COMMENTARY | With the recent trade for Alfonso Soriano, the New York Yankees reconfirmed their commitment to being buyers as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. Only time will tell if it the trade was a good one.
Here, though, are the team's best and worst deadline deals of the last two decades:
Minor Leaguers for David Cone - In 1995, with the third-place Yankees fighting for a playoff spot, Bob Watson acquired Cone from the Toronto Blue Jays for a trio of minor leaguers (Marty Janzen, Jason Jarvis and Mike Gordon) three days before the deadline. Cone, who was 9-6 with a 3.38 ERA for the Jays, went 9-2 (3.82 ERA) down the stretch for the Yankees, helping earn the team a second-place finish and the first American League wild-card spot.
Ruben Sierra for Cecil Fielder - On Deadline Day 1996, Watson traded Sierra and minor-leaguer Matt Drews to the Detroit Tigers for Fielder, who batted .260 and hit 13 home runs in 53 games regular-season games for the Yankees. He hit three more homers in the postseason to go along with a 1.159 OPS.
Brandon Claussen for Aaron Boone - Deadline Day 2003 brought Boone to the Yankees from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for cash, Claussen and another prospect. Sure, Boone only hit .254 in 54 regular-season games and injured himself the following offseason -- a move that sparked the Yankees' decision to trade for Alex Rodriguez -- but his 11th-inning walkoff home run against the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series will go down as one of the greatest moments in Yankees history.
C.J. Henry for Bobby Abreau - A day before the 2006 deadline, the Yankees traded Henry and three other prospects to the Philadelphia Phillies for Abreu and Cory Lidle. Abreu -- who had batted .277 for the Phillies -- hit .330 for the Yankees, rediscovered his home-run stroke, and helped New York secure a playoff spot.
Jake Westbrook for David Justice - Two days before the 2000 deadline, the Yankees shipped Zach Day, Ricky Ledee, and Westbrook to the Cleveland Indians for Justice. Justice hit .305 (.977 OPS), bashed 20 home runs in 78 games, and helped the Yankees win the World Series. Day pitched for five seasons and Ledee bounced around the majors for eight more years. Thirteen years after the trade, though, Westbrook is still pitching. He's currently 7-4 with a 2.95 ERA (1.39 WHIP) in 14 starts for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ted Lilly for Jeff Weaver - In a three-team deal on July 5, 2002, the Yankees traded John-Ford Griffin (the team's first-round draft pick in 2001) and Lilly to the Oakland Athletics in a deal that netted Weaver from the Detroit Tigers. Griffin played a total of 13 big-league games while Lilly is still pitching in the majors. Since the trade, he's 122-101. Weaver, meanwhile, remains one of the most hated Yankees in recent history. After going 7-9 (5.99 ERA) in 2003, the Yankees traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Kevin Brown.
LaTroy Hawkins for Matt Cusick - A day before 2008 trade deadline, the Yankees unloaded Hawkins, who was sporting a 5.71 ERA, to the Houston Astros for Cusick, a 10th-round draft pick who never made it to the majors. In 24 games for the Astros, Hawkins had a 0.43 ERA and served as the team's primary setup man. Cusick never played for the Yankees.
Mark Melancon for Lance Berkman - On Deadline Day 2010, the Yankees traded Melancon to the Astros for Berkman. In 37 regular-season games for New York, Berkman batted .255 with one home run. He signed with the Cardinals after the season and won National League Comeback Player of the Year a year later. Melancon served as the Astros' closer in 2011 (2.78 ERA and 20 saves). A year later, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox, who traded him last year to the Pirates. This season, Melancon earned an All-Star appearance and is sporting a 0.91 ERA in 50 games for the Pirates.
Ross Ohlendorf, Jose Tabata, and Jeff Kartstens for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady - In a 2008 deadline deal, the Yankees shipped Ohlendorf, Tabata, and Kartstens for Marte and Nady. Marte went 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA for New York for the remainder of the season, while Nady hit .268 with 12 home runs. Both re-signed with the Yankees and failed miserably. Meanwhile, Tabata earned a starting job with the Pirates, while Karstens also proved to be a valuable pick-up. Ohlendorf, now with the Washington Nationals, is 2-0 this season with a 1.87 ERA in 33+ innings.
WORST PRE-1995 DEAL
Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps - Seinfeld's Frank Costanza did what every Yankees fan who suffered through the late-'80s and early-'90s wanted to do when he harangued "George Steinbrenner" for swapping Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps a week before the 1988 trade deadline. While Buhner crushed it for Seattle, Phelps hit 10 home runs in 45 games for the 1988 Yankees, who finished 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. The following season, Phelps hit 7 home runs in 86 games before the Yankees traded him to the Oakland A's for a minor leaguer.
Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York . For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.
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