Going into the 1984 season, the Padres already looked better on paper than the team that went 81-81 the year before. General manager Jack McKeon had added closer Goose Gossage via free agency, along with acquiring left fielder Carmelo Martinez and reliever Craig Lefferts from the Cubs in a three-team deal that sent Gary Lucas to Montreal. The core of the club was still in place, including the starting rotation and veteran position players Terry Kennedy, Steve Garvey, and Garry Templeton, with promising youngsters Tony Gwynn and Alan Wiggins ready to step into set roles. The one position that stood out as a weak link was third base, which was set to be manned once again by light-hitting incumbent Luis Salazar, who was better suited for a utility bench role.
McKeon found his man in the Bronx, where Yankees captain Graig Nettles was displeased after manager Yogi Berra made it clear that he would be used in a platoon with the recently acquired Toby Harrah, and team owner George Steinbrenner was in turn incensed about the content of Nettles's soon-to-be-released autobiography. The Yankees were short on starting pitching depth, and the Padres had a surplus, so there was a natural fit in place. Nettles was a 10-year veteran with the past five seasons on the same club, so he had the right to veto any trade, but that was not an issue as the San Diego-born San Diego State alumni had lobbied for a trade to the Padres in the past. With all the pieces in place, McKeon sent the Yankees rookie starter Dennis Rasmussen, who would have been headed back to AAA if retained.
While Nettles's rate stats were a bit lower than his career averages, as you might expect from a 39-year-old, he did hit 20 home runs for the eleventh season along with providing his usual phenomenal defense. He reunited with Yankees teammate Gossage in the clubhouse and on the cover of Sports Illustrated, providing leadership and postseason experience for manager Dick Williams's squad. After that year's improbable charge to the World Series, Nettles stuck around his hometown for two more seasons, experiencing one final strong offensive season while being named to his sixth and last All-Star team in 1985. Following his release by the Padres after the 1986 season, Nettles stuck around for two more seasons with Atlanta and Montreal, playing his final game at age 44.