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Ranking the 10 biggest waiver-wire trades in MLB history

While most trades go down prior to the July 31 non-waiver deadline, plenty of memorable deals have been completed in August.

Texas Rangers v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Most of the trade buzz in baseball cools down after the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and with rather good reason, as it is much more difficult for teams to complete deals in August since they must pass players on the 40-man roster through waivers before trading them. Plenty of good trades still occur during the waiver period, though, with Yonder Alonso, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, and Rajai Davis among the big names who have been on the move this month.

Here are 10 of the most memorable August trades that have gone down since baseball instituted the July 31 non-waiver deadline back in 1986:

10. August 31, 1992: Rangers trade Jeff Russell, Ruben Sierra, Bobby Witt, and cash to Athletics for Jose Canseco

Oakland and Texas made a blockbuster deal on the final day of August in 1992, as the first-place A’s sent Canseco, who was baseball’s reigning home run champ and had hit more home runs (226) since his rookie year in 1986 than anyone else in the majors, for Sierra, who’d been a three-time All-Star and the runner-up for the 1989 AL MVP in Texas, as well as two dependable pitchers in Witt and Russell.

While Sierra became infamous for his reluctance to take walks in Oakland, he had moments of offensive greatness, posting a .982 OPS in the 1992 ALCS and hitting over 20 homers in both 1993 and 1994. Russell was unscored upon in eight relief appearances down the stretch and was instrumental in Oakland’s run to the ALCS. Witt stepped into the Athletics’ rotation and remained a solid innings-eater for them through the 1994 season.

Canseco remained with in Texas through the 1994 season but saw his level of success drop off somewhat as he dealt with injuries, hitting .269/.363/.512 with 45 homers in 849 plate appearances for the Rangers.

9. August 21, 1987: Pirates trade Rick Reuschel to Giants for Scott Medvin and Jeff Robinson

With the Giants looking to boost their rotation in preparation for their playoff run in 1987, they went out and acquired the 38-year-old Reuschel, who had been an All-Star earlier in the season with Pittsburgh, in late August. While Reuschel’s 4.32 ERA over the remainder of that season was somewhat disappointing, he posted a spectacular 1.02 WHIP down the stretch for the Giants and helped them to the NLCS. While he struggled in both that series and the 1989 playoffs, during which the Giants advanced to the World Series, Reuschel remained a generally reliable presence in San Francisco’s rotation through the 1991 season, achieving his greatest success in 1989, when he posted a 2.94 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP, making the All-Star team and finishing eighth in Cy Young voting. Robinson was solid out of the Pirates’ bullpen for two-plus seasons, but Medvin struggled in 23 relief appearances for Pittsburgh over two years.

8. August 9, 1991: Brewers trade Candy Maldonado to Blue Jays for Bob Wishnevski and a player to be named later (William Suero)

Maldonado, who was remarkably involved in three different August trades over a five-year span from 1991-95, was struggling mightily in Milwaukee when the Brewers dealt him to Toronto in early August of 1991. He caught fire after crossing the border, though, posting an impressive .821 OPS over the remainder of the season while going on to play a prominent role as the Jays advanced to the ALCS. He was most valuable to the Blue Jays the following season, though, posting an .819 OPS with 20 homers, then contributing another three home runs in the playoffs as Toronto won its first World Series in franchise history. Suero went on to play in 33 games over two seasons for the Brewers, while Wishnevski never reached the major leagues.

7. August 31, 1996: Indians trade Jeromy Burnitz to Brewers for Kevin Seitzer

This trade provided significant benefits for both clubs, though the rewards were longer-lasting for the Brewers. Burnitz, then 27 years old and in the midst of a breakout season for the Indians, went on to play five-plus seasons for the Brewers, ranking eighth in franchise history in OPS (.870) and ninth in home runs (165). Seitzer, who was nearing the end of his career at 34 years old, slashed a ridiculous .386/.480/.542 over the remainder of the ‘96 season for the Tribe. He returned in a reserve role for the 1997 season, posting a .694 OPS in 220 plate appearances as the Indians reached the World Series, where they fell to the Marlins in seven games.

6. August 6, 2004: Rockies trade Larry Walker to the Cardinals for Jason Burch and two players to be named later (Luis Martinez and Chris Narveson)

When the Cardinals went out and got Walker on August 6, they were already a dominant 70-38 and led the NL Central by 10.5 games. While he had been limited to 38 games with the Rockies due to a groin strain, Walker—a possible future Hall of Famer—had posted a spectacular 1.093 OPS in Colorado. His success continued in St. Louis, as he hit .280/.393/.560 with 11 homers in 44 regular-season games and posted a .293/.379/.707 postseason slash line with six homers as the Cardinals advanced to the World Series before being swept by the Red Sox. He returned to St. Louis for his final season in 2005 and hit for an impressive .289/.384/.502 slash line with 15 homers over 100 games, though he slumped to a disappointing .421 OPS over 36 postseason plate appearances.

None of Martinez, Narveson, or Burch ever pitched in the majors for the Rockies, and Narveson actually ended up returning to the Cardinals, making his major-league debut and earning a World Series ring while pitching in five games for the Cards in 2006. He’d also go on to pitch for the Brewers and Marlins during an eight-season major-league career.

5. August 25, 1992: Mets trade David Cone to the Blue Jays for Jeff Kent and a player to be named later (Ryan Thompson)

Looking to make a splash in late August as they sought their first-ever World Series appearance, the Blue Jays traded for Cone, a pending free agent who had been an All-Star a month earlier while posting a 2.88 ERA and 1.24 WHIP for the Mets. His success continued in Toronto, as he threw for a 2.55 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in eight games (seven starts) over the remainder of the regular season. Cone was also strong over four postseason starts as the Blue Jays won their first World Series.

While Kent, a borderline Hall of Fame candidate, achieved his greatest success with the Giants, Astros, and Dodgers, he was a very good starting second baseman with the Mets, posting an above-average OPS+ in every season from 1993-96. Thompson also turned into a solid part-time player for the Mets, spending four seasons in New York and hitting double-digit homers in both 1993 and 1994.

4. August 25, 2012: Red Sox trade Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto, and cash to the Dodgers for Ivan De Jesus Jr., James Loney, Allen Webster, and two players to be named later (Jerry Sands and Rubby De La Rosa)

While Gonzalez was really the only player in this deal who found tremendous success with his new club, it was arguably the most high-profile waiver deal ever at the time of its completion. The Dodgers gained a glut of star power all at once, with the trio of Gonzalez, Beckett, and Crawford having amassed 11 All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, and two Silver Slugger awards between them. With the trade being made just three months after the Guggenheim group’s purchase of the team, the Dodgers’ willingness to take on more than $270 million in remaining salaries represented a new organizational commitment to spending.

Gonzalez is now nearing the end of his career and has never been quite as productive with the Dodgers as he was with the Padres or Red Sox, but he has added another All-Star appearance, Silver Slugger, and Gold Glove to his resume since his arrival in Los Angeles. Beckett had spurts of success in LA but was forced to retire after the 2014 season due to a hip injury, while Crawford was solid in 2013 and 2014 but then struggled through injuries in 2015 and was designated for assignment with $35 million remaining on his deal last June. Punto was mostly unremarkable while contributing off the Dodgers’ bench over the remainder of 2012 and in 2013. All four players acquired by the Red Sox, meanwhile, departed the organization by the end of 2014.

3. August 21, 2008: Pirates trade Jose Bautista to Blue Jays for a player to be named later (Robinzon Diaz)

When the Pirates dealt Bautista to Toronto in 2008, he was a middling utility man who had posted a mediocre .241/.329/.403 slash line over five years in Pittsburgh. Little did they know that he’d be a late bloomer with the Blue Jays and end up leading the majors in home runs on two occasions while making six All-Star teams and becoming arguably the most impactful player in franchise history. Diaz did contribute a bit at the major-league level for the Pirates, seeing action in 44 games as a backup catcher in 2008-09, but obviously his impact in Pittsburgh paled to Bautista’s in Toronto.

2. August 30, 1990: Astros trade Larry Andersen to Red Sox for Jeff Bagwell

The Red Sox needed to boost their bullpen down the stretch in 1990, and they did so by acquiring 37-year-old right-hander Larry Andersen from the Astros in late August. Andersen was dominant in Boston, posting a 1.23 ERA and 0.96 WHIP over the season’s final month, though he struggled as the Red Sox fell to the A’s in the ALCS that October.

In order to get Andersen, who departed in free agency following the season, the Sox parted with Double-A third base prospect Jeff Bagwell. The Astros shifted him across the diamond and gave him a spot on their big-league club the following spring, and he went on to win the 1991 NL Rookie of the Year. Bagwell stuck around in Houston for all 15 of his major-league seasons and posted a .297/.408/.540 career slash line with 449 homers in 9,431 plate appearances, winning the 1994 NL MVP and making four All-Star teams. Though Bagwell was never able to help the Astros win a World Series, he’s widely considered to be one of the best pure hitters of all time and was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame earlier this year.

1. August 12, 1987: Braves trade Doyle Alexander to Tigers for John Smoltz

The Tigers were looking for experienced pitching depth as they prepared to make a playoff run in 1987, and they got it on August 12, acquiring 36-year-old right-hander Doyle Alexander from the Braves. Alexander posted a spectacular 1.53 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over 11 starts down the stretch and made two starts in the ‘87 ALCS as Detroit fell to Minnesota.

What the Tigers’ front office didn’t know was that the 20-year-old Double-A pitcher they were trading away would go on to become one of the greatest and most versatile pitchers in major-league history. Smoltz made his big-league debut for the Braves in 1988 and spent the next 20 seasons in Atlanta, establishing himself as both an elite starter and a shutdown closer, going 210-147 with 154 saves over 708 games (466 starts) while posting a 3.26 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. While the Braves only won one World Series with Smoltz in 1995, he was a dominant postseason pitcher, going 15-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 40 playoff games with Atlanta. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 2015.