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Three winners and three losers from the trade deadline

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The 2019 trade deadline has passed. Unlike in past years, there is no non-waiver trade deadline, so this was it for major trades for teams wanting to recoup value on soon-to-depart players and for teams looking to make upgrades for the stretch run. With that in mind, here are three winners and three losers from the trade deadline.

Winners

  • Houston Astros

The Astros’ starting rotation was already scary, led by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, not to mention a reformed Wade Miley. Now add Zack Greinke into the mix. You will be hard-pressed to find a scarier rotation in October. Greinke is 35 years old and quite expensive, and it cost the Astros four top-30 prospects. However, Grienke is having his best season since 2015, holding a 2.90 ERA with 135 strikeouts and 21 walks in 146 innings of work.

The Astros also acquired Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini from the Blue Jays. Biagini has been solid out of the ‘pen, posting a 3.86 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 49 innings. Sanchez has struggled mightily across 23 starts, losing a league-high 14 games with a 6.07 ERA. Moving him to the bullpen, however, may help him turn things around.

  • Atlanta Braves

The Braves addressed a major area of need in the bullpen, picking up Chris Martin from the Rangers yesterday as well as Shane Greene and Mark Melancon today. The 30-year-old Greene is the big get, as the right-hander has been dominant closing out games for the Tigers. He has 22 saves with a 1.18 ERA and a 43/12 K/BB ratio in 38 innings. Bumping everyone on the depth chart down a notch is a big deal.

Melancon, 34, isn’t the dominant reliever he was earlier this decade, but he’s still reliable. In 46 1/3 innings with the Giants, Melancon posted a 3.50 ERA with 44 strikeouts. Martin, 33, had slightly more success with the Rangers, putting up a 3.08 ERA with 43 strikeouts and just four walks in 38 innings.

Ideally, the Braves would have added another starter to push Kevin Gausman out of the rotation but it’s not a huge deal that they didn’t.

  • Cleveland Indians

The Indians were part of a three-team deal, reported yesterday, that saw Trevor Bauer go to the Reds and Yasiel Puig pack his bags for Cleveland. Joining Puig are Franmil Reyes along with Logan Allen and minor leaguers Scott Moss and Victor Nova.

Going into the 2019 season, the outfield was the Indians’ biggest weakness. It was such a glaring need that it was shocking that the Indians did nothing to address the issue in the offseason. Adding Puig and Reyes will make a tremendous impact. The Indians’ aggregate .708 OPS from left fielders ranked 26th among 30 teams. Their .695 OPS from center fielders ranked 18th.

Puig is having a down year, owning a .777 OPS which is roughly 50 points below his career average. Still, he has 22 home runs. Reyes posted an .849 OPS and 27 home runs for the Padres prior to the trade. Their power will be a welcome addition to a team that entered Wednesday having hit the fifth-fewest homers in the AL.

Losers

  • Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers are a team with few flaws, but the bullpen sticks out like a sore thumb. The bullpen’s aggregate 4.17 ERA still ranks in the top-third of the league, but standards are high for a 70-39 team with 100 percent playoff odds at the end of July. Closer Kenley Jansen hasn’t been his usual dominant self, especially lately. He has allowed eight runs in his last 14 appearances. None of the Dodgers’ other relievers really have closing experience. Adding, for example, Felipe Vázquez from the Pirates or Shane Greene from the Tigers would have been arguably the single most impactful thing any team could have done at the deadline, considering the context of team need.

Now, sans bullpen upgrade, the Dodgers will have to be content with the fact that Pedro Báez, Yimi García, or Joe Kelly may have to come into a tense spot in a playoff game to pick up Jansen. At the very least, they will have to bridge the gap to him.

  • New York Yankees

The Yankees’ rotation is a mess. Domingo Germán leads their starters with a 4.08 ERA. Thanks to an overpowering offense and an elite back of the bullpen, the Yankees have still managed to accrue a 67-39 record. But can this rotation hold its own in a five- or seven-game postseason series, pitching the way they have? Probably not.

Starting pitching upgrades were available, even beyond the Mets (Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler) who were reportedly hesitant to deal with analytics-oriented teams. The Yankees could’ve acquired Marcus Stroman from the Blue Jays instead of the Mets, or Trevor Bauer from the Indians before they sent him to the Reds. Madison Bumgarner, Mike Minor, Robbie Ray, and Matthew Boyd all remained with their teams through the deadline, so it wasn’t as if other teams were simply beating the Yankees to the punch or outbidding them.

  • Boston Red Sox

The defending champs are nine games out of first place in the AL East, but are only two games out of the AL Wild Card at the moment. This is not a team that is dead in the water, despite failing to live up to expectations following a championship season. Some of it is their own doing, as the club didn’t address the bullpen after losing Craig Kimbrel to free agency. Six different pitchers have picked up saves for the Red Sox this year. Ryan Brasier has accrued the most saves with seven and is currently not even on the active roster. The starting rotation has been underwhelming as well, particularly Chris Sale‘s 4.26 ERA, but they have been operating without a fifth starter for the entire year.

The Red Sox didn’t necessarily need to add a Stroman or Syndergaard. Tanner Roark, Trevor Richards, and even Jason Vargas were guys on the cheaper end of the spectrum who could’ve bolstered the back of the rotation. The bullpen would’ve been best addressed with an impact acquisition like Vázquez or Greene. Alex Colomé, a seemingly under-the-radar reliever, would’ve been a huge get for the Red Sox. Sam Dyson, Ken Giles, Will Smith, and Mychal Givens also would have made an immediate impact.

Report: Some MLB teams using outside labs for COVID-19 testing

MLB COVID-19 testing
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The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Zach Buchanan report that the Diamondbacks are one of several teams that have used labs other than the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Utah to process COVID-19 testing. MLB has encountered delays with its testing, despite promising 24-hour turnaround time, so teams have tried other avenues — with the league’s endorsement — in order to get faster results.

The SMRTL had processed performance-enhancing drug screenings for MLB. The league converted it to process COVID-19 tests amid concerns that having a season and all of the testing that would be required throughout would take away testing resources from the general public. That some teams are utilizing labs other than the SMRTL suggests the league, indeed, is usurping those resources.

In prospect Seth Beer’s case, he tested positive for COVID-19. He needed to test negative twice consecutively to be cleared to return to play. Beer went to a third-party site in the Phoenix area. He received his second negative test and was cleared to return on July 9.

The Diamondbacks said that the labs they have used have assured them that they are not taking away tests from the public. That seems like a claim MLB and the D-Backs should demonstrably prove. Per Rosenthal and Buchahan, the D-Backs have gone to an outside lab about 20 times, which accounts for less than one percent of COVID-19 tests taken by players and staff. Still, those are 20 tests that could have been used by the general public. And if the D-Backs and a handful of other teams already are using outside labs, then the rest of the league likely already is or soon will be doing the same. In the end, there will be a lot more than 20 tests taken at outside labs by MLB players and staff. Considering that “Tier 1” players will be tested every other day throughout the season, the total of third-party tests taken — if things continue the way they are now — could easily reach into the thousands by the end of October.

We all want baseball back, but the players, coaches, and all other staff are no more important than cashiers, teachers, and delivery drivers, so they shouldn’t have more access to COVID-19 testing simply by virtue of being associated with Major League Baseball and all of its influence and financial muscle. It would be unethical for MLB to be cutting in line ahead of other people who need testing just as much as if not more than the players.