Predicting the Biggest Winners and Losers of 2018 MLB Trade Deadline Deals

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorAugust 2, 2018

Predicting the Biggest Winners and Losers of 2018 MLB Trade Deadline Deals

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    The best sports predictor of all time is Biff Tannen, who made millions of dollars gambling in the latter half of the 20th century. Remarkably, he nailed 100 percent of his picks.

    That's an impressive record, but there is only one issue: Biff Tannen is a character in the movie Back to the Future Part II, and he went back in time to give his younger self a 20th century sports almanac so he could know results in advance and win money. In other words, he's fake and anything but clairvoyant.

    Unfortunately, there is no sports almanac present here when trying to forecast how some recent baseball trades will shake out. However, based on past performances and perceived team needs, we can make some educated guesses on the matter. Here's a shot on which teams may end up being winners and losers down the road.

    All statistics are through Tuesday, July 31, and via Baseball Reference, FanGraphs or ESPN unless otherwise noted.

Winners: Philadelphia Phillies

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    The Philadelphia Phillies got a big boost to their lineup when they traded for Tampa Bay Rays catcher Wilson Ramos and New York Mets second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera.

    Ramos is on the disabled list with hamstring tightness, but he looked to be on the precipice of a rehab assignment as of Saturday, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. When he's back healthy, Ramos should provide an offensive upgrade at catcher over Jorge Alfaro, who fared well (seven homers, .710 OPS) but doesn't have the pop Ramos can provide.

    For the season, the All-Star has hit 14 home runs and posted an .834 OPS. That latter mark is the fourth-best at his position this year among players with at least 100 plate appearances.

    As for Cabrera, he's hit 18 home runs alongside an .817 OPS despite playing in a notorious pitcher's park half the time (Citi Field) before the deal. He's an offensive upgrades at shortstop for the Phils, as Scott Kingery has managed just a .599 OPS this year.

    Of note, Ramos and Cabrera have amassed WAR of 2.4 and 1.1, respectively, which is an upgrade over Alfaro (0.7) and Kingery (-1.1). The Phils are already a half-game ahead of the Atlanta Braves and 5.5 in front of the Washington Nationals for the NL East lead. The additions of Ramos and Cabrera could be just what the team needs to bring Philadelphia its first division crown since 2011.

Losers: New York Mets

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    It's easy to kick a team while it's down, and the Mets have been dreadful since an 11-1 start, going 33-59 in their last 92 games. They also just lost to the Washington Nationals 25-4.

    However, the return from the Mets' two moves seems lackluster.

    The Mets received minor league pitcher Franklyn Kilome from the Phils in exchange for Asdrubal Cabrera, who was having a career year (18 homers, .817 OPS). The 23-year-old Kilome is now the fifth-ranked prospect in the Mets' system, per MLB Pipeline, but his overall scouting grade is an average 50 out of 80.

    Furthermore, he only struck out 83 batters in 102.0 innings for Philadelphia's Double-A affiliate this year. That could work if he had a Dallas Keuchel-esque ground-ball rate or pinpoint control, but Kilome walked 11.6 percent of batters for the Phillies' Double-A affiliate this year.

    The Mets also traded closer Jeurys Familia (2.88 ERA, 17 saves) to the A's for two prospects. Third baseman Will Toffey ranks 25th in the Mets' system now, and he's hit just .253 across Single-A and Double-A this year. Reliever Bobby Wahl is not ranked in the top 30.

    Granted, it's possible these three players develop into key contributors, but there's an even bigger issue: The Mets don't seem to have an idea of what they want to do.

    Per Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, assistant general manager John Ricco made the following comments on Tuesday in regards to standing pat on deadline day: "All that happened today was we did not make a trade by the trade deadline. I don't think that necessarily means we've committed to one direction or another for next season."

    The Mets seem like they want to be halfway between contending and rebuilding, and that isn't going to work with their current roster. They have pieces in the starting rotation and lineup to build around, but there are simply too many gaps on the roster and not enough talent in a farm system that Joel Reuter of Bleacher Report ranked 23rd in the league.

    Going on a fire sale and starting from scratch would have been their best move, but that did not happen. Now the team may be mired in sub-mediocrity for years.

Winners: New York Yankees

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    The New York Yankees needed another starting pitcher in addition to a left-handed reliever, and they got both prior to the trade deadline by acquiring Toronto Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ and Baltimore Orioles lefty reliever Zach Britton, respectively.

    Granted, the Yanks had to part with a few notable prospects, including right-handed pitcher Dillon Tate and outfielder Billy McKinney. But the Yanks' window to win is right now, and upgrades were a necessity.

    Happ provides the Yankees rotation with some stability: The team has been inconsistent on the mound this year, with the only consistent force being ace Luis Severino. However, that hasn't been the case of late, as Severino has an 8.84 ERA in his last four starts.

    Happ is a proven veteran pitcher with an excellent 26.6 percent strikeout rate and 3.74 xFIP this year. He also has dominated against current Boston Red Sox, who have hit just .214 against him lifetime. 

    Unfortunately, the 35-year-old southpaw is suffering a mild case of hand, foot and mouth disease, per general manager Brian Cashman, but he hasn't been ruled out of his next start against the Red Sox on Saturday.

    As for Britton, he was arguably the best reliever in baseball from 2014 to 2016, saving 120 games and posting a 1.38 ERA. Achilles and forearm injuries curtailed his appearances and production in 2017 and 2018, but he's back in the mix after some disabled list stints. He had held opponents to no runs and just three hits in his previous nine innings before giving up a run against the Kansas City Royals on Saturday.

    The Yankees have an uphill battle to overtake the Red Sox for the division (through Tuesday, they were five games back), but Happ and Britton should immediately help New York's efforts.

Losers: Milwaukee Brewers

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    In a vaccum, the Milwaukee Brewers' acquisition of Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop is a good deal. He's just 26 years old and one year removed from hitting 32 home runs and knocking in 105 runs. A slow start this year hindered his season, but Schoop was phenomenal in July, hitting .360 alongside a 1.056 OPS.

    But he'll likely be playing out of position in Milwaukee, as the Brewers previously acquired Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas. That deal moved incumbent third baseman Travis Shaw to second base, which could mean Schoop will play shortstop, a position he's played just six times in the bigs.

    Basically, Milwaukee is hoping its new and powerful hitting lineup (and its solid outfield defense, led by Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich) washes out any potential middle-infield defensive woes. That's a risky proposition.

    The Brewers traded four prospects (Brett Phillips, Jorge Lopez, Luis Ortiz, Jean Carmona) and their starting second baseman (Jonathan Villar) for Moustakas and Schoop. Of note, Ortiz and Phillips were ranked as the fifth- and sixth-best prospects in Milwaukee's organization by Mike Rosenbaum of MLB.com prior to the season.

    While it made sense for the Brewers to alleviate infield needs by trading away some of those players, the others could have potentially been used as the backbone of a deal to get a starting pitcher, which is arguably a greater need.

    With Brent Suter out for the season with a torn UCL and Zach Davies still on the disabled list, they could have used another arm to provide more strength and depth to a rotation in which no pitcher has less than a 4.04 xFIP (the average for starters is 4.18).

    Granted, the Brewers have one of the best bullpens in the bigs (fifth in ERA), so if they can keep games close, the edge may go to them in the later frames. But it's also conceivable that the new middle infield and the decision to stay the course with the starting rotation will come back to hurt them.

Winners: Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays

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    It's not often that a deal looks like a win-win for both sides, but that could be the case in the trade that sent starting pitcher Chris Archer from Tampa Bay to Pittsburgh.

    The Bucs received outfielder Austin Meadows, right-handed pitcher Tyler Glasnow and a player to be named later for Archer.

    On the Pirates' side, Pittsburgh receives a pitcher who should immediately serve as the team's ace. Archer has been up and down this year in part because of an abdominal strain, but at his best, he is a strikeout artist (career-high 29.0 percent in 2015) and someone who can pitch deep into games. He also has a sterling 3.45 xFIP for his career.

    The Bucs got a nice haul back for Archer even when not considering the player to be named later. The key to the trade is Glasnow, who ranked in the top 25 in the prospect rankings for Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com prior to the 2017 season.

    However, Glasnow hasn't put it together on the major league mound yet: Of note, his 13.9 percent walk rate has inhibited him from finding success. Glasnow is just 24 years old, however, and if he can figure out how to pitch with more control, the Rays may be getting a steal on a player under team control until 2024.

    As for Meadows, the 23-year-old outfielder impressed in limited action with the big club this year, hitting five home runs and posting a .795 OPS. Like Glasnow, Meadows has been highly touted in the past, and the aforementioned media outlets all ranked him in the top 50 overall in the preseason.

    In addition to the deal, the Bucs and Rays made other solid moves. Notably, Pittsburgh picked up Texas Rangers closer Keone Kela (24 saves in 25 appearances), while Tampa Bay acquired St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham (14 home runs, .730 OPS).

    While both teams are in tough divisions, don't be surprised to see them in playoff contention for the next few years.

Losers: Houston Astros

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    On May 8, Toronto police arrested Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna and charged him with assaulting a woman. Major League Baseball placed him on administrative leave and conducted its own investigation. Once complete, Commissioner Rob Manfred suspended the 23-year-old 75 games for violating the league's Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy.

    On Monday, the Houston Astros acquired Osuna for three players, including former closer Ken Giles. Osuna is eligible to come off suspension on Sunday. Court proceedings are ongoing, and Osuna plans to plead not guilty.

    The allegations are horrific, and they don't align with the Astros' zero-tolerance policy against "abuse of any kind" despite general manager Jeff Luhnow's comments addressing that issue.

    In addition to the burgeoning public relations disaster behind the move, as well as the distraction it may cause the team, Osuna's on-field performance may be trending downward.

    Osuna didn't get off to a great start this season: Per FanGraphs, he struck out just 20.6 percent of batters (of note, his career mark is 29.1 percent). He also induced far fewer swinging strikes than usual (11.7 percent in 2018 compared to his career high of 16.8 percent in 2017).

    Furthermore, Osuna has allowed the highest hard-hit mark of his career (38.3 percent), and his fastball velocity is down over a mile per hour from 2016 (96.6 to 95.2 now). His slider velocity (94.7 mph) is also a career low.

    Now he's expected to arrive after three months off and contribute to a team in the middle of a playoff race.

    The Astros put their reputation on the line for a pitcher who Toronto police allege assaulted a woman—and who may be regressing as his career advances. This could be the worst deal of 2018.

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