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Could a sub .500 team make the AL wild card?
3:09 | MLB
Could a sub .500 team make the AL wild card?
Friday September 4th, 2015

Friday marks five weeks since the non-waiver trade deadline, and while a quick glance at the standings would seem to largely support my choices of the deadline’s winners and losers from a month ago, it's worth taking a closer look to see exactly which players traded before the July 31 deadline have been the most and least valuable to their new teams.

All statistics are through Thursday, Sept. 3 and include only those accumulated since the player was dealt.

Best Additions

1. Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Mets (from Tigers)
.295/.345/.605, 10 HR, 26 RBIs, 4 SB, 158 OPS+

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The Mets’ acquisition of Cespedes transformed them from a weak-hitting team whose cash-strapped front office routinely failed to make the necessary additions to improve the club into one that has to be taken seriously as a playoff threat. Prior to acquiring Cespedes, New York was in second place in the National League East and dead last in the majors with a pathetic 3.5 runs scored per game. In his first two games with the team, the Mets beat the first-place Nationals to complete a sweep and tie them atop the division, with Nationals manager Matt Williams intentionally walking Cespedes in the second game to pitch to a red-hot Lucas Duda, who doubled in the winning run. New York hasn't looked back, going 21–9 since Cespedes joined the lineup and scoring 6.2 runs per game over that span, the most in the majors.

That hasn’t all been Cespedes’ doing, but he nonetheless is first among all players traded in July in home runs and slugging and tied for first (with the man sitting third on this list) in OPS+ with his new team. His signature performance as a Met thus far came in Colorado on Aug. 21, the first of two consecutive 14–9 wins over the Rockies. That night, Cespedes went 5-for-5 with three home runs, a double, seven RBIs, five runs scored and a stolen base, totaling 15 total bases, which remains the most by any player in the majors this season.

2. David Price, LHP, Blue Jays (from Tigers)
4–1, 2.28 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 10.4 K/9, 6.25 K/BB, 7.2 IP/GS, 174 ERA+, 6 GS

Toronto has gone 26–6 since adding shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the lineup on July 28, the best record in baseball over that span, but Tulowitzki himself has hit just .242/.336/.387 since the trade. Far more impactful has been the addition of Price, who has been outstanding in all six of his starts as a Blue Jay thus far, all of them quality outings.

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Though it was just five weeks ago, it’s hard to remember that Toronto was on the outside looking in at the AL playoff picture when Price took the mound against the Twins on Aug. 3. That day, he pitched the Jays into a tie with Minnesota for the second wild-card spot in the AL; Toronto has been in a playoff spot ever since. In his next start, in the Bronx on Aug. 8, Price shaved a game off the Yankees’ lead in the AL East. The Blue Jays have since passed New York and spent 12 consecutive days in first place in their division and are now seven games above the Twins, who remain the third-place team in the wild-card race.

All of the Jays’ deadline acquisitions—relievers LaTroy Hawkins (0.79 ERA) and Mark Lowe, leftfielder Ben Revere (.324/.373/.352), and Tulowitzki (still an outstanding defender and an upgrade at the plate over Jose Reyes, who went back to Colorado in the deal)—have contributed to their run, but none has had a greater impact than Price.

3. Ben Zobrist, IF/OF, Royals (from Athletics)
.336/.423/.525, 5 HR, 17 RBIs, 158 OPS+

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We forget about Zobrist because the Royals have such a huge lead in the AL Central (13 games entering Friday’s action), but only Cespedes has been more productive for his new team among the hitters traded in July, and Zobrist adds significant value via both the quality and versatility of his defense. Since joining Kansas City on July 30, Zobrist has started in leftfield (17 times), at second base (10) and third base (3) and in rightfield (1), ably filling in for offensive doppelganger Alex Gordon at the first of those positions. With Gordon’s return on Tuesday, Zobrist has now shifted to second. None of this is new for him, but it’s an impressive return to form after his poor start with the A’s.

4. Tyler Clippard, RHP, Mets (from A's)
2–0, 0.48 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 5.8 K/9, 2.00 K/BB, 794 ERA+, 19 G, 18 2/3 IP

Much like the unheralded additions the Blue Jays made to their bullpen, Clippard has been a key part of the Mets surge up the standings. Since joining New York on July 28, the former All-Star setup man has earned a pair of saves—one of them against his former team, the Nationals—and five holds, allowing just one inherited runner to score, one earned run and two additional unearned runs across 19 outings. If his peripherals look a bit weak, consider that over his last eight appearances, he has struck out eight men against just two walks in 8 1/3 innings, allowing just two singles and no runs.

5. J.A. Happ, LHP, Pirates (from Mariners)
3–1, 1.98 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, 3.43 K/BB, 5.5 IP/GS, 196 ERA+, 5 GS

Here’s a name you weren’t expecting to see on this list. Happ was a literally last-minute addition by the Pirates in the wake of the news of A.J. Burnett’s elbow injury, which cropped up in his start the night before the non-waiver deadline. Replacing A.J. with J.A., however, has been an upgrade for Pittsburgh. While Burnett had gone 1–2 with a 10.13 ERA in his final three starts before hitting the disabled list, Happ has now started four straight Pirates wins.

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He’s not dominating like Price, however. Happ was roughed up in his first start for the Bucs and was skipped the next time through the rotation, and only two of his five starts since the trade have been quality. Still, he has allowed just two runs in 23 innings over those last four starts, helping the Pirates maintain their lead in the wild-card race and keep pace with the Cardinals in the Central. Speaking of which, Happ will start against Carlos Martinez in St. Louis tonight as Pittsburgh looks to shave some games off the Redbirds’ 6 1/2-game lead this weekend.

Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Worst Additions

1. Dustin Ackley, OF/2B, Yankees (from Mariners)

0-for-3

The only contender not to make an impact move at the deadline, the Yankees’ only trade was a minor swap for busted former No. 2 overall pick Dustin Ackley. Ackley cooperatively shaved his beard for the Yankees, went 0-for-3 as an in-game replacement in a pair of games against the White Sox in Chicago, then landed on the disabled list with a right lumbar strain. He was activated from the DL on Sept. 1, but has yet to appear in another game for New York. The Yankees, meanwhile, have gone from six games up in the AL East on July 31 to a 1 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays heading into the first weekend in September.

2. David DeJesus, OF, Angels (from Rays)
.125/.192/.146, 0 HR, 3 RBI, -1 OPS+

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One of three veteran outfielders acquired by the Angels a few days before the deadline in the hope of improving up their leftfield and designated hitter production, DeJesus has posted a negative OPS+ since coming to Anaheim. Needless to say, he’s not longer considered a viable starting option, even in a platoon role, by Los Angeles, which has used him exclusively as a pinch-hitter for the last two weeks. Since acquiring DeJesus, Shane Victorino and David Murphy, the last of whom has actually been productive, Los Angeles has gone 12–23 and scored 3.2 runs per game, both dead last in the AL over that span.

3. Jim Johnson, RHP, Dodgers (from Braves)
0–3, 13.91 ERA, 2.18 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, 2.40 K/BB, 28 ERA+, 13 G, 11 IP

We’re a long way from being able to issue a verdict on the Dodgers’ three-way deal with the Braves and Marlins, and with Jose Peraza already contributing at the major league level, it still seems likely to break in Los Angeles' favor in the long run. Still, Johnson and Mat Latos, the two rentals in the deal, have been awful. In 13 appearances, Johnson has blown three saves, taking the loss in two of them and adding a third loss in a game that was tied when he entered.

Most of Johnson’s comical ERA stems from the Aug. 8 outing in which he allowed eight runs in just two-thirds of an inning against the Pirates, but even without that outing, he’d have a 7.84 ERA as a Dodger, having allowed a run in seven of his 13 appearances for the team. The capper on Latos's and Johnson’s L.A. days came Thursday night, when the Dodgers and rookie Corey Seager overcame the early hole Latos put them in, only to have Johnson, pitching in a save situation in the eighth, give up a two-run homer that gave the Padres the lead and the eventual win.

4. Carlos Gomez, CF, Astros (from Brewers)
.219/.262/.316, 2 HR, 10 RBIs, 6 SB, 59 OPS+

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Gomez made a good first impression in Houston, going 8-for-18 with two doubles, a home run and a stolen base in the first four days of August (albeit after going 0-for-5 in his Astros debut). Since then, however, he has hit an atrocious .187/.242/.253, been caught three times in eight steal attempts and has struck out 23 times in 24 starts. Gomez is under team control for another year, so we can’t declare him a bust like Latos, and he did come over from Milwaukee with Mike Fiers, who threw a no-hitter on Aug 21. Still, Gomez has not made Houston better, and with Jake Marisnick’s bat coming back around, one has to wonder if Gomez will start to lose playing time when George Springer returns, which could happen as soon as Friday.

5. Mat Latos, RHP, Dodgers (from Marlins)

0–2, 6.56 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 6.2 K/9, 2.67 K/BB, 4.7 IP/GS, 58 ERA+, 5 GS

Latos pitched well in his final seven starts for the Marlins, fostering optimism about his ability to help the Dodgers down the stretch. However, since turning in a quality start in his Los Angeles debut on Aug. 2, he has been awful, failing to complete the fifth inning in any of his last four starts and posting a 8.31 ERA over that quartet, three of them Dodgers defeats.

Latos has had abysmal luck on balls in play over those four starts, but he has also seen his velocity decline once again, dropping back down below 92 mph on his average fastball, which is his worst showing in that department since before his disabled list stint earlier this season. Latos went 15 days between starts in late August, having his turn skipped twice, and he seems likely to be skipped again the next time through after being lit up by the Padres on Thursday night. In fact, it’s worth wondering if he has made his last start for Los Angeles, which may prefer to give sophomore Mike Bolsinger another shot at the fifth starter spot now that rosters have expanded.

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