You know about Sonny Gray to the Yankees and Yu Darvish to the Dodgers. But who else came out how when it came to wheeling, dealing, and even stealing between the end of the All-Star break and the non-waiver trade deadline Monday?
* Astros—Not so great. It’s not that having the lefty specialist Francisco Liriano has become hurts them (he’s found a new life after injuries ruined him as a once-promising starter), but the Astros really needed another starting pitcher more. Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers are just too acute a pair of health concerns for the Astros not to have tried reeling in a starting arm. And Collin McHugh is still a question mark after missing half the season with an elbow impingement. Pray he gets back to near normal down the hard stretch, of course. Lucky for the Astros the rest of their game can overcome those issues, but those issues could leave them vulnerable in the postseason.
* Athletics—Once again, they unloaded a young veteran for prospects. On the surface, that’s a good thing. Except that these are the A’s, and since they got shoved to one side in the 2014 wild card game they’ve been having fire sales as if they’ve been going out of style. (You could probably win a pennant with a team made up of everyone the A’s have unloaded.) The main problem: The rest of baseball caught up to Moneyball and erased Oakland’s advantage with the A’s still too under-budgeted to catch back up. And they still play in a ballpark that’s only a slight improvement over a rusted, aged washing machine tub.
What really hurt them long before the Sonny Gray trade: unloading Josh Donaldson for four prospects only two of whom are still with them. That, according to several analysts, is the one that really put the A’s into stall. Unless they can open the purse strings even slightly more wide than now, Billy Beane is going to have to find a new way to get creative with low-price talent bearing high-price upside.
* Cardinals—Something’s terribly wrong when a club still has an outside postseason shot and more than whispering interest in starting pitcher Lance Lynn but can’t turn that interest into assets who could have shored them up for a run at it. The Mets’ outfield is merely overcrowded, but the Cardinals’ outfield looks like a M*A*S*H post-op. You thought Mike Matheny’s job was in jeopardy before the All-Star break?
* Cubs—They didn’t wait till the non-waiver deadline. They landed Jose Quintana right out of the post All-Star chute. Left for dead before the All-Star break (even I was joking, “Ahhh, wait till last year!”), the Cubs are 13-3 since. Aided and abetted by the surprising Brewers beginning to fade, the Cubs flipped the NL Central around by eight games while they were at it.
Then they came to deadline day and swung Justin Wilson (portside reliever) and Alex Avila (veteran backup catcher) from the Tigers. The price may have been a little high—infielders Isaac Paredes and Jeimer Candelario were only the Cubs’ number five and nine prospects, respectively—but Wilson doesn’t just fortify the bullpen, he could be their closer-in-waiting if the Cubs don’t bring Wade Davis back. (He’s in his walk year.) And with Avila aboard, bringing his own postseason experience, the Cubs look a lot more October-ready now than they did a month ago.
* Indians—They needed insurance other than reliever Joe Smith and didn’t get it. It’s not that they’re in terrible shape, even if Danny Salazar looks like he’s coming back to his old form, but they had clean shots at Yu Darvish and Zach Britton and didn’t even squeeze the trigger. Fasten your seat belts, Indians fans.
* Mess (er, Mets)—The good news: They shored up their relief corps, present and to-be, in deals that unloaded veteran streaky power hitter Lucas Duda and emergency closer (as in, stepping up big enough when Jeurys Familia went down) Addison Reed. The bad news: How come they couldn’t flip some of their jammed outfield for like prospects, as if such prospects couldn’t be found elsewhere and otherwise? The faint light at the end of the tunnel: They could still turn Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson into prospects during the waiver-trade period. Could. But will they? A season shot to pieces by the disabled list isn’t going to get noticeably better even when Jacob deGrom pitches, alas.
* Orioles—They still have Zach Britton to save for save situations that may not come despite games being on the line like five minutes ago. That won’t save the Orioles in the short or long run. There were teams who’d have all but mortgaged the farm for him, and God only knows the Orioles need a replenishment. Someone said this is what you get when the owner interferes with the front office. It’s been a too-longtime Oriole story.
* Rangers—So what did they get for Darvish? They got Willie Calhoun, an infielder/ outfielder with power hitting upside to burn, even though his defensive future might sooner be the outfield. They also got a pair of 19-year-old prospects with positive upside. The Rangers are probably looking at next year primarily, but they could surprise with a wild-card run this year. Which makes moving Darvish now when they weren’t likely to re-sign him this coming winter look very smart.
* Red Sox—Made out nicely getting Reed from the Mets. Made out likewise getting Eduardo Nunez from the Giants. (This makes, essentially, a completion of a “deal” for Pablo Sandoval, since the Giants re-upped him on a minor league deal after the Red Sox pushed a plunger on the Kung Fu Panda experiment.) But with David Price imploding (so it seems) they could have used another starter. They also could have used a little lineup and bench fortification. Not that they’re in terrible shape in the AL East, but those pesky Yankees just refused to throw in the proverbial towel.