MLB Trade Deadline Grades: Contenders That Made the Biggest Impactby Logan Lockhart July 31, 2021 0 comments
The 2021 MLB Trade Deadline was franchise-defining. A total of 10 All-Stars from the most recent spectacle in Denver were traded a league record. Some sold and some bought, but either way, there are a number of teams in baseball who will look mightily different in the second half of the campaign. There is no mincing words. The week of July 30, 2021, in Major League Baseball will be remembered for years to come. Transactions galore, blockbuster-madness, and fire sales on full display.
Grading how some of the contenders did in the immediate is just par for the course.
Los Angeles Dodgers: A
The Dodgers’ influx of talent in the minors has netted them a number of substantial pieces at the trade deadline in previous years. And officially acquiring both Scherzer and Turner from the Washington Nationals on July 30 ranks at the top of that list.
President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman sent top prospects Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray to Washington in exchange for the two aforementioned franchise cornerstones. In a highly competitive National League West, Los Angeles separated themselves from the pack with this trade alone.
Turner, 28, finished seventh in MVP voting in 2020 and hasn’t had a slugging percentage under .495 since 2018. With Corey Seager set to hit the open market as a free agent this winter, acquiring the Nationals shortstop potentially solves a problem the Dodgers may have had otherwise. Turner is eligible for arbitration after the 2021 campaign.
In the case of Scherzer, the Dodgers add another top-of-the-line starter, but this time, it’s a Hall of Fame talent. The eight-time All-Star owns a 2.76 ERA and 139 ERA+ in 19 starts this season. With the uncertainty surrounding Trevor Bauer and the sexual assault allegations that currently loom, trading for Scherzer gives Los Angeles much-needed stability at the top of its rotation.
Safe to say, winning a World Series Championship in 2020 wasn’t enough. Dave Roberts’ squad wants another.
New York Yankees: A-
Brian Cashman and the rest of the Yankees’ brass addressed the team’s lineup needs. But did they do enough on the pitching side of the equation? That’s the question for Heaney, the former Los Angeles Angels hurler, to answer on the mound. New York’s hope is that former Cy Young award-winner Corey Kluber can return to full health and contribute. With a re-energized Gerrit Cole and emerging Jordan Montgomery, the Yankees’ starting rotation appears to be well equipped for a Wild Card run.
Acquiring Gallo and Rizzo provides the Bronx Bombers with much-needed power from the left side of the plate. The Yankees’ right-handed heavy lineup became predictable to pitch to and has resulted in the team ranking in the bottom-five in RBIs.
The Yankees didn’t part with any of their top-10 prospects in the Gallo trade. That alone contributes heavily to the “A-” grade. While Rizzo is a rental, the former Texas Rangers slugger is under New York’s control through 2022.
San Francisco Giants: A-
Acquired: 3B Kris Bryant
In most cases, success is based on quality, not quantity. That sentiment definitely applies to the Giants’ brass this trade-deadline season.
With Evan Longoria’s inability to stay on the field for a prolonged period of time, acquiring Bryant makes perfect sense. And the team didn’t have to part with the likes of Joey Bart or Marco Luciano to make it happen. San Francisco took advantage of the Chicago Cubs’ fire sale and countered the Dodgers’ blockbuster of the ages by trading for a former NL MVP.
Currently, in first place in the NL West, the Giants add a proven playoff commodity and do so when their division rival, the San Diego Padres, missed out on a lot of the deadline madness. San Francisco has owed much of its success this year to the team’s pitching staff. But now, the first-place Giants can slot in a right-handed hitter more than capable of leading a lineup into the postseason.
Oakland Athletics: B+
Much was made about the Athletics’ decision to deal emerging starting pitcher Jesus Luzardo to the Miami Marlins. But the A’s have made themselves clear. The window to win is now.
Marte fits within Bob Melvin’s lineup in a number of ways, most likely as the team’s everyday No. 2 hitter. The former Miami Marlin owns an OPS+ of 136 in 2021. Oakland ranks 21st in all of baseball in total hits. But the immediate additions of Marte, Harrison, and Gomes solidifies the team’s quest to possess a potent lineup.
Trading Luzardo is nothing to ignore, but the A’s have excelled in recent years at developing pitching internally (case in point, Chris Bassitt, and Cole Irvin). The Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays, and the aforementioned Yankees are poised to catch Oakland in the Wild Card race. That alone makes the Athletics’ buyers mentality at this year’s deadline significant.
New York Mets: B+
Baez has seen his offensive numbers dwindle since his stellar 2018 campaign with the Cubs. Still, the Mets can claim their infield is as formidable as anyone in baseball. In a division that many pundits believed would be one of the toughest in the league at the beginning of the year, the NL East has done everything but not live up to those expectations. New York sits atop the divisional race and has crawled through 2021, not at full health.
If Jacob deGrom and Francisco Lindor can return to the field sooner than later, the Mets can look back at this year’s deadline as a monumental win. Amongst the contenders in the NL, New York’s pitching depth and diverse lineup can result in a deep playoff run.
Chicago White Sox: B
Kimbrel’s 2021 campaign on the North Side proved he’s still a lock-down arm at the back of any given bullpen.
The White Sox, like the Mets, have dealt several injuries to key players. With the return of Eloy Jiménez, that script appears to be changing for the Sox. Tony La Russa’s squad leads the AL Central by nine games, a comfortable margin and one that gives the team’s brass flexibility when trading for talent.
However, the price for Kimbrel was steep. Infielder Nick Madrigal and pitcher Codi Heuer were sent to the Cubs in exchange for the 33-year-old closer. Once seen as a future franchise cornerstone for the White Sox, Madrigal will now team up with fellow infielder Nico Hoerner on the North Side.
Toronto Blue Jays: B
Prospects are often looked at as lottery picks. The Blue Jays sent the Minnesota Twins excellent lottery picks however in the deal that saw Berrios go North of the border.
Simeon Woods Richardson and Austin Martin round out a significant haul sent to the Twins. Both ranked at the top of the already strong Blue Jays’ farm, the price on Berrios proved to be a high one. Still, the former Twins hurler fills an immediate need for Toronto. Hyun Jin Ryu and Robbie Ray have carried the Blue Jays’ rotation thus far and the addition of Berrios only makes the team’s bid for a Wild Card that much more interesting.
The Blue Jays’ run differential ranks sixth in Major League Baseball, but yet, the team remains multiple games out of a playoff position. Toronto’s bullpen has been a weakness in 2021, but the glaring weakness was addressed by Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins.
The team’s trade deadline in 2021 will be looked back on years from now. Toronto elected to part ways with its top-end prospect capital, but like the Dodgers, that only speaks to the depth that exists within the system. Berrios is under team control through 2022, but the price to pay for a potential one-game Wild Card berth will be questioned for the next several weeks.
Philadelphia Phillies: C
In a year where the Phillies’ division is as weak as it’s been in recent years, the team still falls on the probability spectrum of missing the postseason for the 10th consecutive campaign.
Philadelphia made the last-minute acquisition of trading for Gibson but still fell short of giving the division-leading Mets any real cause for concern. The former Rangers hurler is going from a pitching-friendly ballpark to a hitter-friendly atmosphere at Citizens Bank Park. Always looked at as a middling starter, Gibson broke out in 2021 by making the AL All-Star team.
With the Rangers sending approximately $4 million in the trade, the Phillies remain under the luxury-tax threshold. Ownership in Philadelphia did not spend over the magic number at this year’s deadline, and as a result, the team finds itself in a race for second place with the Atlanta Braves.
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