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Big Trades Within The Division Have Always Been Part Of Baseball
As the trade deadline approaches, most broadcasters naturally discuss completed transactions as well as potential transactions in Major League Baseball. During a game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins, the announcers had just received the news of a huge trade that had been completed.
The Orioles had traded Zack Britton to the New York Yankees, which prompted the television analyst to criticize the deal. He complained that the Orioles, buried deep in the American League East, had broken some unwritten rule about never trading within your own division.
I doubted that such a rule existed, that any club looking to trade a player would come to an agreement that would give the best return. When you want to do what is best for your organization, geography should not trump your own interests.
The next day my suspicions about the alleged unwritten rule the announcer referred to were reinforced, as another huge internal department trade was completed. The Tampa Bay Rays traded 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 had once existed but disappeared like complete games and punt sacrifices from the state of the game today. Recalling some notable transactions over the past fifty years, however, I realized that there had been no unwritten rule that suggested teams did not trade within their own sections.
Here are eight cases since the Seventies where well-known players were traded from one team to a rival in its own division.
San Francisco traded future Hall of Fame first baseman Willie McCovey to a team not only in the same row in the stands, but also in the same state. The San Diego Padres got Stretch from the Giants back in 1973.
Early in the next decade, the Houston Astros traded All-Star outfielder Cesar Cedeno to Western rival Cincinnati, who in turn sent third baseman Ray Knight from the Reds.
The year immortalized by George Orwell’s futuristic novel, 1984, saw a notable interior department trade. The Philadelphia Phillies traded popular outfielder Garry Matthews to the Cubs, who helped Chicago to the playoffs soon after.
Two years later, future Hall of Fame catcher 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. Apparently the Expos, like the Astros and the Giants before them, have been oblivious to the rule not to trade to rival clubs.
All Star slugger Carlos Delgado, less than a year from winning a World Series Championship with the Marlins, was sent from Florida to the New York Mets back in 2005. Three years later on July 29, 2008 the Texas Rangers traded the first baseman Mark Texiera to the Angels.
In 2010 the Milwaukee Brewers traded All Star center fielder 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. Yet, 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 Thom to the Cleveland Indians, the club with which he began his illustrious baseball career. Thome was considering retirement, and wanted to end his playing days as a member of the Tribe.
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