Trade Deadline Update

The trade deadline is now long gone, and the race to October is in full swing. Your favorite team may have sold off pieces, made savvy moves to acquire help, or even stood pat completely (I’m looking at you Brian Cashman). In any case, you may be wondering how said deadline deals are panning out so far. I went through the list and picked out the most impactful or interesting moves, and will go team – by – team to analyze them. Although this isn’t a Trade Grade article, I hope to also determine which teams have set themselves up best for the postseason. So without further ado, let’s get to the Astros and Zack Greinke.

Houston Astros

If you’re an Astros fan, it is impossible to be upset about this year’s deadline. Your franchise is essentially one of those input/output machines from elementary school when you first started to learn about algebra, except the ‘inputs’ are aging or struggling starting pitchers, and the ‘outputs’ are bona fide studs with face-melting spin rate.

Through the confusion of July 31st, Houston emerged with a pitcher who would be most teams’ ace, and a back end starter with great peripherals. You could worry about Greinke’s first two starts with the team if you choose. His first was 6 IP, 5 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 2 K at home against a Colorado team that has done nothing but disappoint so far. His second was much better, but still not great, going 6 innings again but only allowing 2 earned runs and striking out 6 on the road against the up and coming White Sox. The rest of the league can see this as a glimmer of hope, along with the Gerrit Cole injury, that this season may not be over just yet.  Unfortunately, Houston also got Aaron Sanchez. Sanchez was pitiful in Toronto (his 6.07 ERA was ranked last in MLB among qualified pitchers), but in his first game with Houston he pitched 6 innings of no hit ball, contributing to the twelfth no-hitter in Astros history. In his second game, he pitched 5 innings, allowing just 3 hits and one run in a win over Baltimore. Add veteran catcher and noted defensive wizard Martin Maldonado to the mix, and Houston is even scarier than they have been all season. 

Atlanta Braves

The Braves had one clear goal for the deadline: bullpen help. They went out and made it happen, trading for closer Shane Greene and relievers Chris Martin and Mark Melancon. All three have had a tough go of it in Atlanta so far. Shane Greene has completely melted down, allowing 6 ER in 4.1 IP compared to just 5 ER in 38 IP for Detroit. Chris Martin has been almost as bad, letting across 5 ER in 4.1 IP. The best of the three has been Mark Melancon. He has one bad blow up against Miami, allowing 4 ER to tie the game in the 9th, but otherwise has not allowed an earned run. The Braves rounded out their deadline deals by acquiring veteran backup catcher John Ryan Murphy.  If these pitchers can get back on track, Atlanta will be in business. But in the very small sample size of what they have done so far, the Braves’ deadline deals have fallen flat. 

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays, somewhat quietly, made solid moves to bolster their roster for the difficult road ahead. Barring a miraculous end of season run, their playoff journey will lead through the wild card. The biggest name they acquired was Jesus Aguilar from the Brewers. He was not playing well at all in 2019, regressing hard from his stellar 2018 season. For illustration, his 2018 OPS was .890, and at the time he was traded it was .694. Since joining Tampa Bay, however, he has hit .406/.459/.500/.959. Obviously these numbers are not sustainable over multiple months, but for Jesus’ sake I hope this is the fresh start he needed to get back on track. Tampa also traded for relief pitcher Nick Anderson from Miami. Perhaps playing for that organization dampened his star power a bit, but researching his stats was the first time I realized how great his 2019 has been. His FIP of 2.21, SIERA of 2.41, and K/9 of 15.04, put him at 3rd, 4th, and 5th respectively among qualified relievers.  What’s more, he has not allowed an earned run in his first 6 IP as a Ray, and his last 11.1 IP overall. Tampa was able to seriously bolster their bullpen, as well as add an impact power bat at a position of need. 

Chicago Cubs

Chicago didn’t blow anybody away with the moves they made on July 31st, but they did make some solid additions to their lineup, bullpen, and bench. The biggest name they got was outfielder Nicholas Castellanos from the Tigers, a solid bat who has seen an increase in production since becoming a Cub. His traditional stats won’t make your jaw drop ( .790 OPS as a Tiger vs .833 OPS as a Cub), but he has produced almost as many WAR in 13 games for Chicago as he did in 100 games for Detroit (0.9 WAR vs 1.1 WAR). The Cubs also obtained Tony Kemp from Houston in the deal that sent away Martin Maldonado deal. He is a plus outfield defender, and a versatile utility man off the bench that will certainly give Chicago some much needed depth. Lastly they traded for relief pitcher David Phelps, who was having a below average season in Toronto. Since moving south to the windy city, however, he has allowed just 1 earned run in 6 appearances. 

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers were a complete team already, so not making many deadline barely affected their season outlook.  They got Jedd Gyorko, who is currently on the IL, and Adam Kolarek, a below average reliever who has struggled so far in Dodger Blue (5 TBF, 2 outs recorded).

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies are one of the many teams vying for the NL wild card, and added two pieces to help put them above the rest. Corey Dickerson has had almost the same stats that he did on the other side of Pennsylvania (138 OPS+ vs 135 OPS+), aside from his home runs and RBI. He had only 4 HR and 25 RBI with Pittsburgh, and already has 3 HR and 9 RBI with Philly. They also added back-end starter Jason Vargas from the Mets, who has been about the same as he has all season. He could be an innings-eater for them down the stretch. 

Cincinnati Reds

Trevor Bauer has been bad since being traded out of Cleveland. Like 13 ER in 16 IP bad. This was a move for next year anyway, so Cincinnati seems happy to punt on 2019 and gear up for 2020.

Cleveland Indians

The Indians desperately needed outfield help, and used their surplus of starting pitching to get it. They received Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes in the 3 team Trevor Bauer trade, as well as prospect Logan Allen. Puig has seen a huge jump in production going from hitting .252/.302/.475/.777 with Cincinnati to hitting .357/.413/.571/.984 in 11 games with Cleveland. Reyes has seen a similar shift, but in the opposite direction. These trends will likely return to the mean over time, but Cleveland has to be happy to get solid players at a position of need. 

San Francisco Giants

The Giants made only one move, trading for struggling second baseman Scooter Gennett. They may be able to resuscitate him, as his entire slash line has seen a bump up and he has matched his season RBI total in half as many games. San Francisco is hanging on by a thread, 4.5 games back of the wild card, so they’re certainly hoping Gennett can provide the spark they need. 

Oakland A’s

The A’s are currently battling with Cleveland and Tampa Bay for one of the two AL Wild Card spots. Their only deadline deal was for starting pitcher Tanner Roark, possibly an indication that Sean Manaea may not return this season. Roark has been good for Oakland thus far, starting 2 games with 11.2 IP and 3 ER. He has cut down on walks and increased strikeouts. It may not be a flashy move, but it seems like the trade Oakland needed to make. 

Minnesota Twins

After watching a sizable division lead disappear before their eyes, the Twins only made one trade. They brought in bullpen arm Sam Dyson, who was having a very good season for San Francisco (172 ERA+, 2.73 FIP). Since being traded he hasn’t been consistent, but has pitched deceptively well. his 20.25 ERA with the Twins is shocking, but his FIP has actually decreased to 2.41 over the same stretch, suggesting that he will return to being the pitcher he has been all year.

AL Central Standings on July 1st vs August 14th (via Baseball Reference)

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks, who are still very much in the playoff hunt at 3.5 games back of the wild card, wanted to get an innings-eater. They did so in Mike Leake. Unfortunately for them, somewhere between Seattle and Arizona, Mike sprung a Leake (I’m sorry). He has allowed almost a full earned run per inning pitched, which I’m sure isn’t what Arizona had in mind.

New York Mets

The Mets shocked all of baseball when they pulled the trigger to acquire Marcus Stroman from Toronto. There is no doubt that he has injected energy into this team Pulp Fiction style, as they have gone 9-4 since the deadline to bring them within 3 games of the Wild Card. Stroman has not pitched well as a Met to this point (7 ER in 10.1 IP), but he is a big-game pitcher who would be a strong weapon in a playoff series. 

My Conclusions

Houston was the clear winner of the 2019 trade deadline. When you’re able to put together a big 3 of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Zack Greinke, that is a win no matter what. I see Tampa Bay as the second best, with Cleveland, Chicago, and Washington all tied for third. I believe Minnesota and Arizona as the biggest losers, more for the players they did not acquire than for those they did. It will be interesting to look back at season’s end and see how things have changed, but for now let’s start getting excited for October 1st!

*All stats are as of 8/14

FangraphsBaseball Reference

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