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Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Best deadline deal ever: Reds

By Chad Dotson

Throughout July we're going to present 30 deals in 30 days: the best trade deadline deal ever made by each team. We've covered the AL East, NL East and AL Central so far, and are now on the NL Central.

THE TEAM: Cincinnati Reds

THE YEAR: 1977

THE SITUATION: The Big Red Machine were two-time defending champions, having won 108 and 102 games in the two previous campaigns. As they approached midseason, however, GM Bob Howsam found the club in unfamiliar territory. On June 15 (the trade deadline in 1977), Cincinnati was in second place in the NL West, seven games behind Tommy Lasorda's Dodgers.

Cincinnati's offense -- led by 1977 NL MVP George Foster, Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench -- remained among the best in the league. The pitching was another story entirely. Fred Norman was the only above-average Reds starter; Gary Nolan and Jack Billingham had seen their best days pass by. Woody Fryman, who had been acquired in the offseason for Tony Perez, was 2-4 with a 5.33 ERA (and would surprise everyone by retiring just a month later).

THE TRADE: In a flurry of activity on deadline day, Howsam made five separate trades, announcing all of them just after an extra-inning win over Philadelphia. The biggest swap, however, brought Tom Seaver to Cincinnati, sending Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Dan Norman and Pat Zachry to the New York Mets. Seaver, of course, was a Mets legend, but a contract dispute had turned nasty. Seaver demanded a trade, and Howsam -- who had never been afraid to make a blockbuster trade -- was ready.

THE AFTERMATH: Three days after the trade, Seaver twirled a shutout that drew the Reds to within 6½ games of Los Angeles. One month later, Seaver pitched two innings in the All-Star Game (which was held at Yankee Stadium) in a Cincinnati uniform. Unfortunately, the Reds would get no closer to 6½ games, though Seaver was brilliant -- 14-3, 2.35 ERA, 168 ERA+ (21-6 overall).

The following season, Seaver won 16 games with a 2.88 ERA and a 123 ERA+. He also threw his only no-hitter, one year and one day after the trade, a 4-0 gem over the Cardinals.

As for the players dealt away by Cincinnati, each remained with the Mets for at least three seasons after 1977. Flynn played nine more years in the majors as an all-glove, no-bat infielder. Zachry pitched six unspectacular seasons in New York, going 41-46 with a 3.63 ERA. Henderson put together a decent 12-year career as a part-time outfielder. Norman saw 348 at-bats and was out of baseball by age 27.

Though Cincinnati would not reach the heights of the Big Red Machine during Seaver's six-year run in the Queen City, the Reds did finish atop the NL West twice, and finished second two other times. Seaver was mostly outstanding during that span, going 75-46 with a 3.18 ERA (116 ERA+), and finishing second to Fernando Valenzuela in the 1981 Cy Young balloting after going 14-2 with a 2.54 ERA.

--Chad Dotson, Redleg Nation