Major League Baseball’s trade deadline has come and gone. With the postseason chases heating up, some teams made a move to bolster their World Series odds, while others sat on the sidelines believing what they have is enough. However, this year is unlike previous years when teams could still acquire players via trade in August through waivers. What happened yesterday is done; now let’s look at the winners and losers.
Houston Astros: the Astros are tied with the Yankees for the best record in the American League and sit 1.5 games behind the Dodgers for the best record in baseball. They have a great lineup and solid pitching, but boy, were they busy. Houston reacquired Martin Maldonado, sending Tony Kemp to the Cubs, where Kemp may get a chance at more playing time than he got in Houston. To make room for Maldonado, Houston sent Max Stassi to the Angels for a couple of prospects. Houston also made an effort to bolster their pitching by trading Derek Fisher to Toronto; in exchange the Astros received Aaron Sanchez and Joe Bigiani. Houston also received prospect Cal Stevenson from Toronto in the Derek Fisher deal. So the Astros had a pretty solid day…
But wait, there’s more: With one of the best records in baseball, a loaded lineup, a nice 1–2–3 punch in their rotation and a nice day at the deadline, the Astros are done, right? Wrong! The Astros also pulled off a blockbuster deal, acquiring Zack Greinke from Arizona, though Jeff Luhnow paid a pretty steep price. Arizona receives pitchers Corbin Martin, J.B. Bukauskas, first baseman Seth Beer, and infielder Josh Rojas. It’s not a bad deal for either side; the Diamondbacks get quality prospects to help rebuild their organization. Houston bolsters their title odds, once again creating a rotation 1–4 with players capable of giving quality starts. Sure, Wade Miley may not consistently pitch deep into games, but he’s been a good compliment to Verlander and Cole. Add Greinke to the mix, who is 10–4 with a 2.90 ERA, and Houston goes from tough to frightening. Greinke is signed through 2021, so the price is worth it, especially if the Astros are able to win another World Series or two.
Atlanta Braves: the Braves may not have had the big blockbuster deal the Astros pulled, but they certainly made themselves better on paper. Atlanta signed Dallas Keuchel on June 7 to be an anchor in their rotation, but to boost their odds against the other contenders, the Braves needed to add more than just Keuchel to improve their pitching.
Which they certainly did, acquiring Shane Green from the Tigers and Mark Melancon from the Giants. Green is enjoying a career season with 22 saves, an 0.87 WHIP and just a 1.18 ERA. Melancon, who was solid for the Giants with a 3.50 ERA, gives the Braves some much-needed bullpen help. While the Dodgers once again reign supreme in the National League, the Braves have made enough of an effort to be LA’s biggest challenger come October.
New York Mets: before I get a bunch of raised eyebrows on this, the Mets are not big winners, but they should be considered a winner for their achievements at the trade deadline. They have a nice 1–2 punch with DeGrom and Syndegaard atop their rotation. Zack Wheeler has regressed from last season, but he’s not a bad fourth starter. To this the Mets added Marcus Stroman from Toronto. People are scratching their heads as to why the Mets would be buying, but they have won six games in a row and are just 4.5 back in the wild card race. Will adding Stroman push them to the playoffs this year? Perhaps not, but with the way their roster stacks up contractually, they could be positioning themselves for a big year next season.
The best-case scenario for the Mets: They get healthy and ride the silent wave into the playoffs, and with their rotation they could make things interesting. Worst case scenario: New York fails to make the playoffs but sets themselves up to make a run next season. Regardless, the Mets deserve credit for at least making an effort to put a winning product on the field.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers have been the bridesmaid the past two seasons, losing to the Red Sox and to the Astros at home in the World Series. The Dodgers’ biggest challenger, the Braves, have added reinforcements, the Yankees are loaded and have a great bullpen, and the whole world just saw the Astros push themselves up the pecking order among the contenders. How did the Dodgers respond? They only added Jedd Gyorko from the Cardinals, who’s really just insurance while three other players come back from injury.
As good as the Dodgers have been this year and in the previous two years, they have not won a World Series since 1988, and they watched Houston and Boston celebrate championships on their home field. I expected the Dodgers to turn every rock they could to give themselves better odds of winning a championship. They are dominating the weak National League, and maybe they’ll beat the Braves in the postseason. But a healthy Astros or Yankees team would run through them in the Fall Classic. Perhaps the Dodgers enjoy being the bridesmaid.
New York Yankees: The Yankees have had their share of injuries, and starting pitching has been a hot topic surrounding the Bronx Bombers. It looked like the Yankees and Diamondbacks were going to come together on a Robbie Ray trade, but then the talks went quiet. Adding insult to injury, the Astros became an even bigger monster than they already were, creating an angry mob of Yankees fans on Twitter. There is nothing funnier than opening Twitter and seeing Yankees fans losing their minds over the Greinke-to-Houston news.
Why? Mainly because of Houston’s rotation. If healthy, the Yankees are still just as good as Houston: they both have great offenses, though the Astros have the pitching edge.
New York has been battling the IL all season long, and per the injury report, it appears the Yankees will be coming close to full strength. At full strength they have the best odds of anyone to knock off a full-strength Astros team. What ultimately makes the Yankees deadline losers is that they have been in the news, rumored to be going after a big-name starting pitcher, only for them to wind up empty-handed. In the meantime, a fellow American League rival (the Astros) got another front-line starter to pair with their other two front-line starters.
Madison Bumgarner: Mad Bum has a no-trade clause in his contract, which is always a difficult deal to move. The player has to agree to waive the no-trade and agree to be traded to his proposed destination. The player also gets to name a preferred list of teams he is willing to okay a deal to, and those may be teams the player’s current franchise is not willing to make a deal with, such as a division rival or a team without a good farm system. Bumgarner had the Astros, Yankees, Red Sox, Braves, Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals, and Phillies on his no-trade list. If any of those eight approached the Giants with an offer, Bumgarner would be willing to waive his no-trade clause and would accept being traded. Given that Bumgarner is 30 years old and has not pitched a postseason game in three seasons, his list tells me he is itching to get back to pitching in October, something the Giants could give him this year, but likely not. Even if the Giants, who are currently in the thick of the Wild Card race, make the postseason, they are not strong enough to make any real noise.
What makes Bumgarner a deadline loser? The very fact that he sits on a team that poses zero postseason threat, while Stroman and Greinke got traded to teams who have better rosters. (Yes, the Mets are slightly better than the Giants, at least in my perspective.) One of them now plays for one of the teams on Bumgarner’s list (the Astros) and has a legitimate shot at a title.
Nobody really made a big splash move aside from the Astros who tipped the balance of power in their favor. It is easy to sit here and say the Astros are title favorites, which they are now, as well as point fingers as to who the winners and losers from the deadline are. In reality, the ultimate winner is decided in October. The deadline has passed, but the fun is just beginning as the postseason looms right around the corner.