The rich got richer. That was the theme for this trade deadline. The Yankees, currently leading the AL East and playing great baseball right now, made a huge splash by trading for Oakland A’s ace Sonny Gray. The Dodgers, who have the best record in baseball, added all-star Yu Darvish and acquired bullpen help all just hours before the deadline. The defending world champion Cubs also made big moves, going out and getting Jose Quintana, a reliable backup catcher in Alex Avila, and Tigers closer Justin Wilson. These teams are in great shape to win this year and went out and solidified their position by adding marquee names. Other teams in contention failed to make any major moves to address their key weaknesses and because of that, you will see the gap between these teams and their main contenders likely widen.
Now let’s look at the Deadline Winners and Losers.
New York Yankees
The biggest winner at the trade deadline this year must be the New York Yankees. After being big sellers at the deadline only a year ago, the Yankees have made a quick turnaround to being the biggest buyers in 2017. The trading frenzy began early, a week and a half before the deadline, when the Yankees filled several holes by getting Todd Frazier to man 3rd base and bullpen help in the form of David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. Frazier appears to be heading towards the end of his career, seeing his average drop mightily since 2014, down to a shade above the Mendoza line (.200) this season. However, he still plays solid defense and brings a veteran position to a position that previously had been a liability all season for the Yankees. The biggest piece in this trade is the guy least known, Tommy Kahnle. Kahnle has an electric fastball averaging 97.97 MPH this season and a phenomenal ERA of 2.34 so far in 2017, which is down to 1.42 in 7 appearances for the Yankees thus far.
Next, they added veteran lefty Jaime Garcia to their rotation which was crucial after losing Pineda for the season. As previously mentioned, the big move came on the day of the deadline, acquiring Sonny Gray from the A’s. The great thing about this trade is Gray (6-5, 3.43 ERA) is not simply a rental, but is under team control until 2020. The Yankees did pay a steep price for Gray, trading three top prospects. However, the price was smaller for their other acquisitions, and all in all, the Yankees avoided trading their best prospects, so they did not sacrifice their future through these trades. The Yankees now have 6 starting pitchers for 5 spots, depth which could be huge should they lose another arm to injury. They added quality depth to the ‘pen. They also added a proven third baseman in Todd Frazier. Through these deadline acquisitions, the Yankees seem poised to challenge the Astros in the AL and potentially win the whole thing this year.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers, who already have a stellar rotation, added to their strength by adding all-star Yu Darvish from the Rangers. This team already has the best record in baseball, and a rotation which includes Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, and Rich Hill, with Kenley Jansen closing the door. However, anything can happen in the postseason, so the Dodgers made sure to leave as little to chance as possible. If those four starters stay healthy, what team in the NL has any chance of matching up with them? Darvish is a rental, so the Dodgers did not have to give up as much as the Yankees did to receive Gray, giving up a trio of prospects, the best being the Dodgers’ 4th ranked prospect, infielder Willie Calhoun. The Dodgers also bought low on a few relief pitchers, Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani, who should help bolster the bullpen if either can benefit from a change of scenery and return to past form. The Dodgers were already the best team in baseball and did not have to make any deals at all. But, by adding a top-of-the-line starter, the Dodgers have to be the team to beat in the MLB and I would be surprised if this team does not come close to winning 105-110 games.
The Cubs made the first big splash of the season getting Jose Quintana from their cross-town rival White Sox. At the All-star break, the Cubs were 2 games below .500 and several back of the Brewers in the NL Central. So, they acted early and traded for the White Sox’s ace. They gave up a haul to receive Quintana, but with a big league team loaded with youth, it is easier to trade away prospects. Quintana has turned in 3 straight quality starts since joining the Cubs, and the team now sits 8 games above .500 and 2.5 games ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central. Last night, they also added a quality backup catcher in Alex Avila to fill in for Miguel Montero who was designated for assignment because he criticized his pitchers after not throwing out a base stealer all season (link below). Lastly, they received Tigers closer Justin Wilson who has been a shutdown lefty all season, with 55 strikeouts and a 2.68 ERA in 40.1 innings. The Cubs did not expect to find themselves in a divisional race before the season, but took the proper steps to making sure they won that race by strengthening an aging rotation and addressing several smaller needs in the process.
The best team in the AL appeared to be perfectly content with their roster at the trade deadline, only making one minor move by adding Francisco Liriano (5.88 ERA) to their bullpen. While arguably their three biggest threats to winning a World Series are all sitting on the Winners list above happy with their additions, the Astros did nothing. Their lineup is deadly and needed no additions, but their rotation definitely needed some help. After Dallas Keuchel, the Astros have Lance McCullers, who had been very bad lately before being placed on the DL last night. After that, the Astros have several guys who have pitched well this season, but are unproven in the playoffs and one must question if their better-than-expected performance can continue. This comment becomes especially true when looking at the team’s monthly ERAs, which have increased from 3.38 to 3.60 to 4.79 to 4.99 in the past four months. The Astros are a very good team and could still win the World Series with the players currently on the roster. However, for a team with ZERO World Series victories, you would hope they would not sit back and be complacent with this great opportunity to get their first. Especially when looking at the additions by the teams on the list above.
This has to be the weirdest Trade Deadline team in the MLB. They were buyers, but not big enough to dramatically help the team. The Orioles sit 6.5 games out of first in the AL East, and 5.5 games behind the second wild card. They are in 4th in the East and there are three teams ahead of them in the wild card race, and are tied with two more. The Orioles are projected to have a 4.9% chance of making the playoffs and only have 76 wins this season. But, they still trade for starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and infielder Tim Beckham. Hellickson is a rental for a team with a subpar rotation, and they must view Beckham as a replacement for Hardy moving forward. These moves will simply not get them over the hump. To make this situation even weirder, the Orioles controlled two of the most desired relievers on the market in Zach Britton and Brad Brach, but did nothing with them. The Orioles have one of the worst farm systems in the MLB and are not good enough to make the playoffs this season. But instead of trading their short-term assets to improve that farm system and build for the future, the Orioles decided to go for it? I guess? This franchise seems to be in disarray with no clear plan for the future. Best of luck to you, O’s fans. Could be tough sledding for a while.
And Zach Britton is stuck doing this for an irrelevant ball club.
Boston Red Sox
It is tough to put the Red Sox in this losers category, as I really did like their additions. They addressed a major hole at 3B by adding Eduardo Nunez who has been on a tear since joining the club. They also added a stud back-of-the-bullpen arm in Addison Reed. However, they did not address their rotation, which looms large with David Price on the DL again with elbow issues. Outside of Sale and Pomeranz, this rotation has been lackluster at best. Porcello has not been good this year, sitting at 4-14 with a 4.55 ERA. Fister pitched great last night filling in for Price, but his season statistics make that appear to be an outlier. The Red Sox needed to add a big time starter if they wanted to make a strong push at the World Series this year. Meanwhile, their AL East rival Yankees added Gray, and improved their team drastically more than the Red Sox, meaning it looks like the Red Sox will be left trying to hang on to a wild card spot down the stretch.