How Each MLB Deadline Deal Impacts the MLB Playoff Races
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Major League Baseball's non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone.
If you missed it, it suffices to say that it was a doozy.
The trades started to come fast and furious late on Monday night, and the madness only intensified in the final hours leading up to the deadline. All the while, rumors were plentiful.
In the end, we saw some big-name players get dealt, including two-thirds of the Philadelphia Phillies' starting outfield. Shane Victorino is now a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Hunter Pence is now a member of the San Francisco Giants. They went from being teammates to being sworn enemies in a matter of minutes.
Ryan Dempster was traded as well, and there was a flurry of smaller trades that filled various needs for various contenders.
It's going to take some time before we know for sure how teams fared on deadline day, but what we already know is that the playoff races in both the American League and the National League have gotten a significant shakeup.
Here's a rundown of all the key deadline trades and how they impact MLB's postseason picture.
Note: We're defining a "deadline trade" to be a trade that went down sometime in the last 12-15 hours or so before the actual trade deadline. All stats you find within come courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
Braves Acquire Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm from Cubs
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Source: Jon Morosi of FoxSports.com
Finding a starting pitcher was without a doubt Atlanta's top priority at the trade deadline. To this end, the Braves were linked to some pretty big names, including Ryan Dempster, Josh Beckett and Zack Greinke.
They ended up with Paul Maholm, and this represents a job well done on the part of Braves GM Frank Wren.
Maholm may not have a big name, but he's quietly having a very strong season. He has a 3.77 ERA as a starter this season, as well as a solid 1.23 WHIP. In seven appearances (six starts) since late June, Maholm owns an ERA of 1.00.
The Braves are already in good standing in the NL wild-card race as they would nab one of the two wild cards if the season were to end today. They're also just 3.5 games behind the Washington Nationals in the NL East, and that's not an insurmountable deficit now that the Braves have shored up their rotation with Maholm.
And indeed, they know as well as anyone that Stephen Strasburg is not long for Washington's rotation.
In Reed Johnson, the Braves are getting a decent right-handed hitter who can do all the little things and play all three outfield spots. He'll come in handy.
Pirates Acquire Travis Snider, Blue Jays Acquire Brad Lincoln
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The Blue Jays had high hopes for Travis Snider when they drafted him with the 14th overall pick back in 2006, but he never did develop into the star the Jays thought they were getting.
Trading him was the right thing to do, and it allowed the Jays to acquire a key bullpen piece in Brad Lincoln.
Lincoln posted an ERA over 6.00 in five starts for the Pirates this season, but he was a stud as a reliever. In 23 appearances out of Pittsburgh's bullpen, Lincoln posted an ERA of 0.50 and a K/9 of 10.1.
The Jays needed a stud reliever as their bullpen has struggled to the tune of a 4.30 ERA this season. Lincoln ought to do well setting things up for Casey Janssen, and he's not the only new toy John Farrell has to play with (more on that in a moment).
This deal won't win the Jays the AL East or secure them a wild-card berth, but it will buy them some time. There's a little less pressure on their starting rotation now, which can only help.
As for the Pirates, they got a hitter in Snider who needed a change of scenery. He's been a disappointment thus far in his career, but he's still only 24 years old and doesn't hit free agency until after the 2015 season.
At worst, Snider is a solid lefty bat for the Pirates to bring off the bench. At best, he'll make it clear that he needs to be an everyday outfielder. In that case, the Pirates would go from having a shortage of outfielders to having a surplus of outfielders. That's a good problem to have.
Like the Braves, the Pirates were already in good standing in the NL postseason chase. All they did with this trade was add some depth. If the change of scenery works out in Snider's favor, pitchers aren't going to look forward to facing Pittsburgh's lineup.
Either way, the Pirates are still a worthy contender in the NL Central.
Blue Jays Acquire Steve Delabar, Mariners Acquire Eric Thames
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Source: The Seattle Times
The Mariners desperately need hitters, and left field is one of their biggest problem areas. Their left fielders have posted a measly .642 OPS this season.
Eric Thames only has a .652 OPS this season, but he posted a .769 OPS last season and still has room to grow, seeing as how he's only 25 years old. The Mariners will be able to control him through the 2017 season.
In Steve Delabar, the Blue Jays got yet another talented piece for their bullpen. His 4.17 ERA isn't all that impressive, but his 11.3 K/9 ranks ninth among American League relievers.
The ideal scenario for the Blue Jays at the trade deadline involved getting an ace starting pitcher who they could control beyond this season. That didn't pan out, but Alex Anthopoulos managed to do the next best thing by shoring up the club's bullpen.
Again, the Jays still have a lot of work to do to secure a spot in the postseason, but the two relievers they acquired in the final hours before the trade deadline will help them stay afloat. Them making the postseason is a matter of their starting pitching holding the line and their offense keeping the home runs coming.
Dodgers Acquire Brandon League from Mariners
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Source: MLB via Twitter
The Dodgers didn't necessarily have to go out and acquire a reliever at the deadline, as their bullpen boasts a 3.14 ERA that ranks fourth in the major leagues.
It's also worth noting that they just filled a need when they acquired lefty reliever Randy Choate from the Miami Marlins in the Hanley Ramirez trade.
But more bullpen help is never a bad idea, and the Dodgers acquired an experienced reliever with nasty stuff in Brandon League.
League was an All-Star in 2011, a year in which he finished with 37 saves and a sub-3.00 ERA. This year he has a 3.63 ERA in 46 appearances, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio has dropped from 4.50 to 1.42.
Still, unfamiliarity should work in League's favor in his move over to the National League. He should be plenty useful as a seventh- or eighth-inning reliever ahead of Kenley Jansen.
In and of itself, the League deal doesn't shake up the NL West race all that much. At best, all it will do is make a strong bullpen slightly stronger.
But strengthening the club's bullpen is only half the reason Dodgers GM Ned Colletti traded a pair of prospects for League. The trade opened a door for him to make another more important deal that we'll get to in just a moment.
Rangers Acquire Geovany Soto from Cubs
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Source: Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports
In 2011, Rangers catchers posted an OPS of .850, second only to the Detroit Tigers in MLB.
This year, Rangers catchers have a .737 OPS. This is largely due to the decline of Mike Napoli, but Yorvit Torrealba wasn't much better. His .643 OPS is a disappointment compared to the .705 OPS he posted in 2011.
In Geovany Soto, the Rangers got a catcher who's batting under the Mendoza line at .199, but his OPS checks in at .631. He's basically been just as productive as Torrealba offensively.
What makes Soto an upgrade over Torrealba is his defense. FanGraphs has his DRS (defensive runs saved) at minus-two, which isn't great. But compared to Torrealba's DRS of minus-four, it's a slight upgrade.
We may indeed only be talking about a slight defensive upgrade, but keep in mind that Soto is four years younger than Torrealba and a former Rookie of the Year. Plus, he's controllable through next season, whereas Torrealba was only signed through the end of this season.
Soto won't do much to help the Rangers win the AL West with his bat or his defensive skills, but having him around will definitely come in handy because of a certain pitcher the Rangers acquired just before the deadline.
Dodgers Acquire Shane Victorino from Phillies
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Source: Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports
Once the Dodgers acquired Brandon League, they were free to trade Josh Lindblom, a pitcher who was clearly coveted by other teams.
The Dodgers ended up spinning him and Ethan Martin, a solid pitching prospect, to the Phillies for Shane Victorino.
Victorino is having a subpar season by his usual standards, as his .724 OPS is well below the .791 OPS he compiled between 2006 and 2011. At the age of 31, he appears to be wearing down.
But Victorino still has plenty of speed with 24 stolen bases on the season. He also plays above-average defense in the outfield. With him in left field next to Matt Kemp, fewer base hits are going to drop in the outfield when the Dodgers are on defense.
And though Victorino is having a poor season, he represents a massive upgrade for the Dodgers as far as the leadoff spot in their batting order is concerned. Dodgers leadoff hitters have posted a .554 OPS this season. Only Cincinnati's leadoff hitters have done worse.
The addition of Victorino gives the Dodgers a strong collection of hitters at the top and in the middle of their lineup. With Victorino, Kemp, Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez in the mix, the Dodgers should be able to avoid another deep offensive slump like the one that plagued them in June.
And that, obviously, should keep the Dodgers from falling far behind in the NL West.
In fact, the Victorino trade would have made the Dodgers favorites to win the division had the Giants not responded with a move of their own.
Giants Acquire Hunter Pence from Phillies
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Source: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com
In less than a week, the Giants watched the Dodgers add Hanley Ramirez, Brandon League and Shane Victorino to their roster. In the middle of all that, they got swept by the Dodgers over the weekend at AT&T Park.
Brian Sabean needed to do something drastic, and he did just that in adding Hunter Pence.
Pence hasn't been quite as dominant this season as he was after the Phillies acquired him at the deadline in 2011 (posted a .954 OPS in 54 games after coming over from the Houston Astros). He has an OPS of just .784 this season.
Still, Pence was coveted by the Giants because he's a right-handed-hitting outfielder with power, and they sorely needed one of those. Especially with Pablo Sandoval on the disabled list for the next couple weeks.
Pence should fit well as a No. 5 hitter behind Buster Posey, and that's an area where the Giants needed an upgrade. Their No. 5 hitters have managed just a .689 OPS this season. Pence has a .932 OPS when batting in the No. 5 spot this season.
It's a shame that the Giants didn't acquire another arm for their bullpen at the deadline, but adding Pence was a strong answer to all the moves that the Dodgers made in the last week before the deadline. The Giants and Dodgers are now two evenly matched teams.
From here on out, the race for the NL West crown will be the best division race in the National League.
Cardinals Acquire Edward Mujica from Marlins
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Source: Peter Gammons of MLB Network
There were rumblings about the Cardinals possibly adding a starting pitcher at the trade deadline, but they never did seem too enthused about the options that were available.
So they settled for adding bullpen help instead in the person of Edward Mujica.
Mujica had an ERA under 3.00 in 67 appearances last season, and he has an ERA of 4.38 in 41 appearances this season. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has taken a tumble from 4.50 to 2.89.
Still, he's holding righties to a .211 batting average, and he has a 4.75 K/BB ratio when facing lefty hitters. He'll help shore up a bullpen that has a 4.10 ERA this season.
The Cardinals did part with a former first-round pick in Zack Cox in order to get Mujica, but odds are they won't miss him. The Cardinals tend to know what they have and don't have down on the farm, and the fact that they were willing to trade Cox for a reliever says a lot about what they think of his ability.
The deal itself won't do much to help the Cardinals win the NL Central or qualify for a wild-card spot. In choosing not to making a big move, the organization is clearly relying on other things to fall into place (i.e. Jaime Garcia).
Red Sox Acquire Craig Breslow from Diamondbacks
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Not unlike the Cardinals, the Red Sox were rumored to be looking for starting pitching help at the trade deadline.
Just like the Cardinals, the Red Sox found the available options to be either underwhelming or too pricey. They settled for filling a minor need by acquiring Craig Breslow, a lefty reliever who pitched for the Red Sox back in 2006.
Breslow is having a solid season, as he has a 2.70 ERA in 40 appearances. He's been able to hold lefties to a .660 OPS.
The Red Sox gave up a decent righty in Matt Albers and some of their outfield depth in the person of Scott Podsednik to get Breslow. They won't miss either one of them: Albers wasn't one of Bobby Valentine's top choices for late-inning work; Podsednik has spent the bulk of this season down in Triple-A.
Now that they have Breslow, the Red Sox are free to move Franklin Morales back into their rotation if they so choose. He has a 3.42 ERA and a 10.6 K/9 as a starter this season, so that's something they might just do if Aaron Cook struggles or somebody gets hurt.
Boston's chances of making the playoffs did not increase with the Breslow acquisition, nor did they decrease. He's there to help, but he won't be much of a difference-maker. Their playoff hopes still rest primarily on Jon Lester and Josh Beckett.
Pirates Acquire Gaby Sanchez from Marlins
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Source: Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com
Gaby Sanchez made the NL All-Star team in 2011 and hit a total of 38 home runs between 2010 and 2011. With him in the mix, the Marlins appeared to be set at first base entering the 2012 season.
Sanchez never really got on track, hitting .202/.250/.306 in 55 games. He was demoted to Triple-A in May and was sent back down again earlier in July.
The Pirates were splitting first base duties between Casey McGehee and Garrett Jones, but McGehee is out of the picture now. He was sent to the New York Yankees in a last-second trade (more on that in a moment).
Presumably, Sanchez will assume McGehee's role on the club, meaning he'll be part of a left/right platoon at first with Jones.
For what it's worth, Sanchez has a .674 OPS against lefties this season and an .878 OPS against lefties for his career.
The change of scenery Sanchez is getting can only help. If both he and Snider realize their potential playing in Pittsburgh, the Pirates will emerge as the clear winners of the 2012 trade deadline.
If not, it's no big loss for the Pirates. They're certainly not any worse after the deadline than they were before, and that means they still have a shot at making the postseason for the first time since 1992.
Reds Acquire Jonathan Broxton from Royals
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Source: Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com
Cincinnati's bullpen didn't need help. Reds relievers have posted an MLB-best 2.66 ERA this season, not to mention an absurd K/9 of 10.2.
This is mostly Aroldis Chapman's doing. He has a sick 17.0 K/9 and is holding hitters to a .127 batting average.
So the Reds didn't need a new closer either. All things considered, new acquisition Jonathan Broxton is just icing on the proverbial cake.
Broxton doesn't throw as hard he once did, and because of that, he doesn't strike hitters out as frequently as he used to. What he's shown this season is that he can still pitch effectively, even despite a lack of blistering velocity. It's worth noting that his 2.27 ERA is the lowest of his career to this point.
The addition of Broxton puts Dusty Baker in the enviable position of being able to choose between Broxton and Sean Marshall for eighth-inning work depending on the situation at hand. The bridge to Chapman, which was already strong, just got stronger.
The Reds no doubt would have preferred to add a leadoff hitter instead of bullpen depth, but the addition of Broxton does make their hold on the NL Central a little tighter.
Rangers Acquire Ryan Dempster from Cubs
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Source: ESPN's Buster Olney
A couple weeks ago, indications were that Ryan Dempster would be the first marquee player moved before the deadline.
Ultimately, he was moved with just minutes to go until the trade deadline.
For the Rangers, Dempster is something of a Plan B. They were linked to No. 1-type starting pitchers like Zack Greinke, Josh Johnson and even Cliff Lee in the weeks and days leading up to the deadline. Instead, they ended up walking away with a 35-year-old veteran who has never pitched in the American League before.
Dempster does have a sparkly 2.25 ERA, but the fact that he entered the season with a career ERA of 4.41 goes to show that he's overachieving. His 3.41 FIP, according to FanGraphs, suggests the same thing. He may be pitching like an ace, but he's not an ace.
The Rangers will have to settle for the added rotation depth they now have with Dempster in the mix, which will do just fine for the rest of the season. With Roy Oswalt struggling and Colby Lewis out for the rest of the season, the Rangers definitely needed rotation depth.
Having Geovany Soto around will help. In seven games pitching to him this season, Dempster posted a 1.55 ERA.
The Rangers' trade for Dempster isn't all that impressive compared to the Angels' trade for Greinke, but he will help the Rangers hold off both the Angels and the A's in the race for the AL West.
Yankees Acquire Casey McGehee, Pirates Acquire Chad Qualls
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With Alex Rodriguez down and out for the next few weeks with a broken hand, the Yankees needed to make a move for a third baseman. Preferably a right-handed-hitting third baseman who could also fill in at first base.
Casey McGehee fits this bill perfectly.
McGehee peaked when he drove in over 100 runs in 2010, but he's been decent enough this season, posting a .674 OPS with eight home runs in 92 games.
With the Yankees, McGehee will be part of a left/right platoon at third base with Eric Chavez, and Joe Girardi can also used McGehee at first base. He'll likely do that right away with Mark Teixeira out for a few days with a wounded wrist.
The Yankees already have a vise grip on the AL East. The addition of McGehee will make sure that grip doesn't weaken until A-Rod is back.
In Chad Qualls, the Pirates are getting an experienced reliever whose best years have come pitching in the National League. A return to the NL could help him return to form.
At the very least, the addition of Qualls makes up for the depth they lost when they traded Brad Lincoln to the Blue Jays.
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