Baseball Thanksgivings

Which teams have had the most (or least) to be thankful for at holiday time?

Just for fun, here are a list of significant Thanksgiving Day transactions. Not surprisingly, there hasn’t been a lot of activity on this holiday, but there have been a few transactions of note.

2009 – The Blue Jays sign free agent Alex Gonzalez. Gonzalez had an outstanding 3.3 WAR in a half-season with Toronto before being dealt to Atlanta for a younger shortstop, Junel Escobar. Gonzalez and Escobar both provided solid defense for their new teams, with the latter being a key piece in a recent blockbuster trade between the Blue Jays and Marlins.

2007 – Angels sign free agent Torii Hunter. Hunter would provide 5 years of solid performance (19.7 WAR) in the Angel outfield.

2005 – The Marlins engage in yet another salary dump, sending Carlos Delgado to the Mets, and Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to the Red Sox. The latter deal also worked out for the Fish who netted Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez in the swap. Delgado would close out his distinguished career with 3+ seasons of 121 OPS+ with 104 HR, almost leading the Mets to the 2006 NL championship. Beckett and Lowell would lead the Red Sox to a 2007 WS triumph, with Beckett being a mainstay in the Boston rotation for 6+ seasons of 20.4 WAR. Ramirez and Sanchex would also last 6+ seasons in Florida before being dealt in 2012 in separate deadline deals two days apart. Ramirez would win the RoY and a batting title while providing 25.5 WAR. Sanchez was brought along slowly to become an effective if unspectacular starter who looks to have solved his early control problems. He impressed in 2012 for the Tigers in his first taste of the post-season.

Other major transactions proximate to Thanksgiving.

2003 – After back-to-back seasons in Arizona of 20+ wins and CYA runner-up finishes, Curt Schilling turned in a solid but injury-shortened 2003 season. Looking to the future, the Diamondbacks traded their 37 year-old ace to Boston in exchange for four prospects. Schilling would have an immediate impact, going 21-6, 148 ERA+ (and another CYA runner-up) in 2004 to lead the Red Sox to their first WS championship in 86 years, following their unprecedented comeback from 0-3 in the ALCS. That series included Schilling’s memorable game 6 performance (the now famous “bloody sock” game) pitching on a bad ankle injured in the ALDS. Only two of the four players that Arizona obtained ended up playing for the Snakes, combining for just 0.3 WAR in their time in the desert.

1986 – In what would become a recurring theme, the Yankees went shopping for an experienced (i.e. older) pitcher, swapping young prospect Doug Drabek for 13-year vet Rick Rhoden. Rhoden provided 2 serviceable (102 ERA+) seasons in the Bomber rotation, while Drabek gave Pittsburgh six solid years (19.8 WAR, 118 ERA+) and a CYA , leading the Bucs to three straight NL East titles.

1977 – The Yankees sign free agent pitcher Goose Gossage. The Goose gave the Yankees six outstanding seasons of 183 ERA+ pitching, going 41-28 and notching 150 saves. Not coincidentally, the Bombers would claim 2 pennants and a world championship during Gossage’s tenure.

1972 – The Angels and Dodgers concluded a cross-town multi-player deal, the principals being Andy Messersmith and Frank Robinson. Messersmith had three solid years (14.6 WAR) with the Dodgers, including 20-6, 132 ERA+ to lead LA to the 1974 NL championship. But, he is more remembered for ushering in baseball’s free agency era. Messersmith played out the option year of his contract in 1975, becoming (with Dave McNally) a free agent after the Seitz ruling in December that year, thus ending baseball’s reserve clause. At age 37, Robinson’s best years were behind him, but he was still a solid contributor (7.5 WAR, 149 OPS+) in two seasons with the Angels. Robinson would then make history in 1975, becoming baseball’s first black manager with the Indians, a very big deal at the time.

1969 – The Angels shipped prospect Pedro Borbon to the Reds for outfielder Alex Johnson, coming off back-to-back seasons hitting .300. Borbon would be a bullpen mainstay for the Big Red Machine, contributing 120+ relief innings in each of his first 6 seasons, as Cincinnati claimed 3 pennants and 2 WS titles. Johnson was AL batting champion his first season with the Angels (edging out slugging and OPS leader Carl Yastrzemski by the narrowest of margins). But that was about it for Alex, who bounced around for his final 6 seasons, compiling -2.6 WAR with 93 OPS+.

1966 – The White Sox acquire Wilbur Wood from Pittsburgh in exchange for Juan Pizarro. After compiling just 159 IP total in his first 5 seasons, Wood would become a Sox mainstay, first as a swingman, then a closer, and finally (and most famously) as their ace starter. Wood’s knuckler bedeviled AL hitters in the mid-70s as he compiled 4-straight 20-win seasons, each with over 300 IP. Pizarro was pretty much the opposite. Having compiled almost 1500 IP prior to the trade, including a 4 year stretch of 61-38, 128 ERA+ with Chicago, Pizarro would have barely 500 more IP (96 ERA+) in his final 8 seasons, bouncing around 6 teams before ending up with the Pirates again for his last year.

1954 – The Pirates claim Roberto Clemente from the Dodgers in the Rule 5 Draft. And the rest is history. Arguably the game’s finest right-fielder, Clemente would remain with the Pirates for his entire HOF career, leading the Bucs to memorable 7-game World Series titles in 1960 and 1971.

1948 – The Dodgers claim Tommy Lasorda from the Phillies in the 1948 minor league draft. Tommy never amounted to much as a pitcher (58 IP, 8.6 BB/9, 11 WP, 4 HBP) but, other than a very brief stint on the Kansas City-New York shuttle, Lasorda would be a Dodger lifer, earning HOF recognition for his years as manager, guiding LA to 9 division titles, 5 pennants and 3 WS championships.

1935 – The Red Sox purchase 17 year-old Bobby Doerr from the Hollywood Stars of the PCL. Already with two pro seasons under his belt, the prodigy Doerr would play one more PCL season before joining the Red Sox as a 19 year-old in 1937. Doerr would play his entire 14-year HOF career in Boston, a career cut short by a back injury in 1951.

1934 – The Pirates and Cubs swing a multi-player deal, the principals being Babe Herman and Larry French. The Cubs would get 6+ seasons of solid work (20.5 WAR, 114 ERA+) from French. A different story for the Pirates – Herman got off to a slow start the next season and was quickly sold to the Reds, for whom he posted creditable marks of 130+ ERA+ and 4.8 WAR in two seasons.







Leave a Reply

13 Comments on "Baseball Thanksgivings"

Notify of
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted

Wilbur Wood was the last pitcher with 20 W and 20 L in the same season.

John Autin

Almost — Phil Niekro went 21-20 in 1979.


I’m sure I knew the story at one point, but what he heck were the Rule 5 Draft rules in 1954? Clemente was all of 19 and had one season in the minors, and not a good one, when he was lifted by the Dodgers. He’d play five seasons before he’d become more of an impact hitter.

I wonder is this is one of the incidents that led to changes in the Rule 5 system.

87 Cards
The SABR Bio Project for Clemente explains, with some primary sources, the details of the Dodgers loss of Clemente. Short answer: Any player with a bonus and salary in excess of $4,000 USD had to be on the 40-man roster for two calendar years or be exposed to the minor-league draft (aka the Bonus Baby draft). In 1954, The Dodgers and GM Buzzie Bavasi won a bidding war for the amateur Clemente against the Giants with a $5k salary and $10K bonus and ourighted him to Montreal. His lack of placement on the 40-man roster and his $15K compensation made… Read more »

On December 1, 1952, the Pirates relieved the Dodgers of Roy Face’s services, also by the Rule V draft. (Two years after the Dodgers had taken Face from the Phillies in the minor league draft.)

Richard Chester

Sorry Doug but prior to 1939 Thanksgiving was observed on the last Thursday in November and that eliminates the 1934 transaction as occurring on that day.


Thanks Richard,

I thought the change had occurred in 1933, Roosevelt’s first year in office. But, I stand corrected.


That would be the current Alex Gonzalez, not the real culprit behind the 2003 Cubs playoff loss. Interesting that both Alex Gonzalezes show up on each other’s bbref “most similar” lists.

Seems like one of them should have pulled an Ervin Santana.


I never realized that in that 2003 playoff, the two Alex Gonzalezes played shortstop for opposing teams. Freaky.

Timmy Pea

Sosa vs. Bagwell. Both look like PED users, and have been suspected of using although neither was ever caught. Sosa is going to get the McGwire treatment from the HoF while Bagwell will probably get in this year or next. It seems like the reason Sosa might not ever get in is because he did some things with the bat that were out of this world while using steroids. Bagwell get’s to get in because he hit pretty well and walked a lot while using steroids.