TOP 5: Best Trade Deadline Deals in Cleveland Indians History
By Jason Kaminski
Now that the trade deadline has come and gone let’s take a look back at some of the best deals the Cleveland Indians have ever made.
5. 1983 – Len Barker to the Atlanta Braves for Rick Behenna, Brook Jacoby and Brett Butler The running theme for most of these deals seems to be Cleveland trading away a star or two for prospects. It has long been the Cleveland strategy and though it may not sit well with the average fan, often times it’s the key to building a successful small market franchise. The deal in 1983 was no different. Len Barker was best known for his powerful fastball and strikeout capability. However, he was also very unpredictable. At the time of the trade Atlanta was fighting for first place and in need of another arm. Cleveland was wallowing at the bottom of their division and were in need of rebuilding tools. The Tribe would make out like bandits in this deal. They sent Barker to Atlanta for pitcher Rick Behenna and two players to be named later. They ended up being centerfielder Brett Butler and third baseman Brook Jacoby. Both ended up being all-stars while Barker struggled in Atlanta and was eventually let go a few years later.
4. 2009 – Mark DeRosa to the St. Louis Cardinals for Chris Perez and Jess Todd In a deal that seemed to not be much at the time ended up being very valuable for the Indians. St. Louis was looking for a utility man that could hit and Mark DeRosa fit the bill perfectly. DeRosa was in the twilight years but was still productive enough to be sought after by many contending teams due to his versatility. The Cardinals would ante up and offer the Tribe the best deal sending them future closer Chris Perez and a player to be named later (Jess Todd). Perez solidified himself as the Indians permanent closer the following year and is already fifth on the all-time saves list for the franchise.
3. 2006 – Ben Broussard to the Seattle Mariners for Shin-Soo Choo and Shawn Nottingham Talk about an “off the radar” deal. Broussard was acquired by Cleveland in 2002 from Cincinnati that saw Russell Branyan leave town. Broussard was thought to be an up-and-coming star that would provide a solid bat in the lineup. Unfortunately he was a bit of a disappointment hitting only .268 with 69 home runs in his five seasons in Cleveland. However, his best year came at the right time for Cleveland. At the trade deadline in 2006 Broussard was having a career year hitting .321 with 13 home runs and 46 RBI. Seattle was a team in the midst of changes and looking to make moves. They acquired Broussard from Cleveland for a couple of vaguely known prospects. Shin-Soo Choo and Shawn Nottingham. Choo did not light the world on fire from the start but was able to get a solid amount of playing time that prepared him to become a regular in the lineup. By 2009 Choo was an everyday player and has a .294 career average in his time with the Indians, becoming a fan favorite along the way.
2. 2002 – Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew to the Montreal Expos for Lee Stevens, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore The deal of the millenium in Cleveland. At the time the Indians traded star pitcher Bartolo Colon, Tribe fans were slowly (and begrudingly) becoming aware that the team was going to rebuild. After a decade of playoff excitement the team was filled with a mix of old core stars reaching the end of their deals and a lot of young talent getting their shot. Colon was probably the most highly sought after pitcher going into the trade deadline so he garnered a very high cost. Montreal was a team that rarely competed let alone contended so when the opportunity to snag the stud pitcher came along they bit…and bit hard. The Indians wanted prospects but they also wanted a major league ready player so if Lee Stevens had not been a part of this deal it’s very likely it may have been dead in the water. Lucky for Cleveland he was and it allowed them to obtain three young prospects who would all be all-stars. Outfielder Grady Sizemore, pitcher Cliff Lee and infielder Brandon Phillips were those three players. The mishandling of these players however is up for debate on just how great the deal ended up in the long run. Phillips was rushed to the bigs a little prematurely and later clashed with manager Eric Wedge to the point of being sent to Cincinnati right before the 2006 season. Cliff Lee was an average pitcher at best for six seasons before finding it in 2008 and winning the American League Cy Young Award. The following year, with a year still left under contract, the Indians traded him to the Phillies for minor league prospects that seem to be far below expectations in terms of value received. Grady Sizemore remains with the Indians but has yet to see the field this season after a wave of unfortunate injuries. Though he was an all-star for three straight seasons from 2006-2008 and the unmistakable “face of the franchise” during his prime. Still, despite how it ended up, this trade will still be brought up for years to come in trade deadline deal discussions as one of the best “star for prospects” moves.
1. 1910 – Bris Lord to the Philadelphia Athletics for Morrie Rath and Joe Jackson Most baseball fans would probably not say this is the most “memorable” deadline deal in history considering it happened over a century ago, but it’s easily the best move in Cleveland deadline deals. Philadelphia was after a World Series title and needed an offensive boost. They got it when they acquired veteran outfielder Bris Lord from the Cleveland Naps. Lord was by no means a star, in fact he was hitting only .219 in 58 games at the time of the deal but the Athletics wanted a veteran presence coming off the bench. Had they known what they were giving up to get him maybe they would not have made the move. The original deal was Lord for infielder Morrie Rath and a player to be named later. Rath was a utility infielder with poor hitting abilities. The “player to be named later” ended up being one of the greatest hitters that ever lived, none other than “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. At the time of the deal Jackson had a total of 41 plate appearances with the A’s and did not have much to show for it. The next year Jackson started with the big league club and all he did was hit .408 with 83 runs batted in. He would play with Cleveland until being traded in 1914 but still remains the Indians all-time leader with a .375 batting average.
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