- Which teams were the big winners from this year’s MLB trade deadline? Which contenders fell short of what they needed?
It’ll be months, and in most cases years, before we’ll be able to identify the clear winners of this 2016 trade deadline, other than poor Colin Rea’s real estate broker. But why would that stop us from passing judgment on the moves that were made before Monday afternoon’s 4 p.m. ET deadline and set the stage for the final two months of the baseball season?
The theme of the week was clear: general managers of championship starved franchises—the Cubs, Indians and Rangers—dealing away top prospects and going all in, unflinchingly charging ahead to October like Jon Snow in the fields of Winterfell. It wasn’t quite as insane as last year’s deadline, but the events of Monday will shape how this October plays out. Here’s our list of notable deal makers and bystanders at the deadline; only winners and losers allowed.
Rangers: Trade deadline ninja Jon Daniels did it again: A year after acquiring Cole Hamels during deadline week to become his team's ace, the Rangers' general manager made the biggest splash of the day on Aug. 1, adding catcher Jonathan Lucroy, power arm reliever Jeremy Jeffress and potential Hall of Famer Carlos Beltran. And let’s remember what the Rangers didn’t give up: Jurickson Profar, Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara, all of whom are still with the organization.
Texas clearly needed a catching upgrade (collectively, its backstops have hit .233/.287/.422 this season), and Lucroy, long regarded as one of the league's top pitch framers, should have no trouble adjusting to a new staff. Lucroy was having a strong offensive season in Milwaukee (.299/.359/.482), and his numbers should translate well in in the summer heat of hitter-friendly Arlington. He’ll be joined in the lineup by Beltran, who is 39 but had hit for the Yankees as though he was in his prime (.304/.344/.546 with 22 homers).
Presenting the new Rangers lineup—and this is before outfielder Shin-soo Choo returns, likely later this week:
Jurickson Profar, LF
Nomar Mazara, RF
Ian Desmond, CF
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Carlos Beltran, DH
Jonathan Lucroy, C
Rougned Odor, 2B
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Elvis Andrus, SS
The Texas bullpen, a disaster at the start of the season, now includes three relievers—Jeffress, Sam Dyson and Matt Bush—whose fastballs approach 100 mph. With Jake Diekman, Keone Kela and Tony Barnette also in the mix, it’s a unit that could be formidable in the postseason, when bullpens, as we’ve seen in recent Octobers, can take charge. The Rangers also have a rotation fronted by Hamels and Yu Darvish.
The Rangers began the day as a team that has outperformed their talent level, with an AL-best 62–44 record to go with a +9 run differential that suggests, by Pythagorean record, that they should be 54–52. But now? Texas is the clear favorite in the AL West.
Yankees: Years from now—perhaps in 2020, when Bryce Harper is spraying champagne over World Series MVP Gleyber Torres in the Yankees' clubhouse—we’ll look back at the 2016 trade deadline as the key moment when New York pivoted, rebuilt its farm system and put itself in position for another run of championships. The Yankees appearing on this list is one of the biggest surprises of the deadline, but here’s what GM Brian Cashman did: He turned two relievers (Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman) and a 39-year-old DH (Beltran) into two top-50 prospects (Torres from the Cubs and outfielder Clint Frazier from the Indians), the No. 4 pick in the 2015 draft (Dillon Tate from the Rangers) and another top 100 prospect. Before this week, New York had a middling minor league system; now it might be one of the top five in baseball.
Now, onto the next chapter of the Bronx rebuild: The A-Rod adieu.
Indians: Okay, so the Indians didn’t land Lucroy after all, but to a team with the best starting rotation in the league and with a lineup that’s third in runs scored, they added arguably the best reliever on the planet (yes, you could make the argument)—a game changer who also is under team control for two years beyond 2016. Make no mistake: For Cleveland, getting Miller on Sunday was all about October and ending that 68-year title drought. Cleveland got a little better on Monday, adding Rays outfielder Brandon Guyer, who hits well against lefties (.283/.384/.464 for his career). No Lucroy, no problem: The Indians might be two games behind the Rangers in the race for the AL's best record, but they are the best team in the league.
Cubs: Getting reliever Joe Smith from the Angels was a minor move. But in acquiring the 32-year-old righthander—who has a 3.82 ERA and six saves in 38 relief appearances this season—and Chapman over the past few days, the Cubs have turned a potential postseason weakness into a deep, championship-worthy unit for their mad professor, Joe Maddon, to work his magic with.
Nationals: With a four-game lead on the Marlins in the NL East, the Nationals are not only headed to the postseason, but there's also a case to be made that they are one of the top two teams in baseball. But they missed out on an opportunity to put themselves over the top and maybe even overtake the Cubs as the best team in the league. While Mark Melancon—who has a 1.51 ERA this year after saving a league-leading 51 games last year for Pittsburgh—has been one of the most reliable relievers in the game over the last four seasons, there are some warning signs (such as his declining ground-ball rate and velocity), and it’s not clear just how much better Washington's bullpen will be with Melancon and without Felipe Rivero, who was just beginning to establish himself as a power bullpen arm. Certainly, Melancon is no Chapman. The cost would have been much higher to bring in the flame-throwing Cuban, of course, but for a team that should be in win-now mode, it would have been a cost worth paying.
Dodgers: There’s no doubt that the Dodgers are improved, after adding outfielder Josh Reddick and lefty starter Rich Hill in a deal with the A's and doing so without giving away any of their top prospects from a loaded minor league system. But Los Angeles needed to do more to catch the Giants in the NL West, particularly with San Francisco’s additions of its own: starter Matt Moore and reliever Will Smith.
Hill has been elite when healthy, but the problem is that he isn’t healthy—he’s been out since July 17 with a blister that hasn’t recovered as he hoped. Hill’s uncertainty seemed to suggest that the Dodgers would add another arm at the deadline, but that impact arm wasn’t out there; Reddick’s addition seemed to pave the way for the club to deal Yasiel Puig, but Puig didn’t go anywhere on Monday, and late in the day, there were reports that he will be sent to the minors on Tuesday. As the world turns…
Marlins: It was a bizarre few days in Miami, even by the Marlins' standards. After acquiring Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea in a seven-player trade with the Padres (the Fish dealt away their top, and perhaps only, high upside position player prospect in Josh Naylor), Miami is sending Rea back to San Diego after he pitched only 3 1/3 innings for the club before getting injured. The Marlins are keeping Cashner and getting pitching prospect Luis Castillo back, but with Rea gone and Wei-Yin Chen out, the team is still a starter short. Cashner pitched well in his Miami debut on Sunday, but he certainly isn’t enough of a difference for the Marlins to make a real run at the Nationals. Instead, after all this deadline drama, the best Fish fans can realistically hope for is a wild-card invite and a possible matchup against the Dodgers—and, if he's healthy, Clayton Kershaw.