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Winners and losers of the trade deadline

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We’re required by federal law to make a “winners and losers” post after the trade deadline. Gotta know where the teams stand after all of the 4 PM EDT hubbub.

Check out the list of all the deadline transactions here.

Winners

New York Yankees – GM Brian Cashman turned pending free agents Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova into legitimate prospects. For Beltran, the club acquired Dillon Tate, Erik Swanson, and Nick Green from the Rangers. Tate’s stock fell sharply after being selected fourth overall by the Rangers in last year’s draft. He struggled to a 5.12 ERA in 65 innings with Single-A Hickory this season, but he’s only 22 and probably fixable. Meanwhile, for Nova, the Yankees received two players to be named later. Beltran is 39 and Nova hasn’t been good for a while, so turning them into potentially useful young players is a win. The Yankees on Sunday flipped reliever Andrew Miller to the Indians for four prospects: outfielder Clint Frazier and pitchers Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller, and J.P. Feyereisen. A week ago, the Yankees sent Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for pitcher Adam Warren, minor league outfielders Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford, and shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres. Torres is now the Yankees’ #2 prospect. Frazier is first, Sheffield is seventh, and McKinney is 16th, per MLB Pipeline.

Texas Rangers – The Rangers bulked up to protect their 62-44 record and six-game lead in the AL West by snagging Beltran from the Yankees as well as catcher Jonathan Lucroy and reliever Jeremy Jeffress from the Brewers. While the Rangers would’ve liked to have also brought in a starting pitcher, the club otherwise addressed its glaring needs. Lucroy and his .841 OPS represent a major upgrade over the aggregate .710 OPS the Rangers have gotten from their catchers. Jeffress bolsters a scary back of the bullpen that includes closer Sam Dyson, Tony Barnette, Jake Diekman, and Matt Bush who all have ERA’s under 3.00. Beltran and his .890 OPS help the Rangers fill the DH role vacated by Prince Fielder. Beltran could also find time in the outfield and at first base as needs dictate.

Milwaukee Brewers – Like the Yankees, the Brewers were able to ship out some veterans to truly bolster their minor league system. The club sent Lucroy and Jeffress to the Rangers for outfield prospect Lewis Brinson and pitching prospect Luis Ortiz, rated as #2 and 3 in the Rangers’ system, respectively, by MLB Pipeline. Reliever Will Smith went to the Giants for catcher Andrew Susac and pitching prospect Phil Bickford, who is now rated fourth in the Brewers’ system. That’s a pretty good day.

Chicago Cubs – A team with few flaws added arguably baseball’s most dominant reliever in Chapman and also picked up Joe Smith from the Angels on Sunday. Smith isn’t as lights out as he used to be, but he has an adequate 3.82 ERA with a 25/13 K/BB ratio in 37 2/3 innings this season. With the way Hector Rondon, Travis Wood, and Pedro Strop have been pitching this season, though, Smith is mostly just middle relief depth. If the Cubs can have their starters depart with a lead after six innings, they have a very good shot at winning that game. It’ll be even scarier in the playoffs.

Losers

Los Angeles Angels – The Angels sent starter Hector Santiago and minor league reliever Alan Busenitz to the Angels for starters Ricky Nolasco and Alex Meyer. This trade doesn’t make much sense for the Angels, even though they’re getting money to cover Nolasco’s salary. Nolasco has been terrible and will be under contract next season. It’s possible the Angels just designate him for assignment as his rotation spot could be better used. Meyer will be under team control for a while, so that will be nice for the Angels, but Meyer has been battling a shoulder injury for most of the season.

Cleveland Indians – The Indians completed a deal with the Yankees on Sunday for Miller, sending four prospects to New York. The Indians thought they had a deal with the Brewers for Lucroy, but that fell through when the Indians wouldn’t promise Lucroy a starting catching role in 2017 nor nullifying his club option for ’17. Outfielder Brandon Guyer was also added ahead of Monday’s 4 PM EDT deadline. The 60-42 Indians lead the AL Central by 4.5 games, but adding only Miller and Guyer may not be enough. They really needed a catcher. The club has gotten an AL-worst .511 OPS from the catching position. A pitcher — even one as lights out as Miller — who only pitches one inning every other game or so can only do so much.

Atlanta Braves – The Braves didn’t do a whole lot, other than exchanging outfielder Hector Olivera with the Padres for outfielder Matt Kemp. Olivera was given an 81-game suspension for his involvement in a domestic violence incident in April. The Braves washed themselves of the player and what was remaining of his six-year, $62.5 million contract originally signed with the Dodgers. They also brought in a useful outfielder in Kemp. While Kemp may not be an MVP-caliber player anymore, he still put up a .774 OPS this season playing half his games at Petco Park and he’s not a known domestic abuser. So that’s nice.

Whitewash: Rob Manfred says he doesn’t think sign stealing extends beyond the Astros

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Rob Manfred said today that he believes the sign-stealing scandal which has taken over the news in the past week does not extend beyond the Houston Astros. His exact words, via Jeff Passan of ESPN:

“Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”

This is simply incredible. As in literally not credible.

It’s not credible because, just last week, in the original story in The Athletic, it was reported that the Astros system was set up by two players, one of whom was “a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources . . . they were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good. They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.”

The very next day Passan reported that Major League Baseball would not limit its focus to the Astros. Rather, the league’s probe was also include members of the 2019 Astros and would extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentioned the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Add into this the Red Sox’ pre-Cora sign-stealing with Apple Watches and widespread, informed speculation on the part of players and people around the game that many teams do this sort of thing, and one can’t reasonably suggest that only the Houston Astros are doing this.

Which, as I noted at the time, made perfect sense. These schemes cannot, logically, operate in isolation because players and coaches change teams constantly. In light of this, players have to know that their sign-stealing would be found out by other teams eventually. They continue to do it, however, because they know other teams do it too. As is the case with pitchers using pine tar or what have you, they don’t rat out the other team so they, themselves, will not be ratted out. It’s a mutually-assured destruction that only exists and only works if, in fact, other teams are also stealing signs.

So why is Major League Baseball content to only hang the Astros here? I can think of two reasons.

One is practical. They had the Astros fall in their lap via former Astro Mike Fiers — obviously not himself concerned with his current team being busted for whatever reason — going on the record with his accusation. That’s not likely to repeat itself across baseball and thus it’d be quite difficult for Major League Baseball to easily conduct a wide investigation. Who is going to talk? How can baseball make them talk? It’d be a pretty big undertaking.

But there’s also the optics. Major League Baseball has had a week to think about the report of the Astros sign-stealing and, I suspect, they’ve realized, like everyone else has realized, that this is a major scandal in the making. Do they really want to spend the entire offseason — and longer, I suspect, if they want a thorough investigation — digging up unflattering news about cheating in the sport? Do they really want to be in the bad news creation business? I doubt they do, so they decided to fence off the Astros, hit them hard with penalties, declare victory and move on.

Which is to say, it’s a whitewash.

It’s something the league has tried to do before. They did it with steroids and it didn’t work particularly well.

In 1998 Mark McGwire, that game’s biggest star at the time, was found to have the PED androstenedione in his locker. It was a big freakin’ deal. Except . . . nothing happened. Major League Baseball planned to “study” the drug but most of the fallout was visited upon the reporter who made it public. It was accompanied by some shameful conduct by both Major League Baseball and the baseball press corps who eagerly went after the messenger rather than cover the story properly.

Four years later Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco went public with their PED use and said drug use was widespread. MLB’s response was slow and, again, sought to isolated the known offenders, singling out Caminiti as a troubled figure — which he was — and Canseco as a kook — which he kind of is — but doing them and the story a disservice all the same.

The league eventually created a rather toothless testing and penalty regime. Congress and outside investigative reporters filled the void created by the league’s inaction, calling hearings and publishing damning stories about how wide PED use was in the game. Eventually Bud Selig commissioned the Mitchell Report. Some ten years after the McGwire incident baseball had at least the beginnings of a sane approach to PEDs and a more effective testing plan, but it was pulled to it kicking and screaming, mostly because doing anything about it was too hard and not very appetizing from a business and P.R. perspective.

And so here we are again. Baseball has a major scandal on its hands. After some initially promising words about how serious it planned to take it, the league seems content to cordon off the known crime scene and refuses to canvass the neighborhood. Sure, if someone gratuitously hands them evidence they’ll look into it, but it sure sounds like Rob Manfred plans to react rather than act here.

That should work. At least until the next time evidence of cheating comes up and they have to start this all over again.