The 21st century’s 10 most impactful MLB trade deadline deals to date

Jul 30, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price (14) throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 30, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price (14) throws a pitch during the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Scott Rolen in a Reds uniform.
Scott Rolen in a Reds uniform. /

4. The cost of Scott Rolen

At the 2009 trade deadline, third baseman Scott Rolen was an obvious available difference-maker. Rolen was stuck in Toronto, a sub-.500 fourth place team in the AL East, and he was coming up on free agency to boot.

Somehow the Jays found an unlikely buyer for Rolen in the Cincinnati Reds, whose status was, if anything, even worse than Toronto’s. The Reds were buried in fifth place in the six-team NL Central, nursing the fifth-worst record in the National League.

Still, when the chance to get Rolen arose, Reds officials couldn’t resist.

The price was three players: Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke, and Zach Stewart.

Encarnacion turned out to be the difference maker. Batting only .209 at the time of the trade, he found  his power stroke with the Rays. He was a 20-home run guy by 2010 and a 40-home run guy by 2012.

In 2015 and again in 2016, the Jays made postseason runs with Encarnacion as an offensive centerpiece. He had nine RBI during the 2016 postseason, which ended with an ALCS defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Indians.

Rolen turned out to be a valuable piece for the Reds, too, although not in 2009. But one year later he hit. 285 as the Reds reached postseason play. They qualified again in 2012, Rolen’s final season, although Rolen had minimal postseason impact in either season.

The math: Rolen +7.6 WAR for Cincinnati; Encarnacion +25.2 WAR for Toronto. Net impact: +32.8 WAR.