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Big Trades Within The Division Have Always Been Part Of Baseball
As the trade deadline approaches, most broadcasters are naturally discussing completed and possible trades in Major League Baseball. During a game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Minnesota Twins, the announcers had just learned that a huge trade had been made.
The Orioles had traded Zack Britton to the New York Yankees, prompting the TV analyst to criticize the deal. He complained that the Orioles, who are deep in the American League’s east side, violated an unwritten rule to never trade within your own division.
I doubted such a rule existed, as any club considering swapping a player would strike a deal giving the best return. When you want to do what’s best for your organization, geography doesn’t trump your own interests.
By the very next day, my doubts grew stronger about this so-called unwritten rule the advertiser had alluded to, as another huge inside division trade had been 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 wondered if the rule had once existed but disappeared as complete games and sacrificed bunts from the current state of the game. Recalling some notable transactions over the past fifty years, however, I realized that there was no unspoken rule that suggested teams not trade within their own divisions.
Here are eight cases from the 1970s in which 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 standings, but also in the same state. The San Diego Padres acquired Stretch from the Giants 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 internal divisive trade. 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 Fame wide receiver Gary Carter was traded by the Montreal Expos to East Division rival New York, where Carter helped the Mets win the World Series championship. 1986 against the Boston Red Sox. Apparently, the Expos, like the Astros and Giants before them, had ignored the rule not to trade with rival clubs.
All Star slugger Carlos Delgado, less than a year after winning a World Series championship with the Marlins, was sent from Florida to the New York Mets in 2005. Three years later, on July 29, 2008, the Rangers of Texas traded first baseman Mark Texiera. to the Angels.
In 2010, the Milwaukee Brewers traded All Star center fielder Jim Edmonds for NL rival Central Cincinnati, who believed Edmonds would help the Reds reach the playoffs for the first time since the turn of the 20th century. Again, if such a rule existed, it continued to be ignored by most clubs.
In a more recent trade, the Minnesota Twins agreed in 2011 to send designated hitter Jim Thome to the Cleveland Indians, the club with which he began his illustrious baseball career. Thome was planning to retire and he wanted to end his playing days as a member of the tribe.
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