If you want to win the Major League Baseball trade deadline these days, there’s one way to certainly stand out. Be bold.
Modern baseball is so risk-averse that most of what we saw during the 2019 trade deadline were smaller, conservative deals. The teams who went for it — like really went for it — came away looking like winners.
Power moves, those are for winners.
Oddly enough, a few of the teams you usually expect to swoop in and make a spectacle in the last few hours didn’t do it this year. A few of them might even be — gasp! — trade deadline losers this year.
WINNER: Houston Astros
Let’s start with the obvious. The Astros come away from trade-deadline day feeling like it’s 2017 — which is a good thing if you recall how that season ended. They got Zack Greinke, creating a Greinke-Verlander-Cole rotation monster that should scare every team in baseball. They also swung a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays to add Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini to their bullpen — with people already speculating that Sanchez will turn it around in Houston like other pitchers we’ve seen. This was a power move by the Astros. The type of power move that sets a path toward the World Series.
LOSER: Los Angeles Dodgers
Speaking of power moves, the Dodgers did not make one. And this is something they’ve done in years past — whether we’re talking about Yu Darvish or Manny Machado. The Dodgers, in theory, aren’t in horrible shape. They’re the best team in the league. Their rotation is solid. Their lineup is productive. The bullpen needs some help, but they’re certainly not a bad team. Coming away with just Adam Kolarek from the Rays to help the bullpen wasn’t what people were expecting. It wasn’t a power move.
LOSER: New York Yankees
I won’t be the first person to tell you the Yankees seem to have fumbled the trade deadline, but the numerous people saying it won’t stop me either. The Yankees have the potential to win the World Series. They can be a great team if they’re healthy. But they haven’t been healthy all year. They desperately need starting pitching. Ace Luis Severino has been out all year and, sure, getting him back will be like a great trade acquisition, but there’s no guarantee that will even happen. They don’t have a single starter with an ERA under 4.00 right now. Put all those things together and it’s pretty clear the Yankees needed to do something. And they didn’t.
LOSER: Boston Red Sox
What is this, bizarro trade deadline? The Dodgers, Yankees AND Red Sox being gun shy? Is this The Upside-Down? The Red Sox, who are finding their groove this summer, did nada leading up to the trade deadline. No bullpen help. They didn’t get another starter. They were ahead of the trading curve and got Andrew Cashner early on, but in a move that will shock no one that has watched Andrew Cashner pitch for an extended period of time, he has a 6.11 ERA in three starts. This seemed like one of those times where a power move could have inspired the clubhouse to chase down the Yankees. Nope.
WINNER: Cleveland Indians
Let’s give the Indians credit for this, they managed to trade one of their best players and not end up in the loser category. Usually, that kind of thing is reserved for rebuilders, but the Indians are trying to simultaneously retool and compete, an admirable feat if they can pull it off. Trevor Bauer is gone, while Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes should add some explosiveness to the lineup. It all could work out for the Indians — or course, they’d have to beat the Astros.
WINNER: San Francisco Giants
The Giants also pulled off a rare feat. They didn’t make the prudent move — which would have been trading Madison Bumgarner — but they still managed to not look like trade-deadline losers. In this case, the lack of a power move wasn’t that bad of a thing. They keep MadBum, but flipped some of their bullpen assets. They didn’t trade Will Smith, their top reliever, but managed to get the Braves to take on the rest of Mark Melancon’s over-bloated contract. That alone is a win. They brought on Scooter Gennett, who could add some pop to their lineup. Truth is, new team president Farhan Zaidi is in a tough spot. He should be rebuilding but his overachieving team has put him in a place where they can’t just fold. Given the situation, he did pretty well.
LOSER: Philadelphia Phillies bullpen
The timing wasn’t great for the Phillies, who found out 12 minutes before the trade deadline that closer David Robertson was officially out for the rest of the season. Twelve minutes isn’t a ton of wiggle room, but the fact is the Phillies needed some help if they’re going to keep up with the Nats and Braves in the NL East — and Corey Dickerson isn’t quite enough to do it. They needed some arms. They didn’t get them.
WINNERS: Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals bullpens
There were quite a few relief pitchers on the move Wednesday, and most of them went to Atlanta and D.C. The Braves added Shane Greene, Melancon and Chris Martin, while the Nats got Daniel Hudson, Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland. When teams like Red Sox and Dodgers weren’t investing in their bullpen, these two get credit for living by the trade-deadline mantra — you can never have enough relief pitchers.
WINNER: Clint Frazier
The young Yankees outfielder, often mentioned in trade talks this month, seemed pretty happy to have not been traded. And he might have had the tweet of the day.
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