My colleague Ben Nicholson-Smith pointed out, rightly, that September trades haven't amounted to much in the past decade. But there was a glorious summer-turned-fall for trades back in 1993. As Yasir Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands on the White House lawn, seemingly ending Middle Eastern conflict, Major League teams came together to help one another through the season's final month.
Sure, everyone knew that these relationships were as transitory as a momentary coupling with a beautiful stranger you meet on a cruise. But let's revisit the brief, sweet memories that resulted.
On September 1, the Chicago White Sox traded reliever Donn Pall to the Philadelphia Phillies for catcher Doug Lindsey. Though the Phillies held a 9.5 game lead over the Montreal Expos on September 1, a thin bullpen needed reinforcements. Pall certainly provided quality innings for Philadelphia, pitching to a 2.55 ERA over 17 2/3 innings. The hard-charging Expos managed to cut that lead to three games by season's end, foreshadowing further improvement the following season. Were Pall's innings the difference between winning and losing the division? Perhaps not, but they helped provide insurance for a closer-than-expected finish.
A week later, the Baltimore Orioles found themselves in a surprisingly strong position. Down six games in the AL East as September began, Baltimore had rallied to within a game of the first-place Blue Jays. Needing a hitter to help them with the stretch run, the Orioles sent minor leaguers Stanton Cameron and Terry Farrar to Pittsburgh for outfielder Lonnie Smith. For Smith, the chance to play left field and designated hitter on a contending team one last time helped spark him to a 139 OPS+ with Baltimore in 32 plate appearances. Though the Orioles faded, Lonnie Smith certainly didn't.
The significant dealing still wasn't finished, even when the month was more than half over. On September 17, the Texas Rangers trailed the AL West-leading White Sox by just 4.5 games. In an effort to bolster the team's offense, Texas traded minor leaguer Dave Gandolph to the Houston Astros for outfielder Chris James. The move paid dividends immediately, with James homering twice in his very first game with Texas. He went on to hit .355/.412/.677 in 34 plate appearances. Though Texas fell short of division title, James provided 0.7 WAR – an amazing total for someone on the active roster for a total of 15 days.
That same day, the Yankees, fading from the AL East race, decided to add another arm to a young, tiring starting rotation. Though the Phillies also had interest in Frank Tanana – after all, Donn Pall can't win pennants all by himself – the Yankees managed to snag Tanana from the crosstown Mets for reliever Kenny Greer. The once-great strikeout pitcher still knew how to get hitters out with junk at age 40. Though he failed to win his three starts with the Yankees, he pitched into the seventh inning all three times, posting a quality start in each outing. The Yankees failed to catch the Blue Jays, But Tanana's 19 2/3 innings of 3.20 ERA pitching certainly helped keep things close.
Will history repeat itself? Perhaps Chris Capuano will go across town to a contending Yankees team? Maybe the White Sox will send Jesse Crain to the Phillies? No matter how late it gets, don't assume the deals won't have an impact. After all, you'll never forget that night at sea, no matter how brief the interlude.