Over the next month, we're going to present 30 deals in 30 days: the best trade deadline deal ever made by each team.
THE TEAM: Toronto Blue Jays
THE YEAR: 1997
THE SITUATION: While some would point to 1992, when the Blue Jays acquired David Cone from the Mets -- he went 4-3 in seven regular-season starts after the trade and then 1-1 with a 3.22 ERA in four postseason starts as Toronto won its first World Series -- they did give up a potential future Hall of Famer in Jeff Kent to get him. Plus, that deal came in August anyway, not July. In 1997, in the midst of their fourth consecutive losing season, the Blue Jays were locked in a seemingly endless rebuild. Conversely, the Seattle Mariners found themselves stocked with Hall of Fame-level offensive talent -- Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Alex Rodriguez -- but were the owners of a suspect bullpen.
THE TRADE: Heading to the rebuilding Blue Jays: switch-hitting 23-year-old rookie outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. In exchange, the Mariners receive two relievers, Paul Spoljaric and Mike Timlin. (This was the same trade deadline during which the Mariners sent Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek to Boston for Heathcliff Slocumb.)
THE AFTERMATH: Spoljaric ends up being nothing more than serviceable, posting a 4.76 ERA with a 1.72 WHIP over 20 appearances. He would later implode and left the majors by 2000. Timlin had a good regular season for the Mariners, but was ultimately a goat during the divisional playoffs against Baltimore, surrendering four earned runs in only 0.2 innings. He would flee to Baltimore at the end of the 1998 season via free agency.
At the time of the trade, Cruz was setting the baseball world on fire, having hit 12 home runs in his first 49 games with the M's. While he never seemed to match his hot start -- nor the legacy set by his father -- Cruz did give the Jays nearly six years of quality outfield production, an 11.4 WAR for just under $8 million in salary. This included a 30-30 season in 2001, as well as a 31-homer campaign in 2000.
-- Matthias Koster, Mop-Up Duty