Posted in: MLB
The July 31st non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone. Trades can still take place, and likely will, in August, but players traded in August must first be placed on waivers and either pulled back, traded or allowed to walk once claimed.
As is the case every season, there were some teams that did some major damage in the trade market, and some others that either stood pat or simply failed to improve their chances this season and/or for the future. Teams that were very busy don’t automatically qualify as winners, but they tend to as it’s tough to call a team that did nothing a winner when other teams around them at least attempted to improve.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the winners and losers from what was a very active and entertaining MLB trade deadline.
Given the fact that the Dodgers landed Manny Machado well in advance of deadline day, they were already going to be winners. That said, the Dodgers bolstered their World Series chances even further in the final hour or two leading up to the deadline with the acquisitions of second baseman Brian Dozier and right-handed reliever John Axford.
Machado has fit in well with the Dodgers so far and just hit his second homer with his new club. Dozier also brings a power infield bat with him to L.A. as he has clubbed 16 homers on the season, but five of those came in the month of July when he posted a .208 ISO, the single-best month of power he has displayed this season. The dozier acquisition came at the expense of veteran Logan Forsythe, who was afforded every opportunity to turn his season around at the plate. Forsythe has stumbled to a brutal .207 batting average and .560 OPS with just a pair of homers on the season.
Grabbing Axford gives the Dodgers a veteran arm to add to a bullpen that has been solid, if unspectacular this season. Their 3.73 bullpen ERA ranks 11th in the league. Axford is capable of handling both low and high leverage situations and has posted a 4.41 ERA this season. His ERA indicators are a little more favorable of his work as his 4.02 FIP and 3.72 xFIP suggest some positive regression moving forward. Nonetheless, the Dodgers addressed a bullpen need with the acquisition.
The Manny Machado trade likely turned the Dodgers into the team to beat in the National League, however adding Dozier and Axford on the final day before the deadline solidifies them as NL favorites down the home stretch.
Braves’ GM Alex Anthopolous was a very busy man leading up to the deadline as he bolstered his big league roster with five impact players, and pleased his manager in the process.
Anthopolous did some early work with the Venters deal and the Brach deal before grabbing Duvall from the Reds a day in advance of the deadline. That said, he was also a busy man down to the wire as he grabbed Gausman and the currently-injured O’Day from the Orioles in the same deal while sending four prospects and international slot money to the Orioles just minutes before the deadline.
Gausman isn’t having his best big league season, but he is under team control for two more years after this one and gives the Braves the reliable rotation arm they so desperately needed. Sean Newcomb and Mike Foltynewicz are eating up a lot of innings in that rotation right now while Julio Teheran has largely disappointed this season. Gausman’s 4.43 ERA, 4.58 FIP, and 7.55 K/9 are less than inspiring figures, but a move out of the powerful AL East could certainly benefit the right-hander.
Duvall won’t see every day reps in a busy Braves outfield, but will likely start most nights against left-handed pitching as he owns a .212 ISO against lefties this season and a career .231 ISO against southpaws.
As for the trio of relievers, it’s hard to say anyone did better in this area than Atlanta. Brach and O’Day are high-leverage arms that have thrived in recent years while Brach could be the best bet to see the bulk of save opportunities while Arodys Vizcaino sits on the DL with shoulder inflammation. Venters gives Atlanta another left-hander in their bullpen, a group that has produced a less-than-stellar 4.18 ERA this season, good for 18th league-wide.
Anthopolous appears to have checked all the boxes, indeed.
The surging Pirates turned into full-out buyers at the deadline and shocked the baseball world with the acquisition of ace Chris Archer from the Rays just minutes before the deadline.
Archer isn’t having his best season with a 4.31 ERA while spending some time on the Disabled List, but his ERA indicators are more favorable of his work as his FIP and xFIP both sit at 3.62 for the year. His ERA has actually been notably higher than his indicators for two and a half years now, but let’s keep in mind this is a guy who owns a career 3.69 ERA and a 3.48 FIP while pitching in the vaunted AL East his entire career. He gives the Pirates a big-time impact arm for their playoff push while on a team-friendly contract for this year and next before the club can exercise options on the right-hander for two additional years.
Kela provides the Pirates with an elite arm that can slot in behind closer Felipe Vazquez in a setup role. Prior to the trade, Kela was closing games for the Rangers and produced a 3.44 ERA and 2.97 FIP to go along with a very strong 29% strikeout clip. He was also an impressive 24 for 25 in save opportunities.
The Archer acquisition, in particular, didn’t come cheap as the Pirates sent their top prospects from the 2015-17 seasons back the other way. Right-hander Tyler Glasnow was their top prospect in 2015 and 2016 before largely struggling in a starting role at the MLB level while Meadows was their top prospect in 2017 and cooled off after bursting onto the MLB scene earlier this year.
Still, you have to give something to get something and it’s clear the Pirates mean business with a couple of impressive trade deadline moves from GM Neal Huntington.
Maybe they didn’t check all their boxes as they failed to land an impact starting pitcher, but boy I wouldn’t want to face that Brewers offense in a playoff series.
Milwaukee added two big-time power bats to an already-powerful lineup as Moustakas and Schoop have combined to club 37 homers this season while the duo also hammered 70 combined homers in the 2017 season. They are cut from a similar cloth as both don’t hit for a high average, but the home run power plays well in the hitter-friendly confines of Miller Park in Milwaukee.
Let’s also not forget what was already in Milwaukee. While it’s not confirmed who will play shortstop between Moustakas, Schoop and Travis Shaw, the Brewers boast massive power around their infield.
We could very well have the most dynamic offense the National League has to offer in Milwaukee.
With Soria, the Brewers get a veteran reliever who is enjoying a resurgent campaign. He owns a tidy 2.38 ERA and 2.27 FIP while striking out hitters at a huge 29.1% clip. He can fill any role in the bullpen and was 16 of 19 in save opportunities with the White Sox this season.
With that offense and a bullpen that owns a 3.30 ERA, fifth best in baseball, the Brewers have the pieces to make a deep postseason run.
The Yankees didn’t need to do a whole lot other than acquire starting pitching at the deadline, but the fact that Brian Cashman went out and bolstered his rotation, and his bullpen, makes the Yankees winners.
Happ was the prized starting pitcher at this year’s deadline, and he showed why as he went out and hurled six innings of one-run ball in a win over the Royals in his Yankees debut on Sunday. For the year, Happ owns a 4.05 ERA, but also a 3.94 FIP and 3.74 xFIP. His 26.6% strikeout rate from this season would be a career-high if the season ended today.
Happ endured a rough four-start stretch while still with the Blue Jays in late June and into early July, but has otherwise allowed only more than three earned runs in four of his other 17 starts on the year.
Some questioned the Britton deal for a Yankees bullpen that already ranked as the best in the big leagues, but it’s always nice to have another elite bullpen arm at your disposal in the playoffs. Britton has compiled a 3.57 ERA since returning from an Achilles injury but has also allowed just one earned run over his last 10 outings while 15 of his 18 outings on the season have been of the scoreless variety.
Lynn struggled in his only season with the Twins this year but is a low-cost addition as either starting insurance or a long man out of the bullpen. Let’s keep in mind this is a guy with a career 3.54 ERA despite owning a 5.10 mark this season.
There wasn’t a ton to be done here, but Cashman went out and added rotation help and also one of the game’s best relievers of the last several years. Job well done in the Bronx.
The full-scale rebuild took a big turn for the better in Baltimore in a very productive trade deadline, making the Orioles the easy winners among selling clubs.
GM Dan Duquette was aggressive in unloading his veteran players with Adam Jones essentially the only veteran player to stick around in Baltimore, likely due to his ten-and-five rights. The breakdown on the prospects the Orioles received is lengthy, but for now, we will simply tip our hats to the Orioles and wish them well on their lengthy rebuilding process.
The Astros could have used outfield help or infield depth given the current injuries to Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve, but instead, their biggest move was acquiring a suspended reliever with a pending criminal case for domestic assault.
The move is mind-boggling from a P.R. standpoint to be sure, but also makes very little sense on the field. Yes, the Astros didn’t have a closer cemented into the ninth inning, however, their bullpen has pitched to a 3.18 ERA on the season, good for the third-best mark in baseball. Hector Rondon, the closer at the moment, has pitched to a sparkling 2.35 ERA and a 2.25 FIP to go along with a huge 30.1% strikeout rate on the year. Chris Devenski, the current setup man, has pitched to a 4.19 ERA on the season, however, has a career 2.69 ERA and owns a 27.3% strikeout rate. Will Harris, another high-leverage arm, has pitched to a 2.54 FIP and 2.29 xFIP with a 30.2% strikeout clip.
Sure, there are some question marks in the ninth inning. When active, Osuna has been elite, and he’s young with club control for years. However, with a bullpen most teams would love to have as is, the Astros went out and made a trade for a pitcher whose former organization was not going to let him pitch in the MLB again due to the domestic assault allegations. GM Jeff Luhnow and the Astros’ organization as a whole made an extremely questionable, and unnecessary, gamble with their biggest trade before attempting to defend their World Series crown.
The Nationals are enduring the most disappointing season of any big league team this year. Therefore, the trade deadline was an opportunity to either go all-in on roaring back into postseason contention or do some re-tooling for next year, and they did neither.
Bryce Harper is very likely gone via free agency after the season, and management responded by going with the status quo as they linger around the .500 mark. At this point, there isn’t much reason to believe Washington will be better next year, especially with the Phillies and Braves on steep upward trajectories within the division.
In fact, all the Nationals did was trade an established reliever in Brandon Kintzler to the Cubs. In other words, they helped a team that they could potentially be chasing down in the Wild Card race. Yes, the Cubs are better, but at only 5.5 games back in the division and 5.0 back in the Wild Card, the Nationals traded a valuable bullpen arm and added nothing.
Standing pat is fine for some clubs, but this is most likely Washington’s last season with Harper on board, and Mike Rizzo gave his team nothing to bolster their chances. He also did very little to improve their future on a club riddled with veterans. Not ideal in my books.
The Dodgers improved in a big way and the Diamondbacks made some moves to bolster their chances as well, but the Rockies largely stood pat despite needing reinforcements in their rotation and bullpen.
Oh is a nice addition for the Rockies as he has pitched to a 2.52 ERA this season, although his 3.06 FIP and 3.96 FIP suggest regression as the season moves forward. Still, the Rockies needed bullpen help, and they got it with Oh.
Problem is, this is still the 29th-ranked bullpen in baseball and one that needed further upgrades. It appears management is on board in letting Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee work out their struggles, but compared to a team like Atlanta that went out and nabbed two of the top relievers on the board, the Rockies largely disappointed here.
They stood to upgrade the rotation as well, but nothing materialized here. Jon Gray has come back and pitched very well since being demoted to Triple-A, but after him and Kyle Freeland, the Rockies don’t have much in terms of a postseason-caliber rotation.
The Rockies’ starters have combined to produce a 4.29 ERA, good for 19th in baseball. Their road ERA of 4.07 ERA isn’t much better, as a team.
Their Oh addition was fine, but they did not upgrade a mediocre rotation and it looks as if their offense will be tasked to keep them in the postseason race in a competitive National League West.
The Giants made their intentions to contend this season clear in the offseason with the additions of past-their-prime veterans Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, however, they did nothing at the deadline to further their chances at a postseason berth, or re-tool for next season.
Perhaps it’s the three-team logjam in front of them in the west that prevented San Fran from adding, or perhaps the injuries to starters Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto that dampened their view for the rest of the 2018 season. If so, I don’t blame them. But, you can also sell, too.
Will Smith, Tony Watson and Sam Dyson are three bullpen arms that are performing extremely well and could have netted the Giants some nice prospect capital to bolster their farm system. Perhaps they could have even landed a young, big-league ready position player or two. Instead, they held onto this productive trio while other teams like the Orioles, Padres, Rangers, Marlins, Blue Jays, Twins, and White Sox capitalized on relievers enjoying nice seasons.
There was a clear intention to contend prior to the season, but interestingly no intention to do anything either way at the deadline. The Giants now find themselves as an aging, mediocre club as a result.
The Mariners bolstered their bullpen and added outfield depth with Maybin, but the problem is they didn’t address their biggest need which lies within the rotation.
James Paxton is a legitimate ace, and Marco Gonzales has quietly enjoyed a big-time season. After that, the rotation simply doesn’t match up with other postseason hopefuls in the American League.
With the Oakland A’s breathing down their neck in the Wild Card race, the Mariners appear content to roll with a starting rotation that has pitched to a mediocre 4.08 ERA, good for 15th league-wide. Felix Hernandez continues to be a shell of his former self with an ugly 5.58 ERA on the season to go along with a career-low 19% strikeout rate while fellow veteran Mike Leake owns a bland 4.16 mark to go along with a 4.34 FIP and tiny 14.4% strikeout rate.
Another problem is how Seattle pitching has performed on the road, outside of the pitching-friendly confines of Safeco Field in Seattle. Mariners’ pitching has posted a road ERA of 4.82, good for 23rd league-wide. If Seattle does indeed nab the second Wild Card spot, they are very likely to play that Wild Card game on the road, which does not bode well for their staff.
At the end of the day, the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline was a miss for a Mariners team that will have to scratch and claw to hang onto their Wild Card spot in the American League.