Lessons learned from the past two years of trade-deadline deals

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1) July 28, 2007, Rays acquire Dan Wheeler from Astros for Ty Wigginton; and Grant Balfour from Brewers for Seth McClung.

LESSON: Beware of Tampa. No team in recent years has done a better job of adding pieces in July than the Rays. In 2006 they turned Aubrey Huff into Ben Zobrist. In 2004 they turned Victor Zambrano into Scott Kazmir.

And in 2009 they are quite active again as both buyers (checking in on Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez and Roy Halladay, among others) and sellers (open-minded about Kazmir, Carlos Pena and maybe even Carl Crawford).

2) July 31, 2008, Red Sox trade Manny Ramirez to Dodgers as part of a three-team deal that also involves the Pirates, with Jason Bay going to Boston.

LESSON: There are two actually: a) No player is sacred to the Red Sox; b) complicated deals do not bother the Red Sox.

This deal was consummated four years to the day that Boston dealt another supposed icon, Nomar Garciaparra, as part of a three-team trade that ultimately put Orlando Cabrera in Boston.

The Red Sox don't seem positioned to deal any icons this time around. But they are big-game hunting just about everywhere, including in Toronto for Halladay, Cleveland for Lee and Martinez and San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez. The Indians have a front office that thinks a lot like the Red Sox's does. Thus, no one should be surprised if those two clubs are right now hatching up three- and four-team trades. Sometimes I think Boston GM Theo Epstein hates the idea of a simple deal.

3) July 27, 2007, Rangers trade Mark Teixeira plus lefty reliever Ron Mahay to Braves for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Beau Jones and Neftali Feliz.

LESSON: This is the Rangers' version of the Herschel Walker trade, since it brought Texas one of the best groups of young players in the game. But now it is being looked upon by organizations as a barometer of what clubs selling a high-level veteran with 1 1/2 years until free agency should get in return.

And lo and behold, Halladay has 1 1/2 years until free agency. But if anything the Teixeira deal has scared organizations from giving up too many prospects in one trade. The downturn in the economy and the upswing in greater diligence on drug testing have placed the greatest value ever on young, inexpensive prospects.

Also, the Braves were in the unique position of having young players they liked better than the prospects they gave up. For example, they traded a catcher (Saltalamacchia), but had Brian McCann. They dealt a shortstop (Andrus), but had Yunel Escobar. They gave up pitchers (Harrison and Feliz), but had Tommy Hanson.

Few teams have that kind of young depth. But the long-viewed front-runner for Halladay, the Phillies, potentially do, with high-end rotation prospects Kyle Drabek and Jason Knapp and outfield prospects Dominic Brown, Michael Taylor and Anthony Gose.

4) July 29, 2008, Braves trade Teixeira to the Angels for Casey Kotchman and Steve Marek.

LESSON: In general, a player is worth a heck of a lot less when traded with half a season until free agency rather than 1 1/2 seasons. Halladay, for example, is likely to fetch much more than just Kotchman if the Jays wait until next July, since starting pitching has such dramatic value and CC Sabathia brought such a strong return last July as a half-season pitcher for Milwaukee. Still, it is clear that Halladay's best trade value is right now.

5) July 26, 2008, Indians trade Casey Blake to Dodgers for Carlos Santana and Jon Meloan.

LESSON: Sometimes it is worthwhile to not only give up the veteran talent, but the money, too. The Indians agreed to pay the remainder of Blake's contract for 2008, about $3 million. But in return for that financial favor, Cleveland received a top-end minor leaguer in Santana, who actually might be the Indians' top prospect overall. His presence is helping Cleveland more seriously consider trading its current catcher, Victor Martinez.

Right now, the Rangers have one of the strongest farm systems in the sport, bolstered in large part by that July 2007 Teixeira deal. But Texas is strapped for cash. The Rangers have told teams that they would trade from their bountiful prospect base as long as teams pick up a lot of veteran salary. Texas badly wants to add Halladay. For now, though, Toronto is showing no desire to eat any money to trade arguably the best pitcher in baseball.