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Big Trades Within The Division Have Always Been Part Of Baseball
As the trade deadline nears, most broadcasters naturally discuss completed and potential Major League Baseball transactions. During a game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Minnesota Twins, the announcers just received word of a huge trade that was completed.
The Orioles traded Zack Britton to the New York Yankees, prompting a television analyst to criticize the deal. He complained that the Orioles, buried deep in the American League East, had violated some unwritten rule about never trading in your own division.
I doubted there was such a rule as any club planning to trade a player would do the deal with the best return. When you want to do what’s best for your organization, geography doesn’t trump your own interests.
The very next day, he reinforced my doubts about the so-called unwritten rule the announcer was alluding to, as another huge intra-division trade was completed. The Tampa Bay Rays sent starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi to the Boston Red Sox, who are currently atop the AL East.
Giving the broadcaster the benefit of the doubt, I wonder if the rule once existed but disappeared as complete games sacrificed buns from the state of the game today. However, recalling some of the notable trades over the past fifty years, I realized that there was no unwritten rule telling teams not to trade within their own divisions.
Here are eight instances since the 1970s when famous players were traded from one team to a division rival.
San Francisco traded future Hall of Fame first baseman Willie McCovey to a team not only in the same order in the standings, but also in the same state. The San Diego Padres acquired Stretch from the Giants back in 1973.
Early in the next decade, the Houston Astros traded All-Star outfielder Cesar Ceden to western rival Cincinnati, which in turn sent third baseman Ray Knight from the Reds.
The year immortalized by George Orwell’s futuristic novel, 1984, saw a remarkable trade in internal division. The Philadelphia Phillies sent popular outfielder Garry Matthews to the Cubs and he helped Chicago to the playoffs soon after.
Two years later, future Hall of Famer Gary Carter was traded by the Montreal Expos to East Division rival New York, where Carter helped the Mets win the 1986 World Series Championship against the Boston Red Sox. The Expos, like the Astros and Giants before them, apparently ignored the no-trade rule.
All Star slugger Carlos Delgado, less than a year away from winning a World Series with the Marlins, was traded from Florida to the New York Mets in 2005. Three years later, on July 29, 2008, the Texas Rangers traded first baseman Mark Texiera. to the Angels.
In 2010, the Milwaukee Brewers traded All Star outfielder Jim Edmonds to NL Central rival Cincinnati, who felt that Edmonds would help the Reds reach the postseason for the first time since the late twentieth century. Again, if such a rule existed, most clubs continued to ignore it.
In a more recent transaction, the Minnesota Twins agreed in 2011 to send designated hitter Jim Thome to the Cleveland Indians, the club where he began his illustrious baseball career. Thome was considering retirement and wanted to end his playing as a member of the Tribe.
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