Other than draft day, there’s no time in the fantasy baseball season more exciting, stressful and nerve-wracking than the trade deadline.
Whether it’s in your league or Major League Baseball’s, knowing there’s a definite point when teams must make a conscious decision to go for it or play for the future is thrilling … and somewhat frightening.
We saw that with a few MLB teams cashing in their trade chips before last week’s deadline. Whether it’s fantasy or reality, there’s usually a clear distinction between the haves and the have-nots once the dust finally settles.
And whew, there sure was a lot of dust flying around. In a two-day period more than 30 trades were made involving more than 80 players – 10 of them who were 2021 All-Stars.
-- Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo, New York Yankees. The two sluggers landed in one of the best home parks in the majors for left-handed power hitters. (So far this season, according to Statcast, Yankee Stadium ranks No. 1 for lefty home runs, 50% above league average.)
Rizzo made himself right at home, going deep in each of his first two games in pinstripes. While Gallo doesn’t necessarily pull his fly balls enough to take full advantage of the short porch in right field, he has more than enough raw power to hit it out of any part of the park.
Rizzo and Gallo also help balance out what was a very heavily right-handed lineup, so having them alternate with DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton will create major matchup problems for opposing pitchers.
-- Former Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals. Like Rizzo, Kris Bryant (with the San Francisco Giants) and Javier Baez (with the New York Mets) also hit home runs in their first games with their new contending teams. So did ex-National Yan Gomes after joining the Oakland Athletics. Not great for the former teammates left behind (sorry, Juan Soto).
Meanwhile, Max Scherzer will have the benefit of the Los Angeles Dodgers offense behind him, one that has helped Julio Urias to a major league-leading 13 wins. Scherzer (2.76 ERA) had 11 starts with Washington this season in which he pitched at least six innings and gave up one or zero runs. He won six of them. Urias (3.40 ERA) has done it eight times – and won all eight.
-- Starling Marte, Oakland Athletics. He has always hit for average, with a decent amount of pop. But his greatest asset in the fantasy realm is his speed.
Before being traded to Oakland, Marte stole 22 bases in 64 games with the Miami Marlins. In his first four games with the A’s, he was a perfect 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts. Those steals can make Marte a difference-maker over the final two months, especially in AL-only leagues.
-- Blocked prospects. Minor league prospects are always an important part of deadline day. But in recent years, team have been extremely reluctant to give up their best prospects. That mentality seemed to change a little this time around. The Dodgers gave up pitcher Josiah Gray and catcher Kiebert Ruiz to pry Scherzer and shortstop Trea Turner away from the Nationals.
Gray, 23, has never had an ERA over 3.00 at any minor league level, but he would’ve had a tough time getting anything more than an occasional spot start with the Dodgers for the foreseeable future. Ruiz was buried behind Will Smith and Austin Barnes. Both have a clear pathway to regular playing time in Washington.
Austin Martin, the fifth overall pick in the 2020 draft by the Blue Jays, had been playing shortstop and center field in the minors – positions locked up by Bo Bichette and George Springer for a good while in Toronto. He’ll have a better shot at reaching the majors with Minnesota.
And left-hander Jesus Luzardo made a big splash in his 2019 debut with Oakland but has struggled with injuries and inconsistency since. Going to Miami in the Marte trade will give him ample time to get back on track, in an even better pitching environment.
-- AL East pitchers. What was arguably the toughest division in baseball got even tougher at the deadline. The Yankees added Rizzo and Gallo. The Red Sox will soon have Kyle Schwarber. The Rays added Nelson Cruz. And the Blue Jays already had the highest OPS in the majors this season.
Jose Berrios tossed six scoreless innings in his debut with Toronto, but that was against the Royals. Let’s reserve judgment until he faces a division rival.
Likewise, new Yankees left Andrew Heaney and Jays reliever Brad Hand will have their hands full down the stretch.
-- Closers. Finding saves over the final two months of the season is going to be a complete crapshoot. The Chicago White Sox, with this season’s No. 1 fantasy closer in Liam Hendriks, went out and traded for this season’s No. 2 fantasy closer, Craig Kimbrel.
It was a smart baseball move, but a horrible fantasy one. There’s no way for both to continue to produce at the same level.
Meanwhile, Kendall Graveman, Richard Rodriguez and Yimi Garcia were traded out of the closer role on their old teams into setup roles on their new ones.
-- Braves outfielders. Following a season-ending injury to Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta completely overhauled its outfield over the past several weeks. The only problem is, there isn’t an everyday player in the bunch.
Adam Duvall hit 22 homers in Miami, but with a .227 average and .274 on-base percentage. He’ll likely platoon with Eddie Rosario, who’s been out for a month with an abdominal injury but should be back in a couple of weeks.
Jorge Soler was just getting hot in Kansas City with six home runs in a six-game stretch, but he’s been hitting under .200 for most of the season. And Joc Pederson, acquired in mid-July, has struggled historically against left-handed pitching. Good luck trying to figure out who’ll be in the lineup at any given time, much less who can put up decent numbers.
Finally, in some AL- or NL-only leagues, players who are injured or in the minors can’t be picked up until they’re on an active MLB roster. This year’s deadline was unusual in the number of injured players who were traded.
Even though MLB no longer allows waiver trades in August, players such as Luzardo, Schwarber, Eddie Rosario and Danny Duffy should available later this month for those fantasy managers who might have missed out on all the excitement of perhaps the busiest trade deadline in history.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fantasy baseball winners, losers from the 2021 MLB trade deadline