MLB Trade Deadline Winners (Yankees, Dodgers) and Losers (Red Sox, Mets)
- After a busy month, here's how things shook out for the five teams that improved their chances, and five that did not.
The non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone, and while it will take months or even years to see how the flurry of deals panned out—both as far as what happens this October and what kind of players the traded prospects grow up to be—it’s natural to try to get an early read on which teams helped themselves the most and who suffered setbacks. So what follows here is a quick look at the deadline’s winners and losers, taking into consideration not just what happened on July 31 but also in the weeks leading up to that final day.
With a 74-31 record and a 14-game lead in the NL West, Los Angeles could have used the deadline merely to tweak around the margins. Instead, with an eye toward ending the franchise's 29-year championship drought, the Dodgers pulled off one of the day’s biggest trades, getting four-time All-Star righthander Yu Darvish from the Rangers without surrendering any of their top three prospects, righties Walker Buehler and Yadier Alvarez and outfielder Alex Verdugo. Which isn't to say that L.A. won't miss second baseman/outfielder Willie Calhoun, generally considered just their fourth-best prospect, and by far the best of the three they dealt to Texas, but his future probably isn't in the infield.
Darvish will complement Clayton Kershaw, who is currently on the DL with a back strain, and he should benefit significantly by moving to a more pitcher-friendly ballpark and by throwing to catchers who are far better at pitch framing. According to the metrics at Baseball Prospectus, backstops Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes are second and ninth in the majors, respectively, at stealing strikes, a combined 21.8 runs above average, while the Rangers’ Robinson Chirinos is around average, and Jonathan Lucroy—once among the game’s best in this department and traded himself this week, to the Rockies—is dead last at -14.3 runs.. Beyond Darvish, the Dodgers also fortified their bullpen by adding lefties Tony Watson from the Pirates and Tony Cingrani from the Reds, all without giving up anyone they couldn't part with from their deep farm system.
Just a year ago the Yankees embarked on a retooling, trading DH Carlos Beltran, closer Aroldis Chapman and reliever Andrew Miller. But New York entered Deadline Day in first place in the AL East and, having already shored up its infield and bullpen with the July 18 deal that brought third baseman Todd Frazier and righty relievers Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson from the White Sox to the Bronx, GM Brian Cashman pulled off another coup by building both for the present and the future. The Yankees bolstered their rotation by making a deal with the A's for righty Sonny Gray, who has rebounded from an injury-wracked 2016 to post a 3.43 ERA that is right in line with his career mark of 3.42. Under club control through 2019, Gray becomes a key piece in a rotation that lost Michael Pineda to Tommy John surgery a few weeks earlier and that could lose CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka to free agency (the latter has an opt-out, not that it will likely be exercised) this winter.
Two of the three prospects New York sent to Oakland, righty James Kaprielian (Tommy John surgery) and outfielder Dustin Fowler (ruptured patellar tendon), are done for the year with injuries. The former has managed just 29 professional innings since being chosen with the 16th overall pick in the 2015 draft, while the latter—who was injured in the first inning of his his major league debut on June 29—plays the outfield, a position of strength given that the Yankees still have Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks and rookies Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier, to say nothing of $153 million spare part Jacoby Ellsbury. Jorge Mateo, the shortstop in the deal, has considerable upside, but he wasn't even considered the organization's best prospect at the position (that would be Gleyber Torres, yet another Tommy John victim). Mateo was still rebuilding his stock after a disappointing 2016 marked by a suspension for insubordination.
Surprise contenders after losing 94 games last year, Tampa Bay was down a big bat after outfielder Colby Rasmus left the team for personal reasons during the All-Star break. The Rays replaced him by trading righty Drew Smith, a hard-throwing 23-year-old reliever in High A, to the Mets for first baseman Lucas Duda, and they supplemented their own 'pen by getting righty Steve Cishek from the Mariners and lefty Dan Jennings from the White Sox.
That said the deal that sent second baseman Tim Beckham to the Orioles for A-ball righty Tobias Myers is a headscratcher. Bumped off shortstop by the addition of good field/no-hit Adeiny Hechavarria in late June, Beckham experienced a chilly July, but he was still significantly outhitting fellow infielder Brad Miller (.259/.314/.407 with 12 home runs for Beckham vs. .202/.342/.328 with four homers for Miller), who has been dreadful on both sides of the ball all season long. If Miller doesn’t turn the corner, the team’s bid for a postseason berth will suffer.
At 50-54, eighth in the AL wild card race, they were wise to move what they could. Dealing Darvish, a marquee player, couldn't have been much fun, but they appeared destined to part with him at season's end anyway, and this way they get something more than a compensation pick. In Calhoun, the Rangers received a potential 30-homer slugger, albeit one who Baseball America described as "virtually unplayable at second base," and who is still inexperienced in the outfield. Still, an MLB-quality bat plus two 19-year-olds—6'4" righty A.J. Alexy and shortstop Brendon Davis—is a decent haul for two months of a rental. Texas also gets a player to be named later from the Rockies for Lucroy and landed reliever Tayler Scott from the Brewers for Jeremy Jeffress.
The Jose Quintana deal may have been the turning point of their season; the Cubs are 13-3 since, having swung the NL Central by eight games relative to the fading Brewers. Team president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer further shored up the roster on Monday by acquiring lefty reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila from the Tigers. They paid a cost—18-year-old shortstop Isaac Paredes and 23-year-old third baseman Jeimer Candelario ranked fifth and ninth, respectively, on the team's midseason prospect list according to Baseball America—but they look a whole lot more October-ready than they did at the start of July. As a bonus, Wilson gives Chicago a potential closer in case Wade Davis leaves in free agency after this season.
Given his dominant performance against same-side hitters and his relative success in facing batters for the first time in a game instead of the second or third, lefty Francisco Liriano is an intriguing addition to a bullpen battered for a 5.42 ERA in June and July. But on a day when Lance McCullers Jr.—who had been lit for a 9.64 ERA in 18 2/3 innings over his last four starts—went on the DL for the second time this season, this time due to back discomfort, the team's failure to add a starter stands out. Dallas Keuchel, who has also been on the DL twice due to a pinched nerve in his neck, lasted just three innings on July 28 against the Tigers, his first start in the majors since June 2. As if that pair, who combined for just 40 starts last year, didn't generate enough health concerns, the team is relying upon Collin McHugh, who missed the first half of the season due to elbow impingement, and Charlie Morton, who has stayed healthy long enough to make just 96 major league starts since the start of the 2012 season.
Their recent nine-game winning streak was reassuring, but the fact that they added only reliever Joe Smith—a very solid reliever, but about as exciting as a man named Joe Smith can be—at the deadline amid so many concerns is a bit puzzling, particularly given that they were reportedly in on both Darvish and Orioles lefty reliever Zach Britton. Yes, Danny Salazar is trending in the right direction since returning from the disabled list, but Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin are carrying ERAs of 5.25 and 5.38, respectively; the latter is now on the disabled list due to a left hamstring strain. And yes, Jason Kipnis just started a rehab assignment to return from a hamstring strain, but his production has been subpar this year, and it's not like Asdubal Cabrera would have cost much to acquire from the Mets. Cleveland's front office has a better read on its players' health than any outsider does, so perhaps this will work out just fine, but some insurance couldn't have hurt.
3. Red Sox
Since July 4, Boston is 9-14, 4 1/2 games worse than the Yankees. The addition of Addison Reed from the Mets will help the bullpen, but the sum of that and the acquisition of Eduardo Nunez to shore up third base feels rather piddling compared to the Yankees’ bold overhaul in recent weeks, particularly with David Price landing on the disabled list again due to forearm problems if not self-immolation. With the offense flagging, the Red Sox could have added Duda or A's first baseman Yonder Alonso as a rental; insteady they got neither.
4. Cardinals and Mariners
Neither St. Louis (52-53) nor Seattle (54-53) is in great shape but, according to Baseball Prospectus, their Playoff Odds are still 18.8% and 27.6%, with the former still having a one-in-10 chance at snagging the NL Central flag. Both have needs—the Cardinals have a banged-up outfield and a shaky bullpen, the Mariners a hole at first base and a subpar rotation—but aside from a swap of minor leaguers between the two teams (pitcher Marco Gonzales went to Seattle for outfielder Tyler O’Neill) earlier this month, both were mostly silent on the trade front. The Redbirds couldn’t figure out what to do with pending free agent Lance Lynn, who drew interest from the Yankees, Royals and other teams. As for the Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto—whose near-constant roster-churning activity brings to mind the bus in Speed, likely to explode if it stops moving—merely shed Cishek by the seashore. C’mon, guys, give us something more to write about!
New York got a bunch of minor league relievers for Reed and Duda, but it couldn’t find anyone to give them enough to clear up up their outfield logjam? Perhaps the Mets will do better in moving Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson, both of whom are pending free agents, during the August waiver period; their salaries ($13 million and $15 million, respectively) ensure that they’ll be movable. Still, it has to be unsettling for those veterans to know that even in a solid season, they're not in high demand because power can be acquired on the cheap. They could be in for a rough winter on the open market.