a lopsided Deadline trade, you can relate to Frank's agony. This particular deal, on July 21, 1988, sent Buhner and Rich Balabon to the Mariners in exchange for Ken Phelps and Troy Evers. Buhner remains a Seattle icon after hitting 307 homers in a Mariners uniform. Phelps spent two forgettable years in the Bronx, totaling 17 homers along the way.
Uneven trades have always been part of the game, and the thrill of the unknown is why the weeks leading to the non-waiver Trade Deadline are a blast.
With that in mind and because the All-Star Game is two weeks away, I've compiled a list of the best players at each position (some All-Star worthy) who were obtained by their current team in an in-season trade. While some are obvious, others went virtually unnoticed until recently.
Here you go:
Indians catcher Carlos Santana
Santana was traded by the Dodgers to the Indians in July 2008 with Jon Meloan for third baseman Casey Blake. What did the Dodgers trade Santana for?! Los Angeles needed a third baseman and a bat to help make a postseason run. The Dodgers did reach the National League Championship Series that fall, but Santana has developed into one of the game's best and is a cornerstone of the Indians' resurgence.
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis
Faced with a surplus of first basemen in 2011, the Rangers traded Davis and pitcher Tommy Hunter to Baltimore in exchange for reliever Koji Uehara. This may go down as a Jeff Bagwell-for-Larry Andersen type transaction. What did the Rangers trade Davis for?! Texas needed a reliever to bolster its chances of returning to the postseason. The Rangers achieved their goal, but gave up a player who has turned into an MVP candidate and is enjoying one of the great offensive seasons in recent memory.
Tigers second baseman Omar Infante
The Tigers filled a gaping hole in their lineup last summer by obtaining a solid everyday player. What did the Marlins trade Infante for?! Miami was cleaning house after a disappointing first half and was willing to move Infante along with Anibal Sanchez and a compensation round Draft pick (Round A) for Brian Flynn, Rob Brantly, Jacob Turner and a compensation round Draft pick (Round B). Infante is hitting close to .300 this year and totaled 15 hits in 13 postseason games in 2012.
A's third baseman Josh Donaldson
Drafted in 2007 by the Cubs, Donaldson (then a catcher) was traded as part of a package a year later to the Athletics. What did the Cubs trade Josh Donaldson for?! Chicago had Geovany Soto behind the plate and needed pitching. They got two arms in return in Chad Gaudin and Rich Harden. The Cubs reached the postseason in 2008, but Oakland now has a premier third baseman who should be headed to his first All-Star Game.
Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus
Before you scream at your screen about Hanley Ramirez and Jean Segura, I'll explain my pick. At 24, Andrus has already been an integral part of two American League championship clubs and is part of the fabric in Arlington. As for the trade: Andrus was part of one of the most lopsided deals in memory. Packaged by the Braves along with Neftali Feliz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones in 2007, Atlanta received slugger Mark Teixeira and pitcher Ron Mahay. What did the Braves trade Andrus for?! For a shot at a World Series title and a chance to sign Teixeira long term. Neither happened. Teixeira was traded again exactly one year later.
Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz
At the Deadline in 2006, Milwaukee traded Cruz and Carlos Lee to the Rangers for Julian Cordero, Francisco Cordero, Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix. It was like hitting the lottery for Texas. Cruz is an elite run producing corner outfielder who hit 14 postseason home runs from 2010-12. This year, Cruz is on pace for 40 homers and 120 RBIs. What did the Brewers trade Cruz for?! Milwaukee was out of the race for the NL Central crown and Cruz was not a blue chip prospect. He had bounced around from organization to organization and was still in the Minors at 25 years old.
Giants outfielder Hunter Pence
Although Pence's numbers pale in comparison to Cruz's, I'm including "Captain Underpants" because of the effect he had on the Giants in 2012. In dire need of a middle-of-the-order bat, the Giants sent two Minor Leaguers and outfielder Nate Schierholtz to the Phillies in July 2012. Jackpot. Pence didn't put up crazy numbers, but his presence and leadership helped lead the Giants to the 2012 World Series championship. What did the Phillies trade Pence for?! They were going nowhere and Pence was due to make a ton of money in arbitration.
D-backs pitcher Patrick Corbin
The lefty was a piece in the July 2010 trade that sent Dan Haren to Anaheim. Haren's three year stay in southern California ended without the Angels reaching the postseason, while Corbin is 9-0 for the first place D-backs. What did the Angels trade Corbin for?! Corbin wasn't knocking anyone's socks off in the Minors and Haren was an established starter making a manageable salary. Ironically, it was Jerry Dipoto who traded for Corbin. He's now the GM of an Angels team in dire need of young, stud pitchers. To add to the Angels' misery, they completed the Haren/Corbin deal by sending another starting pitcher, Tyler Skaggs, to the desert.
Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke
The Braves rarely let good pitchers get away, but in the summer of 2009, they traded Locke to the Pirates in a deal that sent Nate McLouth to Atlanta. The big piece headed to the Steel City was supposed to be Charlie Morton. While they're both still with the Bucs, it's Locke who has the third-best ERA in the Majors as June came to a close. What did the Braves trade Locke for?! They wanted a leadoff hitter and trading a low-level prospect was part of doing business.
Forecasting the future and predicting performance is an inexact science. Sometimes great players, even future Hall of Famers, slip away. It will happen again in the next few weeks, although we may not be aware of it until years down the road.
Everyone should understand that. Even Frank Costanza.
Matt Yallof is the co-host of The Rundown on MLB Network from 2-4 p.m. ET. Follow him on twitter @mattyallofmlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.