2017’s trade deadline was an eventful yet expected ordeal. A lot of the guys we thought would be traded were, and the deals came in boatloads. The last hour had a flurry of action, with Sonny Gray, Yu Darvish and Brandon Kintzler all being moved at the buzzer. The deadline also featured dugout selfies of hot names, an unexpected but delightful twist as Twitter exploded over trade after trade.
The dugout selfies got exponentially better when, just minutes after he posted the tweet, thinking he’d stay with the team, Yu Darvish tweeted the photo above. It was Dwight Howard all over again.
To recap the deadline, we’re gonna group the active teams based on their moves and their current positioning in the standings.
The categories are…
- “We’re In This Thing”
- Plugging Holes
“We’re In This Thing”: New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles (LOL)
We’ll start with the Yankees. With Boston’s recent swoon and the AL East a stunning display of mediocrity (Sorry Tampa! If you keep this up another week I’ll maybe consider you.), the Yankees saw an opportunity. In all, New York picked up Todd Frazier, Sonny Gray, Jaime Garcia, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. The cost was heavy: Blake Rutherford, Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, James Kaprielian and Zack Littel are all gone.
The Yankees plugged their corner infield hole with Todd Frazier, who’s batting average isn’t much better than Chris Carter’s but can at least drive runs in (OPS is .751) and contribute some productive at-bats. They added two starters to a rotation that desperately needed upgrades; three ERA’s in the Yanks’ rotation was 4.00 plus. Sonny Gray is an ace who’s only 27 and is having an excellent bounce back season (123 ERA+, up from 71 last season). Jaime Garcia doesn’t statically help them, but a change of scenery might lead to an uptick in performance, and at this point it’s anything it takes to get Masahiro Tanaka more rest and less starts.
The bullpen, the best in baseball by Fangraphs WAR, got even better (A common trend of the deadline… More on that later). David Robertson is back and is having a great year. Tommy Kahnle is the young (ish) breakout star of the last two seasons and has been even more dominant than Robertson.
However, I’m not sure the Yankees’ moves are gonna live up to the hype. The “Yankees to the World Series” crowd is in full flock, and I don’t buy it yet. Secondly, there’s no way all those prospects (All quality ones by the way. Rutherford is a stud and I really like Mateo and Littel) are equal value to the players they traded for. There’s a chance this year is a flameout. Then what?
The Yankees have a great bullpen, a bunch of good bench guys and decent-enough pitching. But I don’t think this is a World Series lineup. Chase Headley and Matt Holiday are still out there batting. Half the time it’s been Aaron Hicks or Jacob Ellsbury in the outfield. I love numbers, and baseball’s the one sport where it’s almost all numbers, but at the end of the day, you need guys that are gonna get big hits and be able to play in World Series. Aaron Judge is a beast, but he can’t do it all. New York might pull a stunner and win the division, but it’s hard for me to see these trades really pay off.
The Royals followed a similar path, but have even longer odds to overcome. A run after the All-Star Break has vaulted them into 2nd in the AL Central and places them only two games back of Cleveland.
Kansas City added Melky Cabrera, Trevor Cahill, Brandon Maurer, and Ryan Buchter at the cost of practically nothing (I am not an AJ Puckett fan). Cabrera can help out in the outfield as Alex Gordon has been horrendous, plus can be a good DH and take Brandon Moss out of the lineup (Which is needed desperately). Trevor Cahill is the 5th starter they’ve needed all year as Nate Karns and Jake Junis have not gotten it done. Maurer’s been bad, but Ryan Buchter is a young bullpen arm having a great season.
KC’s addition were good value, but are they enough? I still don’t think this team is on Cleveland’s level. I trust two starters (Jason Hammel and Danny Duffy) on the mound in the postseason. There’s too many offensive holes. They still feel very average. Then again, it’s not much different than the team that won the 2015 Word Series. Still, it’s not a very talented team. I just can’t hop on yet.
The 3rd team in this category is just here so I can make fun of them. The Orioles currently sit in 4th place in the AL East, possess a terrible rotation and a couple nice trade chips like Seth Smith, Zach Britton and Brad Brach. Baltimore should have been featured in firesale mode, but instead decided to attempt to redeem their season by acquiring Jeremy Hellickson and Tim Beckham. It wasn’t too surprising, since Dan Duquette was spewing nonsense like this a little over a week ago.
Congrats on Jeremy Hellickson Dan! His ERA is 4.73! Which is the best in your rotation behind Dylan Bundy, who’s getting shut down anyways.
The trade itself was a disaster. Though already 29 in his second season, Hyun Soo Kim should have some years left. His numbers are down dramatically, but did you really expect him to bat .302 again?
Baltimore could have made this deadline extremely profitable, but instead bought into a flawed belief that this roster is capable of doing things.
The teams that decided to go all in at the deadline all have my doubts. If the Indians or Red Sox choke in October, maybe New York can make a run. But pound for pound, these teams are still a tier below.
Plugging Holes: Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals, Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers
It’s the contender’s row. This is the cream of the crop in baseball right now, and all were extremely active on Monday, and for good reason too.
We’ll start with the Dodgers, who probably made bigger splashes than anyone. While acquiring guys like Luke Farrell, Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani, the Dodgers also stuck their middle finger to the rest of baseball, pulling the trigger on Yu Darvish to make their rotation even better.
The Darvish trade was masterful. Though seemingly a tad unnecessary, Los Angeles gave up 60% of what I thought it’d take. Willie Calhoun is really good and very intriguing, but isn’t close to the value Darvish will give the Dodgers come October (Texas received two other top 30 prospects. Both are very raw though).
The Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw are infamous for their postseason chokes, but Darvish’s presence gives them insurance (I don’t trust Alex Wood on the mound in a big game) incase Kershaw is his postseason self.
In the meantime, Darvish is the ace of the staff with Kershaw out. The Dodgers were gonna be fine either way, but Yu is a massive addition, and makes the Dodgers practically unhittable, now or in the playoffs.
The Tony Watson addition is the only other trade worth mentioning. Watson, who’s been very solid this season, adds to an already stacked Dodgers bullpen. As you’ll see with these next teams, this deadline was all about relievers.
Washington’s main hole was the hottest commodity. In all prior to Monday, the Nationals traded for Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler, plus acquired Howie Kendrick for a reason that I’m still trying to figure out. But Washington’s deadline was very positive. Ryan Madson has a top 20 WAR total for relievers and has postseason experience. Doolittle has pitched less this year, but will be in an expanded role as the Nats’ new closer. Brandon Kintzler has also been sneakily great, and was the Twins’ No.1 asset.
Washington’s bullpen has been completely redone. It went from a collection of old, over-the-hill guys and unknowns to an array of star relievers.
The Kendrick trade was weird, but Washington has experienced a ton of injuries in the outfield this season, and Kendrick’s bat has actually been pretty productive. It’s a fine move, but Jayson Werth will be back soon, and it’s not like backup Brian Goodwin has been terrible.
The Diamondbacks’ biggest move happened two weeks ago with the JD Martinez trade, but that didn’t stop them from getting involved in the reliever market. David Hernandez is back in the desert, a move I couldn’t be more excited about. He’s in the top 30 in reliever WAR per Fangraphs, and his cost was extremely low. When two teams with farm systems like the Angels and Diamondbacks are trading with each other, it’s essentially one team asking “What piece of crap are you choosing today?”.
The Adam Rosales trade was a minor one, and was much more a reaction to Chris Owings’ injury than making a run for the World Series.
Cleveland attempted to dip their feet into some of the talks involving big names, but eventually settled on Joe Smith, another quality reliever who gives this stacked bullpen another arm.
Houston ended up in a similar situation as Cleveland, making only one trade for Francisco Liriano. It’s been a rough year for Liriano, but he won’t be starting games like he did in Toronto. Perhaps the lessened pressure and lower amount of innings he will face can turn his season around.
Boston’s biggest move occurred around a week ago, but like Arizona, they too joined in on the reliever frenzy. Addison Reed won’t show in the top 30 on Fangraphs, but his numbers have been ridiculous: 2.57 ERA, 166 ERA+, 8.8 SO/9. Reed is an underrated menace on the mound (Even with the mammoth home run he gave up in his Sox debut in that crazy Boston-Cleveland game last night), and will give Boston a powerful one-two punch late in games.
The Eduardo Nunez trade plugged 3rd base, which was plugged (negatively and literally considering his size) previously by Pablo Sandoval. Nunez has hit the ball very well this season, and is an excellent defender for his position.
I view the Reed trade as worth it. Though it was another two top 30 prospects out the door for the Red Sox, Reed is criminally undervalued and relieves worry at the end of games. We’ll see whether they pull out of this slump (Last night’s game should help), but for now the value checks out.
The Cubs are similar to Boston: A team that’s probably underperforming, that doesn’t care about giving up prospects, and who made big and small acquisitions at the deadline.
I already wrote about the Jose Quintana trade here…
The Justin Wilson trade was another of those “Why do they need him too?” deals, but in the playoffs you need as many arms as possible, starters or relievers combined. Wilson’s value has been decremented by his team, but by digging deeper you’ll realize that he’s actually been fantastic. He’s striking out 12.3 guys per nine innings, and gives up almost no contact compared to others.
It came at a heavy price, as 3rd baseman prospect Jeimer Candelario was sent to Detroit along with one other. Candelario is more important for Detroit than Chicago though, as the Tigers are trying to get younger and Chicago has their infield set for the future.
The last “contender” to make moves was Milwaukee, who I’ve been very skeptical of this season and who’s also starting to prove me right. Their bullpen additions consisted of Jeremy Jeffries, who they took right back from Texas after last year’s Jonathan Lucroy trade and Anthony Swarzak, one of the league’s best late-inning pitchers. Though I’m not sure they can get there, Jeffries and Swarzak would be huge in the playoffs. The Brewers might be falling apart, but Jeffries and Swarzak are two nice additions if the Brew Crew can get back on track.