This year’s trade deadline was one of the most eventful in recent memory. Nearly every potential contender made significant additions, while selling teams, like the A’s and Brewers, moved every trade-able asset they could. Too much happened for me to discuss every single trade here, so instead I’ll talk about a few select teams that affected their playoff chances in a major way.
The Time is NOW for the Rangers
There were plenty of trade rumors hinting at the possibility of the Rangers making big moves this year, but trade rumors aren’t always accurate. Now that the deadline has come and passed, we can look at the facts. The Rangers offense was already a strong one, ranking in the top 10 for almost every major offensive category. The additions of Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran will fill the only two holes in the team’s lineup with All Star-level production, and surely Beltran’s playoff resume (.332/.441/.674, 16 HR & 40 RBI in 52 games) will help the team, come October. The front office wisely convinced the Brewers to package Jeremy Jeffress with Lucroy, as Jeffress will help shore up a Texas bullpen that has struggled mightily this season. Much like the Blue Jays did at last year’s deadline, the Rangers just made their great lineup even better. After starting the year strong, Martin Perez has faded as the season has carried on. That, paired with the injury to Colby Lewis, leaves the Rangers rotation pretty shaky. Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish are the only pitchers that can be truly relied upon in a playoff series, making it no secret that the Rangers could have benefitted greatly from acquiring a starting pitcher before the deadline. So the best team in the AL just got better. Maybe they should have added more pitching though, because it’s clear that this team is gearing up for a World Series run.
The Indians Think So Too
Just a few days ago, the Indians were on the verge of making the biggest trade of the season. Of course, that was before Jonathan Lucroy vetoed the trade that would have sent him to Cleveland. Despite being denied by the best available catcher on the market, the Indians continued to make moves. Just hours before the news about Lucroy had surfaced, they struck a deal to acquire ace reliever Andrew Miller from the Yankees in exchange for Clint Frazier (OF), Justus Sheffield (SP), Ben Heller (RP), and JP Feyereisen (RP) . A former No. 1 overall pick, Miller is certainly not an “under the radar” type of player. He’s a tall lefty with a blistering fastball, and he’s got the stats to back up his reputation (1.39 ERA, 77-7 K/BB in 45.1 IP). The Indians made another move before the deadline, but it was way below the radar when compared to everything else I’ve discussed. With mere hours to go, the club picked up Brandon Guyer – a speedy outfielder who mashes lefties – from the Rays for mid-tier Minor Leaguers Nathan Lukes (OF) and Jhonleider Salinas (RP). Guyer will most likely be a platoon option for the Indians, as he’s batting .344.488/.594 against lefties, but only .196/.277/.324 versus righties. So is this really considered “going for it?” They only acquired two players, though they tried to acquire a third. What indicates to me that the Indians are going all-in this year isn’t who they acquired, but who they were willing to give up. In the reported agreement for Lucroy that fell through, the Indians had agreed to trade away a four-player package of Francisco Mejia (C), Yu-Cheng Chang (SS), Greg Allen (OF), and Shawn Armstrong (RP). Of that group, Mejia and Chang rank as two of the Indians’ top prospects, with Mejia being one of the highest rated catching prospects in all of baseball. In addition to them, two prospects from the Andrew Miller trade (Frazier and Sheffield) are also top farmhands. Although they only gave up the latter two, the Indians were prepared to part with four of their top 30 prospects for two elite players. They’re not wrong for doing so of course, it’s just bold. It sends the message that the Indians believe they’re within arm’s reach of a World Series, and they just might be.
The Yankees are Suddenly Rebuilders
While the Yankees aren’t particularly known for trading away Major League players, that’s exactly what they did this year. GM Brian Cashman built up plenty of suspense leading up to the deadline, who, through the end of June, was telling the media that the Yankees were undecided whether they would trade off their assets, or go all in. Even just a week ago, after trading away Aroldis Chapman, owner Hal Steinbrenner still insisted that he wanted to push for the playoffs. The thing is, over the past 7 days the team moved on from Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova. Anyone paying attention this year knows that those first three are names are the highest performing Yankees in this season. There are several big name veterans still on the team, such as Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia, Brian McCann, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira, but they all have begun producing at a declining rate, and are owed significant money. It’s now abundantly clear that the team won’t be contending for a few years, but the Yankees just acquired four of baseball’s top prospects in Gleyber Torres (SS), Billy McKinney (OF), Clint Frazier (OF), Justus Sheffield (SP). These new additions, along with the already-present young group of Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, Greg Bird, and Luis Severino, make for an exciting future in the Bronx.
Other Notable Things Happened
The love/hate relationship between Josh Reddick and the Oakland A’s will never be the same, as the A’s finally shipped him (along with renaissance-breakout-injured-ace Rich Hill) to the Dodgers. It’s interesting, given all the drama and talk of extensions, but I don’t think this trade will have much of an impact on the playoff picture. I might feel differently about that if the Giants hadn’t made the moves they did. San Francisco bolstered their rotation with Matt Moore of the Rays, picked up reliever Will Smith from the Brewers, and got a bit of a steal in 3B Eduardo Nunez of the Twins. The addition of Moore, who is under control through 2019, will round out an already-solid rotation, while Smith will provide Bruce Bochy with an experienced lefty in the pen. The Giants offense is already top 5 in the NL, and Nunez is having a career year, as he’s currently on pace for 15+ home runs and 40+ stolen bases. Needless to say, the Giants look very good heading into the August. The Mets picked up slugging outfielder Jay Bruce from the Reds in an attempt to improve the second-worst offense in the National League. It’s hard to picture the Mets as a serious playoff team this year, because if not for the superb efforts of Noah Syndergaard and Jacob Degrom, the Mets would not even be a .500 team. I’ll wrap this up by talking about the Cubs. We all know they paid up the wazoo for Aroldis Chapman, but that’s not all they did. Sticking with the theme of bullpen help, they also added lefty Mike Montgomery of the Mariners and submarine right hander Joe Smith from the Angels. They already have the best pitching staff (statistically, at least) and the fourth-best offense in all of baseball, so it’s hard to picture anyone but the Giants putting up a fight in the Postseason.