The passing of MLB’s nonwaiver trade deadline on Tuesday afternoon marks the unofficial start of the stretch run. Teams can still trade for players who clear waivers — and sometimes those are big names, as when Justin Verlander went from Detroit to Houston last year — or call up prospects, but for the most part, they will win or lose with the rosters they have now. So it’s time to look at which teams are set up better than they were three weeks ago, and which ones are in trouble.
Los Angeles Dodgers (59–48, lead NL West)
In: INF Manny Machado, 2B Brian Dozier, RHP John Axford
Out: 2B Breyvic Valera, RF Yusniel Diaz, RHP Zach Pop, RHP Dean Kremer, 3B Rylan Bannon, OF Luke Raley, 2B Logan Forsythe, LHP Devin Smeltzer, RHP Corey Copping
They got the best player who moved at the deadline. Yes, he’s a rental. Yes, Diaz (the no. 31 overall prospect in the Baseball Prospectus midseason top 50) is a hell of a price to pay for a rental. But while a player’s contract status and the prospects given up in return are crucial parts of a trade, sometimes it’s just a good idea to find the best players you can. The Dodgers have been among the National League’s top contenders for going on a decade now, but they still haven’t won a World Series in 30 years, and as the Washington Nationals found out this year, dominant homegrown cores don’t last forever. The Dodgers are a big-market team with a big-market payroll, and a trade like this shows that they’re willing to act like it.
New York Yankees (67–37, 6 GB in AL East, lead AL wild card)
In: LHP J.A. Happ, RHP Lance Lynn, 1B Luke Voit, LHP Zach Britton, future considerations
Out: 1B/OF Tyler Austin, RHP Luis Rijo, RHP Adam Warren, LHP Chasen Shreve, LHP Caleb Frare, RHP Giovanny Gallegos, LF Billy McKinney, 3B Brandon Drury, RHP Cody Carroll, RHP Dillon Tate, LHP Josh Rogers, future considerations
The Yankees made a lot of trades, but none of the individual deals moved the needle in any significant way. The series of trades that turned Chasen Shreve, Adam Warren, Giovanny Gallegos, and Tyler Austin into Luke Voit, Lance Lynn, and international bonus money is less about this year than the future anyway. But on the whole, they got better. Happ will stabilize the rotation, Britton will give them another weapon out of the bullpen, and Lynn could see work either as a long reliever or a no. 5 starter. Overall, the Yankees managed to improve their team without giving up any of their top prospects. They might end up missing Tate, a former top-five pick who’s had more than his share of ups and downs as a minor leaguer, and Drury is a nice depth bat, but neither one is a key building block for the future.
Arizona Diamondbacks (59–49, 0.5 GB in NL West, hold second NL wild-card spot)
In: SS Eduardo Escobar, RHP Matt Andriese, RHP Brad Ziegler, LHP Jake Diekman
Out: RF Ernie De La Trinidad, CF Gabriel Maciel, RHP Jhoan Duran, C Michael Pérez, RHP Brian Shaffer, RHP Tommy Eveld, RHP Wei-Chieh Huang, player to be named later
Escobar is a switch-hitter with power (15 home runs, MLB-leading 38 doubles) who can play anywhere across the infield, which would make him useful to just about any team in the pennant race. Andriese can pitch out of the rotation or the bullpen, and while he’s not going to blow anyone away, his versatility makes him useful. Ziegler and Diekman are both solid relievers. Diekman’s low arm slot makes him look like a lefty killer, but for his career he’s got relatively minor platoon splits. Neither one is 2016 Andrew Miller, but both are reliable and playoff-tested. All of those deals make Arizona better now for not that much in terms of prospects, but they don’t make up for Machado joining their divisional rival.
Cleveland Indians (57–48, lead AL Central)
In: CF Leonys Martín, RHP Kyle Dowdy, LHP Brad Hand, RHP Adam Cimber, OF Oscar Mercado
Out: C Francisco Mejía, SS Willi Castro, OF Conner Capel, OF Jhon Torres
The Indians got most of their shopping done two weeks ago when they traded catcher Francisco Mejía, the best prospect to change hands this July, for two good, cost-controlled relievers. Martín is a great defender in center, and while he’s not a very good hitter, he’s much better than the center fielders Cleveland’s been rolling out so far this year.
The only disappointment to Cleveland’s trade activities is that they didn’t do more. Late Monday night, Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported that the Indians and Nationals were talking about a Bryce Harper trade but the Indians refused to include rookie right-hander Shane Bieber in a trade. If that report is accurate, and Bieber was the difference between acquiring Harper and not, Cleveland is going to regret not making that trade forever.
Philadelphia Phillies (58–48, lead NL East)
In: INF Asdrúbal Cabrera, C Wilson Ramos, LHP Aaron Loup, cash
Out: RHP Franklyn Kilome, RHP Jacob Waguespack, LHP Hoby Milner, player to be named later or cash
Missing out on Machado hurts, but the Phillies couldn’t have matched the Dodgers’ offer without including pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, and that probably would have constituted an overpay. Instead they overpaid a little for another rental infielder, Cabrera, who hits like a corner outfielder and plays shortstop like a corner outfielder as well. He’s still an improvement over Scott Kingery, who’d been playing shortstop in J.P. Crawford’s absence. In addition to butchering the position defensively, Kingery hadn’t hit well either. Cabrera is an awkward fit, but an upgrade.
Meanwhile, Ramos is one of the best offensive catchers in baseball. When he returns from the DL he’ll move the talented but frustrating Jorge Alfaro to the bench, where he can still be useful as a defensive replacement and right-handed pinch-hitter, and Andrew Knapp to Triple-A until rosters expand. Ramos, like Cabrera, is a free agent after the season and therefore is not only cheaper now but will not block the Phillies’ youngsters when they get another shot to rejoin the starting lineup next year. Loup is fine as a left-handed reliever and fills a need for a team that’s struggled to find someone to fill that role all year.
Tampa Bay Rays (53–53, 21 GB in AL East, 10 GB in wild card)
In: OF Austin Meadows, RHP Tyler Glasnow, OF Tommy Pham, LHP Jalen Beeks, C Michael Pérez, LHP Hoby Milner, RHP Brian Shaffer, cash, future considerations, PTBNL (x2)
Out: RHP Chris Archer, C Wilson Ramos, RF Justin Williams, LHP Genesis Cabrera, RHP Roel Ramirez, LHP Jonny Venters, RHP Nathan Eovaldi, RHP Matt Andriese, LF Jeremy Hazelbaker, LHP Hunter Schryver, cash
It’s important to note that the Rays traded away three of their four main starting pitchers in the past week, and the only survivor, Blake Snell, is on the disabled list. But a very active, very weird deadline turns out to be a huge positive for the Rays, thanks to absolute heists of Tommy Pham from the Cardinals and Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow from the Pirates in the Chris Archer deal.
Pham has not repeated his six-win season from last year, but he’s still a league-average hitter who can play center field, and the Rays got him for next to nothing. Meadows and Glasnow are not as valuable now as they were when they topped out as top-10 global prospects, but both have contributed in the big leagues this year (Meadows is hitting .292/.327/.468), and both are under 25 and under team control through at least 2023. Even if Meadows and Glasnow aren’t as good as people thought they were two years ago, Archer’s performance has also declined. This weird deadline is fitting for a team that’s had as weird a season as Tampa Bay, but they finished it off with two huge wins in trades, and depending on who comes back as the player to be named in the Ramos deal, this deadline could get even better.
Milwaukee Brewers (62–47, 1 GB in NL Central, lead NL wild card)
In: 3B Mike Moustakas, RHP Joakim Soria, 2B Jonathan Schoop
Out: OF Brett Phillips, RHP Jorge López, LHP Kodi Medeiros, RHP Wilber Perez, RHP Luis Ortiz, INF Jonathan Villar, INF Jean Carmona
The Brewers rescued this trade deadline by trading for Schoop at the buzzer. Soria added depth to an already loaded bullpen, and while the Brewers got Moustakas on the cheap, they still needed at least one middle infielder. Missing out on Machado hurts, as does not picking up another starting pitcher, perhaps even using their wealth of prospects to force the Mets to part with Jacob deGrom, but acquiring Schoop at least softens that disappointment.
The big question for Milwaukee is what will their infield defense end up looking like. Orlando Arcia, who was expected to start at shortstop, is hitting .198/.236/.252, which is a batting line you just can’t live with from a position player. That means Milwaukee’s best infield is probably Moustakas at third, Schoop at short, Travis Shaw at second, and Jesús Aguilar at first. Now, I’d put that infield up against any other in baseball if we were having a home run derby or a pie eating contest, but God knows if they can play competent defense.
Didn’t Move the Needle That Much
Atlanta Braves (56–47, 0.5 GB in NL East and NL wild card)
In: OF Adam Duvall, RHP Brad Brach, LHP Jonny Venters, RHP Kevin Gausman, RHP Darren O’Day
Out: RHP Lucas Sims, RHP Matt Wisler, LF Preston Tucker, C Brett Cumberland, RHP Evan Phillips, LHP Bruce Zimmermann, INF Jean Carlos Encarnacion, future considerations
Duvall is a good defensive corner outfielder and has plenty of power, but he’s also hitting .205/.286/.399, though the Braves didn’t give up any players of value to get him. O’Day, Brach, and Venters are all past their primes, but still useful to a Braves team that’s 22nd in MLB in wins above average among relievers. Gausman is the wild card — at 27, he’s lost the hype he had as the no. 4 overall pick in 2012, but he’s shown flashes of competence in parts of six big league seasons, and going from a team that’s legendarily bad at developing pitchers to a team that’s quite good at developing pitchers will only do him good. Even if Gausman improves, it’s not a given that he’ll do it soon enough to help Atlanta win the NL East this year.
Oakland Athletics (62–46, 5 GB in AL West, 2 GB in AL wild card)
In: RHP Jeurys Familia
Out: RHP Bobby Wahl, 3B Will Toffey, future considerations
Familia is a free agent to be, and not the pitcher he was two years ago, but he’ll help, and the Athletics didn’t give up very much to get him.
Kansas City Royals (32–73, 25 GB in AL Central, 30.5 GB in AL wild card)
In: OF Brett Phillips, RHP Jorge López, LF Brian Goodwin
Out: 3B Mike Moustakas, RHP Jacob Condra-Bogan
Phillips, who couldn’t stick in the Brewers’ crowded outfield, might be the Royals’ second-best position player right now.
Boston Red Sox (75–33, lead AL East)
In: 2B Ian Kinsler, RHP Nathan Eovaldi
Out: RHP Ty Buttrey, LHP Williams Jerez, LHP Jalen Beeks
Kinsler is a nice pickup on a team that has struggled to keep its entire starting infield healthy at the same time, and his acquisition will give every local reporter an easy human interest story, as Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia were college teammates at Arizona State briefly, before Kinsler transferred to Missouri when he couldn’t knock Pedroia out of the starting lineup. Eovaldi-for-Beeks might be an overpay, since Eovaldi is an average starter who can’t stay healthy and Beeks might be just as good out of the rotation now if given the chance. But Beeks has also allowed 17 earned runs in his three career big league appearances, so this trade is really swapping one form of uncertainty for another.
Chicago Cubs (61–44, lead NL Central)
In: LHP Cole Hamels, RHP Jesse Chavez, RHP Brandon Kintzler
Out: RHP Eddie Butler, RHP Rollie Lacy, LHP Tyler Thomas, RHP Jhon Romero, PTBNL
The Cubs barely gave anything up and got two decent middle relievers and Hamels, who is nowhere near the pitcher he was when he was a postseason ace in Philadelphia and Texas, but is still probably better than Tyler Chatwood. They plugged a couple of holes, but their two biggest rivals, the Dodgers and Brewers, both improved more.
Los Angeles Angels (54–53, 12.5 GB in AL West, 9.5 GB in AL wild card)
In: RHP Ty Buttrey, LHP Williams Jerez, LHP Patrick Sandoval, future considerations
Out: 2B Ian Kinsler, C Martin Maldonado
I really believed in this Angels team. Pity it didn’t work out. Two more full years until Mike Trout hits free agency.
Seattle Mariners (63–43, 3 GB in AL West, hold second AL wild-card spot)
In: RHP Adam Warren, LHP Zach Duke, RHP Sam Tuivailala, OF Cameron Maybin
Out: RHP Chase De Jong, 1B Ryan Costello, RHP Seth Elledge, INF Bryson Brigman, future considerations
These deals, along with the Denard Span–and–Alex Colome–for–Andrew Moore deal from earlier in the season, are the kind of trades you make when you don’t have the prospects to trade for a Machado or an Archer. The bullpen is an easy place to improve most teams, particularly a club like Seattle, which is trying to wring every win it can out of the margins.
I do think they overpaid for both Tuivailala and Maybin. Elledge is a hard-throwing potential future closer I’ve liked since his college days at Dallas Baptist, and Brigman has just revamped his swing, potentially making him much more valuable than the fringe prospect he appeared to be at the start of the season. But no GM knows Brigman’s swing better than Jerry Dipoto, and from Seattle’s standpoint, nothing is more important than hanging onto a playoff spot in 2018 — if Elledge and Brigman come back to bite them in the future, Dipoto can deal with it then.
Minnesota Twins (49–56, 8 GB in AL Central, 13.5 GB in AL wild card)
In: CF Gilberto Celestino, RHP Jorge Alcala, OF Luke Raley, 2B Logan Forsythe, LHP Devin Smeltzer, 1B/OF Tyler Austin, RHP Luis Rijo, RF Ernie De La Trinidad, CF Gabriel Maciel, RHP Jhoan Duran, RHP Chase De Jong, 1B Ryan Costello
Out: RHP Lance Lynn, RHP Ryan Pressly, 2B Brian Dozier, LHP Zach Duke, INF Eduardo Escobar
I guess the good news is that the Twins got a lot of prospects back, and they at least got something for all of their notable free-agents-to-be. By sheer volume, at least one of these guys should turn out to be good. While this fire sale doesn’t include anyone the Twins were building around, and they got back the best prospects they could, it’s still a bummer for a 2017 wild-card team that was supposed to be on the rise and turned out to be one of baseball’s biggest disappointments.
Houston Astros (67–41, lead AL West)
In: RHP Roberto Osuna, RHP Ryan Pressly, C Martín Maldonado
Out: RHP Ken Giles, RHP David Paulino, RHP Hector Perez, CF Gilberto Celestino, RHP Jorge Alcala, LHP Patrick Sandoval, future considerations
Maldonado will make a nice backup to Max Stassi until the injured Brian McCann comes back, and Pressly and Osuna are both good relievers under team control for at least one more year. But making Osuna your big pickup, as he’s currently serving a suspension for violating the MLB-MLBPA domestic violence policy, says bad things about the organization’s priorities. It might work out on the field, but even if it does, the Astros are going to be criticized — and rightly so — for a long time.
Baltimore Orioles (32–74, 42 GB in AL East, 31 GB in AL wild card)
In: 2B Breyvic Valera, RF Yusniel Diaz, RHP Zach Pop, RHP Dean Kremer, 3B Rylan Bannon, RHP Cody Carroll, RHP Dillon Tate, LHP Josh Rogers, C Brett Cumberland, RHP Evan Phillips, LHP Bruce Zimmermann, RHP Luis Ortiz, INF Jean Carlos Encarnacion, INF Jean Carmona, INF Jonathan Villar, future considerations
Out: INF Manny Machado, RHP Brad Brach, LHP Zach Britton, RHP Kevin Gausman, 2B Jonathan Schoop, RHP Darren O’Day
All things considered, the Orioles did pretty well in the Machado trade, which is a deal they had to make. After that, it’s kind of underwhelming. The two biggest-name prospects they received, Tate and Ortiz, were both much more exciting prospects when they were in the Rangers’ system two and a half years ago, though even minor prospects from loaded systems in New York and Atlanta are going to help bolster a Baltimore prospect pipeline that will have to start generating quality big leaguers in a hurry.
Getting Villar back for Schoop is an interesting wrinkle on that trade. Villar is about the same age as Schoop and is under team control for an extra year, and while he’s on the DL now and his propensity to strike out can be frustrating, Villar is two years removed from hitting .285/.369/.457 with 19 home runs and 62 stolen bases. If the Orioles weren’t blown away by the Brewers’ offer in prospects, getting Villar as a reclamation project is a decent consolation prize.
With that said, the Orioles have now almost completely liquidated the team that made the playoffs in 2012, 2014, and 2016. They already have the worst record in baseball, and once you start sifting through the mountain of unspectacular prospects they got back for this collection of foundational players, it becomes clear how long the road back is going to be.
New York Mets (44–59, 12.5 GB in NL East and NL wild card)
In: RHP Franklyn Kilome, RHP Bobby Wahl, 3B Will Toffey, future considerations
Out: RHP Jeurys Familia, INF Asdrúbal Cabrera
Getting Kilome for Cabrera is a nice piece of business. Kilome is a power right-hander who will probably end up as an impact reliever, but the Mets have had a lot of success recently developing pitchers with that profile into top-end starters, Matt Harvey being the most notable example. The return for Familia is less encouraging. Toffey is, for some reason, playing through a shoulder injury rather than getting it fixed, and Wahl, as an injury-prone relief prospect, is very risky. I’d say they won one trade and lost the other.
But this deadline is one of missed opportunities. The timing probably wasn’t right for a trade of Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard, and not having a GM doesn’t help matters. But the Mets could’ve capitalized on Zack Wheeler’s 2018 performance — he could’ve brought back something comparable to what Lynn or Happ did, but the Mets pretty much stood pat. On a franchise more deserving of the benefit of the doubt, that’d look like patience, but on the Mets, it looks like indecision.
Toronto Blue Jays (48–57, 25.5 GB in AL East, 14.5 GB in AL wild card)
In: RHP Ken Giles, RHP David Paulino, RHP Hector Perez, LF Billy McKinney, 3B Brandon Drury, RHP Jacob Waguespack, RHP Corey Copping
Out: RHP Roberto Osuna, LHP J.A. Happ, LHP Aaron Loup, RHP John Axford
I don’t really get the Happ trade. McKinney’s a fourth outfielder and Drury, though he’s under team control through 2021, plays second and third base, which ought to be where Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. play until long after Drury’s time in Toronto is up. The Blue Jays might not have gotten much for a rental like Happ, but they should have prioritized upside rather than proximity to the majors.
Any trade involving a player currently suspended for domestic violence is going to be a complicated moral situation, and that makes it hard to judge the return for Osuna, or even to determine whether trading him at all, rather than releasing him, was the right thing to do. Giles will probably benefit from a change of scenery, and Perez might turn into a decent big league reliever, but Paulino is 24 years old, and the top-50 prospect shine he had two years ago has worn off. It’s put up or shut up time for the big right-hander, and I’m not optimistic.
St. Louis Cardinals (54–52, 7.5 GB in NL Central, 4 GB in NL wild card)
In: RF Justin Williams, LHP Genesis Cabrera, RHP Roel Ramirez, LHP Chasen Shreve, RHP Giovanny Gallegos, RHP Seth Elledge, LHP Elniery Garcia, OF Jhon Torres, OF Conner Capel
Out: OF Tommy Pham, 1B Luke Voit, RHP Sam Tuivailala, future considerations
The Cardinals sold low on Pham because he and management never really got along, and they got fleeced. If Pham continues to be a league-average hitter and feuds with his bosses in Tampa Bay, this could be a smart trade in a few years’ time. But if it turns out the Cardinals were the bad guys in their disagreements with him and a happy Pham posts a .411 OBP, like he did last year, this trade could end up looking worse than it does now.
Pittsburgh Pirates (55–52, 7 GB in NL Central, 3.5 GB in NL wild card)
In: RHP Keone Kela, RHP Chris Archer
Out: OF Austin Meadows, LHP Tyler Glasnow, LHP Taylor Hearn, PTBNL (x2)
I don’t understand the Archer trade. The Pirates are 3.5 games out of the wild card, and they gave up two of their most talented young players for a pitcher who isn’t as good as his reputation. Since finishing fifth in Cy Young voting three years ago, Archer has been durable and put up big strikeout numbers, but his run-prevention totals are average. He’s under team control through 2021, but this trade begs for comparisons to the Gerrit Cole trade this offseason, in which none of the four players the Pirates received look like big league contributors. All for a remote shot at the second wild-card spot. Pittsburgh overpaid for a player whose value lies more in team control than performance, and the team did it while hanging onto the fringes of the playoff race. It’s like they were playing bad-trade bingo.
Washington Nationals (52–53, 5.5 GB in NL East and NL wild card)
In: RHP Jacob Condra-Bogan, RHP Kelvin Herrera, RHP Jhon Romero
Out: LF Brian Goodwin, RHP Yohanse Morel, CF Blake Perkins, INF Kelvin Gutierrez, RHP Brandon Kintzler
I’m willing to cut ownership and GM Mike Rizzo a lot of slack for being so stunned by the team’s .500 performance that they just never really put together a campaign to sell off their free-agents-to-be. Washington’s struggles are truly shocking. Not moving Bryce Harper is also understandable, considering his stature within the city and the risk of damaging their campaign to re-sign him in the offseason. The Nationals reportedly dangled Harper at the last minute, nobody made them an offer they couldn’t turn down, and they’ll keep him. Fair enough.
But after taking forever to decide to sell, the Nationals couldn’t so much as get international slot money or an 18-year-old pitching prospect with an interesting curveball for Gio González, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Madson, Matt Adams, or Jeremy Hellickson. As buyers, they got one rental reliever, Herrera, at a higher price than they sold Kintzler at a month later, and Kintzler had a team option for 2019, which Herrera does not. Some teams made big trade offers and missed, others got underwhelming returns for departing major league contributors, but the Nationals never felt like they had a plan one way or another and let the trade deadline happen to them. What a clusterfuck.
Texas Rangers (46–62, 21 GB in AL West, 18 GB in AL wild card)
In: RHP Eddie Butler, RHP Rollie Lacy, LHP Tyler Thomas, LHP Taylor Hearn, CF Austin Jackson (since released), RHP Jason Bahr, RHP Cory Gearrin, RHP Wei-Chieh Huang, PTBNL (x3)
Out: LHP Cole Hamels, RHP Jesse Chavez, RHP Keone Kela, PTBNL
I recognize that neither Hamels nor Chavez is that valuable, and Kela, while talented, has been a headache for the Rangers’ coaching staff, which reduces his value. But it still seems as though they didn’t get much for any of them. None of those three trades is a disaster, they just all feel like missed opportunities.