The 9 MLB Teams That Blew It at the 2022 Trade Deadline

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesFeatured Columnist IVAugust 3, 2022

The 9 MLB Teams That Blew It at the 2022 Trade Deadline

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    From a national perspective, Major League Baseball's trade deadline never disappoints. The 2022 version turned into one of the most chaotic swap meets ever.

    Juan Soto went to the San Diego Padres. A bunch of noteworthy pitchers under team control for at least one more season—Luis Castillo, Frankie Montas, Tyler Mahle, Josh Hader, Raisel Iglesias and others—changed teams. And right before the buzzer sounded, the Toronto Blue Jays decided to trade for a guy who will need to get vaccinated to play in his new hometown.

    But from a team-by-team perspective, quite a few squads did disappoint at the deadline.

    Teams who blew it at the deadline are listed here in no particular order, but we will start with the one team that most clearly messed up.

Chicago Cubs

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    Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras was arguably the top candidate to be traded at the deadline. He's heading into free agency this winter, and the Cubs are nowhere close to the playoff conversation.

    By the time the dropped hopelessly out of contention in early June, they should have been committed to getting top dollar for their three-time All-Star catcher and David Robertson—another presumed two-month rental who looked like the best closer on the market until the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels parted with Josh Hader and Raisel Iglesias, respectively.

    Instead, much like the Colorado Rockies with Trevor Story one year ago, the Cubs got nothing for Contreras and merely got a Single-A pitcher (Ben Brown) who barely ranked among the top 30 in the Philadelphia Phillies' farm system for Robertson. It was a bizarre lack of commitment from a club that did an impressive job of selling off everything it could at last year's deadline.

    Some might also take issue with the Cubs standing pat with Ian Happ instead of trading him away, too. But Happ still has one year of team control remaining, and they might try to sign him to a long-term deal this offseason.

    Overall, though, the Cubs screwed up at the deadline.

Washington Nationals

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    The Washington Nationals were stuck between a rock and a hard place with Juan Soto.

    Rarely if ever do you see someone this talented traded two-and-a-half years before he hits free agency. But after he turned down the Nationals' 15-year, $440 million contract offer earlier this season, club officials were left with the impression that "if they cannot sign him for that money, they never will," according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

    On Tuesday, the Nationals traded Soto to the San Diego Padres for far less than what he's worth. They also gave away impending free agent Josh Bell in the same deal.

    The Nationals did improve their long-term outlook with the acquisitions of C.J. Abrams, MacKenzie Gore, Robert Hassell III, James Wood and Jarlin Susana. (They also acquired Luke Voit in the deal after Eric Hosmer exercised his no-trade clause.)

    But rather than packaging Soto with Patrick Corbin's terrible contract for at least four top-tier prospects/young MLB players with potential, they packaged Soto with one of the best two-month rentals on the market for...four top-tier prospects/young MLB players with potential.

    And with all of their focus on moving Soto, the Nats neglected to give away Nelson Cruz. They will now be stuck paying the $4.3 million left on his $12 million salary in 2022, plus the $3 million buyout on the $16 million mutual option for next season.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Through his first 27 appearances of this season, Josh Hader had a 1.05 ERA with 25 saves and was averaging slightly more than 15 strikeouts per nine innings. But a pair of implosions just before the All-Star Break and a preemptive unwillingness to pay his projected $15-16 million arbitration price tag next season led the Milwaukee Brewers to accept a quarter and three dimes for their dollar.

    In return for Hader, the Brewers got Taylor Rogers (who was recently demoted from his closer role), Dinelson Lamet (who has a 9.49 ERA this season) and a pair of good-but-not-elite prospects in pitcher Robert Gasser and outfielder Esteury Ruiz. In other words, they traded a four-time All-Star for two we-can-fix-him projects and two we-can-wait-for-him prospects.

    That would make sense if the Brewers were 20 games below .500 and were already packing it in for next season. However, they entered play Tuesday with only a 3.0-game lead in the NL Central and a 3.0-game lead for the last wild-card spot as well.

    The Brewers have another great reliever in Devin Williams. And with a sub-2.90 FIP in each of the past five seasons, Rogers should be no worse than a solid setup guy in Milwaukee. They might be just fine for the rest of this season, and they might end up convincingly winning this trade in the long run.

    But imagine if the 2013 Atlanta Braves had essentially given away Craig Kimbrel at the trade deadline because they knew they weren't going to be able to pay him several offseasons into the future and because they felt comfortable enough with Luis Avilan and Eric O'Flaherty holding down the fort in the ninth inning. That's pretty much what happened here.

    Fans in Atlanta would have been furious, which is exactly how Brewers fans should feel.

Baltimore Orioles

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    Trading away a fan favorite when you are only three games back in the wild-card standings is certainly a bold move, but far be it from the lowest-payroll-in-the-majors Baltimore Orioles to turn down an opportunity to save $3 million.

    Because, let's face facts, that's what dealing Trey Mancini to the Houston Astros for a pair of Single-A pitching prospects (Seth Johnson from Tampa Bay and Chayce McDermott from Houston) boils down to.

    Instead of hanging onto one of the best players on the roster, the Orioles now don't need to pay the final $2.7 million of his $7.5 million salary in 2022 or the $250,000 buyout on the mutual option for 2023. Rather than having some fun with the house money of their unexpected 52-51 record, they decided to pack it in to save a few bucks.

    If the allure of a playoff push wasn't enough to keep Mancini, why didn't the Orioles trade him during the offseason? The lockout complicated matters, but plenty of trades went down in November and March. The Orioles could have saved that full $7.5 million and gotten a better return for a full year of his services.

    Instead, they got McDermott, a 2021 fourth-round pick who has a 5.50 ERA this year in High-A, and Johnson, a decent-but-not-top-100 prospect who is about to undergo Tommy John surgery and possibly miss all of 2023. Best-case scenario, both guys will be ready for the big leagues in 2025.

    The Orioles then made matters worse by getting rid of All-Star closer Jorge Lopez, who has a 1.68 ERA and is under team control through 2024. But the O's decided to cash in on his success by exchanging him for four pitching prospects, none of whom ranked among the top 20 in the Twins' farm system.

Oakland Athletics

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    The Oakland A's didn't blow it because they traded away Frankie Montas. They blew it because of how little they got in return for Montas and Lou Trivino.

    The Cincinnati Reds got a top-20 overall prospect (Noelvi Marte), a top-100 overall prospect (Edwin Arroyo) and two other minor leaguers with legitimate MLB potential (Levi Stoudt and Andrew Moore) for Luis Castillo. Oakland gave up Montas and a closer under team control through 2024 and got only one top-75 overall prospect (Ken Waldichuk) and three other guys whom MLB.com doesn't even rank among the top six in their new farm system (Luis Medina, JP Sears and Cooper Bowman).

    Without question, Castillo is worth more than Montas. But there shouldn't have been that much of a gap between the two, both of whom are under team control through next season.

    According to the trade simulator at Baseball Trade Values, the combined trade value of the four players that Oakland got for Montas and Trivino is equal to that of the second-best player that Cincinnati got for Castillo. That's especially disappointing since Montas became the No. 1 pitching target on the trade market after the Seattle Mariners acquired Castillo.

    Instead, Oakland gave the New York Yankees a discount in their quest to replace injured starting pitcher Luis Severino. That paved the way for the Yankees to trade Jordan Montgomery to the St. Louis Cardinals for Harrison Bader.

    How very generous of Oakland.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    With the best record in the majors, a 12-game lead in the NL West, the highest payroll in baseball and no clear spots of need, the Los Angeles Dodgers didn't need to do anything at the deadline.

    However, the San Diego Padres drastically improved, and both the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies also made a bunch of moves to get better. Los Angeles' comparative lack of activity makes reaching the World Series feel like less of a sure thing than it was a few days ago.

    Thinking ahead to possible World Series pairings, the Dodgers also lost some ground on the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, both of whom clearly improved at multiple positions ahead of the deadline.

    The Dodgers did try to get Juan Soto, but they didn't appear to have a clear backup plan if that fell through. All told, they traded away Zach McKinstry, Garrett Cleavinger, Jake Lamb and minor-leaguer Clayton Beeter for Joey Gallo, Chris Martin, minor-leaguer German Tapia and cash considerations.

    Unless the change of scenery causes Gallo to suddenly remember how to mash baseballs like he did for the Rangers, that's a whole lot of nothing. And even if Gallo starts blasting home runs again, it's still hard to argue that the Dodgers fared better than the Padres, Braves, Phillies, Astros or Yankees at the deadline.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Only six of the 15 players leading the Tampa Bay Rays in plate appearances are presently on the active roster, one of whom (Taylor Walls) is batting .170 and slugging .277. Sitting only one game ahead of the Cleveland Guardians for the final AL wild-card spot, the Rays don't have time to sit around and wait for Wander Franco, Harold Ramirez and Co. to get healthy.

    The Rays needed to add impact bats. Plural. And even though this is a small-market club, they had the pieces to make it happen with one of the better/deeper farm systems.

    Instead, they did basically nothing.

    They swooped into the Astros/Orioles' Trey Mancini trade and picked up Jose Siri. an outfielder hitting .178 in 48 MLB games this season, and David Peralta, a lefty-hitting outfielder who is virtually unusable against left-handed pitchers.

    Josh Lowe and Brett Phillips, who've spent the most time playing right field for the Rays this season. have gone a combined 4-for-75 against left-handed pitching. A righty who crushes lefties would've been a great pickup. Instead, they got a lefty who is 4-for-36 against lefties this season.

    And while Siri has been great at the plate in Triple-A over the past two seasons, giving up their sixth-best prospect (RHP Seth Johnson) for a guy who is a definite asset on defense but has floundered at the dish this season was an unexpected move.

    At the very least, the Rays should have gotten Willson Contreras from the Chicago Cubs. With both Mike Zunino and Francisco Mejia on the IL, they could have used a catcher who would have immediately become their second-best hitter as far as OPS is concerned. Perhaps they also could have gotten Ian Happ's switch-hitting outfield bat.

    Maybe they tried and it required more prospects than the Rays were willing to give up. But adding that tandem would have significantly improved their odds of making the playoffs.

Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants

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    We're lumping the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants together, because they were stuck in similar, difficult predicaments.

    The Red Sox entered Tuesday at 52-52, 3.0 games back in the AL wild-card race. The Giants were 51-52 and 4.5 games back in the NL. Both were close enough to go for it if they wanted to, but also middling enough to understandably embrace a seller's mentality.

    Instead, both teams ended up half-heartedly straddled the line between buying and selling.

    San Francisco shipped out Jeremy Walker, Curt Casali, Matthew Boyd, Trevor Rosenthal and Darin Ruf for Raynel Espinal, Ford Proctor, Michael Stryffeler, Andy Thomas, Tristan Peters, J.D. Davis, Nick Zwack, Caryson Seymour, Thomas Szapucki and a few players to be named later. Meanwhile, Boston sent out Jake Diekman, Christian Vazquez, Jay Groome and a player to be named later in exchange for Tommy Pham, Reese McGuire, Eric Hosmer, Enmanuel Valdez, Wilyer Abreu, Corey Rosier and Max Ferguson.

    In both cases, it's unclear whether they're trying to make the playoffs or not. At any rate, neither team made a major pickup nor unloaded any of its top impending free agents.

    The Red Sox may especially grow to regret their indecision if Xander Bogaerts is as frustrated as it sounds. The star shortstop has an opt-out available after this season, and he was already likely exercise it in hopes of getting better than the four years and $80 million left on his contract. He still could re-sign with Boston on a more lucrative deal, but the likelihood of him testing the waters in free agency may have just increased.

    The 2021 Atlanta Braves might have ruined both of these teams' plans. They started out 49-51 before winning the World Series, and they did so when only 10 teams made the playoffs. It would have been tough for either of these prominent franchises to justify throwing in the towel with a .500ish record and an expanded postseason.

    However, making a bunch of moves that did nothing to move the needle wasn't any more respectable.

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