Ranking MLB Trade Deadline Acquisitions Making Biggest Impacts on Contenders

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2017

Ranking MLB Trade Deadline Acquisitions Making Biggest Impacts on Contenders

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    We're a month-and-change past the July 31 MLB non-waiver trade deadline and a couple of weeks beyond the Aug. 31 waiver deadline.

    That's small-sample territory, but it's also ample time to rank the acquisitions making the biggest impressions on contending clubs.

    What are midseason (and later) trades about if not small samples? The idea is to catch thunder in a thermos and snag a guy who's about to go on a hot streak.

    Which uniform-swapping players are doing exactly that for postseason hopefuls? Let's take a look at the top five, keeping in mind stats and impact since the trade and whether the acquiring club is in the thick of the playoff race. First, a few honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

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    Sonny Gray, RHP, New York Yankees

    Sonny Gray wobbled in his most recent start with the New York Yankees, coughing up five runs in four innings. Overall, the right-hander is 3-6 in pinstripes, but sports a 3.29 ERA and has pitched better than his record indicates.

    Luis Severino will likely start the Wild Card Game if New York gets there, but Gray would be the favorite to start Game 1 of the American League Division Series, which says a lot.

                

    Justin Upton, LF, Los Angeles Angels

    Despite a stretched-out payroll and fallow farm system, the Los Angeles Angels managed to add four-time All-Star Justin Upton ahead of the waiver deadline.

    The sample size is small, but Upton owns a .988 OPS with three home runs in 15 games with the Halos, and his presence increases the team's chances of getting reigning AL MVP Mike Trout back onto the October stage.

                   

    Jonathan Lucroy, C, Colorado Rockies

    After posting an anemic .242/.297/.338 slash line with the Texas Rangers, Jonathan Lucroy has hit .279 with a .780 OPS since a trade to the Colorado Rockies.

    It's not a gaudy stat line considering he moved to hitter-happy Coors Field, but it's a nice bounce-back for the veteran backstop, who was an All-Star in 2016 and top-five MVP Award finisher in 2014 and is headed into a contract winter.

No. 5: RF/DH Jay Bruce, Cleveland Indians

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    After a torrid start with the Cleveland Indians, Jay Bruce has cooled off.

    Between Aug. 10 and Aug. 25, in his first 16 games with the Indians, Bruce hit .328 with four home runs and 13 RBI.

    He's homered just once since, and his playing time has tapered off. Still, the veteran slugger has been a boon to the streaking Tribe since he came over from the New York Mets.

    "I've played for some of the best teams, some of the worst teams, some of the teams that were supposed to be good and weren't, some of the teams that weren't supposed to be good and were," Bruce told reporters after hitting a walk-off double in the 10th inning against the Kansas City Royals to secure Cleveland's American League record 22nd consecutive victory Sept. 14. "Getting the opportunity to play in this atmosphere is something that I don't take for granted."

No. 4: RHP Pat Neshek, Colorado Rockies

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    Colorado is not a paradise for pitchers. That's been a fact since the Rockies played their first game at Mile High Stadium in 1993, and Coors Field and the humidor have done little to change it.

    So credit Pat Neshek for continuing his stellar 2017 season after a swap from the lowly Philadelphia Phillies to the wild-card-battling Rocks a few days before the non-waiver trade deadline. 

    In 18.1 innings with Colorado, Neshek has struck out 18 and walked just one while posting a 2.95 ERA.

    Most impressively, he's allowed only one home run in a Rockies jersey, and that came on the road against the Washington Nationals.

    The Rockies appear to be playoff-bound. If they ascend the October stage, the 37-year-old submariner will no doubt play a pivotal role. 

No. 3: RHP David Robertson, New York Yankees

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Speaking of relievers making an impact, David Robertson's New York reunion has gone as well as could be hoped.

    On July 18, the former Yankees closer returned to the Bronx in a deal with the Chicago White Sox that also netted veteran slugger Todd Frazier and right-hander Tommy Kahnle for a package including highly regarded outfield prospect Blake Rutherford.

    Frazier has hit .226 with New York, though he's kicked in 10 home runs and 30 RBI in 55 games. Kahnle has posted a 2.59 ERA in 24.1 innings.

    Robertson, meanwhile, has been every bit the shutdown late-inning arm he was in his previous Yankees stint, putting up a 1.24 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 29 innings.

    "David Robertson has been here before," left-hander CC Sabathia said of his once and present teammate, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post. "He knows what the goal is and what we are trying to do. He's all-in for that. It shows his character."   

No. 2: RHP Justin Verlander, Houston Astros

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    Of the four legitimate aces who switched squads at the non-waiver and waiver deadlines, Justin Verlander has been easily the most impactful.

    Jose Quintana, Gray and Yu Darvish have enjoyed their moments since joining the Chicago Cubs, Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively. But they've all battled inconsistency—and, in the case of Darvish, injury.

    In three starts with the Houston Astros, meanwhile, Verlander has gone 3-0 with 26 strikeouts and three walks in 21 innings.

    On Sunday, in his Minute Maid Park debut, the ex-Detroit Tigers right-hander notched a 7-1 win over the Mariners in the Astros' AL West-clinching victory.

    "He's a game-changer," catcher Brian McCann said of the 2011 AL Cy Young Award and MVP recipient, per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. "He changes the whole dynamic of our team."

No. 1: RF J.D. Martinez, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    When the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired J.D. Martinez from the Tigers on July 18 for a prospect package Keith Law correctly dubbed "a very light return" for Detroit, they were hoping for an infusion of power.

    Boy, did they get it.

    In 52 games with Arizona, Martinez has clubbed 24 home runs while posting a 1.086 OPS. That's excellent for the 30-year-old masher in his contract year and great for the D-backs as they slither toward the postseason.

    In September alone, Martinez has hit 11 home runs and slashed an absurd .419/.456/1.032. In terms of maximizing value on a trade-deadline rental, that's about as good as it gets.

    As CBS Sports' Mike Axisa put it, "J.D. stands for 'Just Dingers,' apparently."

                 

    All statistics current as of Tuesday and courtesy of Baseball Reference.