The National League East was slated to be one of the better divisions in Major League Baseball this year. However, that hasn’t exactly been the case.
Yes, the Atlanta Braves are the best team in the sport as they started August with the most wins (67) and highest winning percentage (.644) of any team in Major League Baseball. But the New York Mets (50-55), who won 101 games in 2022 and added to their roster during the offseason, have been a disappointment. And even though the Philadelphia Phillies (57-49) are right in the middle of the NL’s wild-card race, they’ve played some sloppy baseball at times this season.
Then there’s the Miami Marlins (57-50) and Washington Nationals (45-62). Miami has been a surprise team, but they’ve outperformed a negative run differential for a large chunk of the year, which isn’t sustainable. Meanwhile, Washington signaled that they’d be going through an extensive rebuild last summer when they traded Juan Soto to the San Diego Padres. So, as expected, the Nats are in last place in the division.
With all that being said, the Braves, Phillies, and Marlins were all buyers at this year’s trade deadline, while the Mets made a plethora of trades and the Nationals made just one.
Here is a recap of each team’s 2023 trade deadline moves:
As arguably the best team in baseball, the Braves didn’t have many holes on their roster to fill. Their offense, led by one the best players in the game this season, Ronald Acuña Jr., entered August first in both OPS (.832) and home runs (200) while being second in runs scored (584). As for the club’s pitching staff, they entered August with the seventh-best team ERA (3.87), ninth-best starter’s ERA (4.01), and fifth-best bullpen ERA (3.67).
And with that, the Braves ended up making some smaller moves that help round out their roster as they make a push toward the postseason.
In a pair of trades a week before the trade deadline, Atlanta acquired relievers Pierce Johnson from the Colorado Rockies and Taylor Hearn from the Texas Rangers. Johnson is currently with the big league club, while Hearn was traded a few days later to the Kansas Royals for infielder Nicky Lopez.
Lopez, 28, is a glove-first player with 55 outs above average during his Major League career. The Royals used Lopez heavily this year at shortstop, third base, and second base, while also giving him very limited time at first base and left field. He’ll likely continue the role of utility man for Atlanta.
Atlanta’s front office then went out and acquired Brad Hand from the Rockies in exchange for 25-year-old Double-A pitcher Alec Barger. Hand had a 4.54 ERA with Colorado, but will provide depth to Atlanta’s bullpen. Left-handed hitters have struggled against the left-handed Hand as they had just a .480 OPS against him this year when he was with the Rockies.
As mentioned above, the Marlins have been a rather lucky team this season. Through 107 games, their minus-23 run differential suggested they should’ve been 51-56 instead of 57-50 record-wise. Allowing more runs than they scored caught up with the Fish in July, though, as they went 9-15 with a minus-11 run differential.
But despite that, the Marlins opened deadline day tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Brewers for the final wild-card spot in the NL. So it only made sense for general manager Kim Ng and co. to go out and acquire some players to help them make a run for the postseason.
The first move the Marlins made was bringing in reliever Jorge López from the Minnesota Twins for reliever Dylan Floro on July 26. Neither López nor Floro have been impact arms this year, but the Twins reportedly view Floro as more consistent and the Marlins like López’s fastball and overall arsenal. They then added veteran reliever David Roberston, who posted 14 saves and a 2.05 ERA in 40 appearances before being dealt, in a trade with the Mets. Robertson will help sure-up the backend of Miami’s bullpen down the stretch.
Miami also acquired Jake Burger from the Chicago White Sox for left-handed pitcher Jake Eder. The Marlins ranked 28th in home runs (96) and 21st in slugging percentage (.399) through July, so adding Burger, who had 25 homers and a .527 slugging percentage for the White Sox this season, adds much-needed power to their lineup. Burger also isn’t scheduled to be a free agent until 2029.
The final moves the Marlins made included acquiring Josh Bell from the Cleveland Guardians and left-handed pitcher Ryan Weathers from the San Diego Padres. In exchange for Bell, Miami sent Jean Segura and infield prospect Kahlil Watson to Cleveland, while they sent Garrett Cooper and minor leaguer Sean Reynolds to San Diego for Weathers.
New York Mets
After a disappointing end to their season in 2022, the Mets spent plenty of money during the offseason and were thought of as a team that could win the World Series this fall. But they’ve underperformed this season and ended up as a surprise seller at this year’s trade deadline.
As mentioned above, New York started their sale by sending reliever David Roberston to the Marlins for a pair of prospects. And a few days later, in perhaps one of the biggest, and unlikeliest, trades we were going to see this year, they shipped future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer to the Texas Rangers for Luisangel Acuña — the brother of Ronald Acuña Jr.
According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, Scherzer will opt-in to the final year of his contract for the 2024 season as a part of the trade. Texas will pay the veteran starter roughly $22.5 million, while the Mets are going to take on more than $35 million of his salary.
Verlander, who had a 1.69 ERA in six July starts for the Mets, was traded to his former team, the Houston Astros, for outfielders Drew Gilbert and Ryan Clifford. Gilbert, 22, was Houston’s first-round pick a year ago and in 310 at-bats between High-A and Double-A this season has a .274/.363/.458 slash line. Clifford, 20, was selected in the 11th round by the Astros last year and has a .291/.399/.520 slash line with 18 home runs in 306 minor league at-bats this season. According to multiple reports, the Mets will be on the hook for a hefty amount of Verlander’s remaining salary.
Like the Mets, the Phillies went out and spent a fair amount of money this offseason. Their biggest acquisition was Trea Turner, but he’s having the worst year of his Major League career right now. And even though the club turned their season around in June with an 18-8 record, inconsistent offense from their star players, including Turner, led to an okay 14-11 record in July.
Overall, the Phillies began August as the second wild card team in the NL and were clearly looking to add to their roster — something President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski knows all about. Dombrowski has made a number of blockbuster moves throughout his career as a front-office executive. But there weren’t many, if any, of those to be had that made sense for the Phillies at the trade deadline this year.
However, the Phillies did make a pair of trades on deadline day. Their first move was acquiring right-handed pitcher Michael Lorenzen, who has experience as both a starter and a reliever, from the Detroit Tigers. In the short term, Philadelphia will use the right-hander as a starter as they employ a six-man rotation. In their second move, Philadelphia traded for utility infielder Rodolfo Castro of the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for left-handed pitcher Bailey Falter.
The Nationals were not expected to compete this year, so it’s no surprise they were sellers at this year’s trade deadline.
However, they only made one move by sending Jeimer Candelario to the Chicago Cubs. In return, Washington received LHP DJ Herz and shortstop Kevin Made.
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