2018 MLB Trade Deadline in Review

The non-waiver trade deadline on July 31st is never a dull day in baseball, as hundreds of players will pack their bags and continue their journey with a new team.

All thirty teams are dead set on improving their teams, whether it’s for the short or long-term. Struggling teams can sell off their bright spots for prospects, middling teams can decide if they can right the ship with the right trade, and the teams at the top hope to reach the next level with upgrades to their playoff-bound roster.

With the help of hundreds of sports writers and reporters, fans can see these developments happening in real time. It’s a treat to watch for fans, but it can be agonizing for baseball’s front offices.

What did this year’s deadline give us? Let’s begin.

1. Ian Kinsler to Red Sox for Ty Buttrey and Williams Perez

Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski wasted no time making a deal ahead of the deadline. With last year’s acquisition Eduardo Nuñez struggling at second base, Boston replaces a -0.4 WAR player for a 2.0 WAR player, all for the 19th and 23rd prospects in the Red Sox organization. The Angels are also paying half of the remaining $3.8 million owed to Kinsler this season, so the Red Sox remain under the second luxury tax threshold.

Kinsler is meant to be a rental as Dustin Pedroia is expected to return to playing health for 2019. The first time Dombrowski acquired Ian Kinsler, he shedded Prince Fielder’s mammoth contract extension.

Boston also acquired Nathan Eovaldi from Tampa Bay and Steve Pearce from Toronto earlier this month

2. Lance Lynn to Yankees for Tyler Austin and Luis Rijo

The Yankees needed starting pitching. General manager Brian Cashman owns the means to go crazy to upgrade their pitching, but he went the cheap route for New York’s first move. Greg Bird made Tyler Austin expendable at first base, and Luis Rijo is nowhere near the top of New York’s strong farm system.

The Yankees can’t afford to taste test more starting pitchers, so they have to hope a pitcher like Lynn can keep the Yankees in the game. New York is six games out of first place in the AL East and just lost Aaron Judge to a wrist injury.

This would be nothing special if not for the Yankees’ acquisitions earlier this week of Zach Britton and J.A. Happ.

3. Tommy Pham to Rays for Justin Williams, Genesis Cabrera and Roel Ramirez

Here’s a trade that came out of left field. The dysfunction within the St. Louis organization was apparent, but it didn’t appear likely that Pham had angered the Cardinals’ brass enough to trade him away. Pham’s $570,000 option for this year was picked up, and this made the utility man unhappy after an outstanding 2017 season.

St. Louis is selling despite the changes to their manager and front office, and Pham was the first to go. These are three middling prospects from the Rays organization, a meager return for a dependable player with three more years of team control. The trade is more about starting fresh with the team culture rather than prioritizing the best return for Pham and his excellent contract.

For owner Stuart Steinberg and his budget Rays, this trade is a dream-come-true.

The Tommy Pham trade shut out contending teams looking for help in either the infield or outfield, such as the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs.

Cleveland’s move just minutes later can be seen as a direct response to missing out on Pham.

4. Leonys Martín and Kyle Dowdy to Indians for Willi Castillo

Cleveland’s season-long goal was to land a proper center fielder. For all of their interest in players such as Bryce Harper, Billy Hamilton and Andrew McCutchen, Leonys Martín is an underwhelming solution. Not to mention, Willi Castro is a shortstop prospect ranked 8th in Cleveland’s organization. I seem to think this is an overpay. The Indians are at the bottom in defense at center field, so there’s desperation to this trade.

The Tigers can be satisfied with a possible future starter at short stop as a return for Martín, who was never going to take part in what should be a lengthy rebuilding procrss for Detroit.

5. Keone Kela to Pirates for Taylor Hearn and PTBNL

Uhh okay? Sure the Pirates are on a hot streak but they’re a whole 3.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot. I hear Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen would’ve helped them get this far.

Pitcher Taylor Hearn is Pittsburgh’s No.7 prospect, certainly a high price to pay for an upstart closer on a bad team. If you can sell the closer for that, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels is doing something right. The Rangers really need pitchers if you weren’t aware, and Hearn is having a great year in AA. People were joking about the Pirates giving away Austin Meadows just to get Kela, but this trade is pretty close to that.

It would be so Pirates to crash and burn from here out. If they do make it to the Wild Card game though, great news for Milwaukee or Arizona, who also added to their rosters in preparation for the playoffs.

6. Brad Ziegler to Diamondbacks for PTBNL

The immortal sidewinder is back with Arizona once again. As soon as Ziegler signed with Marlins, he knew the day would come where he would have to wear another team’s uniform.

Ziegler is a cheap upgrade for a team that loves cheap upgrades. The reliever is in the midst of a career revival, but he had a slow start to the season. Playing for the Miami Marlins helps nobody pitch their best, and now Ziegler has the chance to play for a contender again.

The Chicago Cubs were heavily interested in Ziegler, as were the Boston Red Sox.

7. Chris Archer to Pirates for Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and PTBNL

At first I had no clue what the Pirates were doing. Were they serious about contending?

They added Keone Kela for a high price, but I guess they’re serious. Pittsburgh’s had an astonishing amount of top prospects go to waste, and if you’re gonna sell high on Meadows and Glasnow, you can do much worse than Chris Archer.

I’ll say it again, if the Pirates were willing to spend this much ammo in prospects, they should not have been the trainwreck they were the past two seasons. Maybe they could’ve held on to Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen if they were this serious.

That aside, Chris Archer’s contract is a blessing for an equally cheap team in the Pittsburgh Pirates. Archer is not pitching like an ace, but he’s making a quarter of ace money until 2021, just under $7 million a year. That team control is the basis for Archer’s high trade value, but the Pirates bit the bullet.

I like this trade for both teams, and I’m shocked the Pirates were the only team willing to meet Tampa’s demands for Archer. The timing of this will always be strange, though.

8. Jonathan Schoop to Brewers for Luis Ortiz, Jonathan Villar and Jean Carmona

The Brewers wanted more bats and infield help, so here’s one. Schoop is struggling, but he had an excellent 2017 season and is still in his mid-twenties. Luis Ortiz is Milwaukee’s No.7 prospect, but it’s worth it for the Brewers to keep a successful season going.

Schoop is just 25 and is under team control for next season, though he is set for his third arbitration.

The Orioles are cleaning house, and it’s necessary to say the least. Adam Jones opted to stay with Baltimore for now, but we’ll see how long that pact lasts for.

Villar has lost his shine as a top prospect, but Dan Duquette and Baltimore will take what they can get at this point.

9. Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to Braves for Evan Phillips, Jean Carlos Encarnacion, Brett Cumberland and Bruce Zimmermann

The Braves have a deep farm system, and trading low-level prospects to help the major league team is almost never a bad investment. Kevin Gausmann’s season has been especially horrendous, but maybe a change of scenery helps. Relief pitcher Darren O’Day is back from injuries and feeling the pain of playing for a bad Orioles team, but now they’re playing for a possible contender.

To summarize, the Orioles have dealt Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, Kevin Gausman from their minor major league roster and saved Peter Angelos $30 million in guaranteed salaries.

10. Brian Dozier to Dodgers for Logan Forsythe, Luke Raley and Devin Smeltzer

The Dodgers are shaking up the infield to add more bats to their already deep lineup, having added Machado and now Dozier this month. Los Angeles also has a deep farm system, and this trade barely dents it. Brian Dozier has had a down year, but he provides a rare amount of power and hitting at second base.

The Dodgers did not trade Yasiel Puig and his contract, though they are about $5 million under the luxury tax.

11. John Axford to Dodgers for Corey Copping

The Dodgers also added John Axford to strengthen their bullpen in preparation for a deep playoff run. The Dodgers must especially like his numbers against left-handed hitters, an astounding .147. Axford is set to pitch in relief for late-innings, though he can also be used on the spot to handle lefties in the postseason.

12. Brandon Kintzler to Cubs for Jhon Romero

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo stressed that he was not going to sell from the team’s major league roster since they are only six games out of the division. The main buzz about the trade deadline was if and where Bryce Harper would be traded.

Trading away a reliever from a bullpen that still needs help is puzzling, but Mike Rizzo and the Nationals are in a tough spot as the result of Bryce Harper’s free agency at the end of the season.

Trading away Harper would be the nail in the coffin for Washington to keep him, though a playoff miss would also make Harper ready to leave if his decision hasn’t been made already.

For Theo Epstein and the Cubs, this is another move to prop up a bullpen that is dealing with injuries. If healthy though, the bullpen can be another weapon for the Cubs. Jhon Romero is not a top prospect for Chicago, so they can add to their major league roster for almost nothing.


13. Wilson Ramos and Aaron Loup to Phillies for PTBNL and cash considerations

Well Rays and Blue Jays, you’re getting the best players in the league, Cash Considerations and Player To Be Named Later. The Phillies get a catcher who can somewhat hit and they get an All-Star reliever to help out. Whether or not the Phillies use Loup to close games will be answered soon enough.

The Phillies add to their major league roster for no meaningful cost, and that looks like the theme of the trade deadline. Contending teams are all tuning up for the postseason.

This was a bizarre trade deadline overall, though the teams that adding nothing to their team shocked me the most. We have the Mets and Giants, who are both stuck in baseball’s no-man’s land, and the Nationals and Cardinals, who want to compete, but did not add any players. For the Giants, who hoped to capitalize on their current aging core, I’m confused as to why they did nothing. No trades of bad contracts, no additions.

The Mets sold away their closer in Jeurys Familia before anyone else and did nothing else. They are set to miss the playoffs, but they’re too good to sell, apparently. I can understand the indecision to sell Jacob DeGrom, but there’s a few more pieces worth trading away on that team. The Mets sold high on Asdrubal Cabrera to the Phillies, but that’s all in Flushing.

Let’s leave off there. When you think of this year’s trade deadline, just think of the Mets. It makes no sense. The contending teams will use their new pieces to fight for the remaining playoff spots and gear up for October.

Trade Deadline Part Two is August 31st, where slumping teams will put players on waivers to trade them to contenders. Players like Adam Jones and Matt Harvey may be thrown around then.

Photo: Sports Illustrated


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