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The best trade deadline pick-ups in Arizona Diamondbacks history

When it comes to the trade deadline, the Arizona Diamondbacks have more often been sellers than buyers.

Colorado Rockies v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Even when they were winning, that hasn’t necessarily translated into significant activity: the 2007 side, which won the NL West, were entirely passive in terms of deals. But I’ve gone through the history of the team, and pulled out all the “trade deadline pick-ups”. By which I mean, players acquired by Arizona after the start of July, for the apparent purposes of improving the team that season. Basically, if the team was at or above .500. I’ve then looked at the value the player acquired brought to the team, again, during that regular season only (not including any post-season games), and ranked them in increasing order of bWAR for the year.

Note this doesn’t reflect any future value, from further years down the road. If it did, the trade which got us Ziegler would certainly be ranked higher! * indicates the tally is currently incomplete.

16. 2011: Jason Marquis, -0.8 WAR

July 30: Traded Zach Walters to the Washington Nationals.

We were just four games off the pace, and Kirk Gibson said: "It definitely makes us stronger as a staff. He's certainly a guy who will add to our rotation, and he makes us better. He's a veteran guy, a bulldog. He knows how to pitch and get out of situations." But his time here ended when he had his leg broken in his third start by a comebacker off the bat of Angel Pagan (below). It might have been merciful. His 9.53 ERA as a D-back, is the worst ever by any pitcher with more than one start for Arizona.

New York Mets v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

=13. 2002: Mike Fetters, -0.4 WAR

July 6: Traded Duaner Sanchez to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Fetters was beloved during his time here, for his trademark quirks on the mound - as parodied, famously, by Mark Grace during his emergency relief outing. But the truth is... Fetters wasn’t actually good. Over 56 games in total, he had a 6.65 ERA, which trails only Eddie Oropesa’s 7.59 among pitchers with 50+ appearances for the D-backs. Down the stretch in 2002, he had a 5.11 ERA, then came back to finish his MLB career here in 2004. He’s still around, as the team’s bullpen coach.

=13. 2008: Jon Rauch, -0.4 WAR
=13. 2008: Adam Dunn, -0.4 WAR
12. 2008: Tony Clark, -0.3 WAR

July 17: Traded Evan Scribner to the San Diego Padres for Clark.
July 22: Traded Emilio Bonifacio to the Washington Nationals for Rauch.
August 11: Traded players to be named later (Wilkin Castillo and Micah Owings) and Dallas Buck (minors) to the Cincinnati Reds. Received Dunn and cash.

I’m just going to lump all three of these together, as dismal failures. There’s no doubt the trade deadline that year cost the D-backs the division. The team was two up on the Dodgers at the end of July but, our three acquisitions fizzled down the stretch [even the post-waiver arrival of Dunn, whose 127 OPS+ was more than outweighed by his really terrible defense]. Meanwhile, the Dodgers picked up Manny Ramirez, who went on a drug-propelled rampage, and went on to win the division by two games.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

11. 2017: Adam Rosales, -0.1 WAR*
10. 2017: David Hernandez, 0.1 WAR*

July 31: Traded a player to be named later (Jeferson Mejia) to the Oakland Athletics for Rosales.
July 31: Traded Luis Madero (minors) to the Los Angeles Angels for Hernandez.

I’ll also lump these two together as “work in progress,” whose value is yet to be fully determined, and illustrates one limitation of this method of assessment. It’s possible Rosales could end up replacing Jake Lamb at third-base in the post-season, if we have to face a plethora of left-handed starters. If so, then what he has done for the team in the regular season is less important. Same for DH, whose bullpen work so far has been a bit mediocre. If he provides a solid playoff bridge between our starters and the Bradley/Rodney landing, then the trade will have been worthwhile.

9. 2011: Brad Ziegler, 0.2 WAR

July 31: Traded Brandon Allen and Jordan Norberto to the Oakland Athletics.

His 2011 was rather low-impact, however, with barely 20 innings pitched. He then had a horror-show outing in game 2 of the NLDS against Milwaukee (below). Ziegler faced six batters and allowed four hits, two walks and a balk, turning a tied game into a four-run deficit in only 13 pitches. I doubt anyone thought at that time, he would go on to become, arguably, the best reliever in franchise history. [You can make the case for Z or Kim, I’d say] Meanwhile, Allen and Norberto never amounted to anything of significance. Worked out pretty wall in the long run.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Milwaukee Brewers - Game 2 Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

8. 2012: Matt Albers and Scott Podsednik, 0.4 WAR

July 31: Traded Craig Breslow to the Boston Red Sox.

This deal was greeted with the SnakePit headline, “Small Trade Deadline Earthquake At Chase Field. Not Many Hurt,” which gives you an idea of how low-impact it was seen as, at the time. The D-backs weren’t able to pull off the big deal they were reported working on, and this ended up being somewhat embarrassing. For we acquired Podsednik, only for the outfielder to decline an assignment to Triple-A. We ended up releasing him two days later... and he signed back with the Red Sox. Albers wasn’t bad (and still is a major cog in the Nats bullpen), but became part of the complicated Trevor Bauer for Didi Gregorius trade in December.

=6. 2003: Raul Mondesi, 0.5 WAR

July 29: Traded Jon-Mark Sprowl (minors), David Dellucci and Bret Prinz to the New York Yankees. Received Mondesi and cash.

Easy to forget Mondesi was a Diamondback - albeit for less than 3% of his 1,525 major-league games. This could also have been seen as buying or selling, since the D-backs were 11.5 games behind the Giants coming into play on the day of the trade. But Arizona were also only two games back of the Phillies for the wild-card, and were also above .500 at 56-50, so I’m inclined to count this one as an acquisition. Although Mondesi was very much in the twilight of his career, he did actually hit over .300 for us. Not that it helped much.

Raul Mondesi chats with Carlos Baerga
Second baseman Carlos Baerga #3 of the Arizona Diamondbacks chats with new teammate Raul Mondesi #43 as Quinton McCracken #6 takes a drink.
Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

=6. 2012: Chris Johnson, 0.5 WAR

July 29: Traded Bobby Borchering (minors) and Marc Krauss to the Houston Astros.

Remember when the Astros were tanking hard? Just in that July, they parted company with Carlos Lee, J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon, closer Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez, as well as Johnson. He took over at third from a platoon of Willie Bloomquist and Ryan Wheeler, and wasn’t bad, giving us a 117 OPS+ down the stretch. But he didn’t hang around long in Arizona, becoming part of the Justin Upton/Martin Prado megatrade the following off-season. He’s still about, and played in the minor leagues for Baltimore this season.

5. 1999: Matt Mantei, 0.8 WAR

July 8:: Traded a player to be named later (Abraham Nunez), Vladimir Nunez and Brad Penny to the Florida Marlins.

When Mantei enters the game, Vanilla Ice's Ice, Ice Baby blares from the loudspeakers. The "Ice Girls," teenagers who cheer his every move, are beside themselves with joy. The big board in center field announces "The Iceman Cometh."
LA Times, Oct 3, 1999

Does this kind of showmanship sound kinda familiar? The first big trade-deadline splash say the D-backs acquire the Marlins’ closer, after Arizona incumbent Gregg Olson lost the job, and internal replacements were found wanting. He saved 22 games in 25 chances down the stretch, but allowed the Mets to walk-off win the NLDS on Todd Pratt’s 10th-inning homer. He stuck around, getting a juicy contract after the 2000 campaign, but was derailed by injury and ineffectiveness, managing just two saves in 2001 and none in 2002.

Matt Mantei throws Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

4. 2001: Mike Difelice and Albie Lopez, 1.1 WAR

July 25: Traded Nick Bierbrodt and Jason Conti to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

All of the value here, and then some, is due to Lopez, who was worth 1.5 WAR, starting 13 games with an ERA+ of 96 in the stretch run for the D-backs. He was actually the losing pitcher in Game 5 of the World Series: many people think it was Byung-Hyun Kim, but Lopez let the Yankees walk it off in the 12th inning - that was his final appearance for the Diamondbacks, but at least he got a ring out of it. In contrast, DiFelice’s time here did not involve the World Series. Instead, he was arrested for assault in August, after an incident in a Pittsburgh bar. He was sent to the minors two days later by Arizona, and released shortly after.

3. 2011. Aaron Hill + John McDonald, 1.8 WAR

August 23: Traded Kelly Johnson to the Toronto Blue Jays.

This two-fer was mostly a trade of underperforming second basemen. Hill had been an All-star with Toronto in 2009, but had struggled thereafter, putting up a miserable 58 OPS+. Johnson had been a little better (OPS+ 88), hence we got an extra player in the ‘Prime Minister of Defense,’ John McDonald. However, Hill tore it up at the plate the rest of the way, posting a 137 OPS+ and performing solidly in the post-season. He maintained that through the following season, and was worth five wins in 2012, which got him a three-year, $35 million extension - about which, the less said the better.

2. 2017: J.D. Martinez, 2.0 WAR*

July 18: Traded Sergio Alcantara (minors), Jose King (minors) and Dawel Lugo (minors) to the Detroit Tigers.

I take it we need hardly go into this one in any detail, but for the benefit of future generations, who may stumble across this article on the HoloGoogle... Martinez slugged his way into the hearts of all Diamondbacks’ fans, setting a record for the most home-runs in the second half by any Arizona hitter (24 and counting). That included one glorious night in Los Angeles where he became the first D-back to have a four home-run game, and the first hitter in baseball history to hit homers in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning. In a second half which has seen some hitters struggle, Martinez has kept the offense going during our push toward the playoffs.

1. 2000: Curt Schilling, 2.5 WAR

July 26: Traded Omar Daal, Nelson Figueroa, Travis Lee and Vicente Padilla to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Great though Martinez has been, he is not the most successful player we’ve picked up at the deadline. That honor belongs to Schilling who started 13 games for the D-backs in the second half. While his record in these was only 5-6, he had an ERA+ of 130 and averaged over seven and a half innings per start, with four complete games [for comparison, the D-backs have four complete games over their last 464 starts, going back to April 2015!] It also started the relationship with Randy Johnson, which would catapult us to the ultimate heights, the following season. Considering that, what Arizona gave up seems a very small price indeed.

Schilling pitches

Honorable mention

July 25, 2010. Traded Dan Haren to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Received a player to be named later (Tyler Skaggs), Patrick Corbin, Rafael Rodriguez and Joe Saunders.

Finally, I just wanted to throw this one in here, as an example of a trade deadline deal where we were sellers, but which had quite a significant impact down the road. Skaggs became part of the Trumbo deal, Saunders was an integral part of the 2011 division winning rotation and, of course, Corbin is still playing for the D-backs. Plus, while Haren has retired from the mound, he returned to the Diamondbacks, and has been working with our pitchers this season - seems to be working quite well, I’d say!