It seemed like Tuesday’s MLB trade deadline might lose a little luster with all of the significant deals made in the last week. Well, it didn’t.
Pitching, as it generally is, was in big demand, but this year it seemed the percentage of pitchers acquired was much higher than position players before the deadline. That makes even more sense when you consider that entering Tuesday, 20 of the 30 MLB teams were either in postseason position or within five games of a playoff spot.
The biggest takeaways? The American League West will be a duel to the finish, with the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros battling for a division title and the Los Angeles Angels trying to get a certain duo to the playoffs. Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, teammates just a couple of days ago with the New York Mets, are now aging aces squaring off against each other with the Rangers and Astros, respectively.
The Mets and St. Louis Cardinals, both picked by many as preseason division favorites, were relegated to sellers, spinning off whoever they could for different reasons. The Chicago White Sox continued to slowly dismantle a roster some thought could contend this year. One of those deals was a fun Burger-Eder swap with the Miami Marlins. Two shakes, er, Jakes in that happy meal. Say it slowly. Burger Eder.
Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez was reportedly heading from the Detroit Tigers to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the left-hander had L.A. on his 10-team no-trade list and he exercised his right to not go in order to remain closer to his family.
With all of that in mind, the road to the postseason is officially paved, so let’s take a drive around and see what all 30 teams did. For this exercise, we are focused on the MLB talent, so most prospect names are absent. After all, prospects are suspect until they prove otherwise at the MLB level.
Records for each team are entering Tuesday’s play to demonstrate where each team stood before the deadline.
TEXAS RANGERS (60-46)
Analysis: The Rangers have quickly become power brokers in the AL, building a contender the last two offseasons and entering Tuesday a half-game ahead of the Astros in the West. But with Jacob deGrom’s future in doubt and RHP Nathan Eovaldi (right forearm strain) just going on the 15-day IL, the Rangers needed an ace for the stretch run and Scherzer was the answer. Montgomery, a pending free agent, also improves the rotation’s depth. A rotation of Scherzer, Eovaldi, Montgomery, LHP Dane Dunning and LHP Martín Pérez is strong enough to give the Rangers more than a fighting chance against the Astros, especially with the best offense in baseball. Stratton joins a bullpen almost a month after the Rangers got LHP Aroldis Chapman from the Royals. Getting Hedges provides insurance if C Jonah Heim (left wrist tendon strain) needs surgery, which would end his season.
HOUSTON ASTROS (59-47)
Analysis: Having made six straight postseason appearances, including winning five division titles, the Astros just needed a little bit more of an edge. Verlander certainly provides that, returning to the team with which he won the AL Cy Young a year ago in a remarkable Fountain of Youth season. His acquisition was so welcomed in the Astros’ clubhouse that LHP Framber Valdez was inspired to throw a no-hitter, facing the minimum 27 batters on just 93 pitches. More importantly, the Astros needed help in the rotation if they are to make another deep postseason run. RHPs José Urquidy, Luis Garcia, and Lance McCullers Jr. are all on the 60-day IL. Graveman also returns to the Astros, giving more experience to the bullpen.
Classics With a New Shine
Analysis: What do you get for the team that has a relentless feel? Well, definitely no need to soup up the offense. Instead, Atlanta tapped an unlikely source, the Rockies, for a pair of relievers in Hand and Johnson. They provide more quality to an already good relief corps that got better with LHP A.J. Minter (left shoulder, pectoral muscle) just activated off the 15-day injured list. Leading the National East by 11 games, Atlanta is well on its way to a sixth straight division title. It is World Series or bust for this group.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS (59-45)
Analysis: After deciding to rely on young guys to begin the season, the Dodgers have had to adjust on the fly as that plan hasn’t worked as expected. Still, L.A. entered Tuesday 2½ up in the NL West. The Dodgers are banking on Lynn to find some success based on the underlying numbers he has put up this season. Kelly and Hernandez return to L.A., while Yarbrough brings another lefty to the bullpen and Rosario infield depth. That little bit of a boost could be enough to solidify the Dodgers’ position atop the West.
BALTIORE ORIOLES (64-41)
Analysis: A team with a young core of top prospects often doesn’t need a lot to get that extra spark. Flaherty just might be the right fit to fuel the Orioles through the final two months in the rugged AL East. One of those prospects was RHP Tyler Wells, who was sent to Double-A for a break after recent struggles. He figures to be back after a quick reset. The Baby Birds made their move in July, going 17-9, including an eight-game winning streak. That helped them supplant the Rays atop the AL East. After an up-and-down experience in stodgy St. Louis, Flaherty figures to fit in well with the young roster in Baltimore.
TAMPA BAY RAYS (64-44)
Analysis: Having dealt with a wealth of pitching injuries, particularly in the rotation, the Rays did what the Rays do. They made a trade for an unexpected arm in Civale, who was the ace of the Guardians this season. The right-hander is under club control for another two seasons and now joins Shane McClanahan, Tyler Glasnow, and Zach Eflin. Sampson provides depth in the minors after being a surprise in the Cubs’ MLB rotation a year ago.
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (57-50)
Analysis: The D’backs had a rough July, going 8-16. But with much of the core young, there wasn’t a whole lot of room to make a major move. Sewald—acquired from the Mariners for IF Josh Rojas , 1B-OF Dominic Canzone, and a prospect—figured to add to the bullpen depth, but then LHP Andrew Chafin was dealt to the Brewers. Pham was one of the few Mets who performed above expectations and could give the young D’backs the boost they need. Whatever lessons are learned down the stretch will certainly set up greater expectations in 2024.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (58-49)
Key additions: OF A.J. Pollock (Mariners), IF Mark Mathias (Mariners)
Analysis: The Giants quietly have surged into second place in the NL West, just 2½ games behind the Dodgers, so the odd chemistry experiment that is taking place in San Francisco is working. Pollock and Mathias are simply depth pieces. The outfield depth has taken a hit recently, including Mike Yastrzemski (left hamstring strain) going on the 10-day injured list. The Giants might have been hunting for another starter as RHP Anthony DeSclafani (right elbow flexor strain) just went on the 15-day IL.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (56-49)
Analysis: One of the healthier rosters in MLB, Lorenzen provides the flexibility to start or relieve. He will begin as a starter as the Phillies will go with a six-man rotation. Castro is a good bench piece with his positional versatility.
MIAMI MARLINS (57-49)
Analysis: Yes, the Fish were buyers and did pretty well. Robertson will anchor the back end of the bullpen, while Burger and Bell will add a little power to a contact-first offense. With rookie RHP Eury Pérez set to return to the rotation following a break of about a month to not overextend his young arm, that might be all the Marlins need in what will be a heavily contested race to the finish for an NL wild-card berth.
MILWAUKEE BREWERS (57-49)
Analysis: Santana and Canha are slight upgrades to the offense and are better replacements for the injured 1B Rowdy Tellez (fractured left ring finger), who is still at least a couple of weeks away. Canha will play both corner OF spots, with rookie Sal Frelick likely getting more time in CF with Joey Wiemer. Chafin, dealt for RHP Peter Strzelecki, deepens a good bullpen and provides a second lefty. The Brewers are poised to get LHP Wade Miley (left elbow discomfort) and Brandon Woodruff (right shoulder strain) back. Miley is scheduled to return to the rotation today and Woodruff could have made his last rehab start Tuesday.
Tune-up Coming Soon
CINCINNATI REDS (58-49)
Key additions: LHP Sam Moll (A’s)
Analysis: The upstart leaders of the NL Central could use an injection of pitching, but opted to wait for internal upgrades. RHP Hunter Greene (right hip pain) and LHP Nick Lodolo (left tibia stress reaction) are set to return in August. The question is will the Reds be able to maintain their standout play since early June? 2B Jonathan India (left plantar fasciitis) went on the 10-day IL just two days before the deadline and could have been a trade chip. He is a candidate to be moved in the offseason as more prospects are ready to come up.
Like the New Paint Job?
LOS ANGELES ANGELS (55-51)
Analysis: The Angels have gone 11-5 since the All-Star break and pulled within three games of a wild-card spot in the AL. Will these moves be enough to get to the playoffs for the first time with OF Mike Trout and P-DH Shohei Ohtani as teammates? Maybe. Will it make a difference in keeping Ohtani? Doubtful. Losing OF Taylor Ward (facial fractures) was a blow to the offense. How much Grichuk and Cron add is debatable and the prospect cost will be felt in the near future.
SAN DIEGO PADRES (52-55)
Analysis: Sitting five games out of the last NL wild-card spot and needing to leapfrog four teams, the underachieving Padres have shown a little life recently and decided to add to the roster. Hill and Barlow are definitely upgrades from what the Padres had been trotting out there and Choi will be a nice bench player. Barlow has struggled this year, but was that due to what is happening in a bad year for the Royals?
Roadside Assistance Needed
SEATTLE MARINERS (54-51)
Analysis: The magic of last year hasn’t reappeared for the Mariners, yet they entered Tuesday just 3½ games out of the last AL wild-card spot. Losing Sewald hurts, but the return of IF Josh Rojas, 1B-OF Dominic Canzone, and a prospect will ease that pain. Adding Rojas also means the end of 2B Kolten Wong’s disastrous stay in Seattle as the two-time Gold Glove winner was designated for assignment.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS (59-47)
Analysis: The Jays were a chic pick for the World Series before the season and while things have clicked as expected, Toronto is in the thick of the fierce AL East battle royale. Content with their roster, the Jays were unable to make any moves that didn’t appear to be injury-related. Two deals with the Cardinals brought in fill-ins for closer Jordan Romano (lower back inflammation) and SS Bo Bichette (right knee), who got good news after being hurt Monday. Hicks has controlled his blazing arsenal to become a top closer, while DeJong will upgrade the defense and could steal a little playing time from Bichette if he doesn’t miss significant time.
BOSTON RED SOX (56-49)
Key subtractions: IF-OF Kiké Hernández
Analysis: In the very competitive AL East, the Red Sox stood pat. Other than a late trade for Brewers IF Luis Urías, who was in Triple-A after struggling following his return from injury, the Red Sox raised eyebrows by not making an impactful move.
NEW YORK YANKEES (55-50)
Key additions: RHP Keynan Middleton (White Sox)
Analysis: Up until about 5 minutes before the deadline, the Yankees were the only team in MLB that had not made a trade since July 1. A middling bullpen piece was the only move for the last-place team in the AL East. Maybe previous deadline disasters made the Bombers skittish.
MINNESOTA TWINS (54-53)
Key additions: RHP Dylan Floro (Marlins)
Analysis: The AL Central leaders did nothing but a change-of-scenery trade, sending RHP Jorge López to the Marlins for Floro. Another bat would have been nice. Not a lot needs to be done to win this division.
CLEVELAND GUARDIANS (53-54)
Key additions: RHP Noah Syndergaard (Dodgers)
Analysis: The Guardians acted like they were in last place than just being a half-game out of the AL Central lead. They dealt their best pitcher this season, RHP Aaron Civale, to the Rays. This came after trading SS Amed Rosario to the Dodgers for Syndergaard. At the deadline buzzer, the Guardians then traded 1B Josh Bell to the Marlin for IF Jean Segura and SS-2B prospect Kahlil Watson. It was really just a deal for Watson, the Marlins’ 2021 first-round pick, as Segura will be released. Not only is Segura due the rest of his $6.5 million salary for 2023, but $8.5 million for 2024 and a $2 million buyout for 2025.
Are We Going the Right Way?
CHICAGO CUBS (53-52)
Analysis: After winning 10 out of 11 got the Cubs within a smelling distance of a playoff spot, the front office decided to hold on to its two best trade assets, CF-1B Cody Bellinger and RHP Marcus Stroman. Bellinger is a free agent this offseason and Stroman has a $21 million player option that he is likely to decline. The only noteworthy addition was Candelario, also a pending free agent. Candelario is likely to play quite a bit at the other corner infield spot, so the Cubs decided to part ways with 1B Trey Mancini. The Cubs did deal minor-league RHP Adrian Sampson, who helped stabilize the rotation in 2022, in a minor trade with the Rays.
NEW YORK METS (50-55)
Analysis: After dealing one three-time Cy Young Award winner, it was just a matter of time before the Mets dealt another three-time Cy Young. Scherzer and Verlander have the two highest single-season salaries at $43.3 million and it didn’t work. So owner Steve Cohen’s money was used to purchase prospects. Verlander, the reigning AL Cy Young, returned to the Astros for Houston’s top prospect, OF Drew Gilbert (No. 44 in MLB), and the No. 4 in OF Ryan Clifford. It cost Cohen $52.5 million, leaving the Astros on the hook for $29 million over the next two seasons if Verlander’s vesting option is triggered. SS-2B Luisangel Acuña wasn’t even the Rangers’ top prospect (No. 3 by MLB Pipeline, No. 44 in MLB). That is what they got for $35 million, which is Scherzer’s salary for the rest of this year and about half of next season. (Reminder that each team has its own rankings of prospects.) The Mets did add two pitchers, Phil Bickford and Adam Kolarek, in a late cash deal with the Dodgers. Could the Mets be clearing the decks to entice Brewers executive David Stearns to take over as head of baseball operations of the team he grew up on as a kid?
PITTSBURGH PIRATES (47-58)
Analysis: What once was a very upbeat season turned sour in May and went even further south in July, putting the Pirates in sell mode. The good news is the veterans added to fill gaps this season brought back assets that will aid the future. RHP Mitch Keller and RHP David Bednar were mixed in rumors, but the starter and closer are staying put and are candidates for contract extensions.
DETROIT TIGERS (47-59)
Key subtractions: RHP Michael Lorenzen
Analysis: Lorenzen and LHP Eduardo Rodriguez were the only real tradable pieces. Rodriguez continues to be puzzling for the Tigers. While it is admirable that E-Rod wants to remain close to his family, even for the next couple of months, the Tigers could lose the lefty if he opts out, as expected. As the rebuild continues, a nice return for Rodriguez could have helped.
Need a New Path
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (47-60)
Analysis: The deadline went better than the season has gone, with the Cardinals dealing pending free agents and reshaping their minor-league system with hard-throwing pitchers. The news was not all good as 2B Brendan Donovan (right flexor strain) is undergoing season-ending surgery. The moves will help set the basis for what promises to be a busy offseason.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX (43-64)
Analysis: In the last week, the White Sox traded six pitchers off their MLB roster, with RHP Dylan Cease, last year’s AL Cy Young runner-up, being heavily pursued. SS Tim Anderson has underperformed this season and might need a change of scenery. He has a club option of $14 million for next year, so maybe the White Sox try and deal him in the offseason after not really being tempted at the deadline.
Road to Nowhere
WASHINGTON NATIONALS (44-62)
Key subtractions: 3B Jeimer Candelario
Analysis: Dealing Candelario was expected. But it was also thought RHP Kyle Finnegan would be on the move for the Nats, who are not going anywhere this year and probably not next year, either, after finishing in last place in the NL East the last two years and fourth in 2020. Keep enjoying that 2019 World Series title!
COLORADO ROCKIES (42-64)
Analysis: The Rockies get a participation trophy after sitting out last year’s trade deadline. Let me know when there is a plan. Right, Kris Bryant?
KANSAS CITY ROYALS (32-75)
Analysis: Have the Royals explained why they didn’t just deal for LHP Taylor Hearn when he was designated for assignment by the Rangers? Must have been an impressive one-game with Atlanta that prompted the trade of the popular Lopez. (Hint: It wasn’t. Four runs in one-third of an inning.) It just epitomizes was has been a puzzling season in K.C.
OAKLAND A’S (30-77)
Analysis: This feels like finding a few worthy pieces of meat left on the corpse of a dead bird.