MLB trade deadline winners and losers
This wasn’t any normal trade deadline — sure it had some last-minute excitement, but gone largely were the big names. We didn’t see the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers make a big splash. There was no earth-shattering move.
Some teams got better. Some accepted their fate, even 30 games into a shortened season. And some helped themselves now and in the long run, like the Padres who landed Mike Clevinger in a deal that probably wouldn’t have been possible had the coronavirus not swept through baseball and had Clevinger not lost some of his luster by violating the league’s protocols. The Padres — the most fascinating team in the league right now — will still take him and hope he can make a big October impact.
The other arm that figured to be a factor stayed put. That was Lance Lynn, as the Texas Rangers are left holding a trade chip for a second straight year.
It makes sense that some teams didn’t want to get too wild during a 60-game season, but the Braves sitting on their hands doesn’t make sense.
With that, here are five winners and five losers from this year’s trade deadline:
San Diego Padres — The 2020 trade deadline will be remembered as the time the Padres went for it. It was sort of like a fireworks show. Sunday’s flurry of moves was followed by the grand finale Monday morning, getting Mike Clevinger from the Cleveland Indians in a nine-player trade that sets the Padres up to be more of a threat come October. They added depth and potency with Mitch Moreland, Trevor Rosenthal, Austin Nola and others, but Clevinger could be the difference between a nice season in San Diego and an exhilarating October run.
Tampa Bay Rays — The Rays traded away DH José Martínez, who they acquired in the offseason from the St. Louis Cardinals, which seemed a bit more like a selling move than win-now move. Alas, the Rays are in the winners column more because of what didn’t happen — the Yankees, their main competitor in the AL East, didn’t make a huge deadline-day move, as is so often in the Yankee DNA. While the Yankees were the preseason favorites in the division (and in the AL), the Rays have a 3.5-game lead over the bruised-up Yanks. Not having to deal with a Yankees rental helps the Rays even more.
Miami Marlins — Rare is the Marlins buying at the trade deadline. Rare also is the Marlins getting into the winners column on a trade-deadline wrap-up. And while Starling Marte probably isn’t going to win Miami a World Series, it was nice to see the Marlins recognizing the situation they’re in and trying. It’s respectable, and even if they become more of what the pundits thought they’d be and don’t make the playoffs, at least the Marlins gave their fans a little something to be excited about on trade deadline day. If nothing else, we all get to root for Marte playing 63 games in a 60-game season.
Toronto Blue Jays — Count the Jays as the second most aggressive team after the Padres. They didn’t reel in a big fish, but they certainly helped their young, talented lineup by bringing in some veterans who can help the playoff mission ahead. The starting pitching has been especially beat up, so getting Taijuan Walker, Robbie Ray and Ross Stripling will help, and bringing in Jonathan Villar can make the lineup more dynamic. The Jays have the makings of a wild-card team in MLB’s expanded playoff format, so kudos to the Jays for making some buy-low efforts to become an October dark horse.
Buying and Selling at the Same Time — Normally we think of teams as either buying or sellers, but new-age baseball is built on teams trying to outsmart each other, and so we get teams who are trying to win both games. The Rays are kind of the experts at this going back to the Chris Archer trade, but if you look at what the Indians did with the Clevinger trade or even the D-backs on the Marte trade, they’re both trying to sell off a player with immediate value and cash in on players who can help sooner rather than later.
Atlanta Braves — The Braves made one pre-deadline day deal, acquiring Tommy Milone from the Baltimore Orioles. But with a starting rotation that has disappointed outside of Max Fried, more needed to be done. And it’s not like Milone’s Braves’ career started great either. He was shelled in his debut Sunday night just hours after Atlanta finalized the trade and chartered him a flight. The Braves can and will hit. That fact will make them a dangerous team to deal with in October. But the addition of a true frontline starter would have elevated them to elite contender in the NL.
Texas Rangers — The Rangers were sellers that didn’t sell nearly enough. Outside of trading Mike Minor to the Oakland A’s, which proved to be a year too late, and Robinson Chirinos and Todd Frazier to the Mets in the final hour, the Rangers were very quiet. There was speculation Texas could move ace Lance Lynn, along with slugging outfielder Joey Gallo and struggling Rougned Odor. But no deal ever materialized. It’s fair to question then what the Rangers’ asking price was, especially in the case of Lynn. Cleveland, for example, got a six-player return when trading Mike Clevinger to San Diego. We’ll call it a missed opportunity for Texas to properly start its necessary rebuild.
Lance Lynn — Imagine being Lynn 24 hours ago, hearing your name connected to winning teams with World Series aspirations like the Dodgers and Yankees. Now imagine being Lynn today, having learned the Rangers couldn’t work out a trade that would have boosted your chances of winning a championship and increasing value on a much larger stage. That’s the business of baseball and the trade deadline. Nothing is guaranteed. Now, Lynn must finish the season with a Rangers team that without him might be contending for MLB’s worst record. On the bright side, an offseason deal is still possible. He’s under contract through 2021.
Arizona Diamondbacks — This year hasn’t gone as planned for most of us. It really hasn’t gone how Arizona envisioned it after trading for Starling Marte and signing Madison Bumgarner during the offseason. The D-backs have postseason hopes, but are clearly bailing on their plan after trading Marte to the Miami Marlins. Also gone are struggling starting pitcher Robbie Ray and closer Archie Bradley. It’s a stark reminder that going all-in has its consequences when it goes all wrong. Especially for teams not known for going all-in.
Guys Who Have to Change Teams Again — The shortened 2020 season presents an unfortunate challenge for a few guys who found themselves changing uniforms Monday — another life upheaval. The season just started, really, but now we’re shuffling rosters and players like Marte, Kevin Pillar, José Martínez and Cameron Maybin are on the move again after just joining their 2020 teams. Such is life in baseball. But it’s a good reminder that at the trade deadline, while we all root for trades and deals, people’s lives and families are always affected.
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