Grading Every Team's Performance at the MLB Trade Deadline

Emma Baccellieri
Sports Illustrated

After dragging along for most of the day, MLB’s 2019 deadline kicked into high gear just before the buzzer sounded at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday—creating plenty of new storylines and exciting wild-card races, even as some contenders decided to stand pat. So here’s every team’s deadline, graded:

AL East

Baltimore Orioles: B- 

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The Orioles did nothing, but there’s just about nothing that they could or should have reasonably done. But they do deserve a bit of credit for holding onto Trey Mancini, whose name surfaced in rumors earlier this week—he’s the one good thing that they have going for them right now, with three more years of team control, and unless there was a truly impressive return available (which seems unlikely), it’s smart to keep him around. 

Boston Red Sox: D 

The Red Sox needed a reliever or three. They did not get one. They did not get anything. Dave Dombrowski’s “You’d like to get better any time you can… But we had an opportunity to make a lot of trades, if we wanted… Ultimately, it’s a decision we decided to make” reads more like “We decided not to get better.” While battling for the wild-card? Yikes.

New York Yankees: D-

The Yankees have been in need of rotation depth for essentially the entire season. (Yes, Luis Severino should be coming back soon, but that only goes so far.) And yet they seemingly didn’t try to do anything about it today. The team’s only move was picking up a 19-year-old A-ball pitcher from the Rockies—which is, to use organizational parlance, not what you want.

Tampa Bay Rays: B+

Not flashy, but solid enough. The Rays were able to buy low on Jesus Aguilar; if he begins looking more like himself again (and there’s statistical reason to believe that he will), they could certainly benefit from his bat. Trevor Richards is useful as a traditional starter, of which the team currently doesn’t have very many, and Nick Anderson is a quality reliever. Giving up Ryne Stanek does feel a bit odd, but in all, they gained some decent additions—which looks especially good next to the inaction from Boston and New York.

Toronto Blue Jays: C+ 

It’s a bit surprising that they couldn’t or wouldn’t move Ken Giles (or, for that matter, Justin Smoak). And in terms of who they did move, Marcus Stroman brought back a notably light return, Daniel Hudson’s wasn’t anything to write home about, either, and Joe Biagini and Aaron Sanchez seem like they could have yielded something a little heartier than the lone addition of former prospect Derek Fisher. At any rate, this isn’t exactly an inspiring takeaway:

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

AL Central

Chicago White Sox: B-

The White Sox functionally did nothing—only sending injured reliever Nate Jones, plus some international cash, to Texas in exchange for a pair of minor-league pitchers. But it’s not like there was much that would have made sense for them to do, anyway.

Cleveland Indians: A 

Cleveland didn’t do anything on Wednesday after Tuesday’s three-way blockbuster, but it didn’t have to. On Tuesday, the team patched up its outfield (adding Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes) and picked up some young talent (Logan Allen, Victor Nova, Scott Moss) while only giving up Trevor Bauer—a big name, certainly, but Cleveland’s rotation was strong enough that it could afford to deal from there. Essentially, this deal threaded the needle of helping the club win now and later.

Detroit Tigers: B 

They were able to move obvious trade candidates Shane Greene (light-ish return) and Nicholas Castellanos (solid return). Mark it down as “meets expectations.”

Kansas City Royals: B- 

The Royals got their action out of the way early, using the weeks leading up to the deadline to move Jake Diekman, Homer Bailey and Martin Maldonado, with radio silence today. Which… feels just about right, as it’s hard to imagine them doing anything else unless there’d been a real Godfather-style offer for Whit Merrifield.

Minnesota Twins: B 

Sam Dyson is a great relief upgrade, and the Twins got him for a steal of a minor-league package; Sergio Romo is a fine ‘pen addition, too. So this certainly wasn’t a bad deadline. But with Cleveland beefing up and closing in on Minnesota’s divisional lead, it might have paid off to do just a little more.

Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

AL West

Houston Astros: A+

Improved backup catcher? Check. (Martin Maldonado, swapped out for Max Stassi.) Some pitchers who seem ready for a classic Astrosian makeover? Check. (Joe Biagini and Aaron Sanchez.) These alone would have been a solid deadline for Houston, if not a particularly exciting one. Throw in Zack Greinke (Zack Greinke!!!) at the buzzer, and it’s fantastic. They gave up good prospects, certainly, but they didn’t have to move their best (Kyle Tucker). The Astros might have done more to change their October destiny than any other team, and they’ve definitely changed it for the better.

Los Angeles Angels: B

The Angels’ lone move of the day was picking up Max Stassi. Which, fair enough, because it would have been very easy for them to go without doing anything, as a team that’s certainly not buying but not in position to sell.

Oakland A’s: B- 

Oakland’s big move of the day was picking up Tanner Roark, which feels extremely on-brand—a middle-of-the-rotation addition to bolster an unexpected playoff run is just as A’s as an A’s move can be. It’s practical, if not very exciting. But Oakland’s rotation is shaky enough that it really could have benefitted from adding an extra arm here, and Roark doesn’t quite do the trick.

Seattle Mariners: B- 

Mike Leake’s full no-trade clause proved no match for Jerry Dipoto, who sent the pitcher to Arizona and otherwise used the deadline to ship out a few relievers—modest returns all around, but it’s hard to imagine anything else here, given the state of… Seattle’s everything.

Texas Rangers: B 

Pitcher Kolby Allard was a great return for Chris Martin… but it’s a bit surprising that Texas didn’t move Mike Minor or Hunter Pence.

Getty Images
Getty Images

NL East

Atlanta Braves: B+ 

The Braves needed relievers. They got three: Shane Greene, Mark Melancon and Chris Martin. Could they have gone for some more exciting names? Sure. Does it feel striking that they took on the entirety of Melancon’s contract ($18.3 million remaining)? Absolutely. But, in all, this is just fine.

Miami Marlins: A- 

Swapping Zac Gallem for Arizona’s Jazz Chisholm is a fun prospect challenge deal. (And it cannot be understated just how cool it is to pick up a guy named Jazz.) Moving Nick Anderson and Trevor Richards for Rays pitcher Ryne Stanek and outfield prospect Jesus Sanchez was smart; Richards likely wouldn’t have yielded an impressive return on his own, but packaging him seems to have worked out pretty well. Overall, this is… good! 

New York Mets: C+ 

Well, this one still feels rather confusing. Keeping Noah Syndergaard makes sense in light of the deal for Marcus Stroman. Moving Jason Vargas was fine. But there was no chance to move Edwin Diaz? The Mets really couldn’t find a way to get anything worthy of Zack Wheeler? Or Todd Frazier? Nothing???

Philadelphia Phillies: C 

Corey Dickerson is a decent outfield pick-up; Jason Vargas is a fine rotation addition. But Philadelphia needed more than these, and it’s especially egregious that it didn’t add another pitcher.

Washington Nationals: B+ 

They needed relief depth, badly. They got it, in Daniel Hudson, Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland. Could they have swung bigger here and gone for some flashier names? Sure. But for a low price, they patched up their biggest need, and that’s no small thing.

Duane Burleson/Getty Images
Duane Burleson/Getty Images

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: B- 

The Cubs’ last-minute move to add Nicholas Castellanos was great, providing them with some more choices in the outfield and boosting the line-up. Flipping Martin Maldonado made enough sense; Tony Kemp is a decent return with plenty of defensive versatility. But it’s surprising that there was no attempt to add to the bullpen, other than David Phelps—especially as they moved Carl Edwards, Jr. and put Pedro Strop on the IL.

Cincinnati Reds: B+

The Reds have put themselves into a fun position for 2020, after surprising everyone by grabbing Trevor Bauer. It was no small thing to part with Yasiel Puig and Taylor Trammell, but the latter’s prospect star has dimmed slightly this year, and overall, this was a perfectly fair deal for Cincinnati. And the corresponding move—shipping Tanner Roark to Oakland to clear rotation space, in exchange for outfield prospect Jameson Hannah—looks smart, too. (It does seem a bit surprising that Scooter Gennett didn’t bring back anything but cash, but his injury record from this year almost certainly complicated this.) In all, it made for a fun deadline for Cincinnati, and certainly a surprising one. 

Milwaukee Brewers: C+

 Sure, Milwaukee got some of the pitching depth that it so needed. But a top prospect like Mauricio Dubon for the combination of Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black feels like a marked overpay. Elsewhere, Jordan Lyles and Jacob Faria are solid pick-ups, but to stay competitive in this division, Milwaukee would have been smart to reach for a bit more.

Pittsburgh Pirates: C

Given the number of teams who needed to upgrade their bullpens, it’s striking that Pittsburgh didn’t move Felipe Vazquez (or Keone Kela). Vazquez, particularly, seems like he could have yielded a significant return. (The Pirates sure were asking for one, though perhaps too significant.) Plus—only cash in return for Corey Dickerson?

St. Louis Cardinals: B-

The Cardinals have recently played their way into a postseason berth, but they didn’t do anything at the deadline to complement that. Did they have any gaping holes? No. Could they have benefitted from doing something else besides moving the contract of the injured Jedd Gyorko? Probably.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks: A

The Greinke move was huge for the Astros, obviously, but the D-backs got plenty in return to make it worth their while: four marquee prospects, covering a range of needs. And to paper over the hole in the rotation in the meantime, they got Mike Leake (without having to take on too much of his salary obligations) and prospect Zac Gallen (in exchange for fellow prospect Jazz Chisholm, but a prospect challenge deal is always fun). The Diamondbacks’ current position on the edge of the wild-card race made their position tricky, and selling could have easily felt hollow to fans, but they handled it capably, and then some.

Colorado Rockies: C

The Rockies did nothing. Really, nothing. They were not tagged in a single post on MLB Trade Rumors on Wednesday, or Tuesday, or Monday. Which… well, what could they have done?

Los Angeles Dodgers: D+

They needed a reliever. (Besides Adam Kolarek.) The Pirates had a high asking price for Felipe Vazquez, yes, but that L.A. wouldn’t pay for anyone of note? Not great.

San Diego Padres: B

They landed prospect Taylor Trammell, but at a pretty hefty cost: Franmil Reyes, Logan Allen and Victor Nova. Other than this, it was a remarkably quiet deadline for A.J. Preller. Expect the Noah Syndergaard rumors to continue this winter.

San Francisco Giants: A

The Giants moved some relievers out of their ‘pen (Mark Melancon, Sam Dyson, Ray Black, Drew Pomeranz) for one huge prospect (Mauricio Dubon) and a solid variety of smaller ones. They hung on to Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith. They added Scooter Gennett. They reportedly somehow got Atlanta to take on all of Melancon’s contract. They got better for the future. But they didn’t get meaningfully worse for right now. In other words, they were able to keep themselves in the wild-card race, to the extent that they were ever in it, without missing an opportunity to beef up their farm system—a tough needle to thread, but they pulled it off wonderfully.

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