The Texas Rangers, though still comfortably atop the American League West, had three priorities in the days winding down to Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trading deadline on Monday afternoon. The club wanted an offensive upgrade at catcher, better bullpen performance and a run-producing hitter.
After the dust settled on an active last couple days, Texas had gone 3-for-3.
Texas embodies ‘going for it’ in 2016.
It snared slugger Carlos Beltran from the Yankees and All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy and closer Jeremy Jeffress from the Brewers. The Rangers had to deal Milwaukee one of their two highest-rated prospects in outfielder Lewis Brinson and gave New York one of their best pitching prospects in Dillon Tate.
Would the Rangers have liked a premier starting pitcher, too? Of course, but none — especially the White Sox’s Chris Sale and the Rays’ Chris Archer — were moved before the deadline. But in terms of addressing the weaknesses that could prevent them from reaching the 2016 World Series, the Rangers have to stand as baseball’s biggest deadline winner.
Beltran has been the Yankees’ most consistent and productive hitter all season. Lucroy is a huge offensive upgrade from Robinson Chirinos. And adding Jeffress, who has 27 saves, should be a boon in terms of shortening games.
The Rangers also managed to hold on to rookie right fielder Nomar Mazara and top positional prospect Joey Gallo, who also could help them reach and thrive in October.
There’s about two months left in the regular season, so anything can happen, but no team made a statement louder than Texas and the organization did it without gutting its farm system.
Some teams were ‘sellers’ at the deadline and reaped packages with top prospects, but it will take much longer than the next two months to determine how well they fared. Not every top prospect plays up to the billing. There were, however, plenty of ‘buyers.’
Not all of them accomplished what they set out to do, but here’s a breakdown of other teams who fared well before the clock expired on Monday.
The Cleveland Indians made a major score by landing left-handed reliever Andrew Miller from the Yankees in their massive sell-off. They also got a solid outfielder from Tampa Bay in Brandon Guyer. But they nearly stole all the headlines when they reached an agreement with the Brewers for Lucroy to step in for Yan Gomes, who is out with a separated shoulder.
But it didn’t happen when Lucroy couldn’t get the concession he wanted to drop the Cleveland from the no-trade list in his contract (voiding the final year of his contract to allow him to be a free agent after the season).
Even so, this is a major improvement. Miller is a difference-maker and has quietly been the best relief pitcher in the AL. Even more, he is signed for a club-friendly $9 million per season for two more years. Regardless, the Indians are going for it and have added to the best pitching staff in the league. After the Cavaliers won their first NBA title, the city appears to be in the running for another title.
The National League Central-leading Chicago Cubs added three relievers to address what looks like their only major shortcoming: their bullpen, which ranks seventh in ERA, with a 3.62 ERA and 20 saves in 31 chances. The Cubs have a new closer in Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees and top set-up man Joe Smith from the Angels. Chicago now has one of baseball’s deepest bullpens and should be better able to cash in on its explosive offense.
The NL East-leading Washington Nationals also addressed their biggest weakness with a deal for Pirates closer Mark Melancon. They gave up a pair of pitching prospects, neither considered among their best, and no longer have the unpredictable Jonathan Papelbon (4.28 ERA) pitching for the biggest outs. Melancon has 30 saves.
The NL West-leading San Francisco Giants may ultimately look like a team that came up short on the balance of trade here, but in terms of winning this season it’s a tough call. They gave up a lot and got back a lot too. San Francisco got Matt Moore from the Rays, a former ace now back after a season lost to elbow surgery and 4-2 with a 1.99 ERA in his last six starts; All-Star utility man Eduardo Nunez from the Twins, who can fill the many holes brought on by injuries; and lefty reliever Will Smith from the Brewers, who has 22 strikeouts in 22 innings.
The Los Angeles Dodgers wanted to upgrade their starting rotation and bring on a big-hitting outfielder. They got both in one swoop by making a deal with Oakland for starter Rich Hill and outfielder Josh Reddick. Hill has been Oakland’s best pitcher at 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA. Though a blister condition has recently sidelined him, he is almost ready to return and should shore up a rotation that’s been riddled by injuries. Reddick is a high on-base slugger and allows the Dodgers to stop relying on Yasiel Puig.