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Monday, July 22, 2013
Best deadline deal ever: Mariners

By David Schoenfield

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

THE TEAM: Seattle Mariners

THE YEAR: 1998

THE SITUATION: Contract talks with Randy Johnson had stalled and the Mariners were a disappointing 15 games under .500 by the end of June after winning the division title the year before. Johnson was vocally unhappy with management -- in part, because he believed the team hadn't offered proper condolences when his father died -- and Johnson didn't always appear focused on the mound with a 4.33 ERA. As it became apparent Johnson wasn't going to re-sign with Seattle, Mariners management began using that against him in the media to help sell the upcoming deal.

THE TRADE: Moments before the July 31 deadline, GM Woody Woodward traded Johnson to the Astros for minor leaguers Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen and John Halama (a player to be named later). The deal for the three generally unknown prospects was widely panned in the press and Woodward whined that there wasn't much interest in Johnson ... who was only averaging 12.0 strikeouts per nine innings at the time. Garcia would be Baseball America’s No. 61 prospect before the 1999 season, Guillen No. 73.

THE AFTERMATH: The Mariners are known for their bad deadline deals (Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe for Heathcliff Slocumb, Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Perez, Shin-Soo Choo for Ben Broussard), but this one worked out as Garcia and Guillen, and Halama to a lesser extent, helped the Mariners reach the postseason in 2000 and 2001 and win 90-plus games in 2002 and 2003, as well. It also worked out for Houston, as Johnson went 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA in 11 starts, although the Astros would lose to the Padres in the Division Series (Johnson lost both of his starts, though he pitched well). Johnson would sign with Arizona after the season and win four straight Cy Young Awards and the 2001 World Series.