Wednesday night, Yoenis Cespedes and the Mets essentially ended the NL East race and buried the Nationals by finishing off their three-game sweep in Nationals Park (NYM 5, WAS 3). New York came from behind to win all three games and now leads the division by seven games.
Cespedes had the big blow on Wednesday, clubbing the go-ahead two-run home run off Drew Storen in the eighth inning. It was a back-breaker for Washington. Cespedes is now hitting .312/.357/.675 (179 OPS+) with 14 home runs and 36 RBI in 36 games with the Mets since coming over at the trade deadline.
There's been some talk Cespedes belongs in the NL MVP conversation, which is sort of silly, but there's no denying he's had a major impact since landing in New York. He's been one of the best trade deadline pickups in recent history. Who are some others? Let's look at the list dating back to 2000. Just to be clear, we're only looking at what the player did immediately after the trade. What they did in future years is not a factor.
Carlos Beltran, 2004 Astros: Beltran was an impending free agent and a pure rental in 2004, coming over from the Royals in a three-team trade with the Athletics featuring Mark Teahen, John Buck and Octavio Dotel, among others. The then 27-year-old Beltran hit .258/.368/.559 (135 OPS+) with 23 home runs, 53 RBI, 28 steals (in 28 attempts!) and 4.5 WAR in 90 games for Houston, helping them win the NL wild-card by one game over the Giants. Beltran then hit .435/.536/1.022 with eight home runs and 14 RBI in 12 postseason games. He finished 12th in the NL MVP voting in 2004 despite changing leagues at midseason.
David Justice, 2000 Yankees: The Yankees needed an offensive pick-me-up in the middle of the 2000 season, so they acquired Justice in a trade with the Indians. Ricky Ledee and Jake Westbrook were among those sent to Cleveland. Justice, then 34, hit .305/.391/.585 (145 OPS+) with 20 home runs, 60 RBI and 3.2 WAR in 78 games with New York as the club won the AL East by 2 1/2 games. Justice did not have a great October overall (.206/.315/.413 in 16 games), though he did hit a massive go-ahead three-run home run off Arthur Rhodes in the decisive Game 6 of the ALCS, which earned him ALCS MVP honors. Justice finished 13th in the MVP voting in 2000, though he did spend the entire season in the AL. He only changed teams at midseason, not leagues.
Cliff Lee, 2009 Phillies: A few days prior to the 2009 trade deadline, the Phillies acquired the then 30-year-old Lee from the Indians for four young players, most notably Carlos Carrasco. Philadelphia had won the 2008 World Series and was looking to repeat. Lee pitched well after the trade, throwing 79 2/3 innings of 3.39 ERA (124 ERA+) ball across 12 starts (1.1 WAR), but he had his biggest impact in October. The southpaw was historically great in the postseason, posting a 1.56 ERA in five starts and 40 1/3 innings. That includes a 0.56 ERA in his first four starts. He struck out 33 batters and walked seven as the Phillies won their second straight pennant. Lee did not receive any NL Cy Young or MVP votes following the midseason trade.
Cliff Lee, 2010 Rangers: Lee is the only player who makes our list twice. The bidding war for Lee, a rental ace, was pretty intense at the 2010 trade deadline, and the Rangers eventually won out with a package headlined by Justin Smoak. Lee started slowly with Texas (4.69 ERA in his first 11 starts) but finished strong (1.93 ERA in his last four starts) and was excellent again in the postseason, pitching to a 2.78 ERA in 35 2/3 innings spread across five starts as the Rangers won their first AL pennant. He struck out 47 and walked two in October. Two. Lee racked up just 1.4 WAR during the regular season with Texas, who won the NL West by nine games. His real impact came in October. He finished seventh in the AL Cy Young voting in 2010 -- Lee didn't receive any MVP votes -- but did not change leagues at midseason.
Roy Oswalt, 2010 Phillies: The Phillies were wheeling and dealing aces for a few years there. Oswalt, then 32, came over from the Astros for three players (J.A. Happ, Anthony Gose, Jonathan Villar) at the trade deadline, and managed to go 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA (234 ERA+) and 3.2 WAR in 82 2/3 innings covering 12 starts and one relief appearance. His NLDS start didn't go well (four runs in five innings) but he made up for it with two starts and a relief appearance in the NLCS, surrendering four runs (three earned) in 14 2/3 total innings. Oswalt was a beast in his first half-season with the Phillies. He finished sixth in the NL Cy Young voting but didn't change leagues at midseason.
Manny Ramirez, 2008 Dodgers: The end of Manny's tenure with the Red Sox was quite ugly. He was 36 at the time, and Boston shipped him to Los Angeles in a three-team trade with the Pirates that included, among others, Jason Bay and Brandon Moss. Ramirez was a monster with the Dodgers after the deal, hitting .396/.489/.743 (221 OPS+) with 17 home runs and 53 RBI in 53 games. That worked out to 3.5 WAR despite his indifferent defense. The Dodgers won the NL West by two games and Manny hit .520/.667/1.080 with four home runs and 10 RBI in eight postseason games. He drove in at least one run in seven of those eight games. Despite changing leagues at midseason, Ramirez finished fourth in the NL MVP voting, though he did not receive any first place votes.
CC Sabathia, 2008 Brewers: Sabathia's run with the Brewers gets more impressive each time I look at it. Milwaukee acquired him from the Indians at the deadline for three young players and a player to be named later, and the player to be named later has ended up being the player in the trade for Cleveland: Michael Brantley. The then 28-year-old Sabathia made 17 starts with the Brewers, completed seven of them, and went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA (255 ERA+) and 4.9 WAR in 130 2/3 innings. He made each of his last three starts on three days' rest -- when you include his NLDS start, Sabathia made four starts in 12 days at one point -- and allowed one unearned run in a complete-game win over the 97-win Cubs on the final day of the regular season to clinch the wild-card spot, sending Milwaukee to the postseason for the first time in 25 years. Sabathia changed leagues at midseason and still finished fifth in the NL Cy Young voting and sixth in the NL MVP voting.
Marco Scutaro, 2012 Giants: The Giants have a knack for getting production from seemingly over-the-hill veterans. Scutaro was 36 years old and had a 74 OPS+ with the Rockies when San Francisco acquired him at the 2012 deadline (for Charlie Culberson), then, naturally, he hit .362/.385/.473 (144 OPS+) with 16 doubles, three home runs, 44 RBI and 2.1 WAR in 61 games with the Giants, who won the NL West by eight games. He then put up a .328/.377/.391 batting line in 16 postseason games. Scutaro was named NLCS MVP and had the World Series winning hit in extra innings of Game 4 against the Tigers.
Despite his work in San Francisco after the trade, Scutaro did not receive any NL MVP votes in 2012.
Mark Teixeira, 2008 Angels: Teixeira's stint with the Angels is going to go down as one of the best forgotten stretches in history, it seems. The Halos picked Teixeira up from the Braves at the deadline for Casey Kotchman and a prospect, and the switch-hitting 28-year-old hit .358/.449/.632 (181 OPS+) with 13 home runs, 43 RBI, 32 walks, 23 strikeouts and 3.7 WAR in 54 games. The Angels went 100-62 and won the division by 21 games. They were ousted in the ALDS but not because of Teixeira -- he went 7 for 15 (.467) in the four-game series loss. Teixeira received one 10th place vote on the AL MVP ballot.
Larry Walker, 2004 Cardinals: At 37, Walker's career was winding down in 2004, and it had been a decade since he last played in the postseason. He made it known he would waive his no-trade clause to join a contender, so the Rockies did him a solid and sent him to the first place Cardinals at the deadline. Colorado received three players in the trade, the best of whom ended up being Chris Narveson. Walker was excellent for a Cardinals team that didn't need much help -- St. Louis won 105 games in 2004 and won the NL Central by 13 games -- going .280/.393/.560 (144 OPS+) with 11 home runs, 27 RBI and 0.9 WAR in 44 games. He was a monster in October, hitting .293/.379/.707 with six home runs and 11 RBI in 15 games. Walker did not receive any NL MVP votes that year.
Other notable trade deadline pickups this century include Curt Schilling (2000 Diamondbacks), Jason Schmidt (2001 Giants), Bartolo Colon (2001 Expos), Scott Rolen (2002 Cardinals), Ugueth Urbina (2003 Marlins), Bobby Abreu (2006 Yankees), Milton Bradley (2007 Padres), Victor Martinez (2009 Red Sox), Matt Holliday (2009 Cardinals), Hunter Pence (2011 Phillies) and Doug Fister (2011 Tigers).