It is likely way too early to determine the winners and losers of the MLB trade deadline when the deadline is only hours old. We will know much more in coming weeks about how the traded players have performed in their new uniforms, and we will know a lot more in the coming years about how the swapped prospects are helping their new organizations. And those aren’t even all of the variables, most of which have to do with things like contracts, budgets and collective bargaining agreements. The fun stuff. With all of that in mind, it’s not like we can just let these deals go by without offering takes! It’s no fun to sit back and say, about everything, that we need to wait to pass judgment. No we do not! So let’s get to the appraisals.
Dodgers — Huge winners. They used their deep minor-league resources to add right-hander Max Scherzer and slugger Trea Turner from the Nationals, along with left-hander Danny Duffy from the Royals, who will slot into their bullpen for high leverage. The Dodgers were a playoff team before the deal, although the Giants and Padres were going to be tough to overcome in the NL West, and life as a Wild Card is always dicey. The Dodgers still might finish out of first, but Scherzer is another ace who makes them a lot more threatening in a playoff series. Turner, out right now because of COVID-19, is one of the very best offensive players in MLB, and acts as an insurance policy for shortstop Corey Seager and outfielder Cody Bellinger. Pretty cool policy to have. They might regret not getting another right-handed stopper for the bullpen, but they’re also deep enough to come up with something if Kenley Jansen continues to be wonky in the ninth.
White Sox — Big, big winners. Adding relief ace Craig Kimbrel from the Cubs to their own relief ace, Liam Hendriks, gives them probably the best 1-2 bullpen punch in the majors. They also reinforced the middle of their pen by adding Ryan Tepera from the Cubs in an earlier deal. If they have their starting pitching running at peak in October, they’re going to be hard to beat in the postseason. Bringing in César Hernández to play second base after losing Nick Madrigal to injury (he went to the Cubs for Kimbrel) solidifies the infield and lineup. They’re also getting healthier, with Eloy Jiménez returning from his Spring Training injury and Luis Robert on the verge of returning from his April hip injury. Most of all here in trading season, the Sox benefited from teams like Minnesota and Cleveland selling off starting players to teams outside of the AL Central. Getting to the playoffs is going to be easier than making an uncontested layup, stroking a straight two-foot putt, or scoring an empty netter. As for the price they paid for Kimbrel: It was significant, but Madrigal wasn’t going to help them this season and Kimbrel has a club option for 2022 (as does Hernández at second). The Sox’s window to win is now.
Giants — Big winners. Adding slugger Kris Bryant, and paying the rest of his salary until he goes to free agency, was a masterstroke by GM Farhan Zaidi. He can play third base until Evan Longoria comes back, and could go anywhere in the outfield thereafter. While not sizzling at the plate like he was in the first half, something says he’s going to feel rejuvenated playing for the Giants, leaders of the NL West. Getting in good with Bryant by paying his freight tells him and agent Scott Boras that San Francisco might make sense for him in the long run. It was a good trade for the Giants for now, but if he stays? Brilliant trade.
Yankees — Pretty big winners. They probably weren’t going to make the playoffs without making some significant deals, but adding tall lefty sluggers Joey Gallo (from the Rangers) and Anthony Rizzo (from the Cubs) to the lineup at least makes them look a little more like the Yankees. And they didn’t have to go over MLB’s luxury tax to do it, which makes Hal Steinbrenner happy, even if it doesn’t do anything to feed revenue sharing, which the rest of the league could use sometimes, you know?! They also added left-hander Andrew Heaney of the Angels. His ERA isn’t great, but he’s a better pitcher than that, and he definitely can take some strain off the bullpen by getting to the six inning frequently. They paid a big price in prospects for Gallo, who is under contract for 2022 as well, but it’s ridiculous to say it wasn’t worth a shot at the playoffs (this season and next). Gallo is one of the best sluggers (and defensive outfielders) in the league, and the Yankees can just keep scouting and drafting well to replenish their minor-league rolls.
Athletics — Slight winners. They added outfielder Starling Marte from the Marlins at a significant cost, left-handed pitching prospect Jesús Luzardo, and Oakland doesn’t seem like a long-term fit for any free agents (frankly, so it’s this pennant push and adios, probably. It’s a really old-fashioned leap, moving such a highly touted prospect for an expiring contract. Does this A’s team feel like a World Series winner? They’re a second-place team, 12 games over .500 with a +46 run differential. It’s a big gamble, giving away Luzardo’s potential, but maybe they see something that mutes his effectiveness going forward. They also added left-hander Andrew Chafin to shore up the bullpen, taking advantage of the Cubs sale, and added catcher Yan Gomes and Josh Harrison from the Nats to take advantage of their sale.
Blue Jays — Slight winners. A lot of evaluators dislike the trade with the Twins for right-hander Jose Berríos because Toronto surrendered two top-50 overall prospects in shortstop Austin Martin and right-hander Simeon Woods-Richardson. It’s a price the Padres (for example) could regret not paying for Berríos, but the Jays aren’t necessarily as close to a World Series. Next season, they ought to be. They will get at least another season from Berríos and could sign him to a contract extension. They probably have to, right? Berríos isn’t quite like adding Max Scherzer, but he’s a solid No. 2 starter, a valuable piece these days. They also added left-hander Brad Hand and righty Joakim Soria to pad the bullpen.
Angels — Slight winners. Here’s a take: It would have been a mistake to move Raisel Iglesias, but they held onto him despite swirling rumors, which makes the Angels a deadline winner. In a light selling mode, they moved left-hander Andrew Heaney to the Yankees and reliever Tony Watson back to the Giants, which isn’t going to help them get any closer in the AL Wild Card race — but it might not hurt that much, either. But keeping Iglesias is (or should be) more about next season. The Angels’ bullpen has been bad mostly, but Iglesias has been on a good roll since a tough start. The Angels are going to try again to compete in 2022, building around Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, and it makes sense to keep Iglesias and try to sign him to an extension in that effort. The prospect(s) they might have gotten for Iglesias were not going to help them win any games next season. Iglesias might. Good non-move by GM Perry Minasian.
Braves — Slight winners. They are in a similar position in the standings to the Angels. Around .500, a few games back in the NL East, but they also sense the Mets’ dysfunction and went on the offensive with several buzzer-beating additions. The best one — maybe — was adding reliever Richard Rodriguez from the Pirates, though he has struggled since his spin rate dropped coincidentally when they started checking pitchers for tacky substances. The Braves bullpen has been OK, but it definitely could use help from the right side. They recently added Joc Pederson to bolster their outfield in the wake of Ronald Acuña’s season-ending injury, but that didn’t stop them from bringing in Jorge Soler from the Royals, Eddie Rosario from Cleveland and old friend Adam Duvall from the Marlins. Of the additions, only Duvall has been MLB average this season at the plate, but his best seasons came with Atlanta in the previous two years, and he plays a very good right field. Soler was absolutely lost at the plate until the second half started, and over the past nine games he’s slugging .900. Rosario was having his worst season before being placed on the injured list because of his abdomen, but if he’s healthy he’s a useful player on offense and in left field.
Red Sox — Slight winners. They have one of MLB’s best offenses, yet still added Kyle Schwarber to the lineup. Once he’s recovered from a strained right hamstring, he will give Boston the big lefty bat (.253/.340/.570, 24 HR in 303 plate appearances) it had lacked in an otherwise strong lineup. Schwarber has been a below-average outfielder for most of his career, and he’s only played first base in one game for three pitches, for the Cubs in 2017, but Boston will try him at first anyway. They also added right-hander Hansel Robles (via Minnesota) for a minor-leaguer and left-hander Austin Davis (via Pittsburgh) to the bullpen, sending Michael Chavis to the Pirates. They could have used another starting pitcher, but they’re apparently expecting that person to be Chris Sale, who is close to returning from Tommy John.
Rays — Shaky winners. Getting slugger Nelson Cruz has been and will be helpful, and they have relief depth so losing Diego Castillo for a prospect isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it still seems odd to subtract pitching. They still might be short a starting pitcher for the postseason, even if Tyler Glasnow is able to compete before October. They also should hope the Yankees and Blue Jays don’t both have huge second-half surges in them that cost Tampa Bay a playoff spot.
Reds — Winners. It took management too long to add to a core that was just begging for help, but they did get help for the bullpen, at least: Right-handers Luis Cessa and Mychal Givens, and lefty Justin Wilson will help the Reds hang in the NL Central and Wild Card races, and none of the new guys the team anything they couldn’t spare. Perhaps just as importantly, the moves told the players they were appreciated, according to injured slugger Nick Castellanos.
“This sends such a good message to everybody,” Castellanos said. “To the fan base, to the players. We really see that and we appreciate the front office and ownership for that.
Astros — Itty bitty winners. They added right-hander Phil Maton, but it cost them their starting center fielder, Myles Straw. Chas McCormick and prospect Jake Meyers might do a better job anyway. Earlier, they added Kendall Graveman from the Mariners and Yimi Garcia from the Marlins, so Houston’s relief pitching is stacked.
Cubs — Whoo boy, these losers. Cubs fans watched the organization squander what remained of the core of a World Series winner from five years ago and get very little in return once they committed to punting. They toyed with Bryant’s service time as a rookie and only got lower-level prospects from the Giants. They went cheap on Anthony Rizzo’s contract extension offer and dealt him for marginal prospects. They did better on Javier Báez. But they also let Kyle Schwarber go for nothing. That shouldn’t count against any trade-deadline grade, but it is evidence of the roster malpractice of recent seasons. Schwarber was sympathetic when asked at the All-Star Game (hint-hint) about the Cubs potential deconstruction.
Would it hurt Schwarber to see what’s left of the Cubs’ World Series core — namely Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez — pulled apart?
“Yeah, man, it kind of would,” he said. “But you know what? I don’t even worry about the guys. I know that the fans will be hurt, probably, but this is the business side of baseball. I got a taste of the business side of baseball, too. But the guys, who are my friends, they’re going to be just fine. They’re going to be great baseball players wherever they go, and I think that’s the biggest thing.”
They also made a deal with the crosstown Sox, flipping Kimbrel for Madrigal and reliever Codi Heuer. Great value for Kimbrel’s contract, which has an expensive club option for 2022. Madrigal, while a little redundant considering Nico Hoerner’s presence, should be healthy by Spring Training, and Heuer can pitch better than he has this season. This deal is a plus. But they’re still deadline losers.
Padres — Losers. Non-winners. Defeated. They appeared to be on the verge of adding Scherzer — at least that’s how it looked on Twitter — but the Dodgers trumped whatever stew general manager A.J. Preller had cooking. They also were said to be suitors for Jose Berríos, but the Blue Jays sent two top-50 overall prospects to the Twins instead and the Padres wouldn’t meet that ransom. They did add Adam Frazier earlier, and before the deadline right-hander Daniel Hudson from the Nationals and outfielder Jake Marisnick from the Cubs. Good pieces, but the net loss of losing Scherzer to the Dodgers might tip the balance. Not adding a starter definitely puts a strain on San Diego’s rotation, which has slumped collectively for two months. If Chris Paddack, Dinelson Lamet and Blake Snell can return to form, they’ll get by fine, and could even thrive. It would help keep the bullpen from getting overworked. But, like the Dodgers, the Padres have pitching depth in the minors that could help in an urgency.
Mets — Pretty big losers. Adding infielder Javier Báez from the Cubs was a solid move, and it gives them a fun double play combination with Francisco Lindor. But they paid a steep price for Báez in Pete Crow-Armstrong, their first-rounder from 2020 who’s just 19 years old. They also missed on Kris Bryant, whom they coveted forever, and didn’t add pitching beyond lefty Rich Hill a week ago. Pitching is still their thing, as long as they get Jacob deGrom back. They’re lucky no one has been capable of making a move on them in the NL East. It’s also hard to project them getting very far into the postseason tournament.
Rockies — These guys are such losers. Their front office dangled Trevor Story for trades but committed to none of them and now face offering him a qualifying offer they know he certainly won’t accept because he can see how pathetically they’ve handled not only Story but everything else. This quote from Story says it all:
Mariners — Significant losers. Specifically GM Jerry Dipoto, who rocked the boat before the deadline so he could get a marginally better closer from the Rays in Diego Castillo, whose biggest asset is that he can’t leave in free agency until 2025, and Abraham Toro, an infield prospect of questionable value going forward. All it cost Dipoto was whatever respect he had in the M’s clubhouse and prospect Austin Shenton, a 23-year-old third base prospect Seattle could use next year and beyond. Dipoto conceded he failed to add any more talent, citing high prices from potential trade partners, to help the M’s reach the playoffs for the first time in 20 years.
Twins — They were out of it this season, but were they also out of the running in 2022? Because that’s what it seems like now that Berríos is traded. No doubt they did well in adding prospects, but should that be the Twins’ chief concern right now? They’re already doing well in the prospect department, but starting pitchers who get out big-league lineups are rarer than ever.