The Red Sox And Yankees’ Last Dance

BOSTON: Jason Varitek #33 of the Boston Red Sox greets Pedro Martinez after Martinez threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game against the New York Yankees during Opening Night at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees haven't completed a trade with one another since August 1997. Let's explore the story, you and I together.

Regardless of whether you're a casual baseball fan or a less casual baseball fan, an old saw you hear over and over is that you don't trade within the division. A team should trade with teams outside of its own division, only. It never made a whole lot of sense to me - you trade to improve, and an improvement's an improvement - but enough baseball executives seem to agree that maybe I'm the one who's wrong. I remember the Mariners, for example, sending Cliff Lee to the Rangers in 2010, but intra-division trades are fairly rare.

And if intra-division trades are rare, it stands to reason that intra-division trades between bitter rivals are rarer still. Enter the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. Who could be more bitter rivals than the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees?*

* I've actually been to a game between the Dodgers and the Giants, and them fellas hate each other, but for our purposes, Red Sox and Yankees!

Indeed, history shows that this is a pair of infrequent trade partners. The Red Sox have completed a trade with every other major league organization more recently than they have completed a trade with the Yankees. They haven't traded with the Milwaukee Brewers since July 1998. The point stands. The Yankees have completed a trade with every other major league organization more recently than they have completed a trade with the Red Sox. They haven't traded with the Kansas City Royals since August 2000. The point stands.

The Red Sox and Yankees haven't traded with one another since the summer of 1997. There have been a few attempts, but nothing materialized. And so we remember the name Mike Stanley. On August 13, 1997, Mike Stanley was acquired by the Yankees from the Red Sox. That is the last time the two organizations have gotten together.

The whole story is kind of fascinating, in the way that old stories become fascinating again with the passage of time. Between 1992-1995, Stanley was a catcher for the Yankees, and he was a productive one. He batted .285 with an .882 OPS. Even in those days of increasingly inflated offense, those were very good numbers for a catcher. However, Stanley was 32 by the end of his contract and his defense had declined, so the Yankees traded for Joe Girardi in November 1995. A free agent, Stanley didn't want to leave New York, but he no longer had a place, so in December he signed with the Red Sox.

He hit well as a catcher in 1996. In 1997, he was forced into DH and first base duty by Scott Hatteberg and Bill Haselman. He continued to mash. He left the Red Sox with a .910 OPS.

Why did he leave the Red Sox? Let's backtrack real fast. The Red Sox were not a contender that season. They fell out of first place by double digits in the middle of May.

The Yankees were a contender. They'd won the World Series the year before. In 1997, the Yankees' regular DH was Cecil Fielder. He hit reasonably well, but on July 15, he broke his thumb sliding head-first. He would be out for a while. The Yankees needed help.

They reportedly targeted Dante Bichette, Chili Davis and Jose Canseco in a veritable who's who of biceps. The prices were too steep. Nothing got done before the deadline, as the Yankees were protective of their top pitching prospects. The Yankees trudged along until, in August, they saw that the Red Sox tried to slip Mike Stanley through waivers. The Yankees placed a claim, and a day later, the two teams agreed on a trade. The Red Sox - who no longer had much use for Stanley - would send the 34-year-old back to New York along with Randy Brown, in exchange for prospect Tony Armas, Jr. and a player to be named later, who wound up being Jim Mecir.

At the time, Armas was a 19-year-old in single-A. Previously, the Yankees had considered him "untouchable," but they changed their minds. They wanted a bat that badly. Stanley did hit well down the stretch, helping the Yankees lock up the Wild Card. Fielder returned in September after somehow losing nearly 30 pounds. The Yankees fell to the Indians in the ALDS. Stanley became a free agent.

As for Boston's side of things? The Red Sox went nowhere in 1997, finishing 78-84. In November, they dealt Carl Pavano and a player to be named later to the Montreal Expos for Pedro Martinez. That player to be named later wound up being Tony Armas. Pedro posted a 2.89 ERA as a starter for the Red Sox in 1998. It would be far and away the worst ERA he would put up until 2004.

It's not a surprise, then, that the Red Sox and Yankees haven't traded with each other since, for a couple reasons. There's the bitter-rivals-in-the-same-division angle. And there's the "the last time we did this Pedro Martinez wound up involved" angle. It's understandable why the Yankees wouldn't want to go back to that well.

Mike Stanley, by the way, returned to the Red Sox in 1998.

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