It was on this day in 1888 that the New York Giants arranged to sell future Hall-of-Famer John Montgomery Ward to the (NL’s original) Washington Nationals for $12K, then a record sum. Whereas no-trade clauses give players control over their movement in today’s era, Ward had a simpler solution back in the 19th century — he simply refused to play for Washington unless he got a share of that $12K. As a result, the Nationals pulled out of the deal and Ward remained with the Giants for another season. Ward was one of the game’s earliest pioneers for players’ rights, with a resume that included co-founding the first sports labor union in history in 1885, founding the short-lived “Players’ League” in 1890, and then often representing players in his post-retirement career as a lawyer.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane for a look at some notable deals that were actually completed on November 23…
- It was just a year ago that the Mariners and Diamondbacks swung a big five-player trade that saw Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte head to the desert in exchange for Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, and lefty reliever Zac Curtis. It’s still too early to pass judgement on the deal (especially since Segura, Haniger, and Walker all missed significant time due to injuries in 2017), though it looks like it may be a win-win for both teams. Segura and Haniger performed well when they did play and will be counted on as important everyday contributors for the Mariners. Walker, meanwhile, delivered very good numbers in Arizona’s rotation, though Marte has yet to firmly establish himself in the Diamondbacks’ crowded middle infield pictures.
- While not a player transaction, it was two years ago today that the Dodgers officially named Dave Roberts as their new manager. Serving as a first-time manager after a long career as a player and coach, it’s hard to argue that L.A. didn’t make the right call — Roberts has led the Dodgers to an NLCS berth and then an NL pennant (finishing just a game away from the World Series title) in his first two years running the dugout.
- The Yankees made one of their signature free agent splashes when they signed Brian McCann to a five-year, $85MM deal on this day in 2013. McCann didn’t hit up to his usual standard, posting a .235/.313/.418 slash line over 1565 PA as a Yankee, and he became expendable due to Gary Sanchez’s emergence as a future star behind the plate. This led New York to deal McCann and $11MM in salary relief to the Astros last offseason for a pair of well-regarded right-handed pitching prospects (Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman).
- The Tigers signed Victor Martinez to a four-year, $50MM free agent deal on this day in 2010. Though Martinez missed all of the 2012 season due to a torn ACL, the signing was overall a win for Detroit, as V-Mart hit .321/.381/.487 over 1904 plate appearances over the life of the contract. A huge 2014 season led to another four-year deal with the Tigers that had proven to be less successful, as Martinez has struggled with injuries and perhaps just late-30’s decline.
- It was also on this day in 2010 that the Giants, basking in the glow of their World Series victory, re-signed Aubrey Huff to a two-year, $22MM deal. Huff had signed just a one-year, $3MM contract with San Francisco the previous winter that turned into a huge bargain, as the veteran’s tremendous season helped lead the Giants to the championship. While it could certainly be argued that the overall $25MM investment in Huff worth it for his 2010 performance alone, Huff’s subsequent deal ended up being a bust, as he didn’t deliver much at the plate and Brandon Belt eventually took over the first base job.
- The Braves signed two-sport star Brian Jordan to a five-year contract on this day in 1998. This was Jordan’s first stint with the Braves but not his first time in Atlanta, as he had previously played for the NFL’s Falcons as a defensive back. Jordan hit well over three years for the Braves before being traded to the Dodgers as a part of a three-player package for Gary Sheffield in a January 2002 blockbuster.
- The Yankees signed Steve Sax to a three-year deal on this day in 1988, reinforcing the keystone with the longtime second baseman for the just-crowned world champion Dodgers. Though Sax hit well in two of his three years in the pinstripes, he joined the Yankees at a rare down point in club history, as the team didn’t even post a winning record from 1989 to 1992. Sax’s time in New York also led to some unfounded accusations from Chief Wiggum and company in The Simpsons’ legendary “Homer At The Bat” episode.
- The Yankees made yet another big November 23 signing back in 1977 when they inked future Hall-of-Famer Rich Gossage to a six-year, $2.75MM free agent deal. The Goose provided immediate dividends, recording a league-best 27 saves and posting a 2.01 ERA over 134 1/3 relief innings as the Yankees went on to win the 1978 World Series. Gossage posted a 2.10 ERA and 150 saves during his time with the Yankees, though, like many in the “Bronx Zoo” era, he had his share of clashes with manager Billy Martin and owner George Steinbrenner.