Fans plead for that one key trade that will turn their contender into a champion.
General managers are required to blend truth with fiction, creating friction. They also go a little crazy wearing out their various communication devices.
As their names are publicly floated and discussed as part of potential deals, players are left wondering if they'll be making new friends real soon.
"Some days you wake up convinced you'd better start packing your bags," Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos said, expressing the mental and emotional discomfort of players frequently mentioned in trade reports and rumors. "You know it's out of your control, but it's hard not to think about it and wonder what's going to happen."
In his 45th year in professional baseball, as a player, coach and manager, Dusty Baker takes an egalitarian view of the art of trading.
"In the dictionary," said Baker, the Reds' philosophical manager, "if you look up trade, it doesn't say anything about rip-off: who won, who lost. A trade is supposed to help both sides. That's why in the old days [teams] didn't trade in their own division -- so you wouldn't have to face a guy."
The trick in non-waiver Deadline deals is striking a balance between immediate value and future value, while also gauging long-term fiscal impact. It's an inexact science and it sometimes takes years to determine how both sides fared in a trade.
Fresh in our minds are the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals, exceptional in every way imaginable en route to a World Series championship that stretched logic and belief to their limits.
At the Deadline, the front office infused the club with veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal and an influx of arms. Bingo.
The critical Furcal deal with the Dodgers, who received outfield prospect Alex Castellanos, came on the heels of an eight-player blockbuster with the Jays. St. Louis acquired starter Edwin Jackson, relievers Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel and outfielder Corey Patterson in exchange for outfielder Colby Rasmus and three relievers.
Without these moves, it's highly unlikely Tony La Russa could have orchestrated an unforgettable title run in his managerial swan song.
Meanwhile, the eventual American League-champion Rangers were moving to solidify their bullpen as well by acquiring Mike Adams from the Padres and Koji Uehara from the Orioles. The tab: pitchers Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin to San Diego, first baseman Chris Davis and starter Tommy Hunter to Baltimore.
Adams and Uehara were one Game 6 World Series out away from celebrating a title, when the Redbirds rallied implausibly and claimed a Fall Classic for the ages.
Recent history informs us that the Cards' stunning success with its Deadline imports was the exception, not the rule. Major Deadline trades only occasionally turn out to be pivotal in producing championships.
Name-brand talents such as Carlos Beltran (Mets to Giants), Ubaldo Jimenez (Rockies to Indians), Hunter Pence (Astros to Phillies) and Michael Bourn (Astros to Braves) raised fans' expectations last summer but did not drive their new clubs to the promised land.
The Trade Deadline is Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET. Here's a look at other Deadline moves (and non-moves) across the past decade:
Before the Cardinals there were the Giants, another surprise champion that emerged from the National League. The Giants gave San Francisco its first World Series crown, riding a dominant pitching staff through the playoffs and a knockout of powerful Texas in five World Series games. The Giants' most important Deadline additions were setup relievers Javier Lopez from Pittsburgh and Ramon Ramirez from Boston.
The trading focus across the landscape was on pitchers -- Cliff Lee, Mariners to Rangers; Dan Haren, D-backs to Angels; Roy Oswalt, Astros to Phillies; Jackson, D-backs to White Sox; Jake Westbrook, Indians to Cardinals; and Kerry Wood, Indians to Yankees.
In detaching Haren and Jackson, interim D-backs GM Jerry Dipoto -- now with the Angels -- loaded up with a collection of young arms in Daniel Hudson, Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin and David Holmberg, along with veteran Joe Saunders.
Though he's had an uneven year, Haren has excelled with the Angels, but Arizona got two future starters in Skaggs and Corbin along with the serviceable Saunders.
Lee made the biggest impact of the Deadline acquisitions, carrying Texas to its first World Series before going to Philadelphia a few months later as a free agent. Catcher Bengie Molina also had a big hand in guiding the Rangers' pitching staff after he was acquired from the Giants on July 1.
Without surrendering proven talent, the Giants upgraded their bullpen, adding Lopez and Ramirez to help bridge the gap from their superb starters to closer Brian Wilson. The swap of the popular and productive Molina opened the door for Buster Posey's emergence as the full-time catcher and centerpiece of the lineup.
In an under-the-radar swap, the Pirates landed pitcher James McDonald from the Dodgers, who wanted well-traveled reliever Dotel. McDonald has matured into a big-time starter and a significant factor in the Steel City revival.
Lance Berkman, one of the game's premier hitters, waived his no-trade clause to accept a deal from Houston to the Yankees. After struggling in the Bronx, Berkman signed a free-agent deal with St. Louis and was a major force, on and off the field, last season.
The Yankees were content at midseason, adding only versatile Jerry Hairston Jr. in a deal with the Reds. He appeared in 45 games and the Bombers roared to their first championship since 2000.
Philadelphia was one of the clubs bidding for Roy Halladay, whose name dominated trade conversations. The Toronto ace closed out the season with the Jays and they dealt him to the Phils in December for three prospects -- too late to help the defending champions in a World Series taken by the Yankees in six games.
Big names dealt at the Deadline were Jake Peavy, Victor Martinez and Scott Rolen. Peavy was shipped to the White Sox by the Padres for four pitchers, notably Clayton Richard. Martinez went to Boston with three players, including pitcher Justin Masterson, going to Cleveland. Rolen was dispatched to the Reds for Edwin Encarnacion and pitchers Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart.
The Phillies, leading the NL East by one game at the Deadline, figured their power-packed lineup, solid rotation and deep bullpen could carry them to big things. They made no moves and finished strong, taking out the Brewers, Dodgers and Rays (in five World Series games) to claim the championship.
The blockbuster deal that rocked the baseball world involved Manny Ramirez, who was sent to the Dodgers after wearing out his welcome in Boston and had a huge impact. The Angels acquired Mark Teixeira from the Braves for Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek. Boston ended the Angels' season in the Division Series and Teixeira signed with the Yankees as a free agent.
The Reds' Ken Griffey Jr. departed Cincinnati for the White Sox, while Boston imported Jason Bay from Pittsburgh to replace Ramirez.
The Phillies were seeking a southpaw for their bullpen but couldn't find a suitable deal. They'd acquired right-handed starter Joe Blanton on June 17 for three prospects. The Phils had also been in the hunt for Ramirez, who carried the Dodgers to the NL Championship Series before Philadelphia prevailed.
The Red Sox were looking to put together a lock-down back end of their bullpen when they dealt three players -- including outfielder David Murphy -- to the Rangers for Eric Gagne. But Gagne's quality stuff didn't travel to Boston and his 6.75 ERA didn't much help as the Sox won their second championship in four years.
The Rangers pulled off a Deadline swap with the Braves that would set them up for years to come, heavily influencing their back-to-back pennants in 2010 and 2011. In exchange for Teixeira and lefty Ron Mahay, Texas landed catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus, right-hander Neftali Feliz and southpaws Matt Harrison and Beau Jones.
The Braves would turn around a year later and move Teixeira, with free agency looming, to the Angels -- getting nothing close to the package they had shipped to Texas.
Five years before their near-miraculous 2011 championship run, the Cardinals parlayed a similar script to a World Series championship. They caught fire late and rode the momentum through the postseason, disposing of the Padres and Mets (in seven memorable NLCS games) before flattening the Tigers in the World Series.
At the Deadline, the Cards sent utility player Hector Luna to the Indians for second baseman Ronnie Belliard and got reliever Jorge Sosa from the Braves, but neither had a major impact. The big boost, notably in the postseason, was provided by veteran right-hander Jeff Weaver, who came from the Angels in July for outfielder Terry Evans.
Detroit, which would go on to win the AL pennant, landed first baseman Sean Casey from the Pirates at the Deadline for Minor League right-hander Brian Rogers.
The biggest names to be dealt were Greg Maddux and Bobby Abreu. The Dodgers acquired the great right-hander Maddux, 40 years old, by sending shortstop Cesar Izturis to the Cubs. Abreu and Cory Lidle went to the Yankees from the Phillies for four prospects who left no imprint.
White Sox GM Kenny Williams, known as a wheeler-and-dealer, watched a big deal -- the Reds' Griffey for three Minor Leaguers -- fall through before landing infielder Geoff Blum in what was viewed as a relatively minor deal with the Padres, who got pitcher Ryan Meaux. Blum went on to launch a memorable, 14th-inning, Game 3 home run in a sweep of Houston in the World Series.
The Astros shopped at the Deadline for a southpaw starter and a hitter, but couldn't match up with anybody. It was one of the most uneventful Deadlines in recent history, with no star players on the move.
The biggest name traded at the Deadline left the club that would go on to author its ghost-busting conquest of the Yankees in the ALCS and then knock out the Cardinals in a World Series sweep.
Boston unloaded five-time All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs, getting in exchange a pair of solid defenders in shortstop Orlando Cabrera and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. The huge gamble paid off spectacularly, the Sox claiming the franchise's first World Series championship in 86 years after rallying from a 3-0 deficit to rock the Yankees in the ALCS.
Another deal, falling well below the radar, sent role player Dave Roberts from the Dodgers to Boston for Henri Stanley, a career Minor League outfielder. Playing a total of 48 games for the Red Sox, Roberts stole the most memorable base in franchise history in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Yankees, becoming a New England hero forever.
This was one of the most active trading periods in Deadline history. It began on July 11 when the Marlins -- en route to the World Series championship -- got reliever Ugueth Urbina from the Rangers in exchange for three prospects. One of those youngsters was first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, a former No. 1 Draft pick and future star in San Diego and Boston.
Florida made no moves, but the team it would vanquish in the World Series was extremely busy. The Yankees acquired third baseman Aaron Boone, pitchers Scott Proctor, Bret Prinz and Gabe White and outfielders David Dellucci and Bobby Crosby. Total cost: Robin Ventura, Raul Mondesi, Brandon Claussen and Charlie Manning.
The Marlins were shopping for an outfielder but decided to go with talented rookie Miguel Cabrera. That turned out to be a wise decision. Cabrera hit three homers against the Cubs in the NLCS, a prelude to four consecutive All-Star seasons for the Marlins.
Nine days before the Deadline, the Cubs fleeced the Pirates, getting young third baseman Aramis Ramirez and veteran outfielder Kenny Lofton, with Pittsburgh accepting Jose Hernandez, Bobby Hill and Matt Bruback in return.
Ramirez, entering his prime at 25, and Lofton played key roles in the Cubs' inspiring but ultimately heartbreaking bid for the World Series.
On their way to the franchise's first World Series championship, as a Wild Card entry, the Angels made one move but it had minimal impact. They acquired outfielder Alex Ochoa and catcher Sal Fasano from the Brewers in exchange for catcher Jorge Fabregas and two players to be named.
A month prior, the Indians executed one of the all-time heists at the expense of the Montreal Expos. The Tribe picked up Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens in exchange for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew. The end of Major League Baseball in Quebec wasn't far away.
So, there it is. Only three champions in the past 10 seasons -- the 2011 Cards, 2010 Giants and 2004 Red Sox -- were impacted in a significant way by deals at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less