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MLB Trade Deadline 2018: Hot Takes to Trades, Fails, Surprises and Non-Deals

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJuly 31, 2018

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer points between innings against the Baltimore Orioles in a baseball game, Friday, July 27, 2018, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Gail Burton/Associated Press

Major League Baseball's non-waiver trade deadline has passed with the biggest story of the day being a move that didn't happen. 

After reports on Monday that the Washington Nationals were making Bryce Harper available in a trade, general manager Mike Rizzo squashed any hope opposing teams had about acquiring the 2015 National League MVP. 

"Bryce is not going anywhere," Rizzo told Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. "I believe in this team."

While the Nationals are fighting for their playoff lives, the surging Pittsburgh Pirates used this opportunity to boost their starting rotation by acquiring Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays, per Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the Rays are receiving outfielder Austin Meadows and right-handed pitcher Tyler Glasnow in the deal. 

The Pirates have gone 16-9 in July to get within 3.5 games of the second wild card spot in the National League. Archer is their big play to make up that deficit and lead their starting rotation for the next three years if Pittsburgh exercises his team options through 2021. 

Those were the top stories of the non-waiver trade deadline, but playoff contenders like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks all made deals before the 4 p.m. ET cutoff. 

Pirates Use Strength to Fill Weakness in Rotation with Archer

Even though the Pirates are very much in the thick of the NL playoff race this season, Archer's contract made him a perfect trade target for the small-market franchise:

Joel Sherman @Joelsherman1

Archer is signed for 3 yrs at $27M 2019-21 (counting options). So even if #Pirates can't make up the gap for wild card or NL Central this year, they have a good starter under team-friendly deal going forward.

While Archer remains a solid starting pitcher, Baseball America's JJ Cooper noted things have changed for all parties involved in the trade:

JJ Cooper @jjcoop36

The idea of trading Glasnow and Meadows for Archer two years ago would have also made sense also. All 3 have seen their values diminish somewhat over past 2 years.

Archer does have a 4.31 ERA through 17 starts this season, but he's averaging 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings with a FIP of 3.62, per Baseball Reference. The 29-year-old's upside in Pittsburgh's rotation made him too enticing to pass up in what has been a swift turnaround for the franchise. 

Colin Dunlap @colin_dunlap

In a 13 day span, the Pirates went from seeing what they potentially could possibly get for David Freese to potentially buying Chris Archer. Like, what. the. hell.

Andrew Fillipponi @ThePoniExpress

Kela. Check. Archer. Check. Kept Keller. Check. Neal Huntington, we are not worthy. Great Job Pirates.

Mike Petriello @mike_petriello

I am very interested to see how this Archer trade works out because right now it seems like PIT might be giving up more to get Archer than they got back for Cole, and that seems... not right.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

How does a change of scenery sound for Chris Archer? He has a 4.02 career ERA against the AL East (4.89 ERA this year), but a 3.40 career ERA vs all other divisions https://t.co/MxZjXPxOlF

After trading Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros in the offseason, the Pirates needed to add a starter with swing-and-miss stuff. Their rotation ranks 23rd in MLB with 7.41 strikeouts per nine innings. 

Archer's ability to miss bats will be critical for Pittsburgh. Getting out of the American League East can only help improve his numbers. 

The Pirates were trading from an area of strength because Glasnow was pitching out of the bullpen because of his inability to throw strikes consistently. The 24-year-old has issued 91 walks in 141.1 innings in his MLB career, including 34 in 56 innings this season. 

When Corey Dickerson returns from his hamstring injury, Meadows doesn't have a spot on Pittsburgh's 25-man roster. Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco are secure in center field and right field. 

The Pirates have been waiting years for Glasnow and Meadows to hone their talents and become key contributors at the MLB level. The chance to acquire Archer pushed them to finally move them. 

The Rays, who are always operating under strict financial constraints, can afford to wait for Glasnow and Meadows to put everything together. A change of scenery could serve both players well at this stage of their careers, because they know an opportunity to play regularly will be available. 

Nationals Place Risky Bet on Future by Not Trading Bryce Harper

The Nationals moved all of their chips to the center of the table, hoping they will be able to make up a 5.5-game deficit in the National League East and wild-card races in the season's final two months. 

Grant Paulsen @granthpaulsen

The Nationals should not sell any key pieces. They aren't far enough out of the race and the teams in front of them aren't good enough to run away from them. They also shouldnt give anything up to add rentals. Not good enough to do that.

Harper is eligible for free agency this offseason and could price himself out of Washington, though there may have been other factors at play for the team in potential trade discussions:

Jon Heyman @JonHeyman

rivals continue to believe bryce harper is long shot to be traded. nats are only 5.5 games out & they'd risk fan revolt. also, they wouldn't get haul as rental. o's did well getting yusniel plus 4 for machado. but market is better for a ss/3B & manny was hitting 100 points higher

Per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the Nationals have been a mess behind the scenes this season with manager Davey Martinez making some players feel "marginalized" in the organization:

"One recent example, [sources] said, was following Saturday's loss to Miami. J.T. Realmuto, the Marlins' All-Star catcher and a player coveted by the Nationals all winter, blooped a bases-loaded single down the right-field line for a walk-off victory. Harper's response after the game: 'If that guy was on our side, it wouldn't have happened. Tough luck.'"

"A number of people inside the organization saw Harper's comment as unprofessional and potentially divisive among his teammates, according to sources. Though all acknowledged the seed of truth in it, they also wondered why the Nationals would need Realmuto to win when they haven't done so with a surfeit of talent already."

Based on their current place in the standings, the Nationals are in the thick of the NL playoff race. They've just struggled to play up to their potential after winning 97 games last season. 

If the Nationals miss the postseason in 2018, they risk losing Harper with their only compensation being a draft pick who might contribute to the franchise years down the line. 

Wide-Open NL Playoff Race Created Trade Frenzy

Sticking with the National League, the current playoff picture created a flurry of activity at the deadline with teams trying to gain an edge. 

Here's a rundown of the key moves from NL clubs currently fighting for one of the five available postseason spots:

Jeff Passan @JeffPassan

Source: Brian Dozier is headed to the Dodgers. @jcrasnick had it done and @Ken_Rosenthal close. Dodgers are sliding just under luxury tax, as Dozier's AAV is only $5M per year.

Robert Murray @ByRobertMurray

#DBacks acquired Jake Diekman from #Rangers in exchange for Wei-Chieh Huang, source tells The Athletic.

Ken Rosenthal @Ken_Rosenthal

Source: #Brewers get Schoop from #Orioles.

Jon Morosi @jonmorosi

#Cubs have acquired Brandon Kintzler from #Nats, source confirms @Ken_Rosenthal and @sahadevsharma report. @MLB @MLBNetwork

Jon Heyman @JonHeyman

sources: braves have deal for gausman

Jeff Passan @JeffPassan

Source: Wilson Ramos has been traded to Philadelphia.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks, currently separated by one loss in the National League West, played a game of one-upmanship by addressing areas of need. 

Dodgers second basemen were hitting a collective .211/.309/.315 with seven homers this season. Brian Dozier is having a down season by his standards with a .224/.305/.402 slash line, but his track record suggests he could be in line for a strong final two months:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

The Dodgers just keep adding power. In the last 5 seasons, Brian Dozier has 143 HR, 38 more than any other 2nd baseman https://t.co/EQv8fnsE4e

The Diamondbacks countered Los Angeles' move by adding Jake Diekman to their bullpen in a trade with the Texas Rangers. 

CJ Nitkowski @CJNitkowski

Jake Diekman's splits with the Rangers: Home: 21G, 18IP, 17K, 18BB, 7.50ERA Road: 22G, 21IP, 31K, 5BB, 0.43ERA He's been dealing lately, FB has been 95-98. ARI goes to TEX for two games later this month but otherwise he avoids GLP the rest of the season. Nice add by ARI.

One team that seemed primed to add a starting pitcher was the Milwaukee Brewers, though they decided to take a different approach at the deadline. 

Milwaukee's rotation ERA has been solid at 3.85, but Jhoulys Chacin and Freddy Peralta are the only members of the group with a FIP under 4.10. 

Rather than pursue a big-time starter, the Brewers added Jonathan Schoop to their lineup after previously acquiring Mike Moustakas from the Kansas City Royals.

Bob Nightengale @BNightengale

The #Brewers, who seemingly opened the year with too many outfielders and first basemen, now have 2 third basemen or 2 second basemen with Jonathan Schoop traded from #Orioles

The Philadelphia Phillies made a bold move to acquire Wilson Ramos from the Tampa Bay Rays. The All-Star catcher is currently on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, but his bat will be a huge upgrade in Philadelphia's lineup when he returns:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

The Phillies are receiving a major upgrade at catcher with Wilson Ramos. Ramos has provided greater results than all of the Phillies' catchers combined this season. https://t.co/swEBfLS4ql

Compared to the American League, where four of the five playoff teams appear to be locks at this point, the NL remains wide-open. 

The top seven teams are all within four games of each other. Four other teams are within 5.5 games of the second wild-card spot. 

Keep in mind, though, that teams can still make deals through Aug. 31 on the waiver market. Even though some teams sat things out today, there will be plenty of chances to make a move that can shift the balance of power in the playoff races. 

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