GMs like to cash in on Black Friday deals, too

Donaldson, Schilling trades among major moves at Thanksgiving time

November 24th, 2023

Major League Baseball's clubs are not averse to taking part in the annual shopping frenzy that is Black Friday. As much of the country is out scouring for deals in stores and online, front-office executives throughout baseball are doing the same on the trade and free-agent markets.

It's the time of year that teams look to fine-tune existing rosters for a championship push or work toward a complete overhaul in a rebuilding effort. But regardless of the motive, the Hot Stove season has seen its fair share of player movement around Thanksgiving.

Below is a closer look at some of the biggest transactions completed at the onset of the holiday shopping season.

Nov. 26, 2021
Mets make big splash, add three bats

The Mets went free-agent shopping on Black Friday, reaching deals with outfielders Starling Marte and Mark Canha and infielder Eduardo Escobar for a combined $124.5 million in guaranteed money. All three veterans went on to contribute to a Mets club that won 101 games. Canha posted a .367 OBP, Marte combined 16 homers with 18 steals despite being limited to 118 games, and Escobar started slowly but reached the 20-homer mark with a strong second half (.825 OPS).

Nov. 27, 2015
Blue Jays land a lefty

In 2015, the Blue Jays inked free-agent left-hander J.A. Happ as one of the first major signings of the offseason. Toronto's holiday purchase proved to be a success as Happ enjoyed a career year, going 20-4 with a 3.18 ERA across 32 starts in the regular season. Happ also pitched well in the postseason as the Jays advanced to the American League Championship Series, which they lost to World Series runner-up Cleveland.

Nov. 28, 2014
Toronto gets its star

A rebuilding A's team traded away one of its promising young stars on Black Friday in 2014, shipping third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays for Brett Lawrie, Franklin Barreto, Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin. In his first season with Toronto, Donaldson won the AL Most Valuable Player Award, leading the Majors in runs (122) and RBIs (123). He helped the club reach the postseason in consecutive seasons (2015-16), something the franchise hadn't done since 1992-93.

Nov. 26, 2010
V-Mart rolls into Motor City

The Tigers scored one of the top bats on the market in 2010, signing Victor Martinez to a four-year deal in the middle of an aggressive offseason for Detroit. With the exception of a lost '12 season due to an offseason ACL tear in his left knee, Martinez was a steady source of production in the Tigers' lineup for seven seasons (.290, 115 HR, 540 RBIs) until his retirement after the 2018 season.

Nov. 22, 2007
Hunter pulls SoCal swap

The Angels and Torii Hunter surprised the baseball world by agreeing to a five-year deal on Thanksgiving night at a Del Taco in Corona, Calif., in 2007. Hunter was in Southern California for a free-agent meeting with the Dodgers, but he ultimately signed with the Halos after sharing a fast-food meal with then-general manager Tony Reagins. Hunter enjoyed five successful seasons in Anaheim, batting .286 with 105 home runs. He made the All-Star team twice with the Angels and also won two Gold Glove Awards and a Silver Slugger Award.

Nov. 24, 2006
El Caballo goes to Houston

The Astros signed Carlos Lee, who provided immediate returns on the investment by making the All-Star team in his first season with the club. He averaged 22 home runs and 90 RBIs across his six seasons with Houston.

Nov. 25, 2005
A win-win trade

The White Sox and Phillies completed a mutually beneficial trade on Black Friday in 2005 that sent Jim Thome to Chicago and Aaron Rowand to Philadelphia. Thome hit 42 homers and drove in 109 runs in his first season with the Sox, while Rowand helped the Phils win their first National League East title in 14 years in '07 with his lone All-Star campaign in Philadelphia.

Nov. 24, 2005
Marlins, Red Sox pull off a blockbuster

While most Americans were sharing a Thanksgiving meal in 2005, the front offices of the Marlins and Red Sox were hard at work orchestrating a seven-player trade. The deal sent Hanley Ramirez, Jesus Delgado, Harvey Garcia and Anibal Sanchez to Miami in exchange for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota. Both sides ultimately proved prosperous, as the Marlins received financial relief and a franchise player in Ramirez, and the Red Sox picked up two key pieces to their '07 World Series title run in Beckett and Lowell.

A top Minor League prospect at the time of the trade, Ramirez went on to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2006. In six-plus seasons with the Marlins, he earned three straight All-Star nods from 2008-10, and he was the NL's batting champion in '09. Beckett and Lowell, meanwhile, each had career years in '07, when Boston took home its second World Series championship in four seasons. Beckett won 20 games with a 3.27 ERA, while Lowell set personal bests for hits (191), batting average (.324), on-base percentage (.378) and RBIs (120).

Nov. 28, 2003
Red Sox acquire an ace

In perhaps the most notable of Black Friday deals, Theo Epstein, then the general manager of the Red Sox, spent Thanksgiving dinner at Curt Schilling's Paradise Valley, Ariz., home in 2003, hoping to recruit the potential Hall of Famer to Boston.

A trade was already in place that would send Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, Jorge De La Rosa and Mike Goss to Arizona in exchange for Schilling. All that remained was Epstein convincing Schilling to waive his no-trade clause. Negotiations spilled over to Black Friday, when the two sides eventually struck an agreement.

"If we didn't sign Curt, it probably would have been the worst Thanksgiving of my life," Epstein said.

Epstein's holiday recruiting efforts, of course, helped Boston snap its 86-year title drought as Schilling, and his famously bloody sock, was instrumental to the club's World Series run in both 2004 and '07.

Nov. 24, 1989
Rangers upgrade their defense

The Rangers signed center fielder Gary Pettis in 1989. The five-time Gold Glove Award winner gave Texas a standout defender patrolling the outfield for two seasons in '90-91.