Thursday, July 4, 2013
Best deadline deal ever: Orioles
By David Schoenfield
Over the next month, we're going to present 30 deals in 30 days: the best trade deadline deal ever made by each team.
THE TEAM: Baltimore Orioles
THE YEAR: 1996
THE SITUATION: After getting swept in a four-game series at home by the Yankees in mid-July, the Orioles remained in second place in the AL East, but were 10 games out of first and seven behind the wild-card leading White Sox. Sources reported that new general manager Pat Gillick wanted to cash in veterans Bobby Bonilla and David Wells for prospects. Supposedly, the Padres were targeting Bonilla and Seattle wanted to add Wells to its rotation. However, the alleged deals had to pass through owner Peter Angelos' desk.
THE TRADE: As reported in The Baltimore Sun back in 1996, the nixed deal for Wells would have netted the Orioles catcher Chris Widger and highly regarded shortstop prospect Desi Relaford, while the deal for Bonilla was supposed to have brought in reliever Bryce Florie and another top shortstop prospect, Juan Melo. Angelos reportedly vetoed both deals.
THE AFTERMATH: It can be argued the best deadline deal the Orioles have been a part of were these two that Angelos supposedly nixed. For one, the Orioles managed to climb into the wild card spot and make the playoffs. Bonilla became a major part of that second-half surge, improving his OPS from .782 in the first half to .930. Second, Gillick's attempt to find Cal Ripken Jr.'s heir at shortstop would not have been found in either Relaford (-0.4 WAR over 11 years) or Melo (13 MLB plate appearances). The downside of this successful non-deal was that it likely informed Gillick that he would not have a free hand in Baltimore. That is what eventually pushed him out the door after another postseason appearance in 1997 and to the Mariners, where he oversaw one of the most successful seasons in baseball history.
-- Jon Shepherd, Camden Depot