Who Were the Biggest Winners and Losers of the 2018 MLB Trade Deadline?

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The trade deadline has come and gone, and with it, a busy day of moves both big and small. From Chris Archer heading to Pittsburgh to some sellers emptying the cupboard, Tuesday brought plenty to figure out. So let’s take a look at both deadline day and the month leading up to it, and see which teams won or lost.

Winner: The Rays

While Tampa fans won’t be happy to see Archer—the franchise’s last link to the good old days and arguably its only star player—go, the Rays did well for themselves on deadline day. Archer, now in his third straight season of disappointing results, will bring back two former top prospects in Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows from Pittsburgh, plus a third player down the road. Elsewhere, Tampa bought low on Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham, securing someone just a year removed from a season worth 6.2 bWAR and who could bounce back with a change of scenery.

Most important, though, was that those two deals (and the one that sent Nate Eovaldi to Boston for starting prospect Jalen Beeks last week) landed major league-ready help; if there’s a rebuild coming in Tampa, the front office thinks it should be a short one. The rest of 2018 won’t be pretty, but the future looks brighter than expected (and also startlingly cheap).

Loser: The Rays’ bullpen

Well, the future is bright except for the 40 or so relievers in Tampa who will now be starting every remaining game of the season between them. That’s the ultimate result of the Rays reaching inbox zero with their starting rotation after dealing away Archer, as their MLB.com depth chart makes starkly clear.

That lonely space will gain a name once lefty Blake Snell comes off the disabled list, but beyond that, the Rays will—or, rather, have no choice but to—lean fully into their opener gambit. Get familiar with names like Ryne Stanek, Ryan Yarborough, Yonny Chirinos and Glasnow among several others, all of whom will be cycled through games in multi-inning stints, as Tampa continues to push into the dark unexplored space of roster management.

Winner: Wild-card leaders

Teams holding onto the life preservers that are wild-card spots are probably breathing a sigh of relief right now, as those chasing them in each race were mostly quiet. In the AL, only the Athletics are within shouting distance of the Mariners for the second wild card and final postseason place, but Oakland’s shopping was done early. The A’s added ex-Mets closer Jeurys Familia last week, then sat out deadline day itself; their only move of note was failing to close a deal for Tigers starter Mike Fiers. That feels like a missed opportunity, particularly with Seattle doing nothing more than getting a couple of relievers in Adam Warren and Zach Duke and a reserve outfielder in Cameron Maybin.

Over in the NL, there was a little more activity, as both the Brewers and Pirates got busy by acquiring Jonathan Schoop and Archer, respectively. But the Braves kept pace by adding Kevin Gausman to their rotation, and beyond Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, everyone else either stood pat (Colorado, San Francisco, Washington) or went backwards (St. Louis). The fringe teams remained stuck in the middle, and that’s to the benefit of those leading the pack.

Loser: The Brewers

Speaking of Milwaukee: The Brewers had to add a starter. They couldn’t get through the deadline without doing something—anything—to bolster a starting five that intentionally includes Wade Miley. Yet by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Milwaukee had left that group unchanged, instead sending prospects to Baltimore for Schoop right as time expired.

That’s a curious choice. Schoop is a solid hitter who deepens the lineup, but the Brewers’ offense was already plenty tough. Worse, with new arrival Mike Moustakas displacing Travis Shaw to second base, Schoop will have to play out of position at shortstop. That infield defense is going to be messy.

In a vacuum, adding Schoop, Moustakas and Joakim Soria looks good. But that rotation desperately needed reinforcements, making those moves hard to understand in context. The Brewers’ plans are clearly to bash opposing teams early and use a powerful bullpen to hold on late. But even though the market wasn’t great and even with the knowledge that there will be some useful veteran arms likely available in August, it’s confounding that Milwaukee didn’t get at least one starter.

Winner: Sellers

Both Baltimore and Minnesota were the biggest movers of the deadline. The O’s dealt away nearly a quarter of their roster, saying goodbye to Manny Machado, Schoop, Gausman, Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Darren O’Day all in the last two weeks. In exchange: over a dozen prospects (most of them very good), a lot of international signing money and a payroll reduction of over $30 million going forward. There are no half-measures in deadline selling, and while the Orioles are going to continue to stink on ice for the rest of 2018, they did what they had to do to try to build a better tomorrow.

The same applies to the Twins, who chucked pending free agents like someone cleaning out a smelly fridge. Tuesday saw the trade of longtime star Brian Dozier to the Dodgers, closing out a week that saw Minnesota deal away him, Eduardo Escobar, Lance Lynn and Zach Duke. For that group, the Twins got plenty of high-upside prospects, and more could be coming if they can get anyone to bite on Ervin Santana, Logan Morrison or Fernando Rodney in August.

It sucks to watch teams openly give up, and it shouldn’t be encouraged. But if your season’s lost, you have to rip that Band-Aid off all the way and all at once. The O’s and Twins did just that, and they did it well.

Loser: The Mets

After all, this is the other side of it: a team that’s lost in the wilderness but insists that it can find its way back to civilization despite having lost the map, compass and flashlight a long time ago. The Mets did make some trades, shipping out Familia and Asdrubal Cabrera. But fellow pending free agents Jose Bautista and Devin Mesoraco remain, as does the waste of space that is Jose Reyes, as New York missed a chance to do anything more.

You can argue that no one in that sad trio was going to fetch anything of value (though Bautista arguably could have as a power-hitting DH/reserve outfielder option). What’s confusing is the decision not to move Zack Wheeler in a market devoid of good pitching options—one in which he would have easily been the best starter available. And just imagine if Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard had been on the block; the prospect haul would have dwarfed that of Machado.

Maybe this wasn’t the right time to move either of those pitchers; the offseason might prove more fruitful. But the concern here is that the Mets kept deGrom, Syndergaard and Wheeler because ownership legitimately thinks that, despite this season’s awful results and a tough division full of good young teams, competition is feasible in 2019. It should be—but it will require better decision-making and a propensity to spend that this franchise hasn’t shown in a long time. The Wilpons are deluding themselves if they think they can run it back with this current group and a few minor adds and get improved results.

Then again, maybe the real issue here is a GM triumvirate that can’t (or isn’t allowed to) make a decision one way or the other. If you’re a Mets fan—and I’m so sorry if you are—this isn’t exactly a reassuring thing to see about your team’s brain trust.

Seasons change and our universe continues to fluctuate, but the Mets remain a constant.

TBD: The Nationals and Pirates

Washington was the big early driver of action at the deadline with rumors that Bryce Harper could be on the move, but GM Mike Rizzo squashed those thoughts early. Instead, the Nationals did … well, nothing—save for giving away reliever Brandon Kintzler in a move so unexpected that he thought it was a joke when he was told about it. It’s easy to understand why the Nats would keep Harper and try to make a run with him, but it’s odd that they did nothing to help their case. And the decision not to move him for what would’ve been an Atahualpa-sized ransom will look mighty bad if Washington can’t overcome its malaise and capture a playoff spot. For now, though, it’s too soon to tell whether this was the right call.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is simply confounding. After seemingly punting on 2018 by dealing Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen before the season, the Pirates—just 3 1/2 games back in the wild-card race—have changed course and are trying to buy their way back into contention by getting Archer. Yes, I know that Archer is under contract for longer than either Cole or McCutchen would have been, so this isn’t strictly a trade for this year. But how do you square a team giving up more for a worse pitcher than what it received for the better one traded away? Cheap team control doesn’t really mean much if the guy you get isn’t playing well. There’s plenty of time for this move to work out, though, so for now, that lands Pittsburgh in the middle.

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