Are we foolish enough to assign winners and losers of the trade deadline? Of course we are! And the best part: We could see more trades in August.
Winner: Sonny Gray
Put it this way: If you were a professional baseball player and had the freedom to sign anywhere, Oakland wouldn’t exactly be your first choice. Other than maybe the visitors’ clubhouse at Wrigley Field, the A’s have the worst facilities in the majors. More importantly, Gray gets to leave a last-place team for the first-place Yankees.
The Yankees will control him for two seasons beyond this one, so they’ve added a second rotation anchor alongside All-Star Luis Severino. Gray, 6-5 with a 3.43 ERA with the A’s and just eight home runs allowed in 97 innings, thanks to a high ground ball rate, could generate enough value to be the difference between winning the AL East and winning a wild card, and that’s why this deal looks like the most important of this trade deadline. If the Yankees can avoid that wild-card game (or win it), a postseason rotation of Severino, Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Jaime Garcia is good enough when combined with that power-packed bullpen to get the Yankees back to the World Series for the first time since 2009.
Loser: Boston Red Sox
Dave Dombrowski has traded 24 prospects since he took over the Red Sox, but with the system thinned out, his hands were somewhat tied, and the only deal he made was for reliever Addison Reed. Meanwhile, the Yankees added not only Gray but also relievers Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson and third baseman Todd Frazier. The Red Sox were the better team on paper heading into the season, but their offense remains last in the AL in home runs, and David Price is back on the DL. The truth is, Dombrowski knows that the best chance for Boston to get hot again is for the young Killer B’s to produce more and Price to return healthy and dominant. The Yankees, however, now have to rate as the favorites to win the division.
Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
It would have been easy for a team on pace for 114 wins to sit and do nothing — especially if the front office truly believes Clayton Kershaw will be 100 percent or close to it come October. Instead, Andrew Friedman & Co. did what they had to do: acquire Yu Darvish. Forget that 10-run outing in his latest start; Darvish is still an elite starter, and reports that he has been tipping his fastball could explain why he had a couple blow-up outings in July.
The Dodgers needed insurance not only for Kershaw but also for Alex Wood, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda, all of whom have had injury issues this year or in the recent past. On top of Darvish, they added some lefty bullpen help in Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani. The best team in baseball just got deeper and better.
Winner: Teams that struck early
Two of the biggest trades happened early, with the Chicago Cubs acquiring Jose Quintana from the Chicago White Sox and the Arizona Diamondbacks acquiring outfielder J.D. Martinez from the Detroit Tigers. Quintana has already made an impact with the Cubs, going 2-1 in three starts with a 2.37 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 19 innings. The fact that he is controlled through 2020 with two team options lessens the pain of trading away top prospect Eloy Jimenez. That was a win-now trade that the Cubs needed to make, but Quintana will help them the next three years as well. That’s a great deal for a team that will soon see Jake Arrieta and John Lackey heading into free agency.
The Martinez deal flew under the radar, but the Diamondbacks got him without giving up any significant prospects. He was the best bat available on the market, and even though teams always covet pitching this time of year, improving your offense can be just as valuable as improving your pitching. In nine games with Arizona, Martinez already has five home runs and 12 RBIs. If the Diamondbacks can survive the wild-card game that they’re likely headed to, they have enough top-shelf talent with the likes of Paul Goldschmidt, Martinez, Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray to pull off a first-round surprise.
Loser: Zach Britton
Last year, he was left standing on the mound in the Baltimore bullpen, as Buck Showalter refused to use him in an extra-inning loss in the wild-card game, waiting for a save opportunity that never came. This year, Britton has been left stranded again, stuck on a team going nowhere as the Orioles reportedly demanded a ransom.
The thing is, they weren’t going to get that. Britton hasn’t looked good since he came back from a sore elbow that had him on the DL for two months. The Orioles finally showcased him in back-to-back games over the weekend, but for just one out and two outs, so teams didn’t get a good read on whether he could go one inning on consecutive days. The Orioles didn’t necessarily make a mistake here — if Britton can find his form and dominate the final two months, they can still trade him in the offseason — but relievers usually extract more value at the trade deadline than in the offseason.
Loser: Houston Astros
They did pick up Francisco Liriano, and his ability to get lefties out should be a nice addition to the bullpen. But you have to wonder if the Astros should have made at least one more move — either to get a starting pitcher or to get more bullpen depth. The collapse of Lance McCullers in July (9.64 ERA in four starts) resulted in his landing on the DL on Monday, and the slow return of Dallas Keuchel from his neck injury leaves a lot of uncertainty in the rotation. The bullpen owns a 5.42 ERA the past two months, and Liriano isn’t going to fix that by himself. It has been a great regular season for the Astros, but the failure to land more pitching help is discouraging.
Loser: Texas Rangers
Think back to a year ago, when the Rangers gave up highly regarded outfield prospect Lewis Brinson to get Jonathan Lucroy. The season ended with a disappointing sweep in the division series to the Toronto Blue Jays, and now they sit four games under .500, gasping for breath in the wild-card race. Lucroy has been a big reason for that, hitting .242/.297/.338. He was traded to the Colorado Rockies for a player to be named (basically, the Rockies took on Lucroy’s contact). The Rangers gave up a lot to get Lucroy, didn’t win in 2016 or 2017 and didn’t get anything for him. Ouch.
Then there’s the Darvish trade. Willie Calhoun is an intriguing prospect, hitting .298 with 23 home runs at Triple-A Oklahoma City, but the Rangers didn’t get Alex Verdugo, Walker Buehler or Yadier Alvarez in the trade, all rated higher on the Dodgers’ prospect list. Calhoun is a second baseman/corner outfielder, but most scouts believe the glove won’t stick at second, so his bat will have to carry him. It isn’t an awful return, but it would have been nice for the Rangers to acquire a top-50 guy even for a rental such as Darvish.
Winner: Washington Nationals‘ bullpen
They added Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle earlier and acquired Brandon Kintzler from the Twins on Monday. They’ve gone from no good relievers to three! Good job, Mike Rizzo. OK, I shouldn’t dismiss Matt Albers and his 1.64 ERA so quickly. That’s four good relievers. Now, the Nationals just need Dusty Baker to sort through all these guys and Stephen Strasburg to show that he is healthy.
There was little interest in position players, so guys having solid seasons, such as Yonder Alonso (22 home runs, .900 OPS) and Jay Bruce (27 home runs, .850 OPS) didn’t get any action, even though teams such as the Red Sox, Yankees and Mariners could have used Alonso and teams such as the Rockies, Indians and Royals could have used Bruce. Both players could end up being moved in August during the waiver trade period, but it’s a little surprising that there wasn’t more interest in them.
Loser: Baltimore Orioles
Yes, I’m going to double-dip here. Not only did they not trade Britton, but they also traded for Jeremy Hellickson and Tim Beckham. What is the plan here? This is not a good team, and those two guys aren’t going to push the Orioles any closer to the playoffs. This is what can happen when ownership interferes with baseball operations.
For the most part, teams ended up hoarding their prospects like a 5-year-old with a bag full of Halloween candy. Give credit to the Yankees and Dodgers for acquiring two top starting pitchers without giving up any of their top-50 overall prospects. The buyers held firm, and the sellers broke at the last minute.