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

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The most common refrain regarding the San Diego Padres’ MLB trade deadline acquisition of Juan Soto was that it was the biggest such trade in history.

Such respected names as Jayson Stark, John Paul Morosi, Jeff Passan, and Peter Gammons each said so. “This wasn’t just a blockbuster. This was history,” Stark said of that Tuesday trade.

Those experts and others were motivated not just by Soto’s potential, but also by the collection of elements involved in the trade. Josh Bell also went to the Padres, with Luke Voit as well as prospects MacKenzie Gore, C.J. Abrams, Robert Hassell III, Jarlin Susana and James Wood going to Washington.

Whether the trade eventually deserves all the heft being attached to it these days will obviously depend on the performance of the players involved. Soto’s ability is proven. At the young age of 23, he’s already a veteran of five seasons with 119 home runs, a .966 OPS, and 358 RBI.

The Padres clearly believe he will be the key to a 2022 postseason run.

But if we are to consider the Juan Soto trade as the biggest such MLB trade deadline deal in history, then the question arises: Which is it better than?

To answer that question, we have reviewed deadline trades going back to the beginning of this century. We’re rating each based on the actual WAR generated by the players involved for their acquiring teams.

Inevitably, some trades thought at the time to deserve “blockbuster” status don’t merit that description when considered over time. One example: The Cubs acquisition of reliever Aroldis Chapman near the 2016 deadline clearly contributed to Chicago’s first World Series win in 108 years. But Chapman only generated 1.2 WAR in his two months with the Cubs before returning to the Bronx via free agency.

Meanwhile the players the Yankees got for Chapman, chiefly Gleyber Torres, have been productive assets but not astonishingly so. The net impact of that deal to this date for the teams involved is +13.5 WAR. That ranks it outside the 10 most impactful of the century.

The same is true — at least so far — for the Dodgers’ deadline acquisition of Trea Turner and Max Scherzer in 2021. To get that pair they sent Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray to Washington, and both have contributed. But the net impact of that trade to this early point only adds up to +11.5 WAR … good but not top 10.

Here are the 10 most impactful deadline trades of the century.

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