All and all, the 2023 trade deadline turned out to be pretty standard fare. Most of the teams we thought would subtract did so. Most of the teams we thought would add also did so, at least to some extent.
There were no franchise-altering moves, such as last year's Juan Soto bonanza. Shohei Ohtani remained with the Los Angeles Angels, though we've known that would be the case for some time now. The biggest names that moved were future Hall of Famers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, but their trades were less than shocking given the New York Mets' disappointing season.
So, while this deadline was more about jostling for position than truly shaking things up, there are still winners and losers. Let's see who came out the best -- and the worst -- after the dust from baseball's annual transaction bazaar settled.
Even if you see the Verlander-Astros reunion as offsetting Texas' acquisition of Scherzer, consider this: The Rangers would have been big deadline winners without that deal. Jordan Montgomery has been better than Scherzer this season, and Chris Stratton is a meaningful addition to the bullpen. Also, I consider "deadline deals" as basically any in-season deal that isn't simply the shell game teams play with roster spots and DFA transactions. The first one of those we saw this season involved the Rangers when they brought in Aroldis Chapman from Kansas City.
So the Rangers ended up adding Scherzer, Montgomery, Stratton and Chapman to the pitching staff of a first-place team that has had plus run prevention all season long. And in the end, with breakout catcher Jonah Heim hitting the injured list, Texas nabbed defensive whiz Austin Hedges from the Pirates in the waning moments of the trade period. This team is positioned to continue its regular-season outburst deep into October.
Maybe the Yankees didn't need to offload talent. Maybe they didn't even need to add, though that's a debatable conclusion. But if nothing else, this team needed something shaken up. Instead, the Yankees acquired one midlevel reliever (Keynan Middleton) and a fringy combo pitcher (Spencer Howard). So what you saw before the deadline is what you're going to see after the deadline. Thus, the watch begins: Will this be the first Yankees team since 1992 to finish under .500?
Entering the day with a 34% shot at the postseason, a measured approach to adding made sense for Arizona. That's pretty much what it did. Paul Sewald immediately becomes the Diamondbacks' top reliever -- and Jace Peterson's addition perhaps smoothed the way for Arizona to deal Josh Rojas to Seattle in the effort to land Sewald. Trading away Andrew Chafin could undermine that to an extent, unless Peter Strzelecki proves to be a worthy replacement.
The Diamondbacks needed a righty bat to balance out a lefty-heavy outfield mix, and Tommy Pham is a luxurious answer to that particular question. They are better than they were before the deadline, but GM Mike Hazen didn't have to do anything absurd to make it happen.
The Orioles are so much fun -- I had visions before deadline day of them being my biggest winner. For the second straight year, I'm a little disappointed. (Last year, though, I was actually mad at the Orioles, but that's not the case this time around.) Jack Flaherty is a quality addition to the rotation, there's no question about it. I am really looking forward to seeing what tweaks Baltimore makes with his arsenal and how he responds to being injected into a pennant chase in a new league in advance of his first free agency. I wanted more, but Flaherty alone is enough to put the O's in the winners section.
Entering the day, my simulations had the Cubs, Reds and Brewers in a three-way coin flip (a three-sided coin anyway) for the National League Central crown. The Cubs weren't super active but in terms of 2023 performance alone, they landed the top overall player who changed teams in prodigal Cub Jeimer Candelario. Candelario now gets a chance to improve on his 1-for-11 career performance for Chicago. The Cubs rank 29th in first-base bWAR and 18th at third base, so this is more than a marginal upgrade.
I'll never give my "biggest winner" nod to an offloading team. But among the offloaders, the White Sox took the flag. I created some rough rankings of prospects moved based on Kiley McDaniel's ratings from before the season and had the White Sox landing five of the top nine prospects who moved: Jake Eder, Edgar Quero, Nick Nastrini, Ky Bush and Korey Lee. If you must offload during a season, this is the way to do it. Also, the White Sox's revamped 2023 depth chart looks like mangled spaghetti.
Now that we know how this shoulder-shrugging deadline played out, the Angels won it when they proclaimed they would not trade Ohtani. Then they added decent veterans Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, C.J. Cron, Randal Grichuk and Dominic Leone. The odds are still stacked against Los Angeles down the stretch. But this path at least opens up the possibility that the franchise will turn what might have been a historic low point into something a heck of a lot more fun.
Let's see ... Amed Rosario, Enrique Hernandez, Lance Lynn, Ryan Yarbrough and Joe Kelly. That's a lot of incoming proven veteran production. I'm not sure that any of them make the Dodgers better, but who am I to judge the Dodgers? In particular, Lynn was pretty dreadful for the White Sox and if the Dodgers don't work their wizardry on him, they could end up wasting a lot of starts that might have been better off going to one of their younger pitchers. But if Lynn shows up in L.A. and pitches a 1.75 ERA the rest of the way, would anyone really be surprised?
Again, this is great. Rather than judging the Marlins' deadline by the quality of the prospects they acquired, we're trying to figure out if they papered over enough holes on the big league club to bolster a wild-card push. I'm not sure they did.
In dealing Jean Segura to Cleveland, ostensibly just to get him off the roster for the acquisition of Jake Burger, the Marlins have completely changed the look of their third-base position. Rather than the speedy, contact-oriented Segura, who was having a dreadful season, they have the slow-footed, bashing Burger. It could work to balance the lineup, but we'll see. Burger's 25 homers tie for Miami's lead with Jorge Soler, 11 more than anyone else. Josh Bell, on the other hand, is having a down season and I'm just not sure I'd rather have him than the freshly traded Garrett Cooper. But, hey, at least the Marlins are making moves like a team trying to win.
The Pirates are starting to show signs of turning the corner as a franchise, and this deadline modestly kept the momentum going. Landing Jackson Wolf and Bailey Falter is a solid return for the pitching staff, and Estuar Suero is a prospect worth having. I'm particularly interested to see what the Bucs do with Falter, given their record of making other teams' young veterans better. Baby steps, but at least they are headed down the right path.
The only Cardinals trade I graded was the Montgomery/Stratton trade with Texas. I thought that St. Louis might have gotten more upside in that deal. Now that the deadline has passed, you can see that the Cardinals have snagged a pretty collection of incoming talent, led by Tekoah Roby, Sem Robberse and Thomas Saggese. The remaining big league rotation depth chart is a fright and the Cardinals will have to figure that out before 2024, when they hope to return to contention. And that's even before the subtraction of retiring Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals have stripped the roster down to its core. But it's a solid core, and with a good winter, they will have a real opportunity to turn the page on this discouraging campaign.
Aaron Civale was the only addition by the Rays but it might well prove to be the key acquisition at the deadline of any team. Some might see Civale as a regression candidate, as if the Rays -- of all teams -- would not factor that in as a strong possibility. Civale has been lights-out lately and yes, there are elements of his performance that aren't sustainable. But when the Rays fixate on and land a veteran pitcher, it is because they see something they can work with. Last winter, Tampa Bay jumped the market in landing Zach Eflin, a decent pitcher who I did not see as a particularly high-profile target in the free agent market. But he's been outstanding. Civale completes the picture for a Rays team that is laser-focused on the organization's first championship.
Whew! At least that was my reaction when, on Tuesday, as we waited to see what would transpire at the deadline, we saw the report on Bo Bichette's knee: no structural damage. And so the acquisition of Paul DeJong is a luxury move for the Blue Jays. He can fill in for Bichette in the near term, without harming Toronto's top-10 defense, and can slot in a number of ways beyond that. While DeJong is strictly an infielder, Whit Merrifield can play anywhere, and if he's needed in, say, center field, DeJong can step in at second as a better option than Santiago Espinal. Good stuff. Also, not for nothing, the Blue Jays' bullpen depth chart looks much improved with two other ex-Cardinals on it: Jordan Hicks and Genesis Cabrera, the latter acquired earlier in the deadline period after St. Louis set him adrift.
It's hard to see how the acquisition of .145-hitting Luis Urias is going to get exec Chaim Bloom's detractors off his back. To be fair, Urias is a better player than the numbers from this injury-plagued season suggest. Still, nobody for the rotation? Nobody?
I can't help but morph into the kind of sports commentator I try very hard not to be when looking at these Guardians. Their approach to the deadline would definitely earn the Mr. Spock seal of approval. In Kyle Manzardo and Kahlil Watson, they added two of the best prospects moved at the deadline. Still, I'm fixated on the short term because the Guardians are on the edge of first place in the American League Central. Keeping Aaron Civale and Josh Bell would have helped those short-term odds more than these very solid prospects.
That's it, for me, even though the math on these moves checks out. And don't come at me with your "what's the point of making the playoffs as first-round cannon fodder" stuff because this is baseball. Did you not watch last year's playoffs? And what's to say that by the time Manzardo and Watson are ready to contribute to a contending Cleveland team they aren't moved for more future value? Sometimes the "right now" is important, but it never seems to be in Cleveland.
Not that I expected much return for the Rockies' most tradeable vets, but while they have added seven prospects to their stash with in-season moves, I'm just not seeing any clear needle-movers -- no matter where you set the bar for moving the needle.
Not to put too fine of a point on it, but the Twins are a first-place team that has been well positioned for a kick in the butt all season. During the deadline window, all they did was swap righty relievers, Jorge Lopez for Dylan Floro. And Floro might be the lesser pitcher.
Ultimately, this Mets deadline offload will be remembered mostly for the fact that it happened at all. The outcome of it will be judged by whether New York learned anything from the salary-bloated roster that it entered the season with and on how well the large group of prospects it acquired pans out down the line. At the very least, the group led by Luisangel Acuna, Jeremiah Jackson and Drew Gilbert looks like a meaningful infusion of future talent. But the names heading the other way -- Scherzer, Verlander, Mark Canha, David Robertson, Pham -- make it hard for any Mets fan to feel like their team can be classified as a winner of anything.
The Phillies remain very much in contention. I'm not sure they improved much at the deadline, though I do like the possibilities for Michael Lorenzen. The Phils could use more help at the infield corners, and I don't think Rodolfo Castro is the answer. That president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski traded Falter for him is a head-scratcher that thins Philly's rotation depth without filling a hole. All in all, this doesn't appear to be a classic Dombrowski deadline, but nevertheless, the Phillies still have enough to win.
One thing I learned at the deadline: Mark Mathias had switched franchises, from Pittsburgh to Seattle. That happened in early July and allowed the Mariners to fold him in with .173-hitting AJ Pollock in a deal with a Giants team that might not have recently checked the NL standings. Because that's the sum of what the Giants did.
Win, lose -- what does it all mean?
I'm on record as loving the addition of Nicky Lopez. His skill set makes more sense on the Braves than almost any other team. Much of that is because the Braves were already so strong that they could target micro needs. Lopez can bunt, and the Braves have one sacrifice bunt all season. What if they need to bunt in a key spot during the playoffs? Well, now they've got a guy. Pierce Johnson and Brad Hand, both of whom are now free of the oppression of Coors Field, add depth to the bullpen, though Hand is a fringe closer at this point.
It's fun when a team flips from being judged as a deadline offloader to one that is trying to plug right-now holes because of a postseason opportunity. The Reds, in particular, are fun. Their deadline haul consists of ex-Athletic league-average lefty Sam Moll. They did need another lefty in the bullpen to help out Alex Young but ... that was it. However, I'm not putting the Reds in the loser section because it wasn't long ago that I wrote that they could afford to stay quiet at the deadline because so much of their breakout is due to success stories from their internally developed players. I didn't expect or even want a splash, but a ripple would have been nice.
The weakness of the Tigers' division, along with their ability to be not terrible this season, almost had me on board with the idea of them doing something reckless at the deadline. That didn't happen, unless you think that almost trading away Eduardo Rodriguez was reckless. Detroit's moves consisted of dealing walk-year starter Michael Lorenzen to the Phillies for a solid bat-first infield prospect in Hao-Yu Lee. The Tigers could never quite catch fire at the right time for me to generate any real passion about their deadline behavior. They could have perhaps gotten something for one of their solid relievers -- Alex Lange, Tyler Holton, et al -- but I'm not too worked up about that. And when after the season I'm working up my first 2024 projections, I'll approve of E-Rod still being a part of that rotation.
The Brewers entered the deadline with a clear need to upgrade the offense, and I'm not sure they did. But I'm not sure they didn't, either. Look, there just wasn't a .900-plus OPS masher out there to be had. In Carlos Santana and Canha, Milwaukee landed two serviceable bats who will fit into whatever mix manager Craig Counsell comes up with. The Brewers don't need to be much better on offense to win, but they do need to be better. It was interesting that they sent Urias to Boston for a prospect. I could have seen that happening had the Brewers brought in a new regular at third base, but they didn't. I did like the addition of Chafin to the bullpen, as he gives Counsell another lefty to deploy in addition to Hoby Milner.
The A's didn't do much at the deadline, and the prospects they did acquire (led by the Reds' Joe Boyle) won't turn many heads. But they earn grace points for finding new homes for Peterson and Moll. Trevor May and Ramon Laureano, on the other hand, were not so fortunate.
It can work. It really can. Just two years ago we saw a talented but struggling Braves team add talent during a season in which it spent more than half the campaign under .500. The Braves' most talented player, Ronald Acuna Jr., was out for the season. Yet they stuck with their playoff pursuit, adding veterans Eddie Rosario, Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler and Adam Duvall. The Braves, as we know, got hot and went on to win the World Series. Will GM A.J. Preller's decision to hang on to impact walk-year veterans, like Blake Snell and Josh Hader, in favor of adding vets Garrett Cooper, Rich Hill, Scott Barlow and Ji-Man Choi have a similar payoff? The Padres are under .500 at the moment, and finding out the answer to that question will be one of the more interesting aspects of the rest of the regular season.
At the very least, you have to be happy for president of baseball operations Jerry DiPoto, who got to spend a lot of time on the phone the past few days and move players around here and there. I guess the Mariners offloaded? Or maybe they added? OK, I'm not sure what the Mariners did. Dealing away high-leverage reliever Sewald was likely a bigger short-term hit than the positives from any of the players DiPoto added. It wasn't that long ago that Josh Rojas was considered an exciting young hitter, but if he's coming to Seattle in search of his missing batting average, he's going to the wrong place.
The Nationals have long since emptied their coffers of veteran talent. Well, at least they have now that they sent Candelario to the Cubs. They added prospects Kevin Made and D.J. Herz in that deal. And that was it for the deadline. It's a solid enough return. They have improved on the field this season, but we're still kind of waiting for the rebuild to come into focus. That didn't happen Tuesday, but the Nats are being patient, as should we.