The Rangers are on top in the AL West, surprising some more than others, and now that we’re a third of the way into the season, you can take their bid for post-season play seriously. Contributing to that success have been a few of the players picked up in the Mark Teixeira trade made at the July trading deadline with the Braves in 2007, and while they’re just part of flow of talent that’s got Texas riding high, it’s fair to suggest that the sheer quantity of quality added in the deal has made a significant difference for the Rangers-while also coming well shy of propelling the Braves into the postseason for Braves fans wondering if the deal was really worthwhile.
Consider the benefits the Rangers are getting at present. While rookie shortstop Elvis Andrus and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia aren’t yet starring at the plate, Andrus’ play in the field has contributed to the Rangers’ rise up to second in the major leagues in Park-Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, mimicking the Rays‘ much-touted similar climb on their way to a division title and playoff glory last season. Saltalamacchia’s delivering well enough at the plate and behind it to help the club stabilize a position that seems as if it’s been in flux since Pudge Rodriguez left town. But wait, there’s more? Because not only did the Rangers get a pair of quality position players with upside, they got pitching worth bragging about as well, with Matt Harrison doing a passable job at the back end of the Rangers’ rotation, and if Neftali Feliz already looked like one of the 10 best prospects in baseball before the season, his impressive work as a 21-year-old in Triple-A might put him into the picture to help the Rangers down the stretch, either in the rotation, or perhaps in a David Price-like post-season cameo.
Clearly, something might go wrong with any one of these guys-injuries sap potential, not every player develops the way you might expect, and sometimes frustration sets in and the beneficiary of this kind of franchise-making trade trades someone too soon. When the White Sox made their then-infamous “White Flag” deal in 1997, it looked like they’d gotten a decent return for Wilson Alvarez, Roberto Hernandez, and Danny Darwin, and while Keith Foulke and Bob Howry both turned out relatively well, Lorenzo Barcelo didn’t end up delivering on his promise, and shortstop Mike Caruso fizzled out fast after an electric rookie season after being elevated all the way from A-ball in 1998. Setting aside classic one-fers like Larry Andersen for Jeff Bagwell, Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz, or even Dave Parker for Jose Rijo, history provides us with plenty of other examples of these so-called “super deals,” where a team adds multiple talents that help them turn things around. Consider these exchanges:
The Expos get Bartolo Colon (and Tim Drew) from the Indians for Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, and Lee Stevens, June 27, 2002. The Tribe got the players who would become their best starter and best position player, and that for a few months of Colon’s time in a last-gasp bid for relevance in Montreal. Lee now has a Cy Young Award, Sizemore’s the kind of player you could see winning an MVP award, and both players are All-Stars. While the Tribe subsequently gave up on Phillips, the middle infielder has blossomed as a premium defender and solid hitter with the Reds; Indians fans can be forgiven day-dreaming of what Asdrubal Cabrera flipping to Phillips on the deuce might have looked like.
When the deal didn’t deliver a trip to the postseason for the Expos, a bad deal got worse. GM Omar Minaya played wheeler-dealer again that winter by subsequently flipping Colon in his last pre-free agency season to the White Sox for Orlando Hernandez, Jeff Liefer, and Rocky Biddle; adding injury to insult, El Duque missed the season.
The Orioles trade Curt Schilling, Pete Harnisch, and Steve Finley to the Astros for Glenn Davis, January 10, 1991. A disaster for the Birds, since Davis managed just 24 homers across parts of three seasons, and while the Astros didn’t get to reap the full rewards of this deal by getting frustrated with Schilling and swapping him away for Jason Grimsley a year later, Finley was a premium center fielder on his way to becoming an offensive star as well, while Harnisch developed into a top starter in his own right before he was undermined by injuries.
The Mets get Frank Viola from the Twins for Rick Aguilera, Kevin Tapani, David West, Tim Drummond, and Jack Savage, July 31, 1989. Making their play for the postseason (and coming up short), the Mets sent the Twins two top pitching prospects in Tapani and West plus an established big-league starter in Aguilera; Aguilera had been squeezed out of the Mets’ rotation, and while the Twins initially made him a starter again, he’d be the closer on Minnesota’s 1991 championship team, while Tapani was one of the team’s top starters. West, one of the most touted talents in the minors when dealt, didn’t work out so well with the Twins, but after getting dumped on the Phillies, he was the key set-up man in the pen for their pennant-winning ’93 team.
The Astros trade Joe Morgan, Jack Billingham, Cesar Geronimo, Denis Menke, and Ed Armbrister to the Reds for Lee May, Tommy Helms, and Jimmy Stewart, November 29, 1971. It’s inconceivable that the Big Red Machine would ever have gotten into gear without adding Morgan, the future Hall of Fame second baseman, but getting the leadoff terror plus a workhorse starting pitcher in Billingham plus a brilliant defensive center fielder in Geronimo gave the Reds three key regulars. May was the only key cog added by the Astros in the deal, and while he had another eight years of slugging in the majors to look forward to, he was nothing like the kind of impact player Morgan had been and continued to be.
Now, you might be wondering where Billy Beane is all of this, given his reputation as a general manager, but generally speaking, however deserved Beane’s reputation for masterstrokes might be, his deals have tended to bring more transitory benefits to the A’s. Suffice to say that we’ll have to see how well the Danny Haren deal works out; even with outfielder Aaron Cunningham and lefties Dana Eveland and Brett Anderson showing up in green and gold this spring, it’s too soon to say if any of them will star in The Show, while Chris Carter‘s slugging in the minors gives further reason to wait on issuing any final edicts on the deal. Add in Beane’s already packaged two of the six players acquired-outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and lefty Greg Smith-to get outfielder Matt Holliday from the Rockies, we’ll have to take our time waiting to see what comes of what might end up being another super “super deal.”
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .