The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone. What kind of impact can we expect from MLB trades that were made? Which trades made the most sense? Which ones are hard to understand? What teams were appropriately aggressive, and who should have dialed it back a notch?
These were the most significant trades at the 2017 deadline, along with what we think of them.
Chicago Cubs land Jose Quintana
This is significant from a few aspects. One, while the Cubs and Chicago White Sox aren’t division rivals, they do share a market. Those trades are rare in baseball. Two, the contending Cubs needed a good front-line starter to have any hope at repeating. If we’re talking about contenders, calling Quintana a No. 2 starter is a reach. But he’s a solid No. 3. Lastly, it was one of many trades made by the White Sox over the last year that landed them top prospects. Rebuilding projects don’t always work out, but the South Siders are loaded with young assets.
Washington Nationals get much needed bullpen help in trade with Oakland Athletics
Having overwhelming talent is wonderful. But to win in the playoffs — something that the Nationals have been unable to do — you need a bullpen. Washington’s bullpen was laughably bad. It was truly one of the worst in all of baseball. Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson are stable and proven in many different reliever roles. Acquiring them from the A’s allowed the rest of the Nationals’ relievers to fall into more natural roles. The bullpen is still not a strength in Washington, but it’s not such a glaring weakness anymore.
Arizona Diamondbacks add punch with J.D. Martinez
Martinez was having a stellar year with the Detroit Tigers, slashing at .305/.388/.630. He was then added to an already potent Arizona lineup that included guys like Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb and A.J. Pollock. Through his first nine games with the Diamondbacks, Martinez has struggled to get on base (.219 average/.286 OBP) but has brought the boom with five home runs and a .688 slugging percentage. Arizona will certainly have to get through the Wild Card Game. but if that happens, good luck to the team that has to face that lineup in a series.
New York Yankees load up, play keep away with Boston Red Sox
In the weeks leading into the trade deadline, the Yankees and Red Sox had a similar problem — both teams featured a hole at third base. Boston was routinely linked to White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier but could never strike a deal. New York didn’t have that problem. Chicago was looking to add even more prospects, and the Yankees obliged. In the process, they landed not only Frazier but valuable bullpen pieces in David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. It was a big trade for “The Evil Empire.”
Boston counters, lands Eduardo Nunez
The Red Sox had to upgrade the hot corner and did so when they acquired Nunez from the San Francisco Giants. Nunez certainly has his drawbacks — mainly staying on the field — but can do some serious damage when playing. He was one of San Francisco’s few bright spots in 2017, hitting .308 with 18 steals for the Giants. Boston still has holes on its roster. But trading for Nunez solidified an offense that, while not especially powerful, does not feature many easy outs.
Colorado Rockies trade for relief ace Pat Neshek
For the first time in a long time, the Rockies were unquestioned trade-deadline buyers. Colorado did itself a huge favor in bringing in Neshek from the Philadelphia Phillies. Neshek has been one of MLB’s best relievers for a while, posting a 2.75 ERA and 1.00 WHIP from 2012-2016. In 2017 with the Phillies, he had a 1.12 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. Bullpen help may not always be sexy. But come playoff time when a slugger comes up in the late innings with men on and two outs, you quickly realize just how important it is.
Selling New York Mets become buyers, bring in A.J. Ramos
This was a puzzling trade for a few reasons. First off, while not as rare as they once were, trades within the division are still far from common. But the far more puzzling aspect here is that the Mets are far from contenders. Ramos isn’t a free agent to be, but he will be after 2018. New York made other moves at the deadline signaling itself as a clear seller. Selling teams don’t usually land All-Star players. Also, if Ramos was available, why didn’t a true buyer work to land him? Plenty of teams need the bullpen help. This trade was a true head-scratcher.
Orioles make confusing trade for Jeremy Hellickson
While we’re on the subject of confusing trades, why in the world did the Orioles trade for Hellickson? While Hellickson isn’t exactly an ace, this trade might have made sense earlier in the year when Baltimore needed a starting pitching upgrade and still had a decent chance to make the playoffs. But the Orioles are fringe contenders, at best. What exactly did they accomplish by acquiring Hellickson, who is a pending free agent? Every trade deadline seems to feature a few bafflers, and this one was no exception.
Jaime Garcia gets dealt twice
Although they’ll have to clear waivers, perhaps the Mets and Orioles will do with Ramos and Hellickson what the Minnesota Twins did with Garcia. Garcia was first moved from the Atlanta Braves to the Twins. But on a slide and likely out of realistic playoff contention, Minnesota flipped Garcia to the Yankees, who definitely needed the starting pitching upgrade (more on that forthcoming). Garcia’s activity should be taken as a sign that things can change fast in baseball. Also, Garcia is probably MLB’s leader in hugs for this trade deadline season.
Kansas City Royals get aggressive, brings Melky Cabrera back
The White Sox were clearly sellers at the deadline. But heading into the year, the Royals weren’t expected to be buyers. With a good chunk of its core heading to free agency, it seemed likely that Kansas City would sell, especially after a slow start. But after turning things around, the Royals decided that it was time for one more run. At .295/.336/.436 with 13 home runs, Cabrera is having a nice year. He’s a solid offensive piece for a Kansas City team that should be treated as a serious contender. We know that the Royals can inflict damage once the playoffs start.
Jonathan Lucroy trade shows the risks of buying
The Rangers landed Lucroy from the Milwaukee Brewers for a package that included star prospect Lewis Brinson at the 2016 deadline. Texas was already well on its way to the playoffs and ended up getting swept in the ALDS. A year later, Lucroy was dealt to the Colorado Rockies for the always popular player to be named later. Brinson, meanwhile, had a monster year in Triple-A and is now making an impact for the Brewers in the show. The original deal certainly did not go according to plan for Texas.
Cubs restock bullpen with Justin Wilson
Bullpens are important, especially in today’s pitch-count era. But we may have to wait a while for the big impact of this trade to be felt. Let’s imagine an NLCS rematch between the Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cubs are up by a run in the eighth inning, but the Dodgers are threatening. Corey Seager or Cody Bellinger is coming to the plate. Wouldn’t it be nice for Joe Maddon to be able to throw Wilson and his 2.68 ERA and 0.94 WHIP? Remember this trade when we get to October.
Red Sox trade for Addison Reed to upgrade struggling bullpen
Finishing games has been problematic for the Red Sox, who have 39 blown saves and six in the second half. Trading for Reed should help minimize the end-of-game issues. Over the last two seasons, Reed has posted a 2.20 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and has struck out 139 batters in 126.2 innings. That doesn’t fix all of the issues that Boston has had, but he’ll be a stabilizing force and a solid bridge to Craig Kimbrel.
Dodgers miss out on Zach Britton, settle for Tony Watson
The Los Angeles Dodgers were linked to Baltimore’s star reliever. It was an exciting possibility but didn’t exactly work out. Watson isn’t having a great year (3.66 ERA, 1.52 WHIP), but he’s not a bad consolation prize. From 2012-2016, he posted a 2.40 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Los Angeles has the best of both worlds. Not only do the Dodgers have one of baseball’s best teams, but they have one of it’s best farm systems. By passing on Britton, Los Angeles kept the latter intact for another big trade (more on that later). In a deep bullpen, Watson can be used more selectively until he finds his form.
Nationals solidify closer position with Brandon Kintzler
You can never have too much bullpen help. The Nationals wrapped the deadline up by landing closer Brandon Kintzler. Kintzler isn’t a typical modern-day reliever in that he pitches to contact. His K/9 rate in 2017 is 5.4. But with a 2.78 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 28 saves, he’s obviously effective at keeping the ball from being hit hard. With Kintzler, Doolittle and Madson, Washington has a versatile bullpen that can win games late. Before the deadline, that was not something that we could honestly say.
Yankees get front-line starter in Sonny Gray
The Yankees are very good. But even in the modern game that relies on bullpens, deep playoff runs are hard with only one reliable starter. Luis Severino needed a running mate. Gray and his 3.43 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 3.24 FIP and 94 strikeouts in 97 innings gives New York exactly what it needed. The Yankees have a 1-2 punch that can compete with what teams like the Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, and Houston Astros have. It was a good trade for Oakland, too. The A’s landed three of the top-12 prospects from the Yankees’ well-regarded farm system.
Rich get richer, Dodgers land Yu Darvish
The Dodgers pulled off a last-minute shocker by landing Rangers’ star Yu Darvish. Darvish is a genuine ace. He will give Los Angeles the arm it needs to back up Clayton Kershaw in any playoff series. If Kershaw is slow to recover from his current injury, Darvish and his career 3.32 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 11.0 K/9 rate can match up to essentially anyone as a No. 1. Given that Darvish is a pending free agent, consider this a sign that the Dodgers – who own baseball’s best record – are all-in for 2017. And they should be.