Who needs July 31? A brief history of August baseball trades

Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline gets all of the attention, but August trades can be just as interesting. Plus they’re more challenging to pull off, since players have to pass through waivers in order for a trade to be made. One might even make the case that August trades have more impact on the pennant race, since more teams have a better idea of whether or not they have a chance at the postseason by the time the dog days of summer roll around. Add in the waiver difficulty factor, and August trades are just the best.

Since baseball changed the trade deadline day to July 31 in 1986, there have been a number of trades made in August that have had long-lasting impacts; some changed pennant races, some were flops, and some even changed the entire course of a franchise. Here’s a look at some of the more memorable August trades in baseball history:

August 12, 1987: The Atlanta Braves trade Doyle Alexander to the Detroit Tigers for John Smoltz

One thing about this trade that is often overlooked: Alexander was absolute nails for the Tigers down the stretch, going 9-0 with a 1.63 ERA in 11 starts. He helped them hold off the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East and brought the Tigers a division crown. And while he was all kinds of terrible in the ’87 ALCS, the Tigers would never have even been there without him. It actually wouldn’t be looked at as such a bad deal if, you know, the Tigers hadn’t given up a future Hall-of-Famer on their end. That kind of puts a damper on things.

August 30, 1990: The Houston Astros trade Larry Andersen to the Boston Red Sox for Jeff Bagwell

Speaking of trading away future Hall-of-Famers. Andersen was a 37-year-old journeyman reliever who was enjoying his second straight productive year when Boston traded for him, and he’d go on to post a 1.23 ERA down the stretch as the Sox wrapped up the AL East. Boston was swept in the ALCS by the powerhouse Oakland A’s, Andersen signed with San Diego that winter, and Bagwell made his big league debut in 1991 while the Red Sox trotted out Carlos Quintana as their starting first baseman. Not the worst player giveaway in Boston history, but pretty close.

August 27, 1992: The Toronto Blue Jays trade Jeff Kent and and Ryan Thompson to the New York Mets for David Cone

The Blue Jays were making a postseason push and decided to add Cone, a solid starter with good numbers in New York, to their already formidable rotation. It paid off: Cone performed well in September and helped pitch the Jays to their first World Series championship. The Mets didn’t make out too badly, either: Kent put up a respectable .279/.327/.453 batting line in New York before heading to San Francisco by way of Cleveland, where his career really took off. A trade of two guys with better-than-average cases for the Hall of Fame…and Ryan Thompson.

August 26, 2003: The San Diego Padres trade Jason Bay, Oliver Perez, and Cory Stewart to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Brian Giles

Both teams were going nowhere in ’03, but the Padres had visions of contention in the near future and decided to add Giles, the hometown boy who was one of the best hitters in the National League at the time. The move paid off: the Padres would post a winning record the next season (their first in five years) and won their division the next two years after that. Bay, meanwhile, would win NL Rookie of the Year in 2004, make two All-Star teams, and outproduce Giles the rest of their careers. A true win-win deal for both teams.

August 21, 2008: The Toronto Blue Jays trade Robinzon Diaz to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jose Bautista

Toronto is pretty good at these August trades. This one didn’t make any waves at the time, as Bautista was a minor-league player who’d failed to hit at the big league level and had been replaced at third base by Andy LaRoche. The Blue Jays took a chance on him, and in two years he became one of the most feared hitters in baseball. Diaz is toiling away in the minor leagues and is best known for spelling his first name with a Z. Score another one for the Blue Jays.

August 25, 2012: The Los Angeles Dodgers trade Ivan De Jesus, James Loney, Rubby De La Rosa, and Allen Webster to the Boston Red Sox for Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Nick Punto

The biggest trade in the history of August deals, not only because of the number of players involved but because of the ramifications on both teams as well. The Red Sox had a ton of big-money contracts but zero chemistry, and needed a dramatic makeover. The Dodgers needed a makeover of their own and had the financial backing to take on big deals. It was a perfect match: the Sox shed their bad contracts, completely remade their team the following offseason, and won the World Series in 2013. Gonzalez and Beckett have performed well for the Dodgers and have helped turned them into a perpetual contender. Arguably the most successful August trade of all time.

About Dave Tobener

Dave Tobener has been writing about baseball for the better part of a decade. He's been to more Giants games than he can remember and was there when Ruben Rivera forgot how to run the bases. Follow him on Twitter: @gggiants