A lot of focus is put on Major League Baseball’s two major trade deadlines.
The first, which everyone watches with anticipation every year, is the July 31st trade deadline. This deadline almost always brings rampant speculation, at least one blockbuster deal, and a lot of unease as players and fans alike try to determine if their team is buying pieces in an effort to put together a playoff run, or selling pieces to get prospects and pieces for future seasons.
The second, which can be a time for some important deals but often leaves fans confused, is the August 31st waiver wire deadline. If a team wants to acquire a player with postseason eligibility, then they can do so up until August 31st. The only caveat is that the player must either be claimed off of waivers by the receiving team, or the player must clear waivers before being traded. It is rare that a blockbuster occurs in August, but it is not unprecedented, evidenced by the Dodgers’ 2012 trade that brought Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto from Boston to Los Angeles for James Loney and several minor league players.
However, trades can continue up until the last day of the regular season, and often do. Although any player acquired after August 31st is not eligible for any postseason roster, a fill-in acquisition may prove important for a team that faces a sudden lineup deficiency due to an injury or a slump, but still finds itself with an opportunity to make the playoffs.
Here are a few examples of players who have found themselves dealt in September (or even early October.)
Pedro Ramos, New York Yankees, 1964
With the Yankees trailing in the American League by 3 games and sitting in third place, the relief specialist Ramos was acquired to shore up the Yankee bullpen on September 5th, 1964. And shore it up he did. Although not eligible for the World Series roster, Ramos propelled his Yankee teammates to the series by appearing in 13 games, nailing down a win and 8 saves, while compiling a 1.25 ERA and striking out 21 batters in 21 1/3 innings. The Yankees won the American League by a single game over the Chicago White Sox. However, without Ramos’s arm, the team fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series in seven games.
Sparky Lyle, Detroit Tigers, 1980
Down the stretch in 1980, the Philadelphia Phillies felt they needed one more crucial piece in their bullpen. Enter long-time relief ace Sparky Lyle. Sparky joined the Phillies on September 13th, 1980, and all he did was appear in 10 games, pitch 14 innings, post a 1.93 ERA, and save two games while finishing 3 others. Lyle’s bullpen support got the team the National League East championship and although Lyle was unable to pitch in the playoffs, the boost he gave the pitching staff eventually got them to the World Series, where they defeated the Kansas City Royals in six games.
And then there’s one very recent deal that the jury is still out on.
Darwin Barney, Toronto Blue Jays, 2015
It’s unknown what, if any, impact Barney will have on the 2015 Blue Jays. However, it’s possible the journeyman middle infielder could find himself getting quite a bit of playing time down the stretch as Toronto tries to secure at least a Wild Card spot. After acquiring Troy Tulowitzki and David Price, the Blue Jays surged to the top of the American League East and still lead the division by three games as of the start of play on September 17th. With Tulowitzki sidelined due to a crack in his shoulder blade after a collision with outfielder Kevin Pillar, the Blue Jays acquired the Gold Glove second baseman and shortstop from the Dodgers to compliment the infield defense of Ryan Goins, with speculation being that Goins will move to shortstop and Barney will play second base.
If these trades show one thing, it’s that because a season is 162 games long, there are six months in which a team can re-write their stories.