Winners and Losers in Baseball’s Deadline Drama
By Michael Silverman
Now that we all live in a post-trade deadline world, let’s pause to assess the plunder and the wreckage.
In the American League, the separation between the Haves and the Have-Nots was already well established, with the Red Sox, Yankees, Indians and Astros virtually assured of a playoff spot. Their moves were not radical, but made to either improve strengths or shore up minor weaknesses that could rear their head in the playoffs.
It’s the National League where the playoff action is. Eleven teams are vying for five spots, and most of them went into buy mode.
PUNCHED THEIR TICKET
Dodgers: When a club already in first place (albeit barely) trades quality prospects for one of the top-five players in the game -- Manny Machado, who is only a rental -- that’s going for it. After pushing the Astros to a Game 7 in the World Series last year, the Dodgers have struggled to distinguish themselves. Arizona is one reason why, but the arrival of Machado from Baltimore and Brian Dozier from Minnesota should begin the act of separation from the pack and toward another pennant.
Pirates: Didn’t see this coming. This club was in sell mode over the winter with Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, but saw an opportunity to snag a wild card berth out of the wild NL Central. They got back-of-the-bullpen arm Keone Kela from Texas, but more importantly, an underachieving and cost-controlled -- he’s signed through 2021 -- starter in Chris Archer from Tampa Bay.
Diamondbacks: The Dodgers-Diamondbacks rivalry is an underrated one, with Arizona playing the pesky little brother. The D’backs made strong complementary moves in third baseman Eduardo Escobar and two relievers, Brad Ziegler and Jake Diekman. Nothing earth-shattering, but still savvy.
Brewers: The team turned a bold offseason (Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich) into an even bolder midseason trading period when it picked up third baseman Mike Moustakas from the Royals and Jonathan Schoop of the Orioles, two solid everyday players. They could use another starter, but that offense is much better now.
Orioles: Machado to LA, Schoop to Milwaukee, closer Zach Britton to the Yankees and starter Kevin Gausman to the Braves. The Orioles went into full sell mode at the right time with the right players and wound up with 14 prospects (plus infielder Jonathan Villar). If Dan Duquette played the return correctly, the Orioles could pull a Cubs-style 2015-16 turnaround.
Rays: In offloading Archer, Tampa Bay received good young outfielder Austin Meadows. They obtained very intriguing outfielder Tommy Pham for some minor leaguers, plus some international signing bonus cash. And they are still playing above .500 baseball.
Padres: The stockpiling of young talent continued, with San Diego obtaining one of the best hitting prospects in baseball, Francisco Mejia, for two top-flight relievers. The Padres excel in tanking. Their future is bright.
PATCHED UP HOLES
Indians: With Brad Hand and Adam Cimber coming from San Diego, Cleveland re-established depth and quality in the bullpen. Leonys Martin is an underrated outfielder. This team is so much better now.
Red Sox: When you have the best record in baseball like they do, splashes and blockbusters are not necessary. They could not trade for the elite reliever they wanted and still need, but Steven Pearce, Nathan Eovaldi and Ian Kinsler represent three of the smartest hole-filling moves this team has made in recent history. Chris Sale going on the DL right after the deadline passed was ominous, but assuming he pitches this week in Toronto and bounces back fine, the pitching depth will appear satisfactory again.
Mariners: Not sure who copied who, but Seattle followed Cleveland’s path, trading for two relievers (Zach Duke, Adam Warren) and an outfielder (Cameron Maybin). Given how oddly quiet Oakland was, the Mariners made quality moves.
Yankees: Adding Britton to the back end of their already beastly bullpen was very smart, in part because of how much interest the Red Sox and Astros had in him. Adding J.A. Happ, at a high prospect cost from Toronto, as well as starter-reliever Lance Lynn solidifies their staff, but they should have gone after a fourth outfielder in case Aaron Judge’s fractured wrist does not respond as hoped. They might have time before Aug. 31, but this was a risky non-move.
Cubs: The first Cubs start by Cole Hamels was five innings without an earned run, three hits and nine strikeouts. He’s meant to pitch in the National League, and the Cubs will enjoy the fruits of this trade.
Phillies: Adding infielder Asdrubal Cabrera and catcher Wilson Ramos helps the offense of a team that really has no right being in contention for the NL East this season. They are not the Yankees of last year, however, so they were right to not think too big when it came to making deals.
Braves: In slugger Adam Duvall and pitcher Kevin Gausman, the Braves made two low-risk, low-cost, high-ceiling moves that mean an incremental boost for the short term. This is a hard team to handicap. They’re much like the Phillies, stunned to find themselves at the top of their division, looking down at the Nationals.
Astros: If you have no moral issue with the world champs trading for Toronto’s Roberto Osuna, charged with allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, you’re likely baffled with how low the Astros are ranked here. In the strictest baseball sense, Osuna still represents the risk of being a big distraction rather than an on-paper great addition for a powerhouse whose weakest link is its bullpen. If you can move past Osuna -- not necessarily advisable -- the old-fashioned no-drama pick-up of Ryan Pressly from the Twins represented a straight-ahead sensible addition.
Twins: The Twins seem to be traveling in circles these days. These seasons actually. A surprise wild card winner last year, they could not build on that this year and thus traded away Dozier, Escobar, Pressly and Lynn. This is a mediocre team with a mediocre future. That ought to be fixable.
Angels: Poor Mike Trout. Another season, another missed opportunity for the playoffs. Trading away Kinsler was smart, but this is a team stuck, unable to strike the right blend between veterans and young talent. Especially pitching-wise, Los Angeles’ other team has work to do to get a lot better. Their return for Kinsler from the Red Sox, minor league pitchers Ty Buttrey and Williams Jerez is a start, albeit a slow one.
Royals: This was a team that could have gone on a selling binge much like the Orioles did, but was relatively quiet -- Moustakas, plus Kelvin Herrera to Washington. That they’re rebuilding is no secret, so there’s reason to believe that the club was willing to hold some chips until the winter, when they once again should be sellers.
Blue Jays: Can’t fault them for finding a taker for Osuna, and they dealt fellow reliever Seunghwan Oh to Colorado for a couple of minor league hitters. Other than that, they seem to be on pause for the rest of the season. Too bad for them free-agent-to-be Josh Donaldson is hurt. He would have been quite the prize for a contender if he had been up to his usual standard.
Rangers: Kela, Diekman and Hamels were deals the club pretty much had to make. They have no shot in the AL West, yet they still have aging talent -- Shin-Soo Choo, Adrian Beltre -- that the club might have tried harder to move. They’ve got this winter, too.
Marlins: There wasn’t much left to mine after trading Giancarlo Stanton in December, so it was relatively quiet. Highly paid reliever Ziegler and outfielder Maybin were shipped out, but otherwise crickets from a franchise seeking relevance and wins.
Tigers: Trading away Martin for a prospect counts for a quiet July with a team that will have to eventually make some noise to return to contention mode. They are a long way from that.
White Sox: Another team on the sidelines until further notice, although the South Siders have certainly done their share of deals the past year and a half.
DIDN’T TRY HARD ENOUGH
A’s: They stole reliever Jeurys Familia from the Mets, but a team within striking distance of Seattle should have been striking more deals than that. A sign Oakland thought it would be in sell mode right now, but surprised itself.
Giants: Another team in the hunt that did next to nothing. Perhaps the Giants had a clue this wasn’t their year based on Johnny Cueto getting Tommy John surgery, as their inaction says something about how they view themselves.
Nationals: It’s fine the most underachieving team in baseball decided to not become sellers and make a whopper of a deal for Bryce Harper or Herrera. But they came to that decision in the 11th hour, which meant the club did not buy either. They have enough talent to catch up to the Braves and/or Phillies, so they have to sit and wish for that talent to show up the final two months of the season. It hasn’t really worked yet.
Cardinals: It’s been a long time since this franchise has been in disarray, but that’s where they are after a midseason firing of manager Mike Matheny. The team is in fallback mode. Giving up on -- er, trading away -- Pham was unexpected.
Reds: Out went Duvall to Atlanta, but the fire sale surprisingly stopped there. A matter of time, it seems, for it to resume.
Rockies: This is a team very much in the chase for a wild card berth out of the competitive NL West, and all it could muster was a deal for Oh from Toronto? Oh, my, not good. The team has offensive flaws, which surely could have been addressed but were ignored. Don’t understand how the Rockies could sit and idle like that.
THEY DID WHAT?! WHY?
Mets: It’s a close call, but the Marlins have competition for the most dysfunctional team in the majors. Some of the reason is sad, considering the return of cancer to departed GM Sandy Alderson. The rest stems from ownership, which appears frozen about which direction to go. It takes guts to deal away an ace like Jacob deGrom, and the Mets didn’t have enough. Their return on Familia and Cabrera was universally panned.