5 buzzer-beater Deadline deals

Is there anything better than your team grabbing a superstar at the last minute?

August 1st, 2023

A version of this story originally ran in July 2021.

Who doesn't love a good buzzer beater? From Kemba Walker to Michael Jordan to Chris Farley's recreation of Christian Laettner's famous shot, they make for some of the most thrilling moments in all of sports.

But forget last-second shots for a minute, what about last-second trades where your favorite team gets that coveted superstar?

Twitter blows up, your mass texts go into a frenzy, you're pouring sweat at your computer -- refreshing the latest trade rumor blog to make sure what you just read is true.

That's what can happen at the MLB Trade Deadline. There have been some wild deals that were completed mere seconds before the cutoff in recent years. Here are some of the best.

Zack Greinke to the Astros in 2019

MLB.com's Brian McTaggart set the scene pretty well in the Astros clubhouse as the minutes ticked by toward the 2019 Deadline.

The Astros were gathered in the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field about three hours before Wednesday’s game against the Indians, minutes before the 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline hit. They were refreshing their phones and staring at the TVs, eager to find out the latest trade news.

Word had it that Astros GM Jeff Luhnow had reached out to D-backs GM Mike Hazen about acquiring Zack Greinke the day before, hoping to add him to a superstar rotation already featuring Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. But Arizona wanted four of the Astros' top 30 prospects in return, and Luhnow didn't want to give up that much. Neither side would budge.

And then, about 35 minutes before the Deadline, talks picked up again, and not until minutes after the 4 o'clock hour did the world find out that Luhnow gave in to the D-backs' demands. Greinke was officially an Astro and his new rotation-mates were shocked, while also incredibly pleased.

“There was some hooting and hollering,” said right-hander Gerrit Cole, who is friends with Greinke. “It was like 4:08, I think, is when it broke and [then-manager] A.J. [Hinch] came in with a [huge] smile. We were very excited.”

Greinke went 8-1 down the stretch and helped his new team get to its second World Series in three years.

Yu Darvish to the Dodgers in 2017

For weeks leading up to the 2017 Deadline, the Dodgers were the frontrunner to add Yu Darvish to their rotation. Clayton Kershaw was suffering from a bad back, and L.A. needed another superstar to pick up the slack if it wanted to win its first title in more than 30 seasons.

But then, because Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi didn't want to give up top prospects Alex Verdugo and Walker Buehler to Texas, Darvish at Dodger Stadium seemed less likely just hours before 4 o'clock.

Ten minutes before the Deadline, even Darvish tweeted who his team still was.

Even 10 minutes after, nobody was sure what had happened. That's when official trade reporting czar Ken Rosenthal dropped the bomb.

Baseball Twitter nearly broke, Zaidi didn't have to give up either Verdugo or Buehler in the deal and Darvish helped the Dodgers get to their first Fall Classic since 1988.

Yoenis Céspedes to the Mets in 2015

You probably remember, but the 2015 trade season was a wild one for the Mets. Looking to add some outfield power for the stretch run, the team thought it had a deal in place to get Carlos Gómez for Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler on July 29. Everyone believed it to be set in stone. I mean, just ask Flores.

But Gómez's physicals weren't up to par and the trade fell through.

The Mets were now in a bind with not much time left and still in need of an outfielder. GM Sandy Alderson found out the Tigers were making Yoenis Céspedes available on the 31st, but in exchange, Detroit wanted Luis Cessa and top pitching prospect Michael Fulmer. Alderson didn't want to give up Fulmer and apparently spent most of the afternoon on Deadline day trying to convince the Tigers to take someone else.

Mets fans, famous for being beside themselves, were beside themselves.

Finally, Alderson acquiesced to the Tigers' demands.

"Twenty minutes before 4 [p.m.], we said, 'OK, we’ll give you Fulmer and Cessa,'" he said, and the deal went through just a few minutes before the Deadline.

Céspedes went on a tear for the Mets in the second half, hitting 17 homers in 57 games. The team reached its first World Series in 15 years but lost to the Royals in five games.

David Price to the Tigers in 2014

The Deadline on July 31, 2014, was another eventful one, with many deals happening right at 4 p.m. ET. The biggest? A tall, left-handed starter who moved from Tampa Bay to Detroit.

David Price had been in the Tigers' sights for a while, but talks apparently didn't really get going until around 1 p.m. ET on the 31st, when then-Rays GM Andrew Friedman called then-Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski.

"That's when everything started to move real quickly," according to Dombrowski.

Dombrowski says the GMs went into great detail about who or what would be involved, putting fanbases in total suspense. And then, 13 minutes before 4, it was Rosenthal again.

A three-team deal involving the Rays, Tigers and Mariners.

Where was Price that afternoon? Waiting by his phone? Nervously pacing back and forth in his bedroom? No, he was golfing.

But when he saw the news, he was psyched.

Price went 4-4 with a 3.59 ERA the rest of the way, helping Detroit win its division and get its fourth postseason berth in four years.

Jake Peavy to the White Sox in 2009

This one probably isn't as well known -- maybe because the White Sox didn't end up making it to the postseason that year? But on July 31, 2009, the Sox were 2 1/2 games out of first place and they needed another top of the line starter to complement Mark Buehrle. Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy was that man.

The problem? White Sox GM Ken Williams had already tried to trade for Peavy earlier that year, but Peavy didn't want to leave San Diego. Talks rekindled on the day of the Deadline, with apparently not many other people within the Chicago organization knowing.

"Mere seconds" before the cutoff, a deal was in place between Williams and Padres GM Kevin Towers: Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Dexter Carter and Adam Russell for Peavy.

Fans were blown away.

Funny enough, not even White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was informed of the pending transaction.

"I was shocked," Guillen said. "We got better and now we got one guy we wanted for a long time."

Although Chicago missed the playoffs, it was no fault of Peavy's. The 28-year-old went 3-0 in three starts while putting up a miniscule 1.35 ERA.