Baseball's Trade Deadline is at its transaction-wire-rattling best when a team in contention frees itself from the fear of rental repercussions and truly goes for it, bringing in a temporary-but-tangible roster upgrade that fires up the fan base. And sometimes, that hired gun not only shows but shines, giving his all for his new town as if it were his baseball birthplace and making an instant impact on the run to October.
Any one of those three swaps is capable of standing on its own among the top in-season acquisitions of all-time. Put them together and you've got a Deadline-dealing period for the ages -- one so loaded that the fact that two future Hall of Famers were dealt (Ken Griffey Jr. from the Reds to the White Sox and Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez from the Tigers to the Yankees) is probably the least interesting thing about it.
The swaps of CC, Tex and Manny had dramatic repercussions not just for those teams at that time but for other, future All-Stars and MVP Award winners, including the greatest player of his generation.
And so, 10 years later, here's a look back at the three biggest deals from the 2008 Trade Deadline, told by those who lived it.
(Note: All job titles are from the time of the trades.)
July 7: Big Brew
After losing Game 7 of the American League Championship Series in 2007, the Indians had unfruitful contract extension negotiations with Sabathia, a pending free agent. They hoped to make one last run with their homegrown ace, but they were five games under .500 going into June.
Sabathia: I thought we were going to win the World Series and that I was going to get a contract to stay in Cleveland. But that first half, if you look back at my numbers, I was terrible [4.81 ERA through June 5]. So I got off to a bad start, the team got off to a bad start. And after that, I was just kinda waiting to get traded.
Mark Shapiro, Indians general manager: He and I were talking pretty openly about it. We knew we couldn't just let him walk away for a Draft pick.
Chris Antonetti, Indians assistant GM: The calls started on June 10. Milwaukee was one of the first teams to call. As we narrowed things down the next few weeks, Milwaukee [which erased a seven-game gap in the National League Wild Card standings over the course of June] was one of the most aggressive teams, and [Brewers GM] Doug Melvin made it clear they placed a premium on him the sooner they could get him.
Melvin: I told Mark, "If we do this earlier, I'll give up more." We knew [outfielder] Matt LaPorta [this was prior to MLB Pipeline's organizational prospect rankings, but LaPorta was ranked by Baseball America as the Brewers' top prospect and No. 23 overall in MLB] was the kind of player Cleveland would like. College player, good on-base percentage, had some power. We had just drafted him [seventh overall in 2007], but we were OK with it. We decided to build the deal around him, and that energized Mark to keep going.
Antonetti: Milwaukee and the Dodgers seemed to be the most motivated.
Ned Colletti, Dodgers GM: We were in San Francisco on the 5th of July. That afternoon, I felt we were getting close. We would give up four or five prospects and we were going to get CC, [third baseman] Casey Blake and [utility infielder] Jamey Carroll and take back a lot of money [combined, Sabathia, Blake and Carroll had nearly $10 million remaining on their '08 contracts]. I thought it could be a really good deal. [In his book, "The Big Chair," Colletti lists third baseman Andy LaRoche (No. 2 Dodgers prospect, per Baseball America), right-hander James McDonald (No. 7), catcher Carlos Santana (No. 25) and either infielder Chin-lung Hu (No. 2) or infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr. (No. 13), as the pieces going to the Indians.]
Antonetti: Ned was pretty transparent about a complicated dynamic with ownership and trying to get final authorization.
Melvin: They thought they had a deal, and [owner Frank] McCourt just couldn't buy into it. But our owner, Mark Attanasio, was supportive. It wasn't the kind of deal people felt the Brewers would make. Why would you give up the so-called controllable guys for half-a-season [of Sabathia]? Well, the reason you do it is to get over the hump. It had been 26 years since we had made the playoffs.
The Indians and Brewers had agreed on some basics. In exchange for Sabathia, Milwaukee would send LaPorta, Zach Jackson and Rob Bryson (who was chosen from a list that had included catcher Jonathan Lucroy). But the two clubs had trouble deciding on the fourth and final prospect piece.
Melvin: So then we got into talking about [outfielder/first baseman] Michael Brantley [No. 24 in the Brewers' system, per Baseball America] and [third baseman] Taylor Green [No. 17] to complete the deal. Cleveland liked both, and we liked both. They couldn't agree on who they wanted, and I couldn't decide who I wanted to give up.
Antonetti: We went back and forth on the player to be named later and came up with a creative solution.
Melvin: I said, "If we get to the playoffs, you get to pick. If we don't, I get to pick." Because if we got in, we'd be excited and happy, and it wouldn't matter who we gave up. Mark was agreeable to that.
Shapiro: I don't know of another trade like that.
Melvin: Our trade was all on board. It wasn't done with a couple of Jack Daniel's.
Carl Willis, Indians pitching coach: We were in Minnesota, and we got word the trade was going to go down. We were flying back to Cleveland, so we talked with CC after the game [on July 6] so that on the plane he was able to spend that last time with his teammates.
Sabathia: I was ready to go. I was fed up with everything. I felt like the Indians didn't want me anymore. It's emotional. I was young, I had been there my whole life, and my plan was to play in Cleveland my whole career. So I was frustrated. But finding out I was going to go play with my best friend again was the key. David Riske's my boy. That was the first person I met when I signed, and we've been best friends ever since. So when I found out I was going to play with him again, I was good.
Melvin: We made the deal on a Sunday, and he pitched on Tuesday for us, which was really impressive. It was just a few days before the All-Star break, and a lot of times the guy wants to get his family settled and join you four days later. But this guy showed up in two days and started pitching his tail off. That sent a message.
Before Sabathia threw his first pitch for the Brewers, his representatives had a message: They asked the Brewers to officially list him as "CC" Sabathia. Up to that point, he had been "C.C." Sabathia.
Mike Vassallo, Brewers public relations director: I remember announcing it in front of the whole media interview room, drawing a laugh.
Sabathia: That was such a weird thing. They asked me if I want the periods in my name. Me and Amber [Sabathia's wife] were just sitting in bed, like, "Ah, don't worry about it, go without the periods." Then it was a big story, like, "CC dropped the periods!"
CC has been punctuation-free ever since. But he put an exclamation point on the Brewers' 2008 season. Miller Park ticket sales surged for his starts, and he went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA in 17 games down the stretch, taking the ball on three days' rest in each of his last three starts and throwing 335 pitches in the last nine days of the regular season. On the last day of the season, he threw a complete-game victory against the Cubs to seal Milwaukee's one-game edge over the Mets in the NL Wild Card race.
Craig Counsell, Brewers infielder: What he did at the end of the season was just superhuman.
Melvin: I remember going downstairs after one of the games he pitched on three days' rest and I ran into his agent, Brian Peters. He says, "Doug, what are you guys doing?"
Sabathia: It was no conversation between me and the Brewers. We didn't have pitching, so I just told them, "I'm pitching." It was me telling them I'm pitching on three days' rest. I was young, I felt good, I was having fun, the team was good, and I didn't want the season to end. If that meant I had to pitch on three days' rest, then that's what I had to do.
Antonetti: He was willing to do whatever was best for the team, even when he had hundreds of millions in the balance. I think that says a lot.
Sabathia, who would finish fifth in the NL Cy Young Award voting, was invested in the Brewers' playoff pursuit, and so were the Indians' front-office members.
Antonetti: As the season progressed, it became more and more clear which of the guys we preferred. We were pulling for Milwaukee anyway, but our interest grew. At the time of the deal, Michael was coming back from an injury and hadn't played a whole lot, so we were having a difficult time putting all of the pieces together.
Brantley: I had heard rumors about possibly being involved. But after the trade went down, I thought it was over. I didn't think the player to be named was going to be me.
Shapiro: We felt strongly about Matt LaPorta. But the deal ended up being a good deal because Brant had such a high ceiling.
Melvin: Our player development people all wanted to win, of course, but they didn't want to give up Brantley. Brantley's still playing [he just made his third All-Star appearance], and Taylor Green's a scout.
LaPorta, who posted a .694 OPS in just shy of 1,000 at-bats with Cleveland, is working in the mortgage and real estate industry.
LaPorta: A friend of mine was shooting a commercial for the Yankees in Spring Training and texted me a photo with CC. I texted him back and said, "Tell him I'm the guy that made him famous!" Obviously, my career didn't go the way I wanted, but to be associated with a great player like him means a lot to me. It was an honor to even be included in that trade.
Sabathia's move to Milwaukee had ripple effects that went beyond those directly involved.
Melvin: Jim Hendry is a good friend of mine. People say the Cubs reacted to the deal. Jim probably doesn't want to say that. But they did go out and get Rich Harden [from the A's, the day after the CC deal].
Hendry, Cubs GM: People always saw it as a reactionary thing. It really wasn't. I had talked to Billy [Beane] before the CC thing was finished. I didn't have the ammunition to get CC. But we had been talking to Billy, and it was [second baseman/outfielder and No. 12 Cubs prospect] Eric Patterson, [right-hander and No. 5 prospect] Sean Gallagher, [outfielder] Matt Murton and [catcher] Josh Donaldson for Harden. Gallagher was the main guy. We liked Donaldson, but it was a year or so after the Draft. We thought he was a big-league guy, but nobody thought he was a future MVP, including Billy.
Melvin: It would be interesting to know now, if the Cubs would have gone after CC, is Donaldson the kind of player who could have gotten it done?
By the time October arrived, Sabathia and the Brewers were done. Their wild ride ended at the hands of the Phillies in the Division Series, in which Sabathia took the loss in his lone start.
Sabathia: I was out of gas (laughs).
That's how Sabathia's brief-but-memorable tenure in Milwaukee ended. That December, he agreed to a record-setting seven-year, $161 million contract with the Yankees, and the Brewers were left with a second-round Draft compensation pick (outfielder Max Walla, who never reached the bigs) and many memories.
Melvin: I went to a fundraising golf tournament the other day. Two guys were talking about it and said, "I was really surprised, because CC said he liked Milwaukee." I said, "He liked the $160 million a little better than Milwaukee."
July 29: Halo Effect
The Rangers traded Mark Teixeira to the Braves on July 31, 2007, for a prospect haul that included Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Jarrod Saltalamacchia -- a group that would help form the backbone of the Rangers' back-to-back AL pennants in 2010 and '11. A year later, Tex was back on the block, though this time the club acquiring him would get the better end of the deal, with the returns still pouring in to this day.
Frank Wren, Braves general manager: I think we knew coming out of Spring Training that we had very little chance of signing him. Once we knew that, we were going to let the season dictate our direction. We just didn't have the pitching, and the season unraveled for us.
Teixeira: I kind of knew I was going to be trade bait once again.
Wren: When you have a player of Mark Teixeira's ability, you think there's going to be a robust market. But we got to the Trade Deadline and there was none. No market. We had one team interested, and that was the Angels.
Tony Reagins, Angels GM: We had Kendrys Morales and Casey Kotchman as first basemen, and we liked both players a great deal. But we felt if we can get a piece that puts us over the top, let's do it.
Wren: As we got down to the last two days, we pretty much had exhausted every effort to expand the market. It was down to Anaheim, and we couldn't be too hard or aggressive. Nick Adenhart [less than a year before he was tragically killed by a drunken driver in 2009, Adenhart ranked 18th on MLB.com's Top 50 prospects list and No. 24 on Baseball America's Top 100] was the first guy we asked for, and they were just not going to move him. At the end, the driving force was our organization wanted to get the $4 million [owed to Teixeira] off the books.
The Angels sent Kotchman and right-hander Stephen Marek, their No. 6 prospect, to Atlanta, adding an All-Star slugger to a team that already had a double-digit lead in the division.
Reagins: Knowing that we had Kendrys or Casey if we moved one or the other, we had that organizational depth where we'd be OK if Mark were to sign elsewhere after the season.
Sabathia: I remember Tex getting traded and thinking, "Oh, he's going to stay in Anaheim."
Teixeira: It was a perfect storm for me. Number one, I went from a team that wasn't very good to a first-place team headed to the playoffs. Number two, I got to live in Orange County, Calif., which is maybe the most beautiful place in the country. Getting to put on an Angels uniform as a home player was super cool and a shot of adrenaline.
In 54 games with the Angels, Teixeira went off for a .358/.449/.632 slash line with 13 homers, 14 doubles and 43 RBIs. The Angels nailed down their large lead in the AL West.
Reagins: It was a great fit. His baseball IQ was off the charts. In our clubhouse, he talked a lot about hitting and his approach to hitting, and that kind of made its way around our clubhouse.
Teixeira: That Angels team might have been better or at least as good as the '09 Yankees team that I won a World Series with. But you get to the playoffs, and it is an absolute crapshoot. Unfortunately, we lost to the Red Sox in that short series.
After hitting .467 in the Angels' Division Series defeat, Teixeira signed an eight-year, $180 million contract with the Yankees. This was back when rules stipulated that teams signing players tied to Draft-pick compensation directly forked over those Draft picks to the team that lost the player, in addition to the latter team getting a pick in the supplemental round. (Under current rules, the signing team can lose a pick, but it disappears, as opposed to changing hands, and the only compensation pick for the team that lost a player comes in the supplemental round). So the Angels received the Yankees' 2009 first-round pick -- No. 25 overall -- when Teixeira went to the Bronx.
Reagins: We made our best effort to sign [Teixeira]. But we had Kendrys in the background, which was a comfort for us. If you don't re-sign Tex, then you start to look at the Draft and the opportunities that lie there with that pick.
Reagins: That ended up turning out pretty well for the Angels.
Teixeira: I've heard reports that if they had only one pick at 24, they would have taken Trout first and that the reason they took him second was to offer him less money.
Reagins: What would we have done with one pick? Fortunately, we don't have to deal with "what-ifs." But we really liked Randal, we were very certain about what Randal's skill set was and our ability to sign him. We had convictions about it. With Mike, on the other hand, there wasn't the certainty that we had with Randal.
Teixeira: It's a really cool story, right? To think that a guy who's arguably the greatest player in the game right now was a compensation pick is amazing.
In hindsight, the Braves could have fared far better with the compensation pick than they did in the trade.
Wren: You just never know. We went through a period right after that where Draft picks became much more valuable.
Reagins: It's a lot different now. In terms of [signing bonus] allocation, you have to be very mindful of what you want to do going in. If back then we had the system we have today, there's a chance that Mike Trout is not an Angel. But, fortunately, we were working under the system that was in place at the time, and now you're looking at the best player in baseball.
July 31: Mannywood
After the Dodgers' deal for Sabathia fell through, Colletti went back to the Indians to complete a trade for Blake to aid his injury-riddled infield (he had to give up aforementioned prospect Carlos Santana, who went on to a long and productive big-league career, to get Cleveland to pay Blake's salary). He wasn't done searching for cost-effective upgrades.
Colletti, Dodgers GM: As we're getting through the month of July, talking to [Red Sox GM] Theo [Epstein] every so often, he keeps asking me about [third baseman and No. 2 prospect] Andy LaRoche. I'm thinking, "He's got Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell, so he must have another deal he's trying to use LaRoche in."
Neal Huntington, Pirates GM: Boston had expressed interest in [left fielder] Jason Bay, contingent on moving Ramirez.
Terry Francona, Red Sox manager: We had gotten to a point with Manny … he had pushed our traveling secretary [Jack McCormick, after a dispute over a ticket request by Ramirez]. I was kind of at my wit's end. And I don't want to trash Manny now, because that's not really even how I feel. But at the time, I just felt dirty. I had turned my head plenty, but Jack was a guy that I loved. So I was having a hard time with it.
Mike Lowell, Red Sox third baseman: Manny had his heart set on his two option years [worth $20 million each in 2009 and '10]. He rarely spoke to the media, but he held court one day and said, "My two options should be picked up. And if not, I don't want to be here." After he left his locker, his questions became our questions. It becomes a distraction. When you're making $20 million and upset about your contract, it starts rubbing people the wrong way. And the thing with Jack put things beyond that. It was getting to a point where it was going to get uglier before it got better.
Francona: Manny could be a sweetheart, like a little kid. But when you're in charge and trying to balance team concept and things you believed in, some of the things he did could fly right in the face of that.
Huntington: We knew what Boston was willing and not willing to give up for Bay well in advance of the Deadline, and it was not sufficient for a Bay stand-alone deal. It became a matter of finding a third team that was willing to add players to the pool in exchange for Ramirez.
Colletti: On the 30th of July, early evening, Theo calls and is asking me about Andy again. I look up at the TV, and the scroll [on ESPN] says there's a deal in the works to send Manny to Florida, with Florida sending prospects to Boston and Boston sending prospects to Pittsburgh for Jason Bay. I'm watching that as I'm talking to Theo, and I say, "Oh, I see you've got this deal going on, good for you." I could tell by his tone that it was a premature report.
Antonetti, Indians assistant GM: It's really difficult to make a two-team trade. When you layer on the complexities of involving other teams -- and then the other factors around what your motivations might be -- it just complicates things further.
Colletti: I went downstairs to talk to [manager] Joe [Torre] and mentioned to him, "Any interest in Manny?" He says, "Manny? Are you kidding me?" I said, "I don't know if I'm going to get a call back or not, but I know Theo wants to move him." I got home at 1 or 2 in the morning, then ended up waking up early, coming back to the office, and I had a message from Theo to call him.
Ramirez had agreed to waive his no-trade clause to go to the Dodgers, but, in order for him to go to L.A., the Red Sox had to waive his two option years, making Ramirez a pending free agent with around $7 million remaining on his 2008 salary.
Colletti: I told Theo, "You're going to have to pick up the entire salary." There's silence on the other end of the phone. He said, "All of it?" I said, "If I had that money, I'd have CC Sabathia here right now!"
It was closing in on 3:30 p.m. ET -- a half an hour to the deadline -- when Epstein informed Colletti of his plan to involve Pittsburgh in a three-way deal. The Pirates would receive outfielder Brandon Moss (Boston's No. 11 prospect, per Baseball America) and right-hander Craig Hansen (No. 18) from the Red Sox. From the Dodgers, the Pirates wanted LaRoche and one of two pitching prospects -- James McDonald (No. 7) or Bryan Morris (No. 12).
Colletti: I had my inner circle [of front-office people] assembled, and we had to have the Morris or McDonald debate at like 15 or 20 minutes before the Deadline. We chose Morris.
Huntington: We were all pushing to make sure everything was submitted in time.
Colletti: I'm running back and forth from my office to Frank McCourt's office, where we set up a conference call with the three teams and the Commissioner's Office to complete the deal. When I came out of Frank's office, everybody just kind of looked at me like, "Well?"
Mitch Poole, Dodgers clubhouse manager: A couple of us in the food room were counting down, "Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Well, that's it, the Dodgers do nothing."
Colletti: Everybody needed to call the people involved before it could be announced publicly. I remember coming out and ESPN was saying, "The Red Sox couldn't move Manny." That went on for like 45 minutes to an hour.
Francona: I was parked, waiting to pick my daughter up at the airport, and you know how the police keep telling you to keep going around? It was 4:15, and I figured it had come and gone. Then Theo called and told me what we did. I remember a policeman coming by to tell me to move. I rolled my window down, and he said, "Are you OK?" Because I had tears in my eyes. I was so overcome, because it had gotten so hard for me with him there.
Bob Melvin, Diamondbacks manager: You're waiting to see what they're going to do, and then it looked like nothing had happened. And then, all of a sudden, you find out they picked up a guy like that. For other teams to know that a team as talented as the Dodgers were adding a player that was really the MVP of the league at that point in time was significant, even psychologically.
Poole: We start getting phone calls from people affiliated with Manny, the agents and stuff. They're saying, "This is the number he wants."
Colletti: He was wearing 24, but that's Walter Alston's number. He asked about 11, and that's Manny Mota's number.
Poole: He's asking for 34, but that was Fernando Valenzuela. So then I was actually making number 28, because we thought that would work out best for him. Then somebody from [Boras Corporation] chose 66, and I made that.
Colletti: Then somebody -- I can't remember if it was Manny or me -- suggests 99.
Poole: So we had to rush to do that. And when I had his number 99 hanging in his locker when he arrived, he looked at me and joked, "Where's 28?"
According to the L.A. Times, by season's end, attendance at Dodger Stadium had increased by more than 4,000 per game, and more than 14,000 Ramirez T-shirts, 6,000 dreadlocks and 500 authentic jerseys had been sold at the ballpark alone.
Poole: If you think about it, there's only one guy that wears 99, and it was Wayne Gretzky. Everybody forgot about him wearing 99, because it was Manny wearing 99.
Colletti: Manny was franchise-changing. The stadium was alive Aug. 1. Whoa! There was a buzz in the air.
Reagins: Manny had that place rocking.
Colletti: As soon as he came in, he wanted to get off on the right foot. We had somewhat of a dress code. So when he arrived, Joe says, "You gotta cut the hair a bit." Manny says, "Yeah, no problem." And then he just takes off. He's hitting home runs, and the city's going off. People are asking me, "What about the hair?"
Poole: His hair was so big, we had to hollow out his helmet so he didn't have any padding in there. He wore, like, a size 8. Nobody wears that.
Colletti: So I run into Manny in the clubhouse one day and say, "What are we going to do about the hair?" He says, "Papi, I'm doing good! It makes you look like a genius! I've been growing my hair a long time!" I say, "Manny, we can't be changing rules. How about if you cut it this much?" I put my index finger and thumb maybe an inch or two apart. He hugs me and says, "I like it here! We can do this!"
Ramirez hit .396 with a 1.232 OPS, 17 homers and 14 doubles with the Dodgers. He finished fourth in the NL MVP Award voting, despite playing only 53 games with L.A. The Dodgers took the division lead for good with a 7-2 win over the D-backs on Sept. 6, with Ramirez driving in five runs.
Bob Melvin: It was as dominant a stretch as I've ever seen. I don't know that there's been a bigger trade pickup. That was crucial for them and really put them over the top.
Hendry, Cubs GM: That was Babe Ruth [stuff].
Bay turned out to be a strong solution for the Red Sox, who went to the ALCS that year. But they of course still kept tabs on what was going on in "Mannywood."
Lowell: It shows that when he's happy, he's possibly the best hitter I've ever seen. He was otherworldly.
Francona: When his switch flipped, there was no going back. It makes you mad, because we thought he could do that for us, and we couldn't get him on the field.
The Dodgers swept the Cubs in the Division Series, thanks in part to Ramirez going 5-for-10 with two homers. In the NLCS, they were, much like Sabathia's Brewers in the NLDS, humbled by the eventual World Series champion Phillies. On March 4, 2009, the Dodgers re-signed Ramirez for two years and $45 million. But on May 7, Ramirez was suspended 50 games for use of a banned substance, leading to many questions about the legitimacy of his 2008.
Colletti: People don't necessarily know when things start and end. I don't have any idea, really, where he was at in July, August, September, October of the 2008 season. I don't know.
Hendry: Would we have beat them without Manny? I don't know. You can't say "What if?" and "We got screwed" and all that crap. The Los Angeles Dodgers, with or without Manny, were prepared and played great and pitched great against us. I'd say they even out-scouted us. So I don't like to blame it on one guy. But Manny made a huge difference for the Dodgers, and he probably cost Bob Melvin his job.
When the D-backs started slowly in 2009, Melvin, whose leash had shortened as a result of Arizona's inability to hold on in the division, was let go. Manny's suspension sapped much of the electricity from "Mannywood." In August 2010, the Dodgers let him go to the White Sox on a waiver claim.
Epilogue: Average Joe
Sabathia, Teixeira and Ramirez were huge additions. And yet, because baseball is baseball and October is October, perhaps the most meaningful acquisition of that summer -- at least in terms of its direct effect on the World Series result -- was the Phillies' low-profile trade for Joe Blanton on July 17. He rounded out the rotation and then picked up the victory -- and even homered -- in Game 4 of the Fall Classic against the Rays.
Pat Gillick, Phillies GM: Baseball's funny. Sometimes guys surprise you not only during the season but during the playoffs, and we had some guys step up and surprise us. We were able to prevail.
Hendry, Cubs GM: It's hard to find a deal like the Verlanders [with the 2017 Astros], you know? It's hard to find one guy to hang your hat on. Some years there aren't those kind of guys remotely available, no matter how much you want to give up. But there's nothing more fun than when you're in the race and you deliver a good player in that clubhouse after those guys have been busting their tail for you all year. You reward them with something back.
**Gillick: **You don't see guys like [Sabathia, Teixeira and Ramirez] move at the Deadline too often. Certainly not all at once. And when they do move, sometimes you get a performance and sometimes you don't. In these particular cases, those teams got their money's worth.
Sabathia: That's gotta be the best Trade Deadline ever.