MLB trade deadline season is almost always one of the most exciting periods on the baseball calendar, and this year’s feels like a trip to Disney World. Everyone is having a good time—but that crash from five days of walking in the heat, eating nothing but junk food, and hearing the screams of overjoyed children is coming. And it’s gonna be brutal.
As is tradition here at The Ringer Dot Com, now that the deadline itself has passed, it’s time to make a few snap judgments and anoint winners and losers.
Whatever Goes Beyond Winning
San Diego Padres
In: OF Juan Soto, 1B Josh Bell, LHP Josh Hader, UTIL Brandon Drury, C Cam Gallagher, LHP Jay Groome
Out: 1B Eric Hosmer, 1B Luke Voit, SS C.J. Abrams, OF Robert Hassell III, LHP MacKenzie Gore, LHP Taylor Rogers, RHP Dinelson Lamet, OF James Wood, SS Victor Acosta, RHP Jarlin Susana, LHP Robert Gasser, OF Brent Rooker, OF Esteury Ruiz, 2B Max Ferguson, OF Corey Rosier, cash
Let’s just start here. In terms of age, projection, production, and contract situation, Juan Soto is the most valuable MLB player ever to be traded. Setting aside the NBA, where the best players in the game get dealt twice a week, I’d argue that Soto is the most valuable athlete in North American pro sports to be traded in the 21st century. And the Padres not only got him: They kept him away from the Dodgers and now have two and a half years to sign him to an extension.
The Padres did all that while also convincing the Nationals to throw in Josh Bell, who’s hitting .301/.384/.493 as of this writing, and avoiding taking on the two years and roughly $60 million left on Patrick Corbin’s contract.
What’d they give up in return? Tons. The cream of a good farm system—the no. 11 overall prospect, according to FanGraphs, and two others in the top 100, plus Gore, Voit, and Susana. It’s one of the biggest trade returns in baseball history, but who gives a shit? Really, look at it this way: If I bought a brand-new Lamborghini for $40,000, it’d be the most I’d ever paid for a car, but it would still be tantamount to highway robbery. That’s what this trade is.
The Padres’ first big trade this week is fascinating in its own right: Landing former Brewers closer Josh Hader in exchange for Rogers, Lamet, and two prospects. I have serious concerns about Hader given the way he’s pitched the past five weeks or so. (More on that in the Brewers’ section below.) But between the three trades, the Padres gave up 15 players. Apart from Hosmer and Voit, every single one falls into one of three categories: (1) currently hurt, (2) struggled in the majors, or (3) currently playing in A-ball or lower. The variance on the players the Padres gave up is enormous, and while each one has the potential to come back and turn into an All-Star, there’s a non-trivial possibility that in four years, we could look back at this deadline and see that San Diego got Soto, Bell, and Hader for basically nothing. And then, with Soto, Bell, and Hader already in the bag, they went back to the market and picked up Drury, a guy who has 44 extra-base hits and has played five positions this year.
Chapeau to A.J. Preller and his lieutenants on a trade deadline for the ages.
Winning, but Normal
New York Yankees
In: RHP Frankie Montas, RHP Lou Trivino, OF Andrew Benintendi, RHP Scott Effross, RHP Clayton Beeter, OF Harrison Bader, PTBNL or cash
Out: LHP Jordan Montgomery, OF Joey Gallo, LHP T.J. Sikkema, RHP Beck Way, RHP Chandler Champlain, RHP Hayden Wesneski, LHP JP Sears, LHP Ken Waldichuk, RHP Luis Medina, INF Cooper Bowman
Baseball, with its large and high-variance playoffs, can lull teams into a false sense of complacency at the deadline. On August 2, the Yankees have the best record in baseball and a 12-game lead in the division. They have four good starting pitchers, a very good bullpen, and some big dude named Judge who’s on pace to hit 60 home runs. They could’ve easily stood pat and taken their chances in the playoffs.
Instead, they went out and added one of the top starters on the market (Montas), an outfielder who can help the team both on defense and in lineup balance (Benintendi), a good reliever with five years of team control left (Effross), and another bullpen arm (Trivino) who struggled early this year but has tweaked his repertoire and could once again become a high-leverage guy. Montgomery was a high price to pay for Bader, a superb defensive outfielder whose bat comes and goes, but with Montas in the fold, New York won’t miss Montgomery as much. Not only did the Yankees get stronger in absolute terms, they got stronger relative to the rest of their division—and the rest of the AL apart from (maybe) the Astros.
In: C Christian Vázquez, 1B Trey Mancini, LHP Will Smith, RHP Jayden Murray
Out: RHP Jake Odorizzi, OF Jose Siri, INF Enmanuel Valdez, OF Wilyer Abreu, RHP Chayce McDermott
Nothing spectacular here, just a few smart pieces of business. Incumbent catcher Martín Maldonado handles pitchers well, but Vázquez can do that, too, while hitting better than .175. Mancini is Michael Brantley insurance for the time being, and an offensive upgrade on Yuli Gurriel at first base if and when Brantley comes back. I enjoyed the segment on Monday’s ESPN broadcast where Buster Olney asked manager Dusty Baker how he’d use his two new players, and Baker basically shrugged and said, “I don’t know yet.” But he’ll find plenty of uses for two guys who can not only help the Astros on the field, but are regarded as good clubhouse presences as well.
Plus, we finally got the answer to what the Astros would do with their glut of starting pitchers—a glut that will only get more glut-like when Lance McCullers Jr. returns from his forearm injury in the coming weeks. Rather than dump the likes of José Urquidy, Houston managed to offload the oldest, most expensive, and least effective of its non–Justin Verlander starters for a valuable high-leverage reliever. The Astros didn’t need to make a splash, and they never had the prospects to make up a Soto package, so GM James Click did a nice job of maneuvering in the background.
In: RHP Luis Castillo, C Curt Casali, LHP Matt Boyd, 1B/OF Jake Lamb
Out: SS Noelvi Marte, SS Edwin Arroyo, RHP Levi Stoudt, RHP Andrew Moore, RHP Michael Stryffeler, C Andy Thomas, PTBNL or cash
I think the Mariners could’ve done more at the deadline and might live to regret not doing so. But with that said, they made the biggest non-Soto move and got the best non-Soto player in Castillo, who is a no. 1 starter with playoff experience. He takes the pressure off Robbie Ray and youngsters like Logan Gilbert and George Kirby, and while a four-player package centered on Marte was a lot to surrender, Jerry Dipoto shouldn’t be afraid of paying a premium to end a 21-year playoff drought. The last time the Mariners clinched a playoff berth was Ichiro’s rookie year. It was before 9/11. That’s a long time. Get to October and nothing else matters.
This move is also an extension of one of my favorite trade subgenres: An up-and-coming team lands a no. 1 starter at the deadline to validate years of internal roster-building. Verlander to Houston in 2017, David Price to Toronto in 2015, that sort of thing. Few deals do more to hype up a clubhouse and a fan base.
In: RHP Tyler Mahle, RHP Jorge López, C Sandy León, RHP Michael Fulmer
Out: LHP Cade Povich, RHP Yennier Cano, RHP Juan Nuñez, LHP Juan Rojas, LHP Steven Hajjar, INF Spencer Steer, INF Christian Encarnacion-Strand, RHP Ian Hamilton, RHP Sawyer Gipson-Long
The deals Minnesota made on deadline day were straightforward: a high volume of prospects, none of them from the team’s elite tier, for an All-Star closer and a reliable, durable mid-rotation starter. Mahle in particular will be quite valuable for a team that’s currently riding Chris Archer and Aaron Sanchez to the playoffs. Minnesota let both the Guardians and White Sox back into this AL Central race over the past few months; these trades at least mark the intention of securing that currently precarious division lead. And if it doesn’t work out in 2022, both Mahle and López are under team control beyond this year.
The Opportunity Cost Tier
St. Louis Cardinals
In: LHP Jordan Montgomery, LHP José Quintana, RHP Chris Stratton, LHP JoJo Romero
Out: OF Harrison Bader, INF Edmundo Sosa, RHP Johan Oviedo, INF Malcom Nunez, PTBNL or cash
The Cardinals made a pretty big splash in the minutes before the deadline, though the team has plenty of fans in Arkansas who are still sore about the eight scoreless innings a 19-year-old Montgomery threw against the Razorbacks in the 2012 College World Series. (South Carolina knocked Arkansas out the following day.) Since then, the big left-hander has turned into a very good MLB starter; he has a 108 ERA+ in the past two seasons and a K/BB ratio of 3.5 in 51 starts. He solves a lot of the Cardinals’ rotation depth issues all on his own.
The innings Montgomery doesn’t pick up will go to Quintana, who has rediscovered his mid-rotation form after about three seasons in the wilderness, and the Cardinals not only kept him away from potential wild-card rivals like the Phillies, they got him and two live bullpen arms for basically nothing. All told, it was a very good deadline for the Cardinals in terms of the deals they got done.
But they were in the lead for Soto for weeks and didn’t land him. That’s got to hurt.
New York Mets
In: RHP Mychal Givens, 1B Darin Ruf, OF Tyler Naquin, LHP Phillip Diehl, 1B Daniel Vogelbach, C Michael Perez
Out: 3B J.D. Davis, LHP Thomas Szapucki, LHP Nick Zwack, RHP Carson Seymour, 2B Hector Rodriguez, RHP Jose Acuña, RHP Colin Holderman, RHP Saúl González, cash
At the deadline, the Mets picked up a high-leverage reliever, both halves of a pretty good DH platoon, a fourth outfielder who can serve as a late-game defensive replacement, a backup catcher, and a partridge in a pear tree. That’s not bad. But for a team that actually had the prospects to compete with San Diego’s Soto package—whether Washington would’ve traded Soto within the division is another story—it’s a bit of a disappointment.
If you read the local press, you know the Mets’ biggest deadline acquisition will be Jacob deGrom’s return from injury. That line of argument is usually total horseshit, but less so in this case because deGrom is legitimately better than any player who changed teams except for Soto. Still, I would’ve liked to see a little more activity (Willson Contreras, maybe) from a very good team with big aspirations.
We Can Rebuild Him, We Have the Technology
In: RHP Matt Bush, LHP Taylor Rogers, RHP Dinelson Lamet, RHP Trevor Rosenthal, LHP Robert Gasser, OF Esteury Ruiz, Cash
Out: LHP Josh Hader, OF Abraham Almonte, LHP Antoine Kelly, INF Mark Mathias, OF Tristan Peters
Josh Hader from 2017 until, oh, about June 7, 2022: best reliever in baseball, or close to it. Josh Hader since June 7, 2022: 8.82 ERA, opponent batting line of .314/.377/.700. So of course the Brewers traded him for a couple of prospects and two other pitchers—Rogers and Lamet—who were exceptional in the recent past but can’t get anyone out this year. What makes that trade fun is that there are maybe half a dozen teams in the league that have absolute confidence in their own scouting and player development ability and are justified in having that confidence. The Brewers and Padres are two of them. So when they trade with each other, both teams are confident that they’ve identified something in a buy-low candidate that they can fix.
Consider the 2019 deal that sent Luis Urías and Eric Lauer to Milwaukee, and Zach Davies and Trent Grisham to San Diego. All four players got a lot better within a year or two of being traded—even Davies, who was pretty good for Milwaukee in 2019, became exceptional for San Diego in 2020, and then got flipped for Darvish that offseason.
The Hader deal isn’t the biggest deal of the deadline by any definition, but it will be one of the most fun to watch going forward. And if it turns out to be a total bust for Milwaukee, the Brewers picked up Bush to cover whatever late high-leverage innings Devin Williams can’t handle. You can never have too many pitchers.
Tampa Bay Rays
In: OF David Peralta, OF Jose Siri, RHP Jeremy Walker, Cash
Out: LHP Ben Bowden, C Christian Cerda, RHP Jayden Murray, RHP Seth Johnson, C/INF Ford Proctor, OF Brett Phillips
Rays president of baseball operations Erik Neander walks into a bar. Bartender says, “What’ll you have?” Neander shrugs and says, “The usual.” The bartender says, “Oh bad news, I sold you the last of that ’94 Margot you like, and the Hunter Renfroe you had a couple of seasons ago is on backorder. But I’ve got a David Peralta I think you’ll like.”
“That sounds fine. And I’ll take a look at the menu when you have a minute.”
The bartender mixes a Peralta on the rocks and leaves it on the rail with a menu. “That Arozarena you liked last week is out of season, but we just added a Jose Siri to the specials, he’s very similar. Right-right outfielder with iffy numbers in limited big league experience, but loud tools. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but could offer great bang for your buck.”
“Sounds right up my alley.”
In: LHP JP Sears, LHP Ken Waldichuk, OF Luis Medina, INF Cooper Bowman
Out: RHP Frankie Montas, RHP Lou Trivino
The A’s do things their own way, and have for decades, so it’s hard to just go down a prospect list and say “this is a fair return for Montas.” Instead, you have to figure out what the A’s will do with whatever players they acquire. In his instant reaction to the trade, CBS Sports’ R.J. Anderson made a point worth borrowing here: The A’s seem to believe they can tailor their pitching development to their defense and ballpark, and in so doing get the most out of players that might not be as useful elsewhere. Sears and Waldichuk in particular fit that M.O.
Also Receiving Votes
In: RHP Raisel Iglesias, RHP Jake Odorizzi, OF Robbie Grossman, INF Ehire Adrianza
Out: LHP Will Smith, LHP Tucker Davidson, RHP Jesse Chavez, LHP Kris Anglin, OF Trey Harris
The Braves behaved like a big-market team by swooping in to pick up Iglesias from the Angels in a straight-up salary dump. I like the Odorizzi trade for both sides—he is more useful to the Braves than Smith (particularly after the Iglesias trade), and vice versa. And while Grossman has struggled this season, he’s been a very good-to-elite on-base guy basically from the dawn of the universe until the start of 2022. He’s well worth a flier.
The biggest move, of course, was locking up Austin Riley to a particular genus of team-friendly contract: a deal that provides an eye-popping total value because of its length, but actually averages out to a manageable yearly salary. Inking the NL’s leader in slugging percentage to a $21 million-a-year contract is a nice bit of business.
Los Angeles Dodgers
In: RHP Chris Martin, OF Joey Gallo, RHP Nick Frasso, LHP Moises Brito, OF German Tapia, PTBNL or cash
Out: INF Zach McKinstry, RHP Clayton Beeter, RHP Mitch White, IF Alex De Jesus, 1B/OF Jake Lamb, LHP Garrett Cleavinger
Last year, the Dodgers traded for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner at the deadline. In 2020, they were quiet at the deadline but had already added Mookie Betts that offseason. In 2018, Manny Machado. In 2017, Yu Darvish. In 2016, Rich Hill.
This year, the Dodgers’ big move was to deal from their stash of Texan pitchers named Clayton in order to acquire a second gigantic left-handed-hitting outfielder with a great glove but recently developed contact struggles. What happened to you, dude? You’ve changed.
In: RHP Noah Syndergaard, OF Brandon Marsh, RHP David Robertson, INF Edmundo Sosa
Out: OF Mickey Moniak, LHP JoJo Romero, C Logan O’Hoppe, RHP Ben Brown, OF Jadiel Sanchez
The Phillies traded from the tier of prospects below their anointed troika of young right-handers to fill in some roster gaps. Syndergaard isn’t the pitcher he was five years ago, but the Phillies have money to burn and a Zach Eflin–shaped hole in the rotation, so he should be useful. Robertson is a reliable reliever for a team in need of quality innings—his first injury-plagued stint with the Phillies is about the only period in the past 14 years in which he wasn’t a very good eighth-inning guy or closer. The Marsh trade makes more sense knowing what came later—Odúbel Herrera was DFA’d minutes after news of Marsh’s arrival broke, and Moniak later went to the Angels in the Syndergaard deal. Marsh is only a career .239/.299/.354 hitter and just 18 months removed from being a global top-50 prospect. He doesn’t have to be much better to represent an upgrade on Herrera. (His defense is already superior to Herrera’s.)
The Phillies did pretty well, and didn’t give up any prospects with which they’ll regret parting. But if anything, they lost ground to the Braves and Cardinals. A bigger upgrade in the rotation or center field would’ve been nice. (Could the Phillies have somehow hijacked both ends of the Bader-Montgomery trade? No, of course not, they’re not the Pirates.) Particularly because if the Mariners’ acquisition of Castillo pays off, guess which team will suddenly own the longest playoff drought in MLB?
In: 1B Luke Voit, SS C.J. Abrams, OF Robert Hassell III, LHP MacKenzie Gore, OF James Wood, RHP Jarlin Susana, OF Trey Harris
Out: OF Juan Soto, 1B Josh Bell, INF Ehire Adrianza
Mike Rizzo was never, ever going to get close to full value for Soto, and sure enough, he didn’t. That’s why it didn’t make sense to trade him in the first place. But, well, what’s done is done. I’m not going to just sit here and dump all over the Nationals. (At least not in this column.) But every prospect they received in this deal comes with big risk. Abrams is struggling mightily (.232/.285/.320, four walks, and seven extra-base hits in 139 PA) in his first exposure to MLB pitching. Gore is currently injured and has only recently rediscovered the ability to throw strikes. And Wood and Hassell are years away.
On the other hand, the Nationals also got a ton of upside in this trade. Abrams and Gore are former global top-15 prospects, and Hassell and Wood are both hugely talented. (Though whoever told Jon Heyman that Wood is comparable to Willie McCovey should probably take a couple Tums and lie down.)
There’s a real possibility that this turns into the Gen Z version of the 2007 deadline trade that sent Mark Teixeira to Atlanta and Elvis Andrus, Neftalí Feliz, Matt Harrison, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Texas. But two and a half years of Soto is worth way more than one and a half years of Teixeira. And I’m not sure why Rizzo elected to add his other big trade chip, Bell, to that deal rather than pursuing a separate trade.
The Nationals got fleeced—there’s no sugarcoating that. But if they were determined to trade Soto, they were always going to get fleeced, and they could’ve gotten fleeced a lot worse than they were. Plus, they got a few players back that they can spin as the future of the franchise to a fan base that ought to be absolutely livid at the state of the team. This was far from the worst-case scenario.
What Are We Even Doing Here?
In: RHP Seth Johnson, RHP Chayce McDermott, LHP Cade Povich, RHP Yennier Canó, RHP Juan Nuñez, LHP Juan Rojas, OF Brett Phillips
Out: 1B Trey Mancini, RHP Jorge López, Cash
Listen, I get the argument. Mancini is in the last year of his deal, and Anthony Santander and Ryan Mountcastle have made him expendable as a solid-but-not-spectacular corner bat—which is a good thing. Plus, as much as the Orioles have overachieved, I don’t think they’ve got a real shot at the playoffs. So getting a couple of good prospects back for a player whose skills and position limit his value is nothing to sneeze at.
But let’s be blunt: After losing at least 108 games in each of the past three full seasons, CEO John Angelos and GM Mike Elias haven’t—or at least shouldn’t have—earned the social capital to embark on a policy of ruthless rationality at the trade deadline. This team is over .500 in August for the first time in six non-COVID-altered seasons, and just 2 1/2 games out of playoff spot at the deadline. Most of the current Orioles have never been in a playoff race before; and these two trades are a kick in the teeth both to a roster that has outperformed expectations and the fans who have gotten back on board. Surely, nobody expected Elias to sell the farm for Castillo or Montas, but going the other way—trading two of the team’s best and most popular players—is a slap in the face.
After the Mancini trade, the quotes coming out of the Baltimore clubhouse made the remaining Orioles sound like the cast of M*A*S*H after Henry’s plane got shot down. Then, the following morning, Baltimore traded its All-Star closer, a player with two full years of team control left, to a potential wild-card rival. Were you hoping that this overachieving team was about to turn the corner? Well, don’t. Until morale improves, the rebuild will continue.