The trade deadline rapidly approaches, and I expect the rumor mill to start spitting out nonsense at any moment. The Reds could use some help in a couple of areas, and we’re already hearing that they’ll look for relievers (again), but get ready for the silly season.
That’s not why I’m gathering you here today, however. Earlier this week, I wrote a piece for ESPN in which I chose Cincinnati’s best-ever trade deadline deal. You can go over there to read which trade I chose as the best. It was actually a fun exercise, and I wanted to ruminate further.
So, without further ado, here are the top five Reds trade deadline deals of all time. Feel free to disagree, but please, no wagering.
1. Okay, I want you to go over and read the ESPN piece, but I’ll tell you which trade I chose: the 1977 deal that brought Tom Seaver to the Reds on deadline day.
2. 1999: Reds trade Jacobo Sequea and B.J. Ryan to the Orioles for Juan Guzman.
Pete Harnisch had a pretty good year for the Reds in 1999, but the rest of the starting rotation was a patchwork collection of has-beens, relief pitchers, and pretenders. Remember these names? Ron Villone, Steve Parris, Brett Tomko, Steve Avery, Denny Neagle. Parris actually had a very good season in 1999, and the rest of those guys had some good times with the Reds (and plenty of bad times, as well), but it wasn’t a rotation that frightened any other team in the league.
Most of you will remember what a special season 1999 was, perhaps the most special season in Reds history that didn’t end in a playoff berth. Coming off a season (1998) in which the Reds finished in fourth place (25 games back) at 77-85, the good guys were somewhat surprising contenders midway through 1999. At the trading deadline, Cincinnati was in second place, 3.5 games behind Houston. GM Jim Bowden was determined to get help for the starting rotation.
Enter Juan Guzman. Guzman hadn’t made an All-Star team in seven years, and he was only a slightly above-average starter at the time the Reds acquired him. Well, during the second half of 1999, Guzman was excellent, and he stabilized a somewhat-struggling Cincinnati rotation. Over the last three months, Guzman put up a 155 ERA+, going 6-3 with a 3.03 ERA. Ultimately, the Reds lost a one-game playoff to the Mets (for the right to the NL Wild Card), but he contributed mightily to a season that many of us would remember fondly.
BJ Ryan did go on to appear in a couple of All-Star games for the Blue Jays years later, but score this deal a win for the Redlegs.
3. 1995: Detroit trades David Wells to the Reds for a player to be named later (who turned out to be Mark Lewis), Dave Tuttle, and C.J. Nitkowski.
Kevin Jarvis. Tim Pugh. Mark Portugal. Pete Smith. John Roper. Rick Reed. CJ Nitkowski. These guys started games for the Reds in 1995. Sounds like a similar situation to the one above, eh? Heck, the Reds’ ace that year was Pete Schourek, who actually had a good season, but was a scrap heap reclamation project.
David Wells, however, was a certified star. No, really, he made the 1995 All-Star team. At the time of the trade, Wells had put together the best half-season of his career: 159 ERA+, 10-3 with a 3.04 ERA. He was good, guys!
At the trade deadline, the Reds were in first place, 3.5 games up. Here’s where the picture deviates from the one we talked about above; in 1995, the Reds weren’t far removed from being serious contenders. We hadn’t been broken down yet. We actually expected the Reds to win. Weird, huh?
Well, Wells helped the Reds to a NL Central championship. Though they let us down in the NLCS (we haven’t been let down by the Reds in the playoffs since then, have we?), it was a very fun season. Wells won six games down the stretch, with a 3.59 ERA and, much like Guzman, he stabilized a shaky Cincinnati rotation down the stretch. Ultimately, the Reds traded him away for a bag of magic beans (the immortal Curtis Goodwin; good grief, what a terrible trade…as we all said at the time on the Reds listserv), and then went on to fame, fortune, and a VIP seat at Golden Corral in a career that lasted until he was 44 years old.
4. 1984: Pete Rose was acquired from the Montreal Expos for Tom Lawless.
I’m cheating here. This trade was actually made after the (non-waiver) trade deadline (did that just blow your mind?), but it was significant for many reasons.
Do I really need to discuss this one? Maybe a bit, just for you youngsters. You see, Pete Rose was, and is, a Reds legend. He could hit a little, he could run a little, he could play all over the diamond, and he could sell some furniture (actually, we didn’t find out about that talent until much later). Okay, he could do all those things in the 60s and 70s, but he was still a Cincinnati hero when he returned to the Reds in 1984.
The trade makes this list not because of what Rose actually accomplished on the field. In 107 plate appearances at the end of 1984, he was actually pretty good. Looking back at the numbers, I was surprised to find that he was almost league-average as a hitter and player/manager in 1985. In 1986, his final season in the big leagues, he was absolutely atrocious and probably hurt the Reds by writing himself into the lineup card so often (rather than budding star Nick Esasky).
But Pete’s return brought with it a magical time for fans of this storied franchise. As a manager, he led the Reds to four straight second-place finishes. That doesn’t seem so great, until you remember that the Reds were simply awful before 1985. But again, that’s not why Pete makes this list.
Rose’s run to the all-time hits record in 1986 remains one of the defining storylines in Cincinnati Reds history. Period. I was just a pre-teen, but I will never forget being in the stands at Riverfront Stadium when Rose got a single that brought him within twenty hits of Ty Cobb’s all-time record.
Love him or hate him (and I’ve done both), he’s a Reds legend.
5. Reds acquire Aaron Harang from the Oakland Athletics with Jeff Bruksch and Joe Valentine in exchange for Jose Guillen.
This was actually a trade I hadn’t considered for this list until I was reminded by our good friend Mark Sheldon yesterday. This certainly wasn’t a trade that helped the Reds win in 2003; Cincinnati finished in fifth place and continued to be a joke until 2010.
What this trade did accomplish, however, is that the Reds acquired an ace pitcher, and one who continues to be underrated by Reds fans. Harang had a great career for the Reds under difficult circumstances. Often, Harang was the only legitimate above-average starting pitcher on the staff (at least until Bronson Arroyo arrived in Cincinnati). Other starters during Harang’s time with the Reds: Brandon Claussen, Jose Acevedo, Cory Lidle, Josh Hancock, Luke Hudson, Eric Milton, Ramon Ortiz, Elizardo Ramirez, David Williams, Chris Michalak, Joe Mays, Bobby Livingston, Kirk Saarloos, Tom Shearn, Phil Dumatrait, Josh Fogg, Ramon Ramirez, Daryl Thompson, Justin Lehr, Kip Wells, Jimmy Haynes, John Bale, Jimmy Anderson, Dan Serafini, Jeff Austin, Josh Hall.
Okay, now I want to cry.
During his time in Cincinnati, Harang was good, and often outstanding. In 2006 and 2007, in particular, Harang was among the best pitchers in the National League, winning 32 games with a 124 ERA+, leading the league in strikeouts, wins, and complete games in 2006, and finishing fourth in Cy Young Award balloting in 1997.
A quick note about Jose Guillen, who was traded to the A’s in this deal. Guillen had a marvelous half-season for Cincinnati in 2003 (.337/.385/.629 with 23 homers in 91 games), but he wasn’t really this good, mainly due to his unwillingness to take a walk. It was a shrewd trade by interim GMs Brad Kullman and Leland Maddox. One of those guys (we were big fans of Kullman) should have gotten the full-time GM job, in retrospect.
Honorable mention: Scott Rolen traded by the Toronto Blue Jays to the Reds for Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke, and Zach Stewart.
I don’t even know if I want to mention this one, but this trade does have a good argument for inclusion in the top five. Rolen was very good in 2010 (until the playoffs started), and everyone seems to credit his leadership for the Reds’ run to the NL Central championship that year. I can buy that. Rolen’s defense was remarkable, and he had a great half-season, which included a selection to the All-Star team.
I will concede that I’m biased, because Edwin Encarnacion was my favorite Red at the time, and he has turned out to be a star third baseman for the Blue Jays (plus, he remains one of the rotating banner images atop RN to this day). Can I say “I told you so”? (Check the archives.) However, while Encarnacion’s powerful bat would have been a big boost to the 2013 Reds slumping offense, Scott Rolen did help the Reds to a division title in 2010. For that, I’ll forever be a big Rolen fan, as well.
N.B.: I’m so proud that I didn’t mention Gary Majewski once. Until just now. Oops.