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Winners and losers of the trade deadline

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As Tuesday’s 4 PM ET non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone, it’s time to play our favorite annual game: naming winners and losers of the trade deadline. This is certainly not an exhaustive list; it’s meant to highlight some teams that made notable progress and those that did not. Without any further ado…

Winners

Milwaukee Brewers

With just a game separating them from first place in the NL Central, the Brewers absolutely needed to make some moves to keep pace with the Cubs. They did by acquiring third baseman Mike Moustakas from the Royals, infielder Jonathan Schoop from the Orioles, and reliever Joakim Soria from the White Sox. The club certainly could have done more to bolster the starting rotation, but that’s still a possibility as teams can make trades through waivers in August. (Teams can also trade players through waivers in September, but those players become ineligible for the postseason roster with their new teams.)

The Brewers’ aggregate .658 OPS from their second basemen ranked 25th of 30 teams across baseball. If they choose to play Schoop full-time there, he will be a noticeable upgrade, even if his .720 OPS this season is quite a step back from last year’s .841 mark.

Moustakas replaces Travis Shaw at third base, allowing Shaw to function more as a utilityman. Even if Moustakas isn’t a strict upgrade over Shaw, he bumps an unproductive player off the roster. So it’s effectively Moustakas over Brad Miller or Nate Orf.

It’s a similar story for Soria, who will often find himself pitching seventh innings for the Brewers. The Brewers’ ‘pen has been quite good, but Soria just stretches that depth even further. The 34-year-old Soria put up a 2.56 ERA in 38 2/3 innings for the White Sox.

Atlanta Braves

The Braves acquired starter Kevin Gausman and relievers Darren O'Day and Brad Brach from the Orioles, as well as reliever Jonny Venters from the Rays and outfielder Adam Duvall from the Reds. While the club acquiesced two top-30 prospects to get Gausman and O’Day, the club otherwise gave up very little. In the cases of Brach and Venters, the Braves gave up international slot money that they wouldn’t have used anyway. So the Braves still have one of the richest and deepest minor league systems in baseball while being very much alive in the NL East race.

Duvall could platoon in either outfield corner, pushing Ender Inciarte out of center and Ronald Acuna into center when an opposing lefty starter is on the mound. Duvall doesn’t have much of a platoon split over his career, but righty-on-lefty match-ups are still something the Braves should want to pursue.

Entering Tuesday, the Braves’ 4.20 bullpen ERA ranks 18th of 30 teams, so the additions of O’Day, Brach, and Venters adds some much-needed depth, especially while closer Arodys Vizcaino and his 1.65 ERA are on the shelf.

Baltimore Orioles

With the 2018 season identified as a lost cause long ago, the Orioles recouped value on many of their to-be free agents, including superstar SS/3B Manny Machado and closer Zach Britton. The club also acquired international slot money, as mentioned, which will allow them to be serious players for Cuban outfielder Victor Mesa. In their recent trades, the club acquired outfielder Yusniel Diaz, Dean Kremer, Rylan Bannon, Zach Pop, Dillon Tate, Cody Carroll, Luis Ortiz, and Jean Carmona. While Ortiz and Carmona have yet to be added to their top-30 on MLB Pipeline, the others aforementioned rank No. 1, No. 13, No. 20, No. 24, No. 6, and No. 14, respectively. The club may not be competitive for a while, but the minor league system has gotten a major boost which will pay off down the road, especially if the club indeed is able to sign Mesa.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers, as expected, went all-in on competing this season, bolstering the roster by acquiring Manny Machado from the Orioles and Brian Dozier from the Twins. Machado was initially slated to play shortstop as per his wishes, but with Justin Turner back on the disabled list, Machado slid back to third base. Dozier, if he can regain his previous form, provides an upgrade over Logan Forsythe and Chase Utley at second base. Machado adds the most impact of any one player who got traded this month and the rest of the Dodgers’ roster is scary good. The Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Giants are all within striking distance of first place in the NL West, but they have their work cut out for them.

Losers

New York Mets

If there’s one thing teams have identified lately, it’s that half-measures rarely work. If you’re not going to be very competitive, then commit to a rebuild. If you want to be a player in the division, then commit to contending. The Mets, going nowhere fast, have a some impending free agents in Devin Mesoraco and Jose Bautista but were unable to trade them ahead of Tuesday’s deadline.  The Mets also have incredible resources in Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, as well as Zack Wheeler, though they are not necessarily under any time constraints to move them. They were able to move infielder Asdrubal Cabrera to the Phillies and reliever Jeurys Familia to the A’s.

While the Mets weren’t likely to get a major prospect for the likes of Mesoraco and Bautista, and the club can still move them through waivers in August, things are a lot less certain. It is quite possible that the club isn’t able to move their impending free agents and simply watches them walk into free agency after the season.

Yesterday, a report indicated that the Mets actually plan to contend next season. If that’s the case, then holding on to their trio of starting pitchers is the right call. However, it’s difficult to see the Mets contending as a likely possibility. Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto have been the only productive regulars among position players (with Wilmer Flores getting an honorable mention). Who knows what the Mets will be able to get from Yoenis Cespedes next year. The bullpen is a shambles. To compete next season, it would seem like the Mets would need to be active players in the free agent market this offseason as well as making some trades to bolster the roster, both of which have not exactly something for which the Wilpons have been known.

Cleveland Indians

The 57-48 first-place Indians desperately needed outfield help, so they got… Leonys Martin? Martin is serviceable, owning a .731 OPS and 1.8 WAR on the season, but the Indians needed to add more of a punch. It’s true that the AL Central is pretty much decided with the Twins and Tigers — second- and third-place, respectively — committed to selling and the White Sox and Royals dead in the water long ago. However, when the Indians find themselves in the ALDS, their outfield depth will be a sore spot.

Entering Tuesday, the Indians’ aggregate .580 OPS from center fielders — split between Greg Allen, Bradley Zimmer, Rajai Davis, and Tyler Naquin — ranked 28th of 30 teams. Their .724 OPS out of right fielders — Brandon Guyer, Naquin, Lonnie Chisenhall, Melky Cabrera, Allen — ranked 20th.

The bullpen is also an issue. The club’s 5.05 bullpen ERA is 27th-best in baseball. The Indians acquired Brad Hand and Adam Cimber from the Padres, but they needed depth. Pushing Dan Otero and his 5.22 ERA out of the bullpen, for example, would have been a big win. There’s still time to do that, fortunately.

Washington Nationals

The Nationals waffled between buying and selling for a while. After dropping the final two games of their four-game series in Miami against the Marlins over the weekend, causing them to dip below .500, the club finally decided to sell, telling teams soon-to-be free agent outfielder Bryce Harper was available. However, the Nationals only ended up trading reliever Brandon Kintzler to the Cubs. Other impending free agents include Daniel Murphy, Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson, Shawn Kelley, Jeremy Hellickson, and Mark Reynolds. There’s still time to recoup value, but the Nationals will have to do so via waivers in August, a more complicated process.

The NL East is anything but a sure thing, as the Nationals enter Tuesday only 5.5 games behind the first-place Phillies, but both the Phillies and the second-place Braves (0.5 games behind) made upgrades at the trade deadline. The Nationals, who did next-to-nothing by the deadline, would have to leapfrog both teams. In the Wild Card, they would have to contend with either the Phillies or Braves as well as the Cubs/Brewers/Pirates from the NL Central, and the Dodgers/Diamondbacks/Rockies/Giants from the NL West. Any roster that has Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer has the potential to catch fire, so it is possible that the Nats’ inaction turns out to be a blessing in disguise. But a lot of things would need to go right for them to clear a path to the postseason.

Justin Verlander laughed at after saying Astros were “technologically and analytically advanced”

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Justin Verlander was at the annual Baseball Writers Association of America banquet last night, on hand to accept the 2019 Cy Young Award. Normally such things are pretty routine events, but nothing is routine with the Houston Astros these days.

During his acceptance speech, Verlander made some comments about the Astros’ “technological and analytical advancements.” The comments were greeted by some laughter in the room as well as some groans. At least one person on hand claimed that other players present were visibly angry.

It’s hard to tell the context of it all without a full video — maybe Verlander meant it as a joke, maybe the reactions were more varied than is being described — but here’s how reporters on hand for it last night are describing it:

If it was a joke it was ill-timed, as not many around the game think the sign-stealing stuff is funny at the moment. Especially in light of the fact that, despite having several opportunities to do so, Astros players have failed to show any accountability for their cheating.

And yes, that includes former Astros Dallas Keuchel, who was praised for “apologizing” at a White Sox fan event on Friday, but whose “apology” was couched in a lot of deflection and excuse-making about how it was just something that was done at the time and about how technology was to blame. Keuchel also tried to minimize it, saying that the Astros didn’t do it all the time. Which is rich given that the most prominent video evidence of their trash can-banging scheme came from a blowout Astros win in a meaningless August game against a losing team. If they were doing it in that situation, please, do not tell me they weren’t doing it when games really mattered.

Anyway, I’d like to think Verlander was just trying to take a stab at a joke here, because Verlander is the wrong guy to be sending to be sending any kind of messages diminishing the cheating given that he has a pretty solid track record of holding other players’ feet to the fire when they get busted.

For example, here he was in 2018 after Robinson Canó got busted for PEDs:

Of course, consistency can be a problem for Verlander when his teammates are on the ones who are on the hook. Here was his response to Tigers infielder Jhonny Peralta being suspended in the wake of the Biogenesis scandal:

“Everybody makes mistakes. He’s my brother. We fight and bleed and sweat together on the baseball field. If my brother makes a mistake, especially if he owns up to it and serves his time, I don’t see how you can hold a grudge or anything like that. “It’s one thing to step up and be a man and own up to his mistake.”

Verlander, it should also be noted, was very outspoken about teams engaging in advanced sign-stealing schemes once upon a time. here he was in 2017, while still with the Tigers, talking about such things in a June 2017 interview with MLive.com.

“We don’t have somebody, but I’m sure teams have a person that can break down signals and codes and they’ll have the signs before you even get out there on the mound.  It’s not about gamesmanship anymore. It used to be, ‘Hey, if you can get my signs, good for you.’ In the past, if a guy on second (base) was able to decipher it on a few pitches, I guess that was kind of part of the game. I think it’s a different level now. It’s not good.”

Which makes me wonder how he felt when he landed on the Astros two months later and realized they had a sophisticated cheating operation underway. If the feelings were mixed, he was able to bury the part of them which had a problem with it, because he’s said jack about it since this all blew up in November. And, of course, has happily accepted the accolades and the hardware he he has received since joining Houston, some of which was no doubt acquired by virtue of a little extra, ill-gotten run support.

Anyway, wake me up when someone — anyone — associated with the Astros shows some genuine accountability about this.