“That’s Amore!” How Each Playoff Contender Did at the Trade Deadline
Arguably one of the more active trade deadline in recent years, the 2017 trade deadline saw numerous arms moved. One of the more interesting aspects is the majority of moved pitchers were bullpen arms. We’ve talked a lot about the emphasis of the long ball, but without a doubt almost everyone has noticed the increased priority of a team’s bullpen. I don’t believe this will change anytime soon. With pitchers pitching less and less into the late innings, we will see continued reliance on the bullpen. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see more teams going after dynamite arms such as setup men and closers to bring into the middle innings. Think guys like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman coming in to pitch the six and seventh innings before giving way to the setup man and closer. Still, it was great seeing teams try to sure up their bullpen for the final third of the 2017 season. This week, I want to take a look at playoff contenders had how they did at the deadline in this week’s version of “That’s Amore!” How Each Playoff Contender Did at the Trade Deadline.
Record as of Sunday Evening: 65-44 (Division Lead by 13 Games)
There’s no question the Nationals needed bullpen help. The closer roles has been an ongoing carousel since the start of the season, and the issue was prominent during the offseason. Still, the Nationals refused to fill the void and were left trying numerous options. Two weeks after acquiring Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from Oakland, the Nationals added another piece acquiring Brandon Kintzler from the Minnesota Twins. Two weeks before the trade deadline the Twins were buyers, but after they started to lose ground Kintzler became available and the Nationals didn’t blink at adding another bullpen arm. It remains to be seen if Dusty Baker will eventually name Kintzler his closer, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he does. Doolittle and Madson seem to fit the mold of setup men. While Kintzler isn’t a flame thrower, and pitches to contact he still should be a more viable option than the team’s previous options. I like the trade. It may not give the Nationals an elite closer, but Kintzler is proven.
Overall Grade: B
Record as of Sunday Evening: 71-40 (Division Lead by 14.5 Games)
This season has been dominated by two offenses. The National League has been taken by the storm that is the Los Angeles Dodgers while the Houston Astros have terrorized the American League since the start of the season. The Astros pitching staff was lead early on by former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, and red hot Lance McCullers Jr. As the season progressed Keuchel missed eight weeks due to neck discomfort, Lance McCullers Jr. became human, and the effects could be seen for a team losing their only true ace. Prior to the All-Star break, the Astros were fifth in MLB in overall pitching. Fast forward to now, and the Astros have fallen to 27th in MLB. With their ace getting set to return for an extended disable list stay, the Astros came face-to-face with the trade deadline. What was their move? They acquired Francisco Liriano from the Blue Jays in one of his worst seasons as a big leaguer. At 33, Liriano should still be in his prime, however this season has been one to forget. The issue that makes one scratch their head is the fact Liriano will be coming out of the bullpen. For a team that could use pitching depth, it would’ve made more sense to add another starting pitcher. It didn’t have to be an ace, but a starter to give depth, and sure up, the back-end of the rotation. It’s never a good sign when your ace goes public with his comments stating his displeasure with the team’s trade deadline approach. Luckily, the Astros feature once of the most dynamic offenses in the league.
Overall Grade: F
Los Angeles Dodgers
Record entering Sunday: 78-32 (Division Lead by 15 Games)
Having one of the most dynamic seasons in recent history, there are very few flaws with the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s extremely rare for a team to reach the 75-win plateau before the season is two-thirds of the way over, and it’s even more rare to see a rookie eclipse the 30 HR mark. The Dodgers have accomplished both, and are looking like the early favorites to represent the National League in the World Series. Upon the trade deadline Clayton Kershaw was placed on the disabled list with a back issue. How did the Dodgers respond? The Dodgers acquired the best starting pitcher available in Yu Darvish. Regardless if he’s set to be a free agent, the Dodgers wanted to sure up their starting rotation and they did just that. Andrew Friedman stated Kershaw’s injury had nothing to do with their targeting of Darvish, but I’d have to believe talks intensified as soon as the Kershaw hit the DL. It’s been a few years since the Dodgers had another ace [Zack Greinke] to pair alongside Kershaw. Not only does Darvish better than starting rotation and give them another ace, but the move gives the Dodgers one of the best one-two combos in baseball and easily the best right/lefty combination. After solidifying their starting rotation, the Dodgers made one last push to beef up their bullpen adding Tony Cingrani from the Cincinnati Reds and Tony Watson from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Both lefties give the Dodgers bullpen more depth. The addition of Darvish makes the Dodgers the favorite in any playoff series and could be the difference between making an appearance in the LCS and representing the NL in the World Series.
Overall Grade: A
New York Yankees
Record as of Sunday Evening: 59-51 (3 Games Behind Boston Red Sox)
Brian Cashman is the clear front-runner for executive of the year. Not only has he completely restocked their minor league pipeline, but he’s done so while having the team compete at the Major League level. It’s arguably one of the best jobs I’ve ever seen, and the Yankees currently own one of the two AL Wild Card spots. The division race isn’t over, and there’s more than enough time for the Yankees to leap frog the Red Sox. Their offense has been lead by rookie sensation Aaron Judge, but as the trade deadline approached the Yankees saw starting pitching as a target. The Yankees were in no need to make a blockbuster deal by trading away some of their prized possession in the minors, but they still looked to target a starting pitcher with contract control. The two biggest names on the market were soon-to-be free agent Yu Darvish, and Sonny Gray. Obviously, trading for a rental such as Darvish wasn’t the route the Yankees wanted to go. With Sonny Gray still having two years of control, the Yankees were able to acquire the right-handed starter without trading away one of their top-5 prospects. Gray immediately gives the Yankees rotation an upgrade that features Luis Severino. There’s no question this team has what it takes to make the post-season, and with the addition of Gray, the ability to make a deep playoff run becomes even more possible. This move came a few days after they acquired left-handed starter Jaime Garcia and bullpen arms David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. The addition of Todd Frazier as part of the Robertson and Kahnle deal gives them another power bat in the lineup. While he’s not going to win anyone over with his average or on-base percentage, he will give the Yankees the opportunity to change the outcome of a game with one swing of the bat.
Overall Grade: A
Record as of Sunday Evening: 58-52 (Division Lead by 0.5 Games)
The 2017 Chicago Cubs have been the opposite of the 2016 Chicago Cubs. I understand the 2016 club was running on all cylinders, but this season’s team has been battling the negative effects of mediocre production from the pitching staff, an ongoing, in-house search for a leadoff batter, and limited production out of Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist, and Addison Russell. Still, the Cubs are contending for the division, and have looked better since the All-Star break due in large part to the red-hot Willson Contreras. With the struggles of the pitching rotation the Cubs went out and acquired left-handed pitcher Jose Quintana to help relieve some of starting pitching woes. As the trade deadline neared, the team acquired left-handed reliever Justin Wilson and catcher Alex Avila. Both players will help fill voids in the bullpen and backup catcher. Wilson has been equally as good against righties (.131) and lefties (.220). This gives Joe Maddon multiples options when bringing Wilson into the game. After the loss of David Ross, in the offseason, Alex Avila will allow the Cubs to give periodic rest to Willson Contreras. Still, there are signs of struggle from the pitching staff, and if the staff, as a whole, doesn’t put it together this team could lose the division to the Brewers (0.5 games back), Cardinals (3.5 games back), or Pirates (4.5 games back). One thing is for sure, if the Cubs do not win the NL Central, it’s highly unlikely they clinch a playoff birth via the Wild Card.
Overall Grade: B
Boston Red Sox
Record as of Sunday Evening: 63-49 (Division Lead by 3 Games)
The loss of David Ortiz has been felt not only on the field, but in the clubhouse. It’s tough losing a leader, especially one that put together a 2016 season just as Ortiz had. This season’s Red Sox have had their fair share of struggles. David Price missed the first two months before making his 2017 debut. It took a few games, but he settled in and was looking dominant. The elbow relapsed with inflammation and he was placed back on the disabled list. The other issues have been production from third base, and a power bat to help ease the loss of Ortiz. The Red Sox have yet to find a power bat, but the addition of recent call-up Rafael Devers has been a warm welcome to the Red Sox. Looking to add an infielder the Red Sox acquired Eduardo Nunez from the Giants. With Devers looking locked-in at third, Nunez has been able to spell Dustin Pedroia has he battles a recurrence of a knee issue. Still needing bullpen help, the Red Sox added Addison Reed at the trade deadline. While Reed won’t be closing for the Red Sox he gives them a dynamite eighth inning option before getting the ball to closer Craig Kimbrel. The Red Sox helped answer their bullpen question, but I still feel they could’ve used a bat with pop. They missed out on Todd Frazier, and the contending Royals weren’t moving any pieces [Mike Moustakas]. There’s still time to make a waiver move, and the Red Sox could still add some type of power bat to this lineup.
Overall Grade: B
Colorado Rockies (64-48: Hold 1st NL Wild Card Spot): Acquired reliever Pat Neshek. Acquired catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Failed to add a veteran starter or outfield bat to help ease the horrendous year of Carlos Gonzalez.
Overall Grade: D
Cleveland Indians (59-50: Division Lead by 3 Games): Acquired reliever Joe Smith. Failed to add an outfield bat, and additional starting pitcher..
Overall Grade: F
Milwaukee Brewers (59-54: 0.5 Games Behind Chicago Cubs): Added reliever Jeremy Jeffress & Anthony Swarzak. Failed to add a starting pitcher or veteran outfielder.
Overall Grade: D-
Seattle Mariners (57-55: 0.5 Games Behind 2nd AL Wild Card Spot): Acquired Erasmo Ramirez from Tampa and David Phelps from Miami [both prior to deadline].
Overall Grade: C
Kansas City Royals (56-53: Tied for 2nd AL Wild Card Spot): Acquired Trevor Cahill and Brandon Maurer from San Diego [prior to deadline]. Acquired outfielder Melky Cabrera.
Overall Grade: C
Arizona Diamondbacks (63-48: Hold 2nd NL Wild Card Spot): Acquired reliever David Hernandez from the Angels. Acquired outfielder J.D. Martinez from Detroit [prior to deadline].
Overall Grade: A
Tampa Bay Rays (58-55: Tied for 2nd AL Wild Card Spot): Traded SS Tim Beckham to Baltimore for minor league pitcher Tobias Myers. Acquired reliever Dan Jennings from White Sox [prior to deadline]. Acquired Steve Cishek from Seattle.
Overall Grade: D