Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2021 MLB Trade Deadline
There's never been an MLB trade deadline quite like the one we just witnessed.
According to Sarah Langs of MLB.com, a record 10 players were traded in the same season they were named to the All-Star team: Kris Bryant, Nelson Cruz, Eduardo Escobar, Adam Frazier, Joey Gallo, Kyle Gibson, Craig Kimbrel, Max Scherzer, Kyle Schwarber and Trea Turner.
Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Jose Berrios also found new homes as potential impact players for the stretch run, and two former contenders in the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals stripped their rosters to the studs in a full-blown fire sale.
There were a total of 32 trades completed in the two days leading up to the deadline, according to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, and more than 80 players have changed teams in the past week.
Sifting through the wreckage is no small task, and it will be years before we can declare a definitive winner and loser in each of this year's deadline deals, but there are some general conclusions that can be drawn.
Did contenders address their glaring needs? Did selling teams maximize their trade chips? Do individual players find themselves in a considerably better or worse situation?
Ahead, we've highlighted the biggest winners and losers in the aftermath of the 2021 MLB trade deadline.
The Washington Nationals won a World Series title days after Juan Soto turned 21 years old.
Then they spent big to re-sign Stephen Strasburg, and it looked like they were poised to contend with a deep starting rotation and a young offensive core.
Now, the young superstar is staring down what could be a lengthy rebuild after the Nationals cleaned house at the deadline. With club control through the 2024 season, he's more or less stuck.
Tampa Bay Rays
There were some rumblings early Friday morning that the Rays were sniffing around both Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel. After trading for Nelson Cruz earlier this month, it looked like the cost-conscious club was prepared to do something big in hopes of defending its American League crown.
Alas, the only move they ended up making on deadline day was to acquire outfielder Jordan Luplow and reliever DJ Johnson from Cleveland.
With a 3.86 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 64 strikeouts in 72.1 innings pitched in the final season of a two-year, $20 million deal with the last-place Minnesota Twins, Michael Pineda looked like a lock to find his way to a contender at the deadline.
Instead, the 33-year-old—who has never pitched in a postseason game—will play out the season with a non-contender.
After the Max Scherzer domino fell, the Twins were suddenly holding the most valuable pitching trade chip on the market in right-hander Jose Berrios.
The 27-year-old is having a terrific season with a 3.48 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 126 strikeouts in 121.2 innings, and with another year of arbitration control in 2022, his value was at its peak.
With a robust market for his services, the Twins were able to demand a premium, and they walked away with two of the best prospects anyone acquired at the deadline in 2020 first-round pick Austin Martin (No. 14 prospect in B/R Top 100) and right-hander Simeon Woods Richardson.
They also deserve a tip of the cap for getting something for 38-year-old J.A. Happ and his 6.77 ERA.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants got their guy, swinging a last-minute deal to acquire Kris Bryant from the Cubs.
Now, the question is whether a change of scenery and the jump to a pennant race will recharge the bat of a player who is hitting .191/.296/.362 with 11 extra-base hits in 162 plate appearances since the beginning of June.
At least they managed to hold on to catcher Joey Bart and their other top-tier prospects, using low-level outfielder Alexander Canario as the centerpiece of the deal.
It's hard not to be a bit skeptical of the decision to trade four years of Jesus Luzardo for two months of Starling Marte, but props to the Athletics for being aggressive.
They also made a terrific under-the-radar deal on Friday to acquire Yan Gomes and Josh Harrison from the Washington Nationals, and they picked up lefty reliever Andrew Chafin on Tuesday. It wasn't flashy, but Oakland definitely improved.
Losers: Houston Astros
It doesn't feel like the Houston Astros did enough.
The focal point of their deadline dealings was the bullpen.
Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero were acquired from the Seattle Mariners in a deal that sent controllable infielder Abraham Toro and veteran reliever Joe Smith the other way, and they also added Yimi Garcia and Phil Maton to the bullpen contingent in separate deals.
That should help stabilize a relief corps that ranks 16th in the majors with a 4.14 ERA and has struggled at times to get the ball to All-Star closer Ryan Pressly with a lead.
But does it really move the needle?
With the Athletics making a handful of solid moves and the Chicago White Sox making a splash with the addition of Craig Kimbrel, the Astros effectively lost a step in the AL West race and in the larger battle for the AL pennant.
It's also hard to figure out the logic in trading Myles Straw to Cleveland in exchange for Maton.
Now who plays center field?
Winners: Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves didn't make a splashy move to acquire slugger Joey Gallo or reunite with closer Craig Kimbrel as some fans were hoping, but it was an extremely productive deadline day for a team that is lurking just four games back in the NL East standings.
Here's a look at what the Braves walked away with:
- RP Richard Rodriguez
- OF Eddie Rosario
- OF Jorge Soler
- OF Adam Duvall
It's no secret they were in need of outfield help with Ronald Acuna Jr. out for the season, Marcell Ozuna away from the team, Cristian Pache failing to seize the everyday center field job and Ender Inciarte recently released.
Now, they have a new group of outfielders to go along with the previously acquired Joc Pederson.
It's probably fair to wonder who plays center field from that group, but they did a good job filling a massive void without giving up much of anything.
The splashy move was the addition of Pittsburgh Pirates closer Richard Rodriguez, who was acquired in exchange for MLB-ready right-hander Bryse Wilson and High-A right-hander Ricky DeVito.
With two more years of club control and four solid seasons of dominant late-inning work under Rodriguez's belt in Pittsburgh, it's surprising it didn't cost more to pry loose one of the market's top bullpen arms.
All in all, a productive deadline for the Braves as they look to chase down the New York Mets.
Losers: Boston Red Sox
Who's ready for the Kyle Schwarber at first base experiment?
The last time he played there was in the Cape Cod League when he was still in college, and before he can suit up for the Boston Red Sox, the former Indiana Hoosier first needs to recover from a hamstring strain that has kept him sidelined since the All-Star break and put his red-hot bat on ice.
Why not Anthony Rizzo?
His left-handed bat would have fit perfectly in the middle of the Boston lineup, and it would have been a homecoming for a player whom the organization originally drafted in 2007.
Instead of the consistent Rizzo, who is a standout defender, the Red Sox went with the wildly inconsistent, injured Schwarber for a cheaper acquisition cost and watched as the rival Yankees swoop in on Rizzo.
That's all less than ideal, but the lack of attention to the pitching staff is an even bigger concern.
Who starts Game 3 and Game 4 of a best-of-seven playoff series? Even if Chris Sale instantly returns to his pre-injury form, which is a capital-letters IF in his return from Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox are still left relying on some combination of Nick Pivetta, Martin Perez, Garrett Richards and Tanner Houck.
Instead, the only pitchers they added were relievers Hansel Robles (45 G, 4.91 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) and Austin Davis (10 G, 5.59 ERA, 1.14 WHIP).
Winners: Chicago Cubs
If you're going to rebuild, don't half-ass it.
There's nothing worse than a team that is trapped in the purgatory that is "retooling" while hovering around the .500 mark for multiple years with no real hope of legitimate title contention and no real plan for the future.
That won't be the Chicago Cubs.
The dismantling of the roster began Thursday when Anthony Rizzo was shipped to the New York Yankees for a pair of high-ceiling prospects, and it kicked into high gear Friday.
All told, these players were shipped out before the deadline:
- Anthony Rizzo
- Kris Bryant
- Javier Baez
- Craig Kimbrel
- Ryan Tepera
- Trevor Williams
- Jake Marisnick
In return, they received an influx of prospect talent, headlined by 2020 first-round pick Pete Crow-Armstrong, toolsy outfielder Alexander Canario and high-ceiling teenager Kevin Alcantara from the Yankees in exchange for Rizzo. Established second baseman Nick Madrigal also joins the rebuild, and with control through the 2026 season, he figures to be a staple in the infield.
We won't know how things play out with the incoming prospects for years, but the Cubs did what needed to be done rather than dragging their feet.
Losers: San Diego Padres
That's the sound of the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants speeding past the San Diego Padres in the battle for NL West supremacy.
It's not like the Padres did nothing.
They went out and acquired an All-Star Game starter in second baseman Adam Frazier in a four-player deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates while also adding veteran reliever Daniel Hudson and outfielder Jake Marisnick.
However, it's hard not to be disappointed after they missed out on both Max Scherzer and Jose Berrios in an effort to solidify the starting rotation behind Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove.
They weren't just kicking the tires on those two pitchers, either. They made a serious push to acquire both of them, only to fall short.
A deal to acquire Scherzer was described as "inches away" by Jim Bowden of CBS Sports on Thursday before the Dodgers swooped in, which led AJ Cassavell of MLB.com to describe Berrios as the team's "primary target" by Friday morning.
They were also hot on the trail of Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo before he was shipped to the New York Yankees.
The Padres swung for the fences and ended up with an infield single.
Winners: Chicago White Sox
There was no clear favorite to reach the World Series in the American League in the days leading up to the trade deadline.
That's no longer the case.
The Red Sox, Astros, Rays and the rest of the AL postseason hopefuls are now all chasing the White Sox.
On Thursday, they made a pair of terrific small-scale moves, acquiring veteran second baseman Cesar Hernandez to plug a hole at the position and setup reliever Ryan Tepera from the crosstown Cubs to add another quality arm to the bullpen.
They could have stopped there, and it would have been a successful deadline.
Instead, they went out and added Craig Kimbrel in another trade with the Cubs, and he will now team with Liam Hendriks to give the South Siders the best bullpen duo in baseball.
Kimbrel didn't come cheap, with second baseman Nick Madrigal going the other way in the deal, but that's the cost of acquiring one of the most overpowering pitchers in baseball history.
The 33-year-old has a 0.49 ERA and 0.71 WHIP with 23 saves in 25 chances this season, striking out 64 of the 137 batters he has faced.
Postseason games against the White Sox just got one inning shorter.
Biggest Losers: Colorado Rockies
I just did a Google search of "synonyms for inept" in an effort to find a new word to describe the Colorado Rockies front office. Let's try a few out.
Early Friday morning, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com tweeted that the Rockies "have no plans" to trade starter Jon Gray or reliever Daniel Bard.
A team with a 44-59 record that currently has a 0.0 percent chance of reaching the postseason, according to FanGraphs, entered deadline day taking a hard-line stance that that it was not going to trade a starter two months away from free agency and a 36-year-old reliever.
There was still a chance they could salvage their deadline by extracting a solid return for shortstop Trevor Story, a valuable trade chip and a free-agent-to-be who is almost certain to abandon the sinking ship. Instead, the deadline came and went, and he's still in Colorado.
It's another massive failure by the same organization that backed itself into a corner by publicly shopping face of the franchise Nolan Arenado months after he signed a long-term deal before ultimately trading him for pennies on the dollar when he understandably wanted out.
Take your pick—all of those words apply.
Biggest Winners: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers began the season as heavy favorites to win their ninth straight NL West title and defend their World Series title thanks to a stacked roster.
However, injuries and off-the-field issues have stretched their once-dominant starting rotation thin, and they've also been without All-Star shortstop Corey Seager for much of the year.
A blockbuster deal to acquire Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Washington Nationals, in the process blocking Scherzer from landing with the San Diego Padres after the NL West rivals were close to acquiring him earlier Thursday.
Scherzer has a 2.76 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 147 strikeouts in 111 innings. Turner is hitting .322/.369/.521 with 18 home runs and 21 steals in a 4.1-WAR season. These are not just any deadline additions; these are superstar-caliber players who dramatically improve the Dodgers' outlook.
Lost in the excitement of that deal, the Dodgers also acquired Kansas City Royals left-hander Danny Duffy in exchange for a player to be named later. The 32-year-old is on the injured list with a strained flexor, but he has a 2.51 ERA in 61 innings this season. Even if he only makes a handful of appearances, he's a great depth pickup for next to nothing.
Already a clear title contender entering the deadline, the Dodgers now once again look like the favorites to hoist the trophy.