It was the deal that haunted Lou Gorman the rest of his fine career, although in fairness to Lou it must be stressed Andersen was dandy in his brief stint here. Lou always insisted there's no way they'd have made the 1990 playoffs without him and he was right. Unfortunately, the mighty Oakland A's featuring the steroid-juiced Bash-Brothers, Canseco and McGwire, swiftly eliminated Boston and two months later Andersen was made "a special free agent" by an arbitrator and promptly signed with San Diego, leaving the Red Sox to look like suckers. When Bagwell makes the Hall of Fame -- and that's likely to happen soon -- you can expect this aggravating anecdote to get resurrected, again and again.
Clearly the bottom line of our little tale is simply; if you yearn to play in this strange and convoluted mid-summer swap-fest you had better do your homework and you'd better be lucky.
The teams dumping established players -- often but not always the less prosperous, so-called "small-market teams" -- are getting mighty skilled at the fine art of shaking down the buyers. A fine example came last summer when the Mets succeeded in conning the Giants into parting with premium pitching prospect Zack Wheeler in exchange for veteran slugger Carlos Beltran, whom the Mets had no hope of retaining. At 22, Wheeler remains a terrific prospect whereas Beltran has left San Francisco for greater success and money in St. Louis. It's a minefield. But before closing the book on this caper perhaps we should wait for Wheeler to at least make the Majors.
Teams can out-smart themselves and it happens often. The ultimate example came in July, 2004 when the Yankees, still on top but with their pitching looking shaky, urgently sought Randy Johnson. Faced with re-building and needing to dump payroll, Arizona was anxious to trade the stomping and fuming "Big Unit" but wasn't keen on the prospect New York kept insisting they take. When neither side budged, the deal fell through at the deadline. Who was the prospect the Diamondbacks rejected, you ask? The answer is Robinson Cano, then still in the Minors.
Think how baseball history pivoted on that curious whim. If the Yankees had acquired Johnson there's no way they'd have folded in 2004 and there would have been no concomitant "miracle" in Boston for the Red Sox would not have had the pleasure of feasting mainly on punching bags Kevin Brown and Javi Vazquez in 2004's fateful playoffs. That winter, New York finally landed Johnson -- without sacrificing Cano -- too late.
And so the circus resumes. In coming days there will be deals; maybe many given that with a new playoff round more teams than usual are hallucinating on the illusion they are genuine contenders. Deals have already gone down; a couple of them quite odd.
Big names are being bandied about with most being pitchers, as ever the most precious commodity; the Rays' Shields, the Phils' Hamel, Garza and Dempster of the Cubs, Greinke of the Brewers, Liriano of the Twins, maybe even Cliff Lee of the Phils, once again. Will the injury-plagued Yankees reload with Shane Victorino? Will the injury-ravaged Red Sox rebuild with Garza, Greinke, or Liriano?
More likely, none of this will happen. But that won't quiet the Talk Shows. Just remember to be careful what you wish for, lest you get it.
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