Max Scherzer trade to Dodgers is one of the greatest deadline deals of all time

Max Scherzer trade to Dodgers is one of the greatest deadline deals of all time

We rank the best midseason moves in baseball history

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Where does Max Scherzer to the Dodgers rank among MLB’s best deadline deals?

The MLB trade deadline has always been a fascinating time of year. While most seasons don’t provide the same sort of constant, game-changing moves we saw in 2021, there’s usually always at least one or two moves that really shake things up. This year, the most impactful trade has been the Dodgers’ acquisition of Max Scherzer from the Washington Nationals. In nine starts for the Dodgers, Scherzer has recorded seven wins, a 0.78 ERA, and a .655 WHIP across 58 innings pitched. You might as well call him Super Bowl 47, because he’s been lights out. While Scherzer has been fantastic, there have been dozens of other remarkably impactful deals to come out of MLB trade deadlines of the past.

So, I’ve compiled a list of the greatest deadline trades I can think of. While it’s obvious that I’m going to miss a few here and there, I wanted to take a few things into account.

1) Whether or not the team retained said player. While having a great player for any amount of time is always appreciated, I put much more value into a trade that leads to several years of production rather than just half a season.

2) Team success. Normally, when teams acquire someone at the trade deadline, they do so in an attempt to get their team over the hump. If a team is fighting for a playoff berth, this acquisition should get them in the playoffs no problem. If a team is a World Series contender, this player should help them win, or at least appear in, the World Series. I know I’ll get a lot of backlash for this, because of how fickle baseball is, but it’s alright.

3) What did that team give up for said player? I love Doyle Alexander, and his 1987 season was one for the ages, but the Tigers had to give up John Smoltz in order to acquire him...now, who won the trade?

With that said, let’s see how Scherzer stacks up.

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10) Cardinals acquire Matt Holliday from the A’s (2009)

10) Cardinals acquire Matt Holliday from the A’s (2009)

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Matt Holliday had a rather unsuccessful stint with the Oakland Athletics. The 2007 NLCS MVP didn’t play horribly in Oakland. He recorded an .831 OPS and 54 RBI across 93 games for the A’s. However, those numbers were incredibly underwhelming compared to what he’d been able to accomplish in Colorado years prior. When Holliday was told to pack up and move to St. Louis though, the slugger’s fortunes were changed.

Holliday became a household name at Busch Stadium. Coupled with Albert Pujols in the middle of that Cardinals’ lineup, Holliday would go on to finish top-15 in National League MVP voting in three of his next five full seasons in St. Louis. He was also an immediate help to the Cards as he recorded a 1.023 OPS in 63 games with the Cardinals after being traded. He was a major cog in the lineup for the team’s 2011 World Series championship as well. During that NLCS against the Milwaukee Brewers, Holliday slashed .435/.500/.652 as he helped his Cardinals to their first World Series appearance since 2006. He’d help them get to another World Series in 2013 as well, although his numbers throughout that postseason weren’t nearly as great.

While Holliday may be best remembered for his famous “karma error” in the 2012 NLCS that allowed the Giants to come back from a 3-1 series deficit, that should not take away from all the great moments Holliday had as a Cardinal. He may not be a Hall of Famer, and he may have had his fair share of ugly moments and moths in his ear, but he had a great seven and a half year stretch with St. Louis.

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9) Royals acquire Johnny Cueto from the Reds (2015)

9) Royals acquire Johnny Cueto from the Reds (2015)

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Johnny Cueto spent half a season with the Royals before joining the San Francisco Giants in free agency. He wasn’t incredible with the Royals posting a 4-7 record, a 4.76 ERA, and the highest WHIP of his entire career. However, when push came to shove and the Royals needed someone to carry them to a World Series title, Johnny Cueto was their man.

Cueto threw an absolute gem in Game 2 of the 2015 World Series. He tossed a complete game allowing only one run on two hits and three walks. That’s incredible! Cueto wouldn’t get another opportunity to pitch as his Royals would go on to win the series in just five games. Nonetheless, Cueto’s effect had been felt. Cueto outdueled Jacob deGrom, gave his team’s bullpen a solid day of rest, and gave Kauffman Stadium one of its most unforgettable moments. The reason this trade is being put higher than Holliday is because the Royals saw immediate results with Cueto whereas it took the Cardinals over two seasons to win a World Series after acquiring Holliday.

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8) Dodgers acquire Max Scherzer from the Nationals (2021)

8) Dodgers acquire Max Scherzer from the Nationals (2021)

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This one could end up being much higher than eighth, but we just haven’t seen it all unfold yet. Even with Scherzer going 7-0 with a 0.78 ERA in 9 starts with the Dodgers, they’ve yet to take the NL West division lead. They managed to tie the Giants for a brief moment, but then the Giants went right back to work and took the lead once again. That being said, if the Dodgers can either claim the NL West title or win the 2021 World Series, which is a very achievable goal for this squad, then this Scherzer deal would go through the roof.

There’s also the fact that we don’t know whether or not Scherzer will resign with the Dodgers this offseason. Scherzer’s desire to be traded to a West Coast team earlier in the season makes the idea of Scherzer returning to the Dodgers seem much more likely, but it is still unknown. The Dodgers have the money and resources to continue keeping Scherzer around, and if Mad Max can continue to produce at similar levels to what we’re seeing from him right now, this trade will skyrocket up the board.

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7) Blue Jays acquire David Cone from the Mets (1992)

7) Blue Jays acquire David Cone from the Mets (1992)

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David Cone won five World Series and a Cy Young Award, and didn’t even make it past his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot. Let that sink in for a moment...

Okay, that moment has passed. Let’s talk about his 1992 World Series championship with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays were looking for their first ever World Series championship and needed an ace to round out their rotation. Jack Morris wasn’t having the best season. The only starting pitcher with a sub-3 ERA was Juan Guzman. Toronto desperately needed some help on the mound if they wanted to contend. Enter David Cone.

Cone had a pretty solid start to his career, finishing third-place in the NL Cy Young race in 1988, but 1992 is a close second for the best season of his career. Cone earned his second All-Star bid with the Mets earlier that season, recording a 2.88 ERA and 9.8 strikeouts per nine (led all of MLB) with the Mets before being traded to the Blue Jays. Then, Cone was even better. Cone had a 2.55 ERA north of the border and allowed only three home runs across 53 innings pitched during the regular season. In four starts during the 1992 postseason, Cone put together a 1-1 record with a 3.26 ERA. However, he also allowed four more unearned runs. Nonetheless, it’s hard to imagine the Blue Jays winning the World Series without Cone in their rotation.

I understand that Jeff Kent was traded to the Mets as part of the deal for David Cone, but seeing as how Kent never became a star with the Mets, and wouldn’t become a star in the league until he joined the Giants in 1997, that five-year gap is enough for me to consider this trade a huge win for Toronto.

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6) Yankees acquire David Justice from the Indians (2000)

6) Yankees acquire David Justice from the Indians (2000)

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If you think of David Justice as the guy from Moneyball, you don’t know just how good Justice was early in his career. Justice didn’t play for the Yankees until 2000, and Justice retired following the 2002 season. Just that alone would make you think this trade was one of the worst on this list. However, I loved this trade.

Justice slashed .305/.391/.585 after being traded to the Bronx and pretty much secured the team’s status as the league’s best team. No team had won three straight World Series titles since the Oakland A’s in 1974. When Justice was acquired from the Indians, the Yankees were three games back of the Blue Jays in the AL East. They won the division by 2.5 games. Justice was a much needed boost to the Bronx Bombers as he blasted 20 homers and drove in 60 runs for the Yankees in just 78 games. That’s a value trade if I’ve ever seen one.

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5) Braves acquire Fred McGriff from the Padres (1993)

5) Braves acquire Fred McGriff from the Padres (1993)

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While McGriff wasn’t able to bring a World Series to Atlanta right away, McGriff still made an impact on Atlanta right away. McGriff smoked 19 home runs with a 1.004 OPS for the Braves after being traded. His Braves were eight games back of the Giants for first-place in the NL West, and guess what? The Braves clutched out the division title in their last game of the season.

McGriff played a pivotal role in Atlanta’s incredible comeback, and furthermore, he stayed with the team after the 1993 season. In Atlanta, McGriff would rattle off three straight All-Star Game appearances, an All-Star Game MVP, and of course, a 1995 World Series title. McGriff’s best seasons were all in Atlanta, and given the fact that the Braves only had to give up three players whose combined career WAR is -1.2...that’s a pretty sweet deal.

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4) Cardinals acquire Mark McGwire from the Athletics (1997)

4) Cardinals acquire Mark McGwire from the Athletics (1997)

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This is the highest ranked trade that didn’t result in a World Series title, but do you know why I have it so high? Because Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the Cardinals the very next season. Yeah, because of this trade, the Cardinals became a team to watch. Everybody wanted to see every at-bat that McGwire took. Furthermore, the fact that his biggest competitor in the home run race was a division rival only played up the theatrics of the entire situation.

Yes, McGwire’s legacy has been tarnished with his admitted use of PEDs. However, in 1998, McGwire was must-watch TV. The Cardinals got to witness McGwire’s best and third-best seasons first hand, and they were an absolute marvel to watch.

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3) Diamondbacks acquire Curt Schilling from the Phillies (2000)

3) Diamondbacks acquire Curt Schilling from the Phillies (2000)

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Say what you will about Curt Schilling’s character, but you can’t deny that Schilling was one of the game’s best pitchers during most of his career. While the Schilling trade did not result in an immediate World Series title for Arizona, the team would go on to win their first and only World Series title just one year later. Schilling recorded two straight second-place Cy Young finishes with Arizona, and shared the 2001 World Series MVP trophy with teammate Randy Johnson.

If you’re wondering why the Astros’ acquisition of Randy Johnson did not make the list, well...the Astros didn’t win a World Series with him, did they? Plus, he left the team the very next year.

During his three and a half years with Arizona, Schilling recorded his lowest ERA with any team (3.14). For someone who was already considered one of the best pitchers in the league, Schilling took it up a notch with the D-Backs. That’s why he ranks here.

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2) Cardinals acquire Lou Brock from the Cubs (1964)

2) Cardinals acquire Lou Brock from the Cubs (1964)

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When the Cardinals acquired Lou Brock on June 15, 1964, the Cardinals were in 8th-place in the National League. They would end up winning that division. Not only did he help the Cardinals win the division that year, he led them to a World Series title, slashing .300/.300/.467 in the World Series. Oh, and then he did it again in 1967, but was even better, slashing .414/.452/.655 as the Cardinals took down the Red Sox in seven games.

After three and a half solid, but lackluster years with the Cubs, Brock became a monster for the Cardinals. He led the league in stolen bases in eight out of nine seasons between 1966 and 1974. He led the league in runs scored twice, and earned all six of his All-Star Game nods with St. Louis. The man was not a Hall of Famer with Chicago, and became a legend with St. Louis.

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1) Athletics acquire Rickey Henderson from the Yankees (1989)

1) Athletics acquire Rickey Henderson from the Yankees (1989)

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Who’s the only man to ever be a better base stealer than Lou Brock? Say it with me. Rickey Henderson! When Henderson was traded by the Yankees back to the Athletics, it didn’t make much sense. Henderson had shattered numerous records and was still a very productive hitter when the Yankees shipped him off in exchange for a few bullpen arms (AKA not huge difference-makers). All Henderson went on to do was steal 52 bases and record a .425 on-base percentage in 85 games.

Henderson also helped the Athletics win the 1989 World Series, a 4-0 sweep over their Bay Area rivals, the San Francisco Giants. While that is already grounds for placement on the list, Henderson went on to have the best season of his career the following season with Oakland. In 1990, Henderson led all of Major League Baseball in runs, stolen bases, on-base percentage, and OPS, en route to his only MVP Award. Henderson would spend four of the next five years entirely with Oakland, and while he never received another MVP vote with the green and gold, he had earned the team a World Series title, and conned the Yankees out of the game’s best leadoff hitter of all-time. Henderson definitely deserves the top spot.

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