The first consolidated trade deadline came and went, and it couldn’t have happened during a weirder year. With basically only the Marlins truly out of the picture in the NL as the deadline approached, we had a slow trickle of trades and it seemed like maybe nothing much was going to happen, but then there were a flurry of moves on the final day. While we’re not going to go over every single move, we are going to pile praises on the biggest winners, lay lamentations on the biggest losers and shrug our shoulders at some of the other teams who made us go ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Winner: Houston Astros
Two years ago, the Astros made a last minute deal for an older pitcher who was likely the best pitcher available when they brought in Justin Verlander, who went on to help the team to their first World Series title. While another title is still a long way off, they made a similar move yesterday when they traded for Zack Greinke, who will turn 36 years old during the postseason. Greinke has a 2.90 ERA, 3.20 FIP and 3.7 fWAR this season. While he’s lost quite a bit of velocity since his 2009 Cy Young season, he’s learned to thrive with his ridiculous curve (which was one of the reasons he was my favorite thing about the Diamondbacks).
The Astros gave up four prospects to get Greinke, but none of those players are ready to contribute right now and Houston kept their shiniest prospects. Greinke is also under team control for two more seasons and, after Arizona ate some of his salary, Houston is only on the hook for $53 million. That’s a very reasonable price to pay for a pitcher who’s continuously an All Star and getting Cy Young votes. They also added pitchers Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini to help out in a bullpen that’s been dealing with some injury woes.
In one day, the Astros improved more than any other team and now have the scariest rotation in all of baseball with Verlander, Greinke and Gerrit Cole headlining. That, combined with the fact that Houston’s offense leads MLB in wRC+ (119), makes them the team to beat this offseason. They paid a prospect price to make it happen and another title is far from guaranteed, but there’s no question that Houston won the trade deadline. In fact, the only downside to the Astros’ deadline moves is that Greinke’s return to the AL means many less at bats for him. Here’s to hoping he gets a road start during the World Series.
Loser: Other AL Division Leaders
While Houston improved mightily just before the deadline expired, the same cannot be said for a number of other AL teams currently leading their divisions. The Yankees were linked to seemingly every starting pitcher in MLB leading up to the trade deadline, but came away with, well, light-hitting but very fast outfielder/pinch runner Terrance Gore. Apparently the asking price for any pitcher was too high for GM Brian Cashman’s liking, but the rotation, which collectively has a 5.97 ERA/5.45 FIP since the calendar turned to June, was the lone area where the Yankees needed help and they didn’t get any, while their biggest hurdle to a pennant upgraded significantly.
The Twins were at least more active than the Yankees, acquiring Sergio Romo from the Marlins and Sam Dyson from the Giants to bolster their bullpen. But they probably could have done more, and they may soon wish they did, as their division lead has fallen to just 3 games, down from a high of 11 in June. Especially because their biggest foe didn’t exactly sit pat...
Winner: Cleveland Indians
The team that’s nipping at Minnesota's heels made good on the Trevor Bauer trade rumors and sent him to the other team in Ohio in a three-way trade that also involved the Padres. In doing so, Cleveland addressed their biggest problem, one which we covered in detail back in May and saw coming before the season even started, the outfield. They added Yasiel Puig (.252/.302/.475) from the Reds and Franmil Reyes (.255/.314/.536) from the Padres.
Trading Bauer, who has two years of control left and has been their second most valuable starter this season, isn’t without risk, but they also brought back a trio of pitching prospects in the deal, including LHP Logan Allen, who has struggled in his first call up this season but is still a highly touted arm. While it might have been smarter for the Indians to address their offseason needs over the actual offseason instead of waiting until the trade deadline, they finally took care of business and that three-game lead the Twins have is far from safe.
Loser: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers will probably be just fine with the extremely minimal moves they made (adding Tyler White, Adam Kolarek, Jedd Gyorko), but that’s mainly because they already have a very, very good team, recently topped our midseason NL power rankings and possess a 15 game lead in the NL West. But while they’re almost certainly a lock to win the division, the bullpen (collective 4.16 ERA/4.28 FIP) has looked shaky. It’s starting to look like the Kenley Jansen of old might not be coming back and the bullpen as a whole might be their Achilles heel in the postseason. While their attempts to pry Pirates closer Felipe Vázquez away failed because they (rightly) refused to give up one of their best prospects and the assumption is that they can just lean on starters out of the bullpen come October, they might regret their decision not to figure out a Plan B after Vázquez.
WTFer: San Francisco Giants
The Dodgers’ biggest rivals have been on an absolute tear recently, going from basically an afterthought in the National League to just two games back from a Wild Card spot. While postseason legend Madison Bumgarner and closer Will Smith, both in their walk years, were among the most talked about names in trade rumors before the seemingly non-stop winning started, they’ll remain in San Francisco to see if all this winning is for real and Bruce Bochy can get one last chance at another title before he retires after this year.
But Head of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi also shipped out a big chunk of his bullpen in Sam Dyson, Mark Melancon and Drew Pomeranz in favor of prospects. They picked up some prospects and shed some salary with Melancon, both good things given the state of the farm and salary commitments, but it’s not really clear where the team is headed this year. Given the surprise nature of the Giants contending, they were probably right to trade away relievers. But they also held on to their biggest trade chips in Bumgarner and Smith. Winner or loser? No idea.
Winner: Atlanta Braves
The Braves were the team that took on Melancon’s contract, and it was one of multiple moves that they made in their new-look bullpen. They also added Shane Greene (1.18 ERA) and Chris Martin (3.08 ERA) and they didn’t give up anything too shiny to make it happen. The bullpen has been a source of consternation for Braves fans all season, and they can rest easy that their team is in a much better place than it was before the deadline. While they probably could have used a starter, they likely improved enough that they should be able to hold onto the division lead.
Loser: Toronto Blue Jays
Speaking of starters, the Jays’ trade of Marcus Stroman was one that we all saw coming. The 28-year-old is having the best season of his career (2.96 ERA/3.52 FIP) with one more full year remaining before he hits free agency. The return that the Blue Jays got for him, LHP Anthony Kay and RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson, looks fairly light, especially when you consider what Arizona got in exchange for Greinke from Houston, who may have a much longer track record of success but is also much more expensive. And speaking of the Astros, the Blue Jays also didn’t get as much for Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini as they might have, so it’s hard to be particularly high on Toronto’s moves prior to the deadline.
WTFer: New York Mets
As stated above, the Mets were smart to pounce on Stroman at the price they did, and they get quite the kudos for doing so. At the same time, it was more than a bit weird that they were repeatedly talking about trading starters Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler and closer Edwin Diaz. That they didn’t trade Syndergaard and Diaz makes sense, given the years of control they have left and the fact that both are having down years, lowering any returns they would get. But hanging onto Wheeler makes less sense, given their position in the standings (7 games back of a Wild Card spot) and the fact that he’s a free agent after this season. Despite that, you could maybe even call the Mets’ moves a win overall, but everything was just so weird and it seems like maybe they just stumbled into a seemingly positive trade deadline. The Mets tried to Mets things up and failed, so I guess that’s a win?