Boston Red Sox: Minor moves at trade deadline can make biggest splash

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 17: Dave Roberts #31 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 17: Dave Roberts #31 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

In the glorious year 2004, in late July, the Boston Red Sox did the unimaginable. Boston, angling for another deep playoff run, traded popular star Nomar Garciaparra in a four-team trade. “Not Nomar!” screamed a shocked and surprised Red Sox nation.

Sure, getting Orlando Cabrera from the Chicago Cubs and Doug Mientkiewicz from the Minnesota Twins shored up Boston’s defense, but to give up the cornerstone of the team? The end surely must have been nigh.

Turns it, it was those two that helped end a curse of 86 years by helping Boston secure a World Series title.

A little luck at the MLB trade deadline is always needed and in 2004, this bold move by the Red Sox paid off. It wasn’t a big splash — not a trade for a star, per se — proving that sometimes it’s the role players acquired at the deadline that can make all the difference.

So, too, was another trade that season, when Henri Stanley was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Dave Roberts. And all Roberts went on to do was become a pivotal piece in Red Sox lore.

Therein lies the beauty of trade deadline acquisitions (or send-offs). One hopes for the best, but never truly knows how it will all play out. The Red Sox are sure to do something one way or another in 2021. Will the trigger be pulled on a mega deal? Or will role players be added to batten down the hatches?

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Both avenues have positives, as seen over the years in franchise history.

Boston Red Sox past trade deadlines: The good

The 2004 trades paid dividends for Boston. Garciaparra was never quite his best version after being traded. He’d only played in 38 games for the Red Sox in 2004 and went on to play five more seasons with the Cubs, Dodgers, and Oakland Athletics.

While Cabrera and Mientkiewicz weren’t long-term solutions for the Red Sox, they did exactly the job asked of them (and more).

The trade deadline has brought to Boston some fantastic steals over the years. In 1997, it was a trade of reliever Heathcliff Slocumb to the Seattle Mariners that did the trick. This trade netted two players in catcher Jason Varitek and pitcher Derek Lowe.

Varitek only went on to become Boston’s team captain and three-time All-Star. He played all 15 seasons of his career with the Red Sox, winning three World Series titles in the process.

Lowe left after the 2004 season but won 52 games for Boston between 2002-04 and was 3-0 in the 2004 postseason.

A bigger acquisition at the trade deadline helped Boston earn another World Series title in 2013. Though the Red Sox gave up Jose Iglesias to the Detroit Tigers, they received pitcher Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox in a three-team trade.

Peavy went 4-1 for the Red Sox that year. His contributions paid off and it didn’t require a whole lot in acquiring him. Sometimes, though, trade deadline moves work in the opposite direction for a team.

Boston Red Sox trade deadline: the not-so-good

If foresight worked only for good, then the world might be a different place. The Red Sox would likely believe so in 2003.

Trying to end a World Series title drought, Boston traded for pitcher Jeff Suppan. Suppan wasn’t overpowering but at times he was effective. Plus, he was enjoying his best season as a pro and Boston wanted to strike while the iron was hot.

Instead, his struggles in the American League continued and Suppan went 3-4 with a 5.57 ERA for the Red Sox. He struggled so much he didn’t even pitch in the playoffs for the Red Sox.

Boston also traded Freddy Sanchez and Mike Gonzalez to the Pittsburgh Pirates that same year. Sanchez went on to make multiple All-Star teams and become a mainstay in Pittsburgh for six seasons.

In 2014, Boston was in a selling mood and shipped off Rich Hill to the Los Angeles Angels for cash. They also sent Jon Lester and Johnny Gomes to the Oakland A’s for Yoenis Céspedes.

Even further back, there was young talent given away in trade deadline deals that worked out better for the other teams involved. The Red Sox got what they wanted out of the players they acquired, but the future of the team might have been in better position had these moves not been made.

In 1988, it was a trade acquiring Mike Boddicker from the Baltimore Orioles. In return the Orioles received Brady Anderson and Curt Schilling. Schilling later made a return to Boston but one might wonder how the 90’s might have played out with him on the mound for the Red Sox.

The 1990 season saw the Red Sox trade Jeff Bagwell to the Houston Astros for Larry Anderson.

Striking a balance at the trade deadline is imperative. I’ve never been one to want a team to mortgage the future for a quick burst at a World Series title. The Red Sox have a chance to make a run this season and yes, they do need a little help.

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It might be a mid-level starter. Or a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch runner. And they could use more consistency at first base. As the July 31 deadline approaches, a big name would be accepted but if that doesn’t happen, any minor elements are welcomed. One never knows when a stolen base or a saved run is going to make all the difference in the world.

All you have to do is look to the 2004 Boston Red Sox to learn about that.