Nightengale's Notebook: No, the Angels weren't trading Shohei Ohtani. A post-MLB trade deadline Q&A.

·18 min read

The 2022 Major League Baseball trade deadline was absolutely breathtaking with 29 teams making deals, including the seismic eight-player Juan Soto swap between the San Diego Padres and Washington Nationals.

Now that the smoke has cleared, it’s time to officially end any concerns that an expanded postseason would ruin the trade deadline.

Remember the talk during the collective bargaining agreement negotiations that if the postseason was expanded from 10 teams to 12, the best teams may not be incentivized to make improvements?

Try telling that to the New York Yankees, who are sitting with the best record in the American League and a 10 ½-game lead in the AL East, and still acquired ace Frankie Montas, outfielder Andrew Benintendi, and relievers Lou Trivino and Scott Effross.

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Or the Houston Astros, who picked up outfielder Trey Mancini, catcher Christian Vazquez and veteran reliever Will Smith, even with a 12 ½-game lead in the AL West.

These two powerhouses have got bigger things in mind for October than simply making the playoffs, knowing the importance of seeding and home-field advantage.

In fact, we also saw aggressiveness from teams who are already all but mathematically eliminated in their division races.

How else do you explain the Padres’ actions? They are 13 ½ games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, and no one made more improvements, acquiring Soto, All-Star closer Josh Hader, first baseman Josh Bell and third baseman Brandon Drury. You think it’s important to them to earn their first playoff berth since 2006 in a non-COVID shortened season?

Or the Seattle Mariners, who are 12 ½ games back, and still sent three of their top prospects packing to Cincinnati for ace Luis Castillo, the best starter on the market. Yeah, they’re not about to let that 21-year playoff drought go one more season.

The Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays, who are all out of their respective division races, were buyers, too.

They may not have taken that risk under the old system. Now, with the best-of-three wild-card format, and the chance to host all three games, teams were all in.

There are 17 teams who entered Saturday within 2 ½ games of a playoff berth, which would have been only 12 teams if the old system was in place.

No wonder it was the most active 48-hour trade deadline in the last five years.

But while the trade deadline brought clarity in some markets, there also was plenty of confusion, with plenty of questions that still remain, and we’ve come with answers.

Shohei Ohtani is greeted in the dugout after hitting a home run against the Athletics.
Shohei Ohtani is greeted in the dugout after hitting a home run against the Athletics.

QUESTION: Did the Angels actually consider trading Shohei Ohtani? 

No. No. No. No. No.

It was a joke among baseball executives and the Angels’ front office, too, that his name even surfaced in rumors.

The Angels never were going to trade Ohtani and did nothing more than amuse themselves with several teams mentioning what they might be willing to give up to get the modern-day Babe Ruth.

Now, this winter could be a different story.

If Ohtani tells the Angels that he won’t sign a contract extension with them, no matter how much they offer, they’ve got to strongly consider moving him knowing he can walk away as a free agent after the 2023 season.

The Angels’ most shrewd move might be sending Anthony Rendon’s atrocious contract with Ohtani.

Rendon, 32, who has not played more than 58 games in a season since signing his seven-year, $245 million contract and has missed 221 games since the 2020 COVID-shortened year, still has $152 million left on the contract.

The Angels, who have made it a tradition to release players with big money left on their deals (Albert Pujols, Justin Upton, Josh Hamilton), will make it a Mount Rushmore of contracts gone bad if they ultimate do the same with Rendon .

Q: Why in the world did the Milwaukee Brewers trade away the best closer in baseball? 

We tried to warn you in this space a month ago that the Brewers were listening to offers for Josh Hader, but now they actually did it, much to the chagrin of every Brewers fan (and player).

The Brewers simply had no intention of keeping Hader past this season, unwilling to pay him about $16 million in salary arbitration. They believed they had enough in the bullpen, anchored by All-Star Devin Williams, to withstand the loss.

What they never imagined was the outcry not only by the Brewers’ faithful, but by their own players, including Williams, with the team losing four consecutive games to enhance the anger.

What made it even worse that one of the pitchers they received in the trade, Dinelson Lamet, who finished fourth in the 2020 Cy Young balloting, was immediately put on waivers where the Colorado Rockies astutely grabbed him.

“A lot of things that don't really make sense,” Williams told Milwaukee reporters. “I don't know. I want to win. That's the biggest thing to me. I don't really have much to say about it.”

The Brewers tried to soften the blow by issuing a lengthy explanatory reason on their social media account, and then had owner Mark Attanasio and president David Stearns have individual press conferences.

“We are trying to avoid the boom-or-bust cycle,’’ Stearns said. "We want this organization this year, next year, three years from now, five years from now, seven years from now that, when fans come and watch a Brewers game, they are watching a meaningful game. They are watching a team that can and does go to the playoffs and a team that has a legitimate chance to win a World Series.’’

Well, if they miss out on the playoffs, the Hader trade will haunt them until at least spring training, with fans refusing to let them forget.

Q: Is Orioles GM Mike Elias actually rooting for his team to now lose? 

Absolutely. He just will never admit it.

Elias gave up on his team at the trade deadline and sent outfielder Trey Mancini and All-Star closer Jorge Lopez for prospects, only to see the Orioles go 4-0 since the moves. They have the second-best record in the American League since June 12 (30-16), and entered Saturday just 1 ½ games out of a wild-card spot.

Can you imagine the embarrassment if the Orioles miss out on a playoff berth by just a couple of games?

Well, at least Elias can come back and stand on the strangest quote at the trade deadline:

“We have a shot at a wild-card right now,’’ Elias said, “but it is not a probability that we're going to win a wild-card."

Knute Rockne, he ain’t.

Mets closer Edwin Diaz has 18 strikeouts in 44.1 innings.
Mets closer Edwin Diaz has 18 strikeouts in 44.1 innings.

Q: Is it time for Mets fans to apologize to Brodie Van Wagenen? 

Well, either that, or their former GM make sure he gets a World Series ring if the Mets win it all.

Van Wagenen was lambasted when he traded top prospect Jared Kelenic to the Seattle Mariners to get All-Star closer Edwin Diaz and second baseman Robinson Cano.

Well, take a look now.

While Cano may be gone, Diaz is the Mets’ most valuable player and in the Cy Young conversation while Kelenic is hitting .130 with a .490 OPS since his latest call-up.

Diaz, who has 25 saves, has been nearly unhittable. He leads all relievers with 88 strikeouts, and his 52.1% strikeout rate was the highest by a reliever through 43 appearances in baseball history. Entering Saturday, 33 of his last 45 outs had been by a strikeout.

He’s a huge reason why the Mets have been alone atop the NL East since April 12, 121 days and counting. Take a bow, Brodie, and keep your voicemail free for all of those apologies rolling in.

Q: What were the Dodgers thinking acquiring Joey Gallo? 

Well, Los Angeles may be the second-largest market in the country, but it pales in comparison to the media onslaught and pressure of New York.

Besides, they merely needed an upgrade over Jake Lamb, and Gallo has two Gold Gloves on his resume. The Dodgers believe he just needed to get out of New York where his Yankee career of a .159 batting average, 25 homers, 77 walks and 194 strikeouts wit a .600 OPS.

He was a colossal bust.

“Clearly,’’ Yankees manager Aaron Boone said, “this place had an adverse effect on Joey.’’

Gallo emptied his soul to NJ.com before his departure:

“I went through a lot of adversity and I really had to question myself a lot,’’ Gallo said. “My confidence suffered. I would say I hit rock bottom for the big leagues. …I learned a lot about myself, I guess. Baseball is a tough game. But it definitely made me stronger because not many people have gone through what I’ve gone through.’’

Q: Will MLB’s dream Yankees-Dodgers World Series happen? 

No.

These two teams may be regular-season beauties but come October, some of their blemishes could suddenly look more glaring.

The Yankees will go with ace Gerrit Cole in Game 1, Frankie Montas in Game 2, but will have to rely on an assortment of Jameson Taillon, Nestor Cortes, Domingo German and Luis Severino to round out the postseason rotation.  They tried to grab Pablo Lopez of the Marlins, Carlos Rodon of the Giants and Tarik Skubal of the Tigers, only to fall short.

Montas could be valuable in a matchup against the Astros, yielding a 2.70 ERA in his last seven starts against the Astros with 42 strikeouts in 36 ⅔ innings. In 13 starts against the Astros since 2018, he has permitted two or fewer runs in 11 of them.

The Yankees’ vaunted bullpen with All-Star closer Clay Holmes may be a bigger concern. They did pick up Trivino and Scott Effross, but is it enough?

The Yankees were 53-0 on July 9 when having a lead in the eighth inning or later, but since have gone just 7-4 with an eight-inning lead.

The Dodgers, with Clayton Kershaw returning to the injured list with back pain, creates a lot of concern. Kershaw was on the injured list just once in the first eight years of his career, but has now been on the IL 10 times since 2016.

The Dodgers have the best record in baseball, and may still be the team to beat on paper, but is there any starter that is considered an ace when postseason rolls around? Walker Buehler is expected to return in September, but they will be careful with him. Tony Gonsolin, their No. 1 starter with a 13-1 record and 2.30 ERA, has pitched only 13⅓ innings in the postseason with a 9.45 ERA.

The Padres got Juan Soto in a deal with the Nationals.
The Padres got Juan Soto in a deal with the Nationals.

Q: The Padres were the runaway winners at the trade deadline. Could they scare the Dodgers? 

This is a team that got Soto, Bell and Drury; the Dodgers got Joey Gallo.  The Padres got Hader; the Dodgers got middle reliever Chris Martin.

But have they closed the gap?

While they are awfully dangerous with Fernando Tatis expected to return to the lineup in a couple of weeks, with Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish and Blake Snell atop the rotation, the Dodgers still have their number.

Heading into Saturday, the Dodgers were 6-2 against the Padres this season, going 13-1 since last year at Dodger Stadium and haven’t lost a season series to them since 2011, going 136-70 in the process.

“I don’t like talking about the Dodgers,” Padres left fielder Jurickson Profar told reporters before their 8-1 loss Friday.

Can you blame him?

Q: Why would the Angels trade closer Raisel Iglesias just eight months after signing him to a four-year, $58 million contract?

Money.

The way the Angels see it, there was no need to have a great closer if there are no games to save. So they will now have the extra money to get much-needed pitching help.

“I think it opens things up,” Angels GM Perry Minasian told reporters, “it opens us up a little bit for possibilities in the future. …I need to build a better roster. There’s no doubt about it. I think the locker room is very talented. There’s talent in there. There’s obviously established players, superstar players. And we’ve got to build a better supporting cast around them.’’

Q: What in the world were the Cubs doing? 

They set up the emotional farewell, with All-Star catcher Willson Contreras crying and hugging Ian Happ in the dugout after what appeared to be their final games at Wrigley Field.

Only now for the two to be welcomed back.

So instead of getting top prospects, they’ll get only a draft pick for Contreras, and will put Happ back on the trade market this winter.

Rival executives say the Cubs had far too high of a price-tag on Contreras, with the Mets backing away, the Astros instead grabbing Christian Vazquez of the Red Sox and the Padres no longer interested after acquiring Soto.

Q: Why did the Yankees trade dependable starter Jordan Montgomery for an outfielder (Harrison Bader) the injured list? 

Well, because the Yankees already have the AL East wrapped up, and this was a trade designed for October.

They came to the conclusion that Montgomery wouldn’t be needed in the playoffs and they could use the St. Louis Cardinals Gold Glove center fielder in October and beyond – even though he’s out until September with plantar fasciitis.

Come Bader's return, the Yankees will be able to move Aaron Judge from center field back to right field, Giancarlo Stanton to an everyday DH role and struggling outfielder Aaron Hicks to the bench.

At the very least, Bader will be a valuable defensive replacement or pinch-runner.

Q: What managers need a strong finish to retain their jobs? 

Well, the Los Angeles Angels have already decided they will open a managerial search after this season, with Bruce Bochy, Walt Weiss and others under consideration.

The Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies likely have to make the postseason for interim managers John Schneider and Rob Thomson to retain their jobs.

The Chicago White Sox may have no choice but to strip Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa of his duties, amd making him a special assistant to White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, if they fall short of the playoffs.

Around the basepaths...

– MLB and the union don’t expect a ruling on Trevor Bauer’s appeal until late November or December. He was suspended two years in May for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy.

– Let’s see if we can get this straight: Kanas City Royals infielder Whit Merrifield stood by his principles and thought it was worth $153,846 not to be vaccinated, only to get vaccinated a week later when he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays.?

Teammate Andrew Benintendi lost $186,813 by refusing to be vaccinated, but told a high-ranking Royals executive he would get vaccinated if he was traded to a contender, which turned out to be the Yankees.

That’s a lot of money down the drain by delaying their vaccinations.

Well, maybe they can recoup some of that money if their teams have long playoff runs.

– Who’s the American League MVP, Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani?

Please, Judge is the MVP.

And it’s not even close.

“He is the best player on the planet right now,’’ Yankees teammate Matt Carpenter says. “I watch him. I get a front-row seat to it. I joked he reminds me of the 14-year-old that lied on his birth certificate to play in the Little League World Series. He’s in another league that he should not be in. He’s that good.’’

– It was odd enough that the San Francisco Giants gave free-agent starter Carlos Rodon a two-year, $50 million contract last winter, shocking the Chicago White Sox who didn’t even give him a qualifying offer for fear he’d accept it, but they included an opt-out clause after this season if he reached 110 innings.

Well, the opt-out clause came back to haunt Rodon with the Giants unable to trade him for prospects, as other teams believed it would be only a rental.

“It did create an interesting wedge in those discussions,’’ Giants president Farhan Zaidi said. “When you look at an acquiring team, they lose the ability to qualify him so they don't have that potential return, and I do think acquiring teams were worried about the player option essentially serving as an insurance policy for the player, which is really what these player options are.’’

– You want more fans at your ballpark?

Hey, how about trying to win? The Padres, who reside in the 22nd-largest market but are spending money at a record pace, have just set a franchise record with more than 20,200 season tickets sold. They rank fifth in attendance in baseball, averaging 36,848 fans a game, trailing only the Dodgers, Cardinals, Yankees and Atlanta.

– The Tampa Bay Rays don't intend pick up the $13 million option on three-time Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier after this season, and instead will pay him a $2.5 million buyout.

– The Baltimore Orioles have already won more games than they did last season, while the Giants have lost as many games as all of 2021.

There are still two months remaining in the season.

– Pardon St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt for not being exactly thrilled that his team acquired starter Jose Quintana at the trade deadline.

Nothing personal, but now he doesn’t get to face him.

Goldschmidt is hitting .647 (11-for-17) with three doubles and three homers against Quintana in his career with a 1.985 OPS.

“He was the best hitter I’ve faced,” Quintana told St. Louis reporters. “He always gave me a hard time.’’

– What is it with the Diamondbacks and their inury draft jinx? In the past 15 months, they’ve had three of their top prospects undergo a major shoulder injury.

The latest was No. 2 overall draft pick Druw Jones, who underwent shoulder surgery after injuring himself in his first workout after receiving an $8.19 million signing bonus.

“There’s really no explanation for it,’’ said D-backs farm director Josh Barfield. “It’s bizarre.”

– Business is good in Atlanta. The generated revenue for the last quarter is up $44 million from a year ago, Liberty Media announced.

No wonder they didn’t blink signing third baseman Austin Riley to his 10-year, $212 million contract extension.

– Remember that mega three-team trade at the deadline three years ago with Los Angeles, Cleveland and Cincinnati?

The Guardians received Franmil Reyes, Yasiel Puig, Scott Moss, Logan Allen and Victor Nova.

The Reds received Trevor Buaer.

The Padres received Taylor Trammell.

They’ve all moved onto different teams, been released or suspended.

– The Angels even out-Angeled themselves this past week by hitting seven home runs, and still managing to lose, 8-7, managing only two other hits and two walks in the game.

“I guess they always say solo home runs don’t beat you,’’ Angels interim manager Phil Nevin said, “ but you feel like if you hit seven, you might.’’

– First baseman Eric Hosmer didn’t live up to expectations in San Diego, and had badly struggled in his 59 games this season – hitting .217 with a .589 OPS – but he was wildly popular with his teammates.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Fernando Tatis Jr. told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Since they called me up, and even before that, Hosmer was the guy that put me under his wing and just took care of me all the time on the road trips. Just like a father to me in this game. He did a great job with me. I definitely love that guy.’’

Said Manny Machado: “You get one of the best hitters in the game and lose one of the better teammates and one of the best teammates around in the league, and it’s awful to be a part of it. We love Hos. He’s a big part of this organization, was a really big part of this team and was a true leader and in all aspects of the game, so he’ll definitely be missed.’’

– Time to hold off on that Miguel Cabrera retirement. talk

Cabrera insisted his comments about his knee pain were misinterpreted and that he has no intention of retiring after this season and walking away from $40 million.

“I’m not going to retire,” Cabrera told Detroit reporters, “not until after next year when my contract is done. They [reporters] didn’t understand what I said. No way am I going to quit.”

– Francisco Lindor is starting to resemble the player he was in Cleveland, hitting .315 (40-for-122) since July 1 with seven homers and 21 RBI over the past 31 games.

Lindor had 77 RBI through Saturday afternoon, just four shy of the most RBI by a Mets shortstop in franchise history.

– The greatest sign outside Dodger Stadium on Friday night before the Dodgers celebrated the life of iconic broadcaster Vin Scully.

“God Acquires Vin Scully From the Los Angeles Dodgers.”

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB trade deadline, Juan Soto deal created more questions in baseball