Predicting the Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2019 MLB Trade Deadline
As soon as the Major League Baseball trade deadline came, there it went. Now we sit back and wait to see what happens next.
Or we could not do the boring thing and make some predictions instead.
Here, we've picked our six biggest winners and losers—three of each, plus some honorable/dishonorable mentions—of the 2019 trade deadline.
Some of these clubs took risks that either are or aren't worthwhile. Others didn't take risks despite clearly needing to do so.
Going in no particular order, let's take it away.
Honorable and Dishonorable Mentions
Winner: San Francisco Giants
Wait, the Giants are a winner despite holding on to Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith? You bet, because their deadline-day dealings were a master class in having it both ways.
Perhaps the Giants are kidding themselves by thinking they can make the postseason, but they didn't kid around with the trades they did make. Their long-term plans are now full of prospects (including Mauricio Dubon) and free of Mark Melancon's albatross contract.
Winner: Washington Nationals
Granted, the quality of this haul leaves much to be desired. But the quantity is commendable, especially in light of how other contenders with weak bullpens did nothing at all. For their efforts, the Nats should at least nab a National League wild-card berth.
Loser: Los Angeles Dodgers
Speaking of teams that left good enough alone with their bullpens, the Dodgers merely traded for left-handed specialist Adam Kolarek. Their other big move was a deal for infielder Jedd Gyorko, who's been largely irrelevant in 2019.
The Dodgers will still win the NL West, of course, but it's hard to imagine either of their new additions being the key to ending their World Series losing streak.
Loser: Minnesota Twins
Nothing against Sam Dyson. The newly acquired right-hander should do fine as a ground-ball specialist in Minnesota's bullpen both this season and in 2020.
However, the Twins needed an ace to help Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi carry the load. Because they failed to get one, their status as American League Central leaders is in serious jeopardy.
Winner: Houston Astros
- RHP Zack Greinke
- RHP Aaron Sanchez
- RHP Joe Biagini
- C Martin Maldonado
- OF Cal Stevenson
There was no impact on Wednesday more seismic than Houston's last-minute trade for Greinke. The former Cy Young Award winner and six-time All-Star is bringing a 2.90 ERA with him to Houston, and he may get even better in the hands of the club's renowned analytics wing.
The big worry in Houston of late has concerned whether the Astros had enough starting pitching. So much for that. With Greinke now alongside Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, Houston's rotation can go to infinity and beyond.
Houston's other new toys are worthy of acclaim in their own right. Sanchez may still have the ability that made him the American League ERA champion in 2016. Biagini is a capable middle reliever. Maldonado is one of the better defensive catchers in the league.
While other contenders sat around nervously twiddling their thumbs, the Astros effectively doubled down on their World Series aspirations. They'll be glad they did.
Loser: New York Yankees
In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, the New York Yankees were connected to nearly every big-name starting pitcher on the trade market.
New York's rotation started out strong, but it began to stumble in June and finally crashed in late July. Over a seven-game stretch between July 21 and 27, Yankees starters coughed up a 16.62 ERA and 18 home runs.
The Yankees solved this problem by trading for...Alfredo Garcia?
Formerly of the Colorado Rockies, the 20-year-old lefty is probably a swell human being. But he's neither Greinke nor Bumgarner nor Trevor Bauer nor Marcus Stroman nor Noah Syndergaard nor Zack Wheeler nor any of the other starters the Yankees were reportedly trying to trade for at any given moment.
In his defense, all general manager Brian Cashman could tell reporters was: "This is a damn good roster, and we feel like it can compete with anyone in the game."
The Yankees' first-place standing in the AL East confirms they are indeed "damn good." But they aren't as good as they should be, and that'll never be more clear than during the next time they face the Astros.
Winner: Arizona Diamondbacks
You know who else did well in the Greinke deal? The team that traded him.
The downside of the Greinke trade for the Arizona Diamondbacks is that they're on the hook to pay $53 million of the $77 million he's still owed. But by swallowing that much money, the D-backs secured four of Houston's best prospects (with their Baseball America ranks):
- RHP Corbin Martin (No. 4)
- RHP J.B. Bukauskus (No. 5)
- 1B Seth Beer (No. 8)
- INF Josh Rojas (No. 16)
The Diamondbacks also replaced Greinke with a fellow veteran righty when they plucked Mike Leake from the Seattle Mariners. It's conceivable that he'll be part of a contender in 2020. If not, he'll likely be flipped for talent this winter or next summer.
Last but not least, there's Arizona's swap of Jazz Chisholm for Zac Gallen. The former is a prospect whose stock has fallen. The latter is the opposite, as he put up a 1.77 ERA at Triple-A before breaking in with a 2.72 ERA for the Miami Marlins. He has swing-and-miss stuff, and he'll turn only 24 on August 3.
If you're going to take a 54-55 record as a cue to quit on a postseason race, this is the way to do it. The Diamondbacks' future has gone from looking mildly bleak to noticeably brighter.
Loser: Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox's mission statement for the trade deadline might as well have been: "Like the Yankees, except for relief pitching."
Despite its MLB-best strikeout rate, Boston's bullpen has been a problem this season. It has a 4.54 ERA and a noticeable void where Craig Kimbrel used to be in the closer's role.
Whether it was Smith, Kirby Yates, Ken Giles or Edwin Diaz, the Red Sox might have traded for any one of the surprisingly large supply of closers on the trade market. But whereas the Yankees at least got Garcia, the Red Sox ended up with nothing.
“We had an opportunity to make a lot of trades if we wanted,” president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said, per Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com. “It really came down to that we just felt the demands for what we were going to receive, we didn’t want to pay. It’s ultimately a decision we decided to make."
Granted, the Red Sox are far out in the AL East race and on the periphery of the AL wild-card race. A situation like theirs does warrant a subdued willingness to take risks.
But zero risks? That's no way for a reigning World Series champion to act. And in this case, the Red Sox's reluctance may well cost them a trip to the postseason.
Winner: Cleveland Indians
Although it seemed like a too-far-out-there possibility, the Cleveland Indians indeed traded Bauer despite having a wild-card slot in hand and the AL Central lead in their sights.
"You’re losing a damn good pitcher, and we're in a race right now," second baseman Jason Kipnis said, according to Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com.
The Indians will be in trouble if neither Corey Kluber (broken arm) nor Carlos Carrasco (leukemia) returns from the injured list to fill the void in their rotation that Bauer's departure created. Still, there are worse gambits than that.
And the categorical positive of this deal is that the Indians' lineup is now equipped with Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes, who've combined to slug 49 home runs. Between them, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Carlos Santana, the Tribe now have an offense built for October.
If the Indians fail to go deep into the playoffs this year, all won't be lost. Reyes is a 24-year-old who's under their control through 2024. Likewise, the three prospects they netted—left-handers Logan Allen and Scott Moss and infielder Victor Nova—are legitimate talents who should impact the club's future.
Loser: Cincinnati Reds
Just as it was during the past offseason, it's hard to fault the Cincinnati Reds' effort.
Bauer was the Reds' prize in Tuesday's huge three-team deal with the Indians and San Diego Padres. In him, they got a live-armed ace with a 2.95 ERA and a rate of 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings over the last two seasons. Plus, he's under their control through 2020.
The Reds might have subsequently flipped Bauer on deadline day, but they didn't. Evidently, their plan is to push for the postseason with him and fellow aces Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray at the tip of the spear.
But while the boldness of Cincinnati's plan is admirable, the wisdom of it is questionable. The Reds are six games under .500 right now, and they don't figure to get much better in 2020 if they don't fix their sputtering offense.
Toolsy outfielder Taylor Trammell, who ranks as MLB.com's No. 30 overall prospect, might have helped with that. But the Bauer trade put him in San Diego, and well-regarded left-hander Scott Moss wound up in Cleveland. The Reds couldn't recoup as much prospect depth Wednesday with trades of Tanner Roark (who fetched Jameson Hannah) and Scooter Gennett (who brought back a player to be named later).
Admirable boldness be damned, the Reds' risk/reward balance is presently skewed too much toward the former.