The MLB non-waiver trade deadline came and went yesterday with a number of big names changing teams. Troy Tulowitzki, Cole Hamels, David Price and Carlos Gomez among the bigger names on new teams who are expected to have an impact on the current playoff races and in the postseason. So which playoff contenders helped themselves the most and which could have done more to improve their ballclubs? Let’s take a look.
Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays pulled the trigger on one of the more surprising pre-deadline trades, swapping shortstops with the Colorado Rockies. The Jays sent Jose Reyes to Denver in exchange for Tulowitzki. The Blue Jays also got veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins in the deal, providing a boost for the team’s struggling bullpen. The Jays’ biggest need at the deadline though, was starting pitching, and they got one of the best in the game by acquiring Price from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for three pitching prospects. I said in my midseason analysis that the Jays could make the playoffs if they added a starter, not expecting them to get a pitcher the caliber of Price. They currently sit just one game out of the second Wild Card in the American League and with the moves they make, I expect them to land one of the two Wild Card spots, ending the majors’ longest active playoff drought at 21 seasons.
Houston Astros: The surprising Astros sit atop the AL West standings but still had some holes to fill some holes, which they’ve tried to do by adding veteran SP Scott Kazmir to a young rotation led by Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh. The Astros acquired Kazmir from the division rival Oakland A’s. Kazmir is having a career year with an AL-best 2.10 ERA. Assuming the Astros make the playoffs, a rotation with a top three of Keuchel, Kamir and McHugh could be among the best in the postseason. The Astros didn’t end there, though, as they also added OF Gomez to a lineup with a low batting average but high home run totals. The Astros had to sent four prospects to the Milwaukee Brewers to get Gomez, but he’ll provide the team with a boost offensively and defensively. And because he’s signed through 2016, Gomez is more than just a rental — unlike most of the players acquired at the deadline. With the additions of Kazmir and Gomez, the Astros are setting themselves up for a potentially deep postseason run in 2015.
Kansas City Royals: The Royals are looking to get to the World Series for a second straight season and added a couple pieces to help them get there again. Their biggest acquisition was SP Johnny Cueto, who has a sub-3.00 ERA this season. The former Cincinnati Red is moving from the National League to the American League, however, which can always be tricky for a pitcher, who now must face a designated hitter instead of the opposing pitcher. Offensively, Kansas City acquired utilityman Ben Zobrist from the A’s, giving them some flexibility in the field as he can play at most positions. With an eight-game lead in the AL Central, the Royals are well on their way to another playoff appearance, and these additions should help them in the postseason.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers already had two of the best starting pitchers in baseball — Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke — and added to their rotation depth in a three-team deal, acquiring SP Alex Wood from the Atlanta Braves and SP Mat Latos from the Miami Marlins. The team also got some bullpen help, with RP Jim Johnson included in the trade.
Texas Rangers: The Rangers were in a similar situation as the Blue Jays heading into the deadline, as they have a good offense but could use pitching help. Like the Jays, they got pitching help in the form of Hamels, one of the best pitchers available. The Rangers had to give up a number of prospects to get him, but Hamels is signed for the next few seasons so the Rangers know they’ll have him for several years. While they helped themselves, I don’t think it’ll be enough to make the playoffs this season. The Rangers are currently three games out of a Wild Card, but I think there are other, better teams who will land the two Wild Cards in the AL.
New York Mets: The Mets have a bad offense which was their biggest need going into the deadline. With hours to go, they traded for OF Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers, which should give their offense a much-needed boost. The Mets also added a bullpen arm, getting RP Tyler Clippard from the A’s. I still don’t think it’ll be enough for the Mets to make the playoffs. There are other teams in the league who are better.
Chicago Cubs: The Cubs added some pitchers at the deadline, SP Dan Haren and RP Tommy Hunter, but I feel their biggest problem all season has been their offense. They did nothing to improve upon that so the team still has a subpar offense. They’re still just a game out of the Wild Card, but I don’t think they improved their chances of making the playoffs. They may still make it because, as you’ll see below, I don’t think the teams currently leading the Wild Card improved much either, but I don’t think the Cubs got better where they most needed to.
Several playoff contenders made trades that weren’t really good or bad. I think the Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates are all locks to make the playoffs in the National League, but none of them made really notable moves. The Nats’ biggest trade was acquiring closer Jonathan Papelbon, but they already had a good closer in Drew Storen so the biggest advantage Papelbon gives them is playoff experience. The Cardinals picked up RP Steve Cishek and 1B/OF Brandon Moss. Cishek isn’t having a great season and Moss is all right but not a spectacular addition. The Pirates also made some so-so acquisitions with 3B Aramis Ramirez, who has announced he will retire after this season, and Ps J.A. Happ, Joakim Soria and Joe Blanton. All those players are serviceable veterans but not likely players who will put a team over the top to win a World Series.
The other three teams on this list aren’t as likely to make the playoffs: the San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Giants, who currently hold the second NL Wild Card, traded for SP Mike Leake, who replaces SP Tim Hudson in the rotation. That’s essentially a lateral move in my opinion. The Orioles, who are currently tied with the Blue Jays a game out of the Wild Card, added OF Gerardo Parra. With just that one move, I think they’re going to fall behind the Jays in the standings and their playoff hopes will begin to fade. Then there’s the Angels, who traded for a number of outfielders, most notably Shane Victorino, none of which are big-time hitters. The Angels currently hold one of the AL’s Wild Cards and sit two games out of first place in the AL West so I think they’ll still make the playoffs, but they didn’t really improve their team at the deadline.
More deals could still be made this month, but it’ll be harder to get trades made because players will have to clear waivers in order to be moved. So any trades made in August likely will involve minor players who can have less of an impact on their new teams.