Well, it turned out to be a rather interesting and eventful MLB trade deadline.
With no August waiver trades allowed this year, it was now or never for contenders who were hoping to add impact players for the stretch run. We saw literally dozens of players change teams over the last week or so, including no shortage of bonafide stars.
Of course, time will be the ultimate decider in whether or not these trades work out or not. However, we can always try to project whether things will work out or not. Based on our first impressions, here is our look at the winners and losers of the 2021 MLB trade deadline.
Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers
Once again, the Dodgers proved that there is no limit to how far they are willing to go to win a championship, even if they won a title last season.
L.A. was able to take advantage of Washington’s last-minute fire sale and acquire both Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. That means Scherzer, Walker Buehler, and Clayton Kershaw will lead the rotation in the playoffs. Julio Urias has been good this year as well. Plus, the Dodgers added even more depth to their rotation for the stretch run with Danny Duffy.
Turner might actually be the best addition. He’ll spark the lineup with his speed and make Corey Seager a bonus when he returns from injury. Turner can easily slide over to second base when Seager returns while also serving as the team’s primary shortstop in 2022 when Seager hits the free-agent market this winter.
It’s all about the short-term, and the Dodgers added two of the best players who were moved at a star-studded deadline.
Loser: Seattle Mariners
The Mariners might be the biggest losers of the deadline. For evidence of that, you only need to listen to the comments from Seattle’s players after Kendall Graveman was traded away.
The Mariners are within striking distance of a Wild Card spot, yet they traded arguably the best reliever in baseball this season. On top of that, they traded him to a division rival. In fairness, the Mariners later acquired Diego Castillo and Tyler Anderson, but that’s not enough to outweigh the frustration of giving away Graveman.
Nobody was saying that Seattle had to go all-in and make rash moves. But trading Graveman sends the wrong message to the players in the clubhouse and could be one of the all-time trade deadline mistakes.
Winner: New York Yankees
Outside of the Dodgers, the Yankees had the most impressive week on the trade front. They needed at least one outfielder and a boost to their lineup, and they got both in Joey Gallo. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman then doubled down by trading for Anthony Rizzo.
Gallo and Rizzo are both left-handed hitters who will play well at Yankee Stadium and balance out the likes of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, DJ LeMahieu, and the club’s other right-handed hitters.
Pitching-wise, Andrew Heaney is nice but doesn’t move the needle much. However, Gallo and Rizzo are just what the Yankees need to make a playoff push over the next two months.
Loser: Boston Red Sox
While the Red Sox didn’t need to do a lot at the deadline, the teams chasing them all made major moves, so there is some reason to worry about Boston’s lack of activity.
Adding Kyle Schwarber would be a good move if he weren’t on the IL right now. The only other meaningful acquisition they made was reliever Hansel Robles. The Red Sox know that the Rays are just 1.5 games behind them and that the Yankees and Blue Jays are still within striking distance. They didn’t approach the deadline with the urgency of a team that’s serious about making the World Series or has three quality teams chasing them.
Even if Chris Sale is on his way back, the Red Sox need more to solidify the division title and be a force in October.
Winner: Toronto Blue Jays
While they’re just a few games over .500, the Blue Jays deserve a ton of credit for making some bold moves that could spark the team and energize a fanbase that is allowed to put up to 15,000 fans in the Rogers Centre right now.
Trading for closer Brad Hand and Joakim Soria will help the Toronto bullpen. More importantly, the Jays made the move for Jose Berrios, giving them a second ace to pair with Hyun Jin Ryu. We know the Blue Jays are going to score runs, but the Toronto pitching staff looks a lot better than it did a few days ago, creating plenty of optimism that the Jays can remain in playoff contention deep into September.
Loser: Colorado Rockies
What in the world was the Colorado front office thinking?
The Rockies had so many great trade chips but moved none of them. There’s no way that Trevor Story or C.J. Cron should still be with the team. Starter Jon Gray should have been moved as well.
The Rockies should have learned with Nolan Arenado that signing a homegrown star to a long-term deal isn’t going to work out for them. There’s no way they can re-sign both Gray and Story this winter. They’ll be lucky to keep one of them. There had to have been enough teams interested in both for the Rox to work out a viable trade.
Clearly, there is a lot of rebuilding to do in Colorado, and not trading those players misses a golden opportunity to start that process.
Winner: Atlanta Braves
Fun fact about the Braves is that they’ve never been above .500 this season. Yet, they were swinging deals at the deadline like a team that thinks it can go to the World Series. To be fair, that’s not out of the question.
With Ronald Acuna and Marcell Ozuna done for the season, the Braves overcompensated by adding Joc Pederson earlier this month and then traded for Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall, and Jorge Soler right before the deadline. Getting reliever Richard Rodriguez was also a nice touch.
For what it’s worth, there are still some concerns about the team’s rotation, which didn’t receive an upgrade. But even without Acuna and Ozuna, the Braves have more than enough offense to stay in the NL East race.
Loser: New York Mets
The Mets didn’t have a terrible deadline. But the Braves made several big moves while the Phillies improved their pitching staff as well. Both teams recognized that the Mets remain vulnerable despite leading the NL East for most of the season, and one can argue that New York didn’t do enough.
Adding Rich Hill was a necessary move, but the other addition to the rotation was Chicago’s Trevor Williams. With Jacob deGrom hurt, Taijuan Walker fading, and Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard still wild cards, the Mets needed another starter who’s more reliable than Williams. Why not get Zach Davies from the Cubs instead?
Javier Baez is a big pickup with Francisco Lindor on the IL. But the Mets arguably had the worst deadline of any team in their division.
Winner: Chicago Cubs
For what it’s worth, the Twins and Nationals also had an excellent deadline from a seller’s perspective. But the Cubs were the best seller. They somehow managed to trade Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Craig Kimbrel, among a few others.
Yes, it’s a sad day on the North Side with those players leaving town. But the influx of young talent into the organization is substantial. If this is the start of a rebuilding period, the Cubs are off to a great start. The trade market was active and the Cubs did a phenomenal job of taking full advantage of that.
Loser: St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals can’t seriously think that they’re a playoff contender. St. Louis began Friday with a .500 record and 9.5 games behind the Brewers in the NL Central. On top of that, they can’t seriously think that Jon Lester and JA Happ are going to make a difference. If it was five or 10 years ago, Lester and Happ would have been huge additions to pick up at the deadline. But both are back-end starters at best.
The Cardinals were downright stupid to waste resources on two players who aren’t going to make a difference down the stretch and aren’t going to put St. Louis any closer to the playoff race than the Cards are right now.
Winner: MLB fans
Frankly, baseball fans are the real winners of the deadline. This was one of the most active and exciting deadlines in recent memories. Part of it is because there are no more August waiver deals, so perhaps this is a sign of things to come.
We also got a little lucky because the Cubs, Twins, and Nationals were all eager sellers who had high-profile players to trade. Such a scenario may not repeat itself in future years.
In the end, there are probably eight teams in each league that have legitimate playoff hopes and nearly all 16 made themselves significantly better during the deadline. The level of play for the next two months, at least among the contending teams, has been raised, setting up what should be a compelling playoff race in September.
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