Hot Stove isn't immune to Black Friday frenzy
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As America straps on its bib and grabs the carving knife, go ahead and attack the bird. But you will want to leave some room for dessert: Baseball has been known to serve up some treats on Thanksgiving -- bombshells, not bonbons -- then join the Black Friday frenzy.
This doesn't mean that elite free-agent pitchers such as Zack Greinke and David Price can be had for slashed prices the day after Thanksgiving, but the doors to baseball's marketplace have occasionally been blown off by major deals.
The 2015 American League Most Valuable Player left Oakland's inventory on Black Friday 2014. On Nov. 28, Josh Donaldson was dealt by the A's to Toronto in return for Brett Lawrie, Franklin Barreto, Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin. No buyer's remorse by the Blue Jays.
Nine years earlier, the Phillies and the White Sox engaged in a Black Friday swap that fulfilled that elusive ideal: It truly did help both teams. On Nov. 25, 2005, the Phillies dealt Jim Thome -- who had a 42-homer, 109-RBI All-Star season in Chicago -- for Aaron Rowand -- who hit .309 in an All-Star season in 2007 to spark the Phillies to their first National League East title in 14 years.
On occasion, teams have also elbowed each other at the free-agent counter on Black Friday and come away happy:
• In 2010 (Nov. 26), the Tigers signed Victor Martinez to a four-year deal; he hit .330 and drove in 103 runs in 2011 and has continued producing ever since (around the blown-out left ACL that cost him all of 2012).
• In 2006 (Nov. 24), the Astros signed Carlos Lee, who immediately had an All-Star season, hitting .303 with 32 homers and 119 RBIs. He averaged 22 homers and 90 RBIs in his six seasons in Houston.
• In 1989 (Nov. 24), the Rangers signed outfielder Gary Pettis, who brought his Gold Glove over from Detroit.
As they say around the dinner table, those were just the appetizers.
The most legendary Black Friday score came down in 2003. Theo Epstein, then Boston's whiz-kid general manager, came here to the Valley of the Sun to recruit Curt Schilling, one of the heroes of the D-backs' 2001 World Series title who had gone 53-22 the previous three seasons in Arizona.
The Red Sox and the D-backs had already negotiated a trade to send the right-handed ace to Boston for Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, Jorge De La Rosa and Mike Goss, but Epstein had to convince Schilling to waive his no-trade clause. MLB gave them a 3 p.m. ET deadline on Nov. 28 -- Black Friday -- to hammer out a deal.
Negotiations dragged on in Schilling's Paradise Valley living room -- often in full view of media eavesdropping through picture windows -- as the turkey broasted in the oven. Epstein was 2,300 miles from home. There was only one thing for Schilling to do: Invite him to stay over for the family Thanksgiving feast, and the invitation was accepted.
"We tried to refuse, and Curt said it was a deal-breaker, they would be insulted if we didn't go," Epstein later told reporters.
However, the pitcher still hadn't accepted Boston's invitation. Thanksgiving bled into Black Friday as Epstein bounced between conference calls with Red Sox brass and updates for Schilling. Then, suddenly, an agreement was announced.
"If we didn't sign Curt, it probably would have been the worst Thanksgiving of my life," Epstein said.
There was little doubt to Schilling's wish when he'd grabbed the wishbone at the Thanksgiving table. He voiced it at the Black Friday announcement of the accord: "To be part of bringing Boston its first World Series championship since 1918. And hopefully more than one over the next four years."
Do not question the power of the wishbone: Schilling and the Red Sox, of course, won the Series in 2004, then again in '07.
That was not the only Thanksgiving-time deal made between bites. But Angels GM Tony Reagins and free agent Torii Hunter were chowing down on quite different fare -- tacos and frijoles -- on Thanksgiving Night 2007 when they struck a surreptitious and blindsiding five-year deal.
How blindsiding? Hunter had come to Southern California to talk with the Dodgers and ended up signing with the Angels after meeting Reagins in a fast-food restaurant in Corona -- 44 miles from Dodger Stadium. It might help you identify the fast-food franchise if you know the clandestine ploy earned Reagins the nickname "Del Ninja."
On Thanksgiving 2005, the Marlins, one year removed from a World Series title, were left with bones, in a manner of speaking. In separate deals, they shipped Carlos Delgado to the Mets and Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to the Red Sox (an ultimately equitable deal in which they acquired Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez).