Winners and losers of the trade deadline

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
28 Comments

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.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
0 Comments

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.