The true winners and losers of the many major trades made last week won’t be known for years, but what fun would it be if we waited that long to judge them? In the wake of the craziest MLB trade deadline in recent memory, here are five winners and five losers:
1. Cubs and Nationals
Both the Cubs and Nationals completely blew things up, with Chicago dealing Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Craig Kimbrel and some spare parts and Washington offloading Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson, Yan Gomes, Josh Harrison and Jon Lester. Both teams took back massive hauls of prospects, accelerating rebuilds that just a few years ago seemed impossible to envision.
The Cubs’ haul is highlighted by Nick Madrigal (who should contribute in the majors next year) and former first-round pick Pete Crow-Armstrong (who is just 19) but a bunch of the other players they acquired have the chance to be big-leaguers as well. The Nats got two blue-chippers in Keibert Ruiz and Josiah Gray (both in the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner deal) while revamping their entire farm system with 12 total additions.
In a league in which half-measures tend to sink teams, the Cubs and Nats went all-in and restocked their cupboards within a few days. And though the moves are surely painful for fans of those teams now, they will undoubtedly pay dividends in the years to come.
2. Max Scherzer and the Dodgers
Scherzer, who just turned 37, wants to win again and will get a chance to do so as part of the most-talented team in baseball. The righty wanted to go to a contender and pitch out west and obviously got both of his wishes before approving the deal to Los Angeles.
The Dodgers, in the meantime, added two superstars in Scherzer and Turner, beating out their two chief divisional rivals (San Diego and San Francisco) to do so. The Dodgers’ embarrassment of riches knows no bounds, both in terms of money and raw talent. Los Angeles is once again the clear favorite to win the World Series.
3. The American League East race
All four AL East contenders got better, with the Yankees acquiring Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo, the Blue Jays making an aggressive play for José Berríos, the Red Sox nabbing Kyle Schwarber and the Rays acquiring Nelson Cruz. The quartet participated in an old-fashioned arms race that will play a critical role in the order they finish down the stretch.
Importantly, the moves made by the Yankees and Blue Jays signaled to the Rays and Red Sox that despite the gap between second and third place, all four teams are in this for the long haul. Making things more interesting is the fact that both Gallo and Berríos are both under team control for next season, infusing even more talent into a division that should be highly contested next season as well.
The Twins held on to Byron Buxton, Kenta Maeda and Josh Donaldson yet were still able to bring in a major prospect haul, as the Berríos deal netted them shortstop Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson from Toronto. On a sellers’ market, Minnesota might have made the best deal of all, landing two of the very best prospects in baseball for a pitcher that has never received a Cy Young award vote.
The Twins clearly had a focus on acquiring young pitching talent, as the Cruz (Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman), J.A. Happ (John Gant) and Hansel Robles (Alex Scherff) all netted them arms. The most disappointing team in baseball might be back to prominence in a hurry.
5. MLB fans everywhere
Many times, the trade deadline doesn’t come close to living up to the hype. But this year, it was amazing.
Some numbers for you: All 30 teams made deals between July 15-30, with 149 players being moved in 56 trades. A record 10 All-Stars (Gallo, Cruz, Kyle Gibson, Adam Frazier, Eduardo Escobar, Schwarber, Scherzer, Kimbrel, Turner and Bryant) were dealt in that span.
Every contender tried to get better, and teams across baseball truly did put their chips on the table. It will be hard for any future deadline to be better than 2021.
The Rockies had the chance to do what the Cubs and Nationals did but almost inexplicably decided against it, holding on to shortstop Trevor Story, starter Jon Gray, reliever Daniel Bard and others instead of dealing them. In total, Colorado made just one deal of note, shipping reliever Mychal Givens to the Reds for minor-league pitchers Case Williams and Noah Davis.
The Rox always seem to march to the bet of their own drum, but there’s no reason a team sitting more than 20 games out of first place should hold onto tradeable assets. Inexcusable.
2. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto
Not many current general managers actually played in the major leagues. Seattle’s Jerry Dipoto, who played for the Indians, Mets and Rockies from 1993-2000, is one of them. That’s why it’s so surprising Dipoto was so out of touch with his players in the days leading up to the deadline.
Not only did the M’s trade breakout closer and clubhouse leader Kendall Graveman, but they sent him to the Astros — the team Seattle is trying to chase down in the AL West — before a game against Houston. The optics were horrible, and so were the reactions from disappointed Seattle players.
Dipoto turned around as a buyer and ended up grabbing Tampa Bay’s Diego Castillo and Pittsburgh’s Tyler Anderson, but the Graveman move was a shocking one.
Yes, the Padres acquired Frazier — who at the time of the deal was leading the majors in hits — and reliever Daniel Hudson as well as outfielder Jake Marisnick. But general manager A.J. Preller is known to go big, and he failed to acquire Scherzer, Gallo or Berríos despite San Diego having rumored interest in all three.
Losing out on Scherzer, then having him go to the Dodgers is a major loss for a Padres team that will do anything to escape the Dodgers’ shadow both in their division and geographic region. That one had to sting.
New Phillies boss Dave Dombrowski didn’t really live up to his reputation as a dealer in his first deadline with the club, as he made just one deal — acquiring pitchers Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy from the Rangers for a package centered around pitching prospect Spencer Howard. Considering the other guys available, the deal felt like something of a consolation prize for a team that needs help.
Back in 2019, Dombrowski candidly admitted he didn’t think his Red Sox were good enough to warrant major deadline upgrades. Did he feel the same way about the .500 Phillies and make a move just to make a move?
5. Rich Hill
No offense to the Mets, but Hill didn’t have a great trade season. One can envision him celebrating the addition of Nelson Cruz with his Rays teammates, only to find out 24 hours later that he was being dealt to New York in what amounted to a salary dump. The Mets are in first place, but they’re not nearly the contender that the Rays are.
The 42-year-old Hill had a very solid chance at a ring in Tampa Bay. He can’t be happy that his chances were diminished by a rare trade in which a contender traded away a rotation member.