Here's The Deal

Lessons learned from a frenzied major league trade deadlline
August 10, 2015


By the craziest trade deadline in memory every team had made at least one transaction, from the Blue Jays (acquiring All-Stars David Price and Troy Tulowitzki) down to the Diamondbacks (sending middle reliever J.C. Ramirez to the Mariners). The biggest moves had a winter-meetings, blockbuster feel. Toronto sent three prospects and All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes to the Rockies for Tulowitzki. The Rangers and the Phillies assembled an eight-player monster to get ace Cole Hamels to Texas. And the Dodgers, Braves and Marlins concocted a 13-player trade that took two days to complete, cost Los Angeles $40 million and may have involved a two-picture deal at Sony.

The biggest players turned out to be three teams that have operated on the fringes for a while: Toronto, Kansas City and Houston. The Jays haven't made the playoffs in 21 years, the longest active streak in MLB; they're also the only team that has never appeared in the Division Series. They inherited the postseason-drought mantle from the Royals, who made the playoffs last year for the first time since 1985, when they last won a division title. The Astros, of course, were the industry's point-and-laugh team as recently as last summer, when they failed to sign the first pick in the draft.

That trio dominated the days before the July 31 deadline. After landing Tulowitzki, the Jays upgraded their rotation by sending three lefthanders, including top prospect Daniel Norris, to Detroit for Price. There's little—if any—precedent for any team adding a pair like this, two of the top 25 talents in baseball, at the deadline. The Royals picked up a No. 1 starter from the Reds in Johnny Cueto and then added the high-OBP element they desperately needed in utilityman Ben Zobrist. The Astros bolstered their rotation by getting lefthander Scott Kazmir from Oakland, then addressed their defense and the top of their lineup in a deal with Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez.

As these low-profile teams were making bold moves, many big-city clubs nibbled at the edges. The Yankees, Angels, Cubs and White Sox made minor deals. The Tigers and the Phillies sold off talent. The Red Sox mostly sat around.

In the two decades since the strike, baseball has been played not so much in cities as in markets. Your market size was your destiny, your potential success defined by your Opening Day payroll, your hope and faith boxed in by your EBITDA. Last week was a rebuke to that idea. A decade of massive revenue growth, increased revenue sharing and a lowered percentage of that money going to players has changed what's possible for every team.


Not every big-market team sat on the sideline: The Dodgers continued to use their cash reserves. A month that began with L.A. blowing through its international-signing pool—spending more than 10 times its allotted amount to acquire foreign amateurs—ended with the team effectively buying young talent from the Braves and old talent from the Marlins for $40 million. The Dodgers' complicated three-team trade netted two strong starting pitchers, Alex Wood and Mat Latos, plus infielder Jose Peraza, a top 50 prospect from Atlanta's system. Miami got little more than payroll savings of about $14 million. The Braves got Hector Olivera, a 30-year-old Cuban infielder, for just $31 million over five years; the Dodgers are eating his $28 million signing bonus. It's an audacious play by L.A., which has found new ways to leverage its financial advantage.


Across the country the Mets were the anti-Dodgers, also sharing a huge market but acting as if they were the Willets Point Marlins. New York, which has been loath to spend since the Wilpon family was victimized in the Bernie Madoff financial scandal, made three deals in which it added four veterans at a payroll addition of just $8.5 million in 2015 with no obligations beyond that. The Mets overpaid in prospects—including fast-rising pitchers Casey Meisner (to the A's for reliever Tyler Clippard) and Michael Fulmer (to Detroit for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes)—rather than take on money. Given an insurance payout of around $4 million for injured third baseman David Wright's deal and reliever Jennry Mejia's two unpaid PED suspensions, New York has committed just $2.5 million in additional money this season—or about what the Dodgers spent on catering their trade-deadline war room. Despite being tied with the Nationals for first place in the NL East at week's end, the Mets and their continuing lack of resources are an embarrassment to the industry.


Most of the deadline deals created chances for young players, whether with their new organizations or because veterans roster-blocking them were dealt away. With outfielder Shane Victorino gone (to the Angels), the Red Sox' Rusney Castillo will finally get a clean shot in Fenway's spacious rightfield. Lefty John Lamb, part of the haul received from Kansas City for Cueto, should be in the Reds' rotation this month. Aaron Brooks, a 25-year-old righthander acquired by the A's for Zobrist, started for Oakland and won over the weekend. In Milwaukee, Domingo Santana, 23, could win Carlos Gomez's old outfield spot. And the trades of closers Jonathan Papelbon and Joakim Soria mean save chances for Ken Giles (in Philadelphia) and Bruce Rondon (in Detroit).


The end of July doesn't mean the end of action: Players who clear waivers in August can be traded anywhere, and those claimed on waivers can be dealt to the team that claims them. The first group will likely include players on big contracts, such as Padres starter James Shields, the Rockies' Reyes and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, and Brewers starters Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza. The second will include impending free agents such as Rangers starter Yovani Gallardo, Padres outfielder Justin Upton and Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. There are likely to be plenty of transactions before the end of the month, particularly when teams like the Padres, Rangers and White Sox get a dose of reality and realize they're out of the races.

Extra Mustard


Faces in the Crowd


Dan Patrick

Larry Bird


The Case for

Olympic Patience


The Swing of Queens

The Mets' roller-coaster ride through deadline week

July 28

Reliever Jenrry Mejia tests positive for PEDs for second time this season, is suspended 162 games.

July 29

News breaks that infielder Wilmer Flores and pitcher Zack Wheeler will be traded to the Brewers for outfielder Carlos Gomez. Flores tears up in the Citi Field infield, in full view of TV cameras.

July 29

After the game—a 7--3 loss to the Padres—GM Sandy Alderson says there is no Brewers deal, excoriates social media.

July 30

Mets blow a six-run lead and fall 8--7 to San Diego.

July 31

Alderson makes a trade—this time for real—to get slugger Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers. Flores celebrates with a 12th-inning walk-off homer to beat the Nationals.

Aug. 2

Mets sweep the Nats to tie them atop the NL East, New York's first day in top spot since June 19.



Players who were traded in the nine days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.


Pitchers among the 112 players dealt.


Franchises that LaTroy Hawkins has played for in his 21-year career; the reliever added another to the list when he was traded from the Rockies to the Blue Jays.