DENVER -- In their two decades of existence, the Rockies have made just three playoff appearances and been in contention only a handful of other times. More often than not, the non-waiver Trade Deadline has been a time of subtraction, rather than addition.
With the notable exception of a trade with the Mets for two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen to help with the 1995 playoff run, the Rockies have avoided the headline-making deadline deal to put themselves over the top.
As a testament to their understated way of conducting business, they jumped a week before the 2009 deadline and nabbed right-handed reliever Rafael Betancourt, who helped the team to the playoffs that year and is now the team's closer. An even better example of how the organization operates is the early-season deal that brought one of its key starters, left-hander Jorge De La Rosa. It was nowhere near the deadline, but it is a memorable one nonetheless.
Most of the deals of expensive players during lost seasons didn't make the list. But one that did turned out significant when it came to the fine print. The other? Well, we're still waiting to see the result of that one.
Here is a look at the top five in-season trades in club history:
1. Aug. 11, 2004: Rockies receive left-handed pitchers Chris Narveson and Luis Martinez and right-hander Jason Burch to complete an earlier trade of Larry Walker to the Cardinals.
Call this a salary dump that keeps on giving.
None of the three players the Rockies received did much with them, although Narveson went on to a solid career with the Brewers. Still, it had a lasting impact with the Rockies.
The Rockies saved $2 million in salary for Walker, on the short list of greatest players in franchise history, for the final two months of the season. They told scouting director Bill Schmidt he could use part of that money for the signing bonus to sign center fielder Dexter Fowler, a first- or second-round talent who fell to the 11th round because of signability concerns. Fowler received an $800,000 bonus, signing days before he was to report to the University of Miami.
2. July 31, 2011: Rockies receive left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz, right-handed pitchers Alex White and Joe Gardner, and catcher-outfielder Matt McBride from the Indians for right-handed pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.
Of the deals on this list, this is the one that hasn't benefitted the Rockies, although there's still time. A year earlier, Jimenez was the All-Star Game starter and seemed headed to a long and productive career with the Rockies. But Jimenez ran into bad luck in the second half of 2010 and lost his effectiveness the next year, due in part to nagging injuries and in part to contract squabbles.
Jimenez is only now regaining his success. As for the Rockies, they're still awaiting a return. Pomeranz, the key to the deal, has struggled to find Major League footing and recently was returned to Triple-A. White was traded last winter to the Astros and is out for this season because of elbow surgery. McBride has seen brief Major League action, and Gardner hasn't pitched above Double-A and is of the 40-man Major League roster.
3. July 23, 2009: Rockies receive Betancourt from the Indians for right-hander Connor Graham.
The deal received little publicity outside of Cleveland and Denver, but it's a hard one to beat in terms of lasting impact. Betancourt went 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA in 32 appearances for the rest of the season and was a key cog in the Rockies' run to the playoffs. The Rockies hope his work as closer this year pushes the team to the playoffs again.
4. July 31, 1995: Rockies acquire Saberhagen and a player to be named -- eventually Minor League left-hander David Swanson -- from the Mets for right-handers Arnie Gooch and pitcher Juan Acevedo.
The first season at Coors Field was difficult on pitchers, and the surprising Rockies were looking for any help they could get. The deal was announced on a flight home from Montreal, and the players celebrated what they saw was a sign of ownership's commitment to winning. Saberhagen was past his Cy Young days, but he turned out to give the Rockies just enough by going 2-1 with a 6.28 ERA in nine starts. Colorado sneaked into the playoffs as the NL Wild Card entrant in just its third year of existence. Saberhagen lost his only playoff start, and he missed the entire following season because of injury.
Saberhagen would finish his career with seasons of 15 wins (1998) and 10 wins (1999) with the Red Sox.
5. April 30, 2008: Rockies receive De La Rosa from the Royals as the player to be named after sending right-hander Ramon Ramirez to the Royals on March 26.
The deal was technically during the season, since De La Rosa didn't join the Rockies until a month into the season. Before joining the Rockies, De La Rosa was a talented but volatile starter. Things came together for him in 2009, and he has been a key member of the Rockies' rotation ever since.
The trade wasn't big news at the time, but it wound up one of the best pitching moves the Rockies have made.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. Tracy Ringolsby contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less