We're entering the final days before the July 31 trading deadline, and that means the rumor mill is running on overdrive. Every team within sniffing distance of contention looks at the available talent and prays they'll be able to add the final piece that pushes them over the top into the playoffs, hopefully without needing to sacrifice too much of their future to do so.
The gold standard for this type of trade in recent years has been the deal the Los Angeles Dodgers pulled off in 2008, acquiring Manny Ramirez from the Boston Red Sox at the deadline and then watching as he put up a .396/.489/.743 line and nearly 3 WAR in barely two months of play. The Dodgers won their division by two games that year, and none of the prospects they surrendered ever amounted to anything. As far as deadline deals go, that's the dream scenario.
But back here in reality, it's incredibly rare that a late-July acquisition ever pays off like the Ramirez deal did. For all the attention and passion that gets put into following every rumor as the the deadline approaches, the most essential question often gets overlooked: Are the trades teams make to upgrade even worth the trouble?