Teams making deals in the run up to the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline typically have one of two goals. Either the team in question is a contender looking to get that one extra piece that is going to put it over the top and into the posteason, or it is a rebuilding club looking to turn a player who won't be a part of its next contending squad into young talent that will. Focusing purely on their performance down the stretch, here are the five players who did the most to accomplish the first goal for the contending clubs that acquired them in advance of the July 31 non-wavier deadline during the wild card era (1995 to present). One interesting thing to note: none of the top five, and very few of the honorable mentions below, made it all the way to the World Series, and fewer still won it. That's evidence of the fact that, while one player might be able to make the difference between first and second place in the regular season, his opportunities to impact a short postseason series are limited. So, while a division or two might be decided by a big trade over the next few days, the pennants will still be decided in October.
The Dodgers were two games out of first place in the NL West when they acquired Ramirez from the Red Sox in a three-way deal with the Pirates at the last possible moment before the 2008 non-waiver deadline. All Manny did after replacing
The Brewers were in third place in the NL Central and in trailing the division foe Cardinals by a half-game for the NL wild card when they acquired Sabathia from the Indians on July 7, 2008 to replace
The Astros already had a 3 1/2 game lead in the NL Central when they acquired Randy Johnson from the Mariners at the 1998 trading deadline, but with Johnson dominating every fifth day in place of
Holliday's stint with the Cardinals in 2009 will be best remembered for the fly ball he dropped against the Dodgers that would have ended Game 2 of the NLDS and tied that series at one game apiece, opening the door for a Dodgers comeback en route to their sweep. That's a shame, because Holliday was instrumental in getting the St. Louis to that series in the first place. When the Cardinals acquired him from the A's on July 24, they were clinging to a 1 1/2 game lead in the NL Central and desperate to find some protection in their lineup for eventual NL MVP