The 2018 MLB trade deadline has come and gone. It certainly left teams open for both praise and criticism. But as we look forward to the rest of the season, the playoffs and even beyond, what what did we learn?
We certainly wouldn’t have expected the biggest deal of the deadline day to be struck between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays. So, what does that mean for each team? The Los Angeles Dodgers probably struck the biggest deal of the trade season overall. But as we move towards the waiver deadline on August 31, this team can’t be done.
The Washington Nationals more or less stood pat. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. But that’s a tough argument to make about this team. Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Reds also stood pat. We wouldn’t have expected that at the beginning of the year. Going forward, it tells us a lot about what the team is likely planning on doing in the offseason.
These are the top-10 takeaways from the 2018 MLB trade deadline.
1. Being optimistic about the Nationals’ front office is not easy
We can debate whether Washington should have bought or sold at the deadline. But for all intents and purposes, they really did neither. A big move like trading Bryce Harper could have set the Nats up well after Harper’s likely departure in free agency. Trading for someone like J.T. Realmuto could have drastically upgraded Washington’s chances to get to the playoffs in 2018 and maybe take one more run at a championship. Instead, the Nationals made only one minor deal, essentially holding serve while maintaining the status quo in a season where things have not gone according to plan.
2. Rays get smart trading Chris Archer
Archer has been something of a franchise icon in Tampa. It’s never easy to trade those guys. But the Rays did just that, really improving in the process. It seems now that the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will control the American League East forever. But much like it did in the mid-2000s, this dynamic will eventually change. At least one of those teams will go through a small window of relative struggles. When that happens, teams like Tampa need to be ready to pounce. With Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow, the Rays are set up much better to do that now than they were before trading Archer.
3. Young Phillies don’t want to wait
Almost no matter what happens over these final two months, the 2018 season has been successful for the Philadelphia Phillies. A young Phillies’ nucleus has shown itself to be quite capable. But this front office isn’t waiting. Philadelphia traded for Asdrubal Cabrera days before the deadline, then struck with a big move on July 31 by landing Wilson Ramos. That’s a sign of a team that’s ready to win right now and has a clear plan of attack. That’s a pretty stark contrast to their division rival in Washington.
4. Reds believe in their team
The Reds aren’t making the playoffs in 2018. We know this. But they also have a winning record since Jim Riggleman took over from the fired Bryan Price. From all appearances, that’s given Cincinnati front office confidence in this team as we head towards 2019. Other than trading the struggling Adam Duvall to the Atlanta Braves, the Reds didn’t sell. Guys like Scooter Gennett and Raisel Iglesias could have landed a good haul, but both remain in Cincinnati. It doesn’t mean much in 2018. But when we get into the offseason, don’t be surprised to see this team aggressively try to improve.
5. A’s and Tigers both strike out with Mike Fiers deal falling through
The Detroit Tigers are rebuilding. The Oakland Athletics are coming out of a rebuild and are ready to compete for a playoff spot, but badly need a starting pitching upgrade. Fiers is having a solid season (3.54 ERA, 1.24 WHIP) and has been even better of late (2.65 ERA, 1.18 WHIP over his last 11 starts). Oakland has a big farm system that could have helped Detroit’s rebuild. So, how did this deal — which was reportedly close to being made — go awry? These two teams could have significantly helped each other. We have a feeling that both will come to regret not making this deal happen.
6. Mets continue to be doomed by front office
The New York Mets were really in the driver’s seat. A number of contenders desperately needed top-tier starting pitching and the overall starting pitching market was weak. The Mets could have gotten a good haul for Jacob deGrom. But even if he was kept, dealing someone like Noah Syndergaard or even Zack Wheeler could have gone a long way toward rebuilding a poor farm system. Instead, New York traded Jeurys Familia and he aforementioned Cabrera, two pending free agents who didn’t land a great deal in return. Unless something really changes, it’s hard to imagine 2019 going any better than 2017 and 2018.
7. In four months, a lot has changed in Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Pirates were a 75-87 team in 2017 and traded arguably the best pitcher and hitter from that team in the offseason. It was hard to be optimistic. But at the deadline, the Pirates were buyers — and they should have been. Yes, Pittsburgh gave up a lot to get Archer, but it got a top-tier starter in return. Additionally, the Pirates landed reliever Keone Kela. That’s the kind of move that might not feel huge now, but could be in September, or even October. Four months ago, it looked as though the Pirates would do well to not lose 100 games. Times have changed in Steel City.
8. Bafflingly slow deadline in San Francisco
The San Francisco Giants could have sold some pieces, cleared some cap space, and given themselves a strong chance in the upcoming free agent class (where they reportedly have big plans). They could have also decided to go all-in and try to sneak one more playoff run out of an aging team. Instead, they stood pat, much like the Nationals did. San Francisco’s World Series wins this decade give this front office more benefit of the doubt than Washington’s gets. There’s nothing wrong with that. With that said, the Giants’ deadline activity (or lack thereof) is similarly hard to explain.
9. Yankees well positioned for another deep October run
As good as the New York Yankees have been this season, there was reason to be pessimistic about this team heading into the postseason. For starters, the Yankees are presently on track to start the playoffs in a single-elimination game. But even beyond that, a starting rotation with Luis Severino and a lot of question marks is less than ideal for October. But that’s changed. J.A. Happ is a significant upgrade to the rotation. Even if it’s not as significant, adding Zach Britton to an already loaded bullpen makes a shaky rotation less of a problem. That goes a long way towards removing that pessimism.
10. Dodgers make big moves, but must continue to be active
Los Angeles made the biggest move of the trade season by acquiring Manny Machado. It also made a potentially nice, under-the-radar move by trading for Brian Dozier. That’s the good news. The bad news is that this team did very little to upgrade the pitching. The starting pitching after Clayton Kershaw isn’t great. The bullpen before Kenley Jansen isn’t reliable and John Axford isn’t going to change that much. It’s awfully hard to imagine this pitching staff holding up through October. As such, the Dodgers must continue to pursue upgrades through the waiver deadline or risk another disappointing postseason.