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This Week in Overreactions: Big trade deadline deal puts team over the top

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

Zack Greinke was the prize of the 2012 trade deadline. How'd that work out?
Zack Greinke was the prize of the 2012 trade deadline; how did that work out? (USATSI)

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It's time for another installment of "The Week in Overreactions" -- the idea that was stolen borrowed with approval from our friends at Eye on Football. To the narrative machine!

'That big trade will put that team over the top'

Consider this a preemptive overreaction takedown. The trade deadline is 4 p.m. ET on Thursday and already we've seen a blockbuster with the Jon Lester/Yoenis Cespedes swap. David Price, Cole Hamels and many others could still be on the move. Surprise names too, like Cespedes.

Inevitably, you'll read stories soon thereafter about how a big trade improves a team so very, very much. How, say, the Athletics become World Series favorites with Lester, or how the Dodgers go from the best team in the NL to the best team in MLB if they add Price. Something like that. You'll hear the trade puts the team over top.

The recent history of major deadline trades shows that is not necessarily the case, however. Let's look back at the impact of some recent deadline blockbusters and their impact:

2013: Red Sox acquire Jake Peavy in three-team trade with White Sox and Tigers

Before the trade, the Red Sox had a .593 winning percentage and a 3.77 rotation ERA. After the trade? A .611 winning percentage and a 3.98 rotation ERA. They were already in first place at the time of the trade and they stayed there the rest of the season. Peavy had a 4.04 ERA in 10 regular-season starts after the deal and a 7.10 ERA in three postseason starts. The Red Sox won the World Series anyway because they were already the best team in baseball, with or without Peavy.

2012: Angels acquire Zack Greinke from Brewers for Jean Segura and pitching prospects

Greinke was the big fish at the 2012 trade deadline and the Angels were sitting in the second wild-card spot at the time of the trade, two games up on the Orioles. They went from a .544 winning percentage before the trade to a .559 winning percentage after the trade, but still fell out of the postseason picture and failed to qualify for the playoffs. Greinke made 13 starts, went 6-2 with a 3.53 ERA, then bolted for the Dodgers as a free agent after the season.

2011: Giants acquire Carlos Beltran, Indians acquire Ubaldo Jimenez

Which was the bigger deadline deal at the time? Take your pick. The Giants were leading the NL West by three games when they landed Beltran, and while he put up a 159 OPS+ with San Francisco, they lost 30 of 55 games after the trade and missed the postseason. They gave up the promising Zack Wheeler to get him. Jimenez was a disaster during his two-plus seasons in Cleveland, save for eight starts at the end of 2013, when he helped the team to the postseason for the first time since 2007. They traded away a package of prospects, most notably Alex White and Drew Pomeranz.

2010: ???

The 2010 trade deadline featured a lot of smaller names but no true blockbuster. Nothing close to a blockbuster really. In hindsight, the best pickup was made by the Indians, who sent Jake Westbrook to the Cardinals as part of a three-team trade with the Padres. Their return? An unheralded pitching prospect named Corey Kluber. The trade with most immediate impact? Probably the Giants getting lefty reliever Javier Lopez from the Pirates. He was a key part of their World Series bullpen.

The trade deadline is without question one of the most fun days and times of the year. Big trades are made and there are more rumors than you could ever want to see. As a sports fan, there is nothing more fun than thinking about roster moves.

As we've seen over the past few years though, making a big move does not automatically result in winning. There is this sense of "oh man, that's a great pickup, they're the favorites now" immediately after a big trade that is more reactionary than anything. The impact of the biggest trades at the deadline is often much less than we initially expect because, in the end, we're only talking about one player.

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