June and July are the traditional months when the trade season reaches its annual apex. Contenders are looking to stock up for pennant races, while clubs that aren't in the thick of things are already trying to better position themselves for the following year and beyond.
The non-waiver Trade Deadline of July 31 is when it all comes to a head, and after the waiver deals of August fade away to the grind of September and the adrenaline of October and the World Series champion is crowned, then and only then can we sift through the smoke and figure out who did well and who didn't.
With that in mind, as we look forward to the next week of wheeling and dealing before the non-waiver clock runs out, here's a list of some of the more significant deals of June and July 2012 and how they panned out:
The deal: Red Sox trade infielder Kevin Youkilis to White Sox for infielder Brent Lillibridge, pitcher Zach Stewart and cash.
The reasoning: The White Sox still thought they could make a playoff run, so they took a swing at the veteran, albeit injury-prone, Youkilis while sacrificing a bit of young pitching in Zach Stewart and a versatile guy in Lillibridge.
The winner: Tough to say. Youkilis wasn't very effective for Chicago, which failed to make the postseason. Lillibridge was traded to Boston a month later and hasn't stuck in the big leagues since. Stewart was traded to the Pirates in November and claimed off waivers by the White Sox in January, but hasn't pitched in the bigs in 2013.
The deal: Rockies trade right-hander Jeremy Guthrie to the Royals for left-hander Jonathan Sanchez.
The reasoning: This was a change-of-scenery trade on both sides. Both pitchers weren't at their best during the 2012 season, both were headed for free agency, and both teams were looking for some starting-rotation magic and were willing to take a chance.
The winner: Kansas City. Guthrie righted himself with the Royals in the latter part of 2012, going 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA, re-signed with the improved team in 2013 for three years and $25 million, and has been rolling along this year with nine victories. Sanchez couldn't throw strikes for Colorado, was signed and released by Pittsburgh, and is now struggling for the Dodgers' Triple-A team.
The deal: Marlins trade right-hander Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante to the Tigers for right-hander Jacob Turner, catcher Rob Brantly and left-hander Brian Flynn.
The reasoning: By this time, Miami had realized it wasn't going to contend and decided to shed payroll and go young. Detroit was making a serious playoff push and wanted one more good starting pitcher and veteran infielder, and the Tigers got both for the cost of their top starting prospect, Turner.
The winner: Too soon to tell. Sanchez had a losing record down the stretch for Detroit but compiled a 1.77 ERA in three postseason starts and re-signed for five years and $80 million. He's responded this year with a 2.85 ERA and a WHIP of 1.184 that would be a career low if he keeps it up, but he has a lot to live up to with that monster deal. Meanwhile, Turner is only 22 years old and has looked very good this season, going 3-2 with a 2.44 ERA and already looking like he's in the Miami rotation to stay. The Marlins also like young catcher Brantly, who is starting for the big club.
The deal: Mariners trade outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and cash to the Yankees for right-handers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar.
The reasoning: Ichiro himself requested the trade because he knew Seattle was going young, and he is getting up there in years and wanted another shot at the postseason.
The winner: Both teams. The Mariners needed to literally and symbolically close the door on the Ichiro era and fully embrace their youth movement, and the Yanks got a bit of a spark from the still-speedy outfielder. Farquhar has become a useful piece of the Seattle bullpen in the meantime, with an intriguing strikeout ratio.
The deal: Dodgers trade right-handers Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough to the Marlins for shortstop Hanley Ramirez and left-hander Randy Choate.
The reasoning: Once again, Miami's payroll purge was on, big time, and Ramirez had $37.3 million left on his contract. Los Angeles was taking on gobs of salary in an attempt at October and was more than glad to welcome Ramirez and what the club hoped would be plenty of thunder in his bat.
The winner: The Dodgers, for now. Sure, they began 2013 with almost $240 million in player salaries for this season alone, but their new ownership group is flush with television contract money and made moves to indicate that they were serious about trying to win the World Series. Ramirez has been hurt this year, but he's been terrific since returning and Los Angeles is back in first place after early-season struggles. Eovaldi is showing promise in the Majors and McGough is doing well in the Minors, so the Marlins could have something to say about this deal in the years to come.
The deal: Angels trade shortstop Jean Segura and right-handers Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg to the Brewers for right-hander Zack Greinke.
The reasoning: The Halos were trying to catch the Rangers and A's and needed a starter, so why not grab the best one on the board, even though he was headed for free agency? The Brewers knew they had to trade Greinke because he was priced out of their range moving forward. It was a no-brainer to try to get as much as they could for him.
The winner: Milwaukee, by a lot. Segura was a prospect when the deal was struck and is now an All-Star at the age of 23. Hellweg throws very hard and is knocking on the door, having already made a big league start. Greinke, of course, wasn't enough to get the Angels in the playoffs and signed with the Dodgers in the offseason.
The deal: Rockies trade infielder Marco Scutaro and cash to the Giants for second baseman Charlie Culberson.
The reasoning: Colorado wanted to get younger and Scutaro was 36. San Francisco needed some veteran presence in the infield and a bit of pop in the lineup.
The winner: San Francisco. Scutaro not only solidified second base for the Giants but hit .362 with 44 RBIs in 61 games down the stretch as Bruce Bochy's club stormed to the top of the National League West. Then all he did was win the NL Championship MVP Award and re-sign for three years and $20 million. Culberson, meanwhile, is 24 years old and is having a very good season for Triple-A Colorado Springs.
The deal: Mariners trade right-hander Steve Delabar to the Blue Jays for outfielder Eric Thames.
The reasoning: Seattle wanted cost-controlled hitters and was dealing from a position of strength. Delabar was a 29-year-old former substitute teacher who touched upper 90s with his fastball and had a high strikeout and homer rate. Toronto wanted a power arm.
The winner: Toronto. Delabar fixed his weaknesses and made the All-Star team. Thames couldn't get on base, never found a permanent roster spot with Seattle, and was traded to Baltimore on June 30 for another Minor Leaguer, Ty Kelly.
The deal: Giants trade outfielder Nate Schierholtz, reliever Seth Rosin and catcher/first baseman Tommy Joseph to the Phillies for outfielder Hunter Pence.
The reasoning: San Francisco needed bats for its postseason push, and Pence was a good one who was available. Philadelphia figured it was going to owe Pence a bundle in arbitration at season's end (the Giants ended up paying him $13.8 million for 2013) and got three players out of the deal, including Schierholtz, who had shown promise while jockeying for a full-time shot with San Francisco.
The winner: San Francisco. Most players on that team will tell you that Pence's inspirational speeches when the club faced elimination in its first two playoff series last season did more than his bat, although he hit a little bit, too.