Jon Daniels and the Rangers pulled off a block-buster trade this week, sending six players (Matt Harrison and five prospects) to Philadelphia for lefty ace Cole Hamels (and reliever Jake Diekman). This without question makes the Rangers a better team for the remainder of this season, but how it’s judged in the history of the franchise requires some patience and perspective, both which will take time. But there are trades that have been made locally overt the years that we’ve had plenty of time to judge and reflect on, and with that in mind we give you the four best trades made by our local “Big Four” teams.
1. Our number one trade starts with everyone’s number one team around these parts, the Dallas Cowboys. Fresh into the Jones’ new ownership and firing of Tom Landry, Jerry and Jimmy made headlines in October of 1989 (who’s responsible for the deal is still up to interpretation) by sending the Cowboys’ best player Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for five players, six conditional draft choices and a 1992 first-round pick. This deal set the wheels in motion for their run of excellence and three Super Bowl victories in the 90s. Two of the draft picks resulted in Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson, and all those additional draft picks eventually were packaged and dealt around the league, with one deal resulting in the number one pick in the 1991 draft and Russell Maryland.
2. Number two on our list goes to the Dallas Mavericks and the way they were able to acquire Dirk Nowitzki, without question the greatest player in the franchise’s 35 year history. The year was 1998 and there were two teams with their eyes squarely on the big 20 year-old German – the Mavs and the Boston Celtics. Rick Pitino and the Celtics were looking to pick Dirk with the 10th overall pick, but Don Nelson and the Mavs were able to beat them to the punch with a little inventive maneuvering. Nelson struck a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, in essence getting the Bucks to draft Nowitzki with the 9th overall pick for them, and in exchange for Dirk they’d send the Bucks Robert “Tractor” Traylor (projected to be taken before Nowitzki), who the Mavs would take with the 6th pick. This would keep the Celtics from trying to move up in the draft as the figured their competition (the Mavs) had passed on Nowitzki with their pick. To make the deal even sweeter for the Mavs they also received the Bucks 19th player selected overall, Notre Dame forward Pat Garrity, who was coveted by the Phoenix Suns. The Mavs moved Garrity onto Phoenix in exchange for a back up point guard by the name of Steve Nash.
3. Third on our list goes to our the boys now wearing Victory Green. You have to go back three or four sweater designs ago to get to this trade that Bob Gainey pulled off in the summer of 1996. The Stars were still trying to find their identity in Dallas, and had just finished last in the Central Division and out of the playoffs. Gainey had traded for defensemen Kevin Hatcher some 18 months prior, hoping that he would team with his younger brother Derian and form a formidable one-two punch behind the blue line. But when the opportunity arose to move Kevin onto Pittsburgh for the smooth skating Sergei Zubov, Gainey didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. Zubov, who had won a Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1994, was rumored to be out of favor with Mario Lemeiux in Pittsburgh. The Stars were only too glad to acquire the crafty Russian defenseman, who many say was the key cog to the Stars turn around and back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals appearances in 1999 and 2000 (winning it all in ’99). “Zubie” played 12 seasons in Dallas, and if it was up to this writer his #56 would be the next to join #9 in the rafters at the AAC.
4. Number four rounds out with the Rangers, completing our coincidental listing of each of the “Big 4” teams in town. The Rangers had a star in the making in first baseman Mark Texiera, but he made it clear he wouldn’t be resigning when his contract was up (at least at the numbers the Rangers were offering). So they sent him packing to Atlanta, where he played only one year (July 2007-July 2008) before being traded him to the Angels. While Texiera has gone on to have a very solid career (1769 hits, 388 career homers and 1241 RBIs), the Rangers received a windfall of players in return from the Braves in Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Neftali Feliz, Beau Jones, Elvis Andrus and Matt Harrison. While the trade may not seem as one-sided as it did just a couple years ago, it still is paying nice dividends as Harrison was involved in the current Hamels trade.