Picking the All-Time MLB Waiver Deal Team
The majority of MLB trades go down prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but there have still been some notable moves made during the August waiver trade period.
Starting in 1986, the non-waiver trade deadline was switched from June 15 to July 31, and the August waiver period as we know it today was born.
There have been some memorable waiver trades in MLB history, including a pair of future starters being acquired as prospects in John Smoltz and Jeff Bagwell.
However, the following list focuses on players who gave their team a boost down the stretch and on into the postseason.
With that in mind, what follows is a look at the best player from each position in the history of August waiver trades, dating back to 1986. To be considered for this list, players had to be acquired by a team that reached the postseason in the year that they were traded for.
Catcher: Kurt Suzuki, Washington Nationals (Aug. 3, 2012)
Starter Wilson Ramos was lost for the 2012 season in May to a torn meniscus, leaving Jesus Flores as the primary catcher. He hit just .225/.254/.343 with four home runs and 18 RBI in 213 at-bats from the time of the injury to the time of the trade.
Kurt Suzuki looked like he could be a franchise catcher in Oakland when he hit .274/.313/.421 with 15 home runs and 88 RBI as a 25-year-old in 2009. He was never quite able to build off of that season, though, and he was hitting just .218/.250/.286 when the Athletics traded him to Washington.
Suzuki was traded again the following August, as he was pushed to the bench when Ramos returned to full strength in July, but he made his mark in Washington. He joined the Minnesota Twins on a one-year deal this past offseason and turned it into a two-year extension.
First Base: Derrek Lee, Atlanta Braves (Aug. 18, 2010)
Troy Glaus was the Atlanta Braves' everyday first baseman for most of 2010, hitting .239/.343/.406 with 16 home runs and 70 RBI through Aug. 17, when he went down with a knee injury. He returned at the beginning of September, but Derrek Lee was hitting well enough that he remained the primary option.
Lee hit .298/.378/.524 with 179 home runs and 574 RBI in his six-and-a-half seasons with the Chicago Cubs, but they opted to move him to a contender at the deadline in 2010 with free agency looming.
The Cubs received three minor leaguers in the deal, none of which have reached the majors to this point. In fact, reliever Jeffrey Lorick is the only one still in the Cubs organization, and he currently has a 4.13 ERA in 38 appearances at the Double-A level.
Lee signed a one-year, $7.25 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles in the offseason, then joined the Pittsburgh Pirates in a July trade. He retired at the end of that season with a .859 OPS, 331 home runs and 1,078 RBI in 15 seasons.
Second Base: Luis Sojo, New York Yankees (Aug. 7, 2000)
Chuck Knoblauch opened the 2000 season as the New York Yankees' everyday second baseman, but his throwing issues had him playing primarily DH by the end of the year.
Luis Vizcaino saw some time there before the team traded for Luis Sojo, and Knoblauch was given another shot down the stretch, but by the postseason, it was Sojo who was seeing the bulk of the playing time at second.
Sojo was never more than a 1.8 WAR player in any single season, and he ended his 13-year career with a 4.2 WAR overall. However, he delivered in the postseason for the Yankees on more than one occasion.
Sojo was actually picked up by New York via waivers in 1996 and 2000, winning a ring with the team both times. He was nothing more than a utility player the first time around, but he actually played a significant role in 2000.
He delivered what would be the game-winning run with an RBI single in the top of the ninth of the clinching Game 5 of the World Series, earning his place in Yankees lore.
Pitcher Chris Spurling was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2000 deal. He would change teams twice more before making his big league debut with the Detroit Tigers. He made 187 career appearances in the majors, posting a 4.32 ERA and 1.324 WHIP.
Third Base: Todd Zeile, Baltimore Orioles (Aug. 29, 1996)
B.J. Surhoff was hitting .292/.348/.495 with 20 home runs and 74 RBI as the Orioles' primary third baseman at the time of the trade. However, Jeffrey Hammonds was hitting just .226/.301/.383 with nine home runs and 23 RBI as the starting left fielder.
Surhoff had played left field in the past, so it was an easy move to shift him there and plug Todd Zeile in at the hot corner every day.
The Orioles became the fourth team in four years for Zeile, starting what would be an odyssey around the league in the second half of his big league career.
He was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies along with outfielder Pete Incaviglia, who also made an impact down the stretch, going 10-for-33 with eight RBI in 12 games. He was 2-for-7 with a pair of runs scored in the playoffs.
The Phillies received a pair of pitching prospects in the deal in Garrett Stephenson and Calvin Maduro, neither of whom did much of significance at the big league level.
Shortstop: Spike Owen, Boston Red Sox (Aug. 19, 1986)
At the time of the trade, Ed Romero (205 AB, .215/.271/.278, 1 HR, 21 RBI) and Rey Quinones (190 AB, .237/.315/.342, 2 HR, 15 RBI) had split the season manning shortstop for the Boston Red Sox and provided little in the way of production.
The No. 6 pick in the 1982 draft, Spike Owen never established himself as a plus everyday player at the big league level, but he did manage to carve out a solid 13-year career in which he posted a 12.5 WAR.
He struggled down the stretch in 1986 but thrived in the postseason, helping lead the team to the World Series. Owen spent two more seasons as the team's primary shortstop, before he was traded to the Montreal Expos prior to the 1989 season.
The Red Sox packaged incumbent shortstop Quinones with three other players in the deal, with outfielder Dave Henderson also coming to Boston. None of the four players Seattle acquired did much for the Mariners—or elsewhere, for that matter.
Left Field: Cody Ross, San Francisco Giants (Aug. 22, 2010)
A wrist injury May 9 proved to be season-ending for Mark DeRosa, and that left the San Francisco Giants piecing things together in left field the rest of the way.
Pat Burrell was signed in May after being released by the Tampa Bay Rays, and he posted an .872 OPS with 18 home runs and 51 RBI. He remained the primary option for the remainder of the regular season, but it was Cody Ross who emerged as the guy in October.
Ross posted an .836 OPS from 2007 to 2009, including back-to-back 20-homer seasons, but his production dropped off in 2010, a year before he was set to hit free agency.
He was hitting .265/.316/.405 with 24 doubles, 11 home runs and 58 RBI for the Miami Marlins at the time of the trade, but with a $4.45 million salary, the Marlins simply let the waiver claim go through and gave him up as a salary dump.
Ross went on to win NLCS MVP, and he returned to the Giants in his final season of arbitration eligibility at $6.3 million. He hit just .240/.325/.405 with 14 home runs and 52 RBI before departing for Boston in free agency, but he still made his mark in San Francisco.
Center Field: Dave Henderson, Boston Red Sox (Aug. 19, 1986)
Center fielder Tony Armas was hitting .262/.311/.415 with seven home runs and 33 RBI at the time of the trade, and he continued to see the bulk of the playing time the rest of the season.
After a 2-for-16 performance in the ALCS, Armas saw just one at-bat in the World Series, as Dave Henderson was handed the starting job on the biggest stage.
A 27-year-old Henderson had shown flashes during his six-plus seasons with the Seattle Mariners, hitting .257/.317/.433 and posting a combined 7.7 WAR. However, it was not until later in his career, while playing with the Oakland A's, that he emerged as a star.
He was hitting .276/.350/.481 with 19 doubles, 14 home runs and 44 RBI at the time of the trade, as he joined the Red Sox along with the aforementioned Spike Owen in what was a six-player trade.
Henderson opened the 1987 season in Boston, in what was a contract year, before being traded to the Giants in September. He signed with the A's in free agency that offseason and went on to post a 19.5 WAR in six seasons in Oakland.
Right Field: Larry Walker, St. Louis Cardinals (Aug. 6, 2004)
Left field was a revolving door all season for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004, with Ray Lankford, John Mabry, Marlon Anderson, Roger Cedeno and So Taguchi all seeing time prior to the trade.
Reggie Sanders had been the everyday right fielder prior to the deal, so he shifted over to left once Larry Walker was acquired, shoring up the outfield situation and the lineup as a whole.
A five-time All-Star and the 1997 NL MVP, Walker had quite a career under his belt when he came to the Cardinals, and he still had plenty left in the tank even at the age of 37.
He played just 38 games with Colorado prior to the trade, as he was slowed by a groin injury, but he hit .324/.464/.630 with 18 extra-base hits and 20 RBI in that limited action.
The Cardinals shipped No. 2 prospect Chris Narveson, along with two other prospects in Luis Martinez and Jason Burch, to the Rockies in the deal. Walker spent one more season in St. Louis, hitting .289/.384/.502 with 15 home runs and 52 RBI, before retiring with 72.6 WAR to his credit.
Designated Hitter: Harold Baines, Oakland Athletics (Aug. 29, 1990)
Until Harold Baines was acquired, the DH position was used as a way to get players a day off without taking them out of the lineup. Jose Canseco had the most games played at the position on the year at 41, with Baines ranking second at 27.
When you play 22 seasons like Baines did, you're bound to be involved in the waiver process at some point, and he actually changed teams in August twice in his career.
The first time is the one we'll focus on here, as he joined an Oakland team that was headed for a third straight World Series appearance. The A's sent pitchers Joe Bitker and Scott Chiamparino to the Rangers in the deal, but neither did much at the major league level.
Baines stayed with Oakland for the 1991 season, hitting .295/.383/.473 with 20 home runs and 90 RBI to earn his fifth All-Star appearance, before being traded to Baltimore prior to the 1993 season.
Baines also joined the Cleveland Indians in a waiver deal in 1999, hitting .271/.354/.329 with 22 RBI in 28 games to help them reach the postseason. He was 5-for-15 with a home run and four RBI in the ALDS.
Starting Pitcher: David Cone, Toronto Blue Jays (Aug. 27, 1992)
The first four spots in the Toronto Blue Jays rotation were filled by Jack Morris (21-6, 4.04 ERA), Jimmy Key (13-13, 3.53 ERA), Juan Guzman (16-5, 2.64 ERA) and Todd Stottlemyre (12-11, 4.50 ERA), but the fifth spot was a hole heading into August.
David Wells (14 GS, 6-7, 6.39 ERA) and Dave Stieb (14 GS, 3-6, 5.70 ERA) split time at the back of the rotation but struggled, and David Cone provided an immediate improvement over them.
Cone was the definition of a hired gun for the Blue Jays, as the team shipped out second baseman Jeff Kent and outfield prospect Ryan Thompson to the New York Mets for two months of the stud right-hander.
Cone was 13-7 with a 2.88 ERA and 214 strikeouts in 196.2 innings at the time of the trade, and he kept pitching at that same high level post-trade, winning his first of what would be five World Series rings.
He ended up signing with the Kansas City Royals in free agency that offseason, but with Roberto Alomar in the fold, the Blue Jays could afford to part with Kent for a run at a World Series win.
Starting Pitcher: Woody Williams, St. Louis Cardinals (Aug. 2, 2001)
Matt Morris (22-8, 3.16 ERA), Darryl Kile (16-11, 3.09 ERA) and Dustin Hermanson (14-13, 4.45 ERA) gave the Cardinals a solid trio atop their rotation, and rookie Bud Smith (6-3, 3.83 ERA) was solid after joining the rotation in June. The staff was clearly in need of another proven arm, though, and Woody Williams gave the Cardinals just that.
A middling starter during his time with the Toronto Blue Jays and San Diego Padres, Williams was 8-8 with a 4.97 ERA (5.02 FIP) through 23 starts with San Diego at the time of the trade.
The 34-year-old saw his career take off from there, though, and he would wind up spending three more seasons with the Cardinals. He was 18-9 with a 3.87 ERA in 2003 to earn his only All-Star appearance, and he played a pivotal role in the team's run to the World Series in 2004.
The Cardinals gave up a fan favorite in Ray Lankford to acquire Williams, but he was 34 at the time of the trade, and his days as a viable everyday option were essentially over. He eventually returned to the Cardinals in 2004, playing one final season in St. Louis before retiring.
Starting Pitcher: Doyle Alexander, Detroit Tigers (Aug. 12, 1987)
With the highest-scoring offense in the league, the Tigers' starting pitching didn't have to be All-World, but the team had a strong staff nonetheless.
Jack Morris (18-11, 3.38 ERA), Walt Terrell (17-10, 4.05 ERA) and Frank Tanana (15-10, 3.91 ERA) gave the Tigers a strong trio of veterans, and the acquisition of Doyle Alexander fortified the staff for the stretch run.
This trade is often pointed to as the worst in Tigers history, as they gave up a young right-hander by the name of John Smoltz in the deal, but they got exactly what they were looking for out of Alexander.
The Tigers were 1.5 games behind the Blue Jays at the time of the trade, but they went on to win the AL East title by two games, with Alexander picking up the win that put them ahead for good Oct. 2.
He stuck around to go 14-11 with a 4.32 ERA the following season, earning an All-Star nod before hanging it up as a 38-year-old after the 1989 season. Meanwhile, Smoltz went on to have a Hall of Fame-caliber career as one of the best pitchers of his generation.
Starting Pitcher: Zane Smith, Pittsburgh Pirates (Aug. 8, 1990)
The Pirates rotation was fronted by Cy Young winner Doug Drabek (22-6, 2.76 ERA), and he was backed by the likes of John Smiley (9-10, 4.64 ERA), Neal Heaton (12-9, 3.45 ERA) and Bob Walk (7-5, 3.75 ERA).
In Zane Smith, the team got a much-needed second front-line arm to pair with Drabek, and he played a huge role in the Pirates pulling out the NL East title with his stellar performance down the stretch.
Until last season, the Pirates had not made the playoffs since 1992. That was their third-straight postseason appearance, and Smith played a big part in kicking off that streak.
He bounced between the rotation and bullpen during his time with the Braves and Expos, and he was 6-7 with a 3.23 ERA in 22 games (21 starts) with the Expos prior to being dealt in 1990.
He stayed with the Pirates for four more seasons after the trade, putting together another strong season in 1991, when he was 16-10 with a 3.20 ERA.
The Pirates paid a steep price at the time to acquire him, giving up their No. 2 prospect in Willie Greene and No. 10 prospect in Scott Ruskin (via Baseball Cube). Both players enjoyed fairly lengthy big league careers but were role players for the most part.
Starting Pitcher: Danny Darwin, Houston Astros (Aug. 15, 1986)
The Houston Astros already had a pair of studs atop their rotation in eventual Cy Young winner Mike Scott (18-10, 2.22 ERA) and strikeout king Nolan Ryan (12-8, 3.34 ERA). In fact, their rotation as a whole was terrific, as Bob Knepper (17-12, 3.14 ERA) and Jim Deshaies (12-5, 3.25 ERA) were both having great seasons as well.
The No. 5 starter spot had been split between five different guys before Danny Darwin came, though, and he helped lock down the back of the staff.
Good as he was down the stretch, Darwin didn't actually pitch for the Astros in the playoffs, as the team went with a three-man rotation of Scott, Ryan and Knepper.
He stuck around for four more seasons after 1986, going 39-31 with a 3.11 ERA and winning the ERA title in 1990 with a 2.21 mark. The Astros gave up pitchers Don August (88 G, 34-30, 4.64 ERA) and Mark Knudson (121 G, 24-29, 4.72 ERA), but Darwin proved to be well worth the price.
Closer: Alejandro Pena, Atlanta Braves (Aug. 28, 1991)
Juan Berenguer was the Braves' closer to open the season, and he was 17-of-18 on save chances before breaking his throwing arm in a freak off-field injury.
Mike Stanton (74 G, 2.88 ERA, 7 SV), Kent Mercker (50 G, 2.58 ERA, 6 SV) and Marvin Freeman (34 G, 3.00 ERA, 1 SV) did a nice job filling out the bullpen, but Alejandro Pena gave them a lockdown closer option for the stretch run.
The Braves shipped a decent left-handed reliever in Tony Castillo and pitching prospect Joe Roa to the New York Mets in return for Pena. He spent the 1992 season in the Braves bullpen as well, posting a 4.07 ERA and 15 saves in 41 appearances, before signing with the Pirates in free agency that following offseason.
All stats and transaction information courtesy of Baseball-Reference, unless otherwise noted.
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