MLB trade deadline roundtable: Most impactful move, biggest head-scratchers

MLB trade deadline roundtable: Most impactful move, biggest head-scratchers

Our MLB editors Michael Bradburn, Josh Goldberg, Bryan Mcwilliam, Tom Ruminski, Simon Sharkey-Gotlieb, and Brandon Wile answer some of the biggest questions following Tuesday’s trade deadline.

Which acquired player will have the biggest impact for their new club?

Justin Verlander, Astros: The reigning World Series champions swung the biggest move on deadline day by reuniting with the three-time Cy Young winner. Things really couldn’t have worked out better for Houston. Verlander signed a monster two-year, $86.67-million deal with the Mets last winter, but the Astros get the right-hander back at a fraction of the cost. The Mets will keep $35 million of Verlander’s contract through 2024 and will cover additional salary should his 2025 option vest. Of course, the Astros parted with their No. 1 and No. 4 prospects in the deal, but the opportunity to bring back a top-of-the-rotation arm at that salary was too good to pass up. – Wile

Max Scherzer, Rangers: The Rangers’ rotation has been solid this year, but Scherzer gives them what they’ve been lacking with Jacob deGrom sidelined: a true ace. No, he hasn’t quite been pitching to his Cy Young level this year, but he’s 39 years old. He wasn’t going to defy his age forever, though even this version of Scherzer is an improvement on the likes of Martin Perez and Andrew Heaney. A return to a contending team, not to mention the friendly confines of Globe Life Field, could also revitalize Mad Max. The Rangers are clearly a better team with Scherzer, and he’s going to make a difference for them down the stretch in a tight AL West race. – Sharkey-Gotlieb

Paul Sewald, D-Backs: Arizona made a big splash, trading three players for the former Mariners closer. The Diamondbacks have played musical chairs in the ninth inning, using Andrew Chafin, Scott McGough, and Kevin Ginkel at various points to close out ball games this season. Sewald isn’t an overpowering pitcher but has a very deceptive arm angle, allowing him to rack up strikeouts at a good clip. The 33-year-old has another year of club control and should immediately stabilize the bullpen for a club fighting for playoff positioning. – Goldberg

Which teams had the best trade deadline?

Rangers: It should be unsurprising that the victors of the deadline also got their homework started as early as possible, landing Aroldis Chapman from the Royals to kick off trade season over a month ago. Since then, though, they reacted very well to a developing market, snagging a suddenly jilted Scherzer while taking on very little financial burden in the process. Those are the headliners and, while the additions of Jordan Montgomery and Chris Stratton will go somewhat under the radar, they’re also tidy business for Texas. Stratton’s 4.36 ERA certainly doesn’t leap off the page for a good reason, but his 3.05 FIP indicates that his ability to strike batters out while limiting hard contact and eating innings from the bullpen could be a crucial skillset for a team that lost deGrom and, more recently, Nathan Eovaldi. Nice work, Chris Young. – Bradburn

D-Backs: I’m holding my nose because no team truly stood out at this year’s deadline. The moves that were made by contenders, with a few exceptions, were marginal. That said, the D-Backs quietly made out like bandits. General manager Mike Hazen made a smart trade to grab Paul Sewald, one of the most underrated relievers in baseball, from Seattle for a group of prospects who were redundant in the organization. Tommy Pham was also a nice pickup at a low cost to bolster an already solid offense, while Jace Peterson adds some versatile bench depth. Trading Andrew Chafin to Milwaukee was a bit of a head-scratcher, but his performance took a step back this year and the D-Backs have enough lefties in the bullpen to cover that loss. Overall, the D-Backs positioned themselves well to right their ship in August and September and push their way into the playoffs. – Sharkey-Gotlieb

Angels: There’s a very real scenario where the Angels miss the playoffs and Shohei Ohtani walks this winter. But when so many other teams in the postseason hunt fail to make any moves, you have to respect the front office in Anaheim for going for it – even if it is a bit foolish. Though there weren’t many major swings, the team is better after adding Randal Grichuk, C.J. Cron, Lucas Giolito, Dominic Leone, and Reynaldo Lopez. Considering how poorly the Angels have developed prospects in recent years, the acquisition costs might not even end up really hurting down the road. And maybe they do sneak into the playoffs and can convince Ohtani to stick around. – Wile

Which teams had the worst deadline?

Orioles: Baltimore sits atop the AL East despite an ineffective starting rotation that was only made worse by sending right-hander Tyler Wells to Double-A amid a recent rough patch. Orioles general manager Mike Elias acquired Jack Flaherty from the Cardinals but the veteran has struggled to stay healthy and productive since his breakout 2019 season. Flaherty has one of the worst walk rates among qualified MLB starters. The O’s were linked to White Sox ace Dylan Cease and Justin Verlander but came up empty despite the extremely deep farm system they could have used as trade bait. Time will tell if they end up regretting a relatively quiet deadline. – Goldberg

Red Sox: The Red Sox doubled down on the confusion, putting together a strange trade deadline effort for the second year in a row. Boston entered the day 2.5 games out of the final wild-card spot and did almost nothing. Rafael Devers was vocal about the team needing to add pieces and, instead of listening to their franchise pillar, the Red Sox kept things status quo. Boston wasn’t in a position to make a major swing, but a direction should have been taken. If the front office didn’t feel good enough to invest deeper into this roster, why not take advantage of a seller’s market for starting pitching and deal James Paxton? This just feels like yet another missed opportunity for the Sox. – Wile

Yankees: Keynan Middleton and Spencer Howard. That’s simply not good enough for the Yankees, who have plenty of holes on their roster and sit last in the AL East. Yes, missing Aaron Judge for several months was a big issue. He’s healthy now, but there are several other players that aren’t contributing as they should, including Anthony Rizzo, Giancarlo Stanton, and DJ LeMahieu. New York’s rotation has also been a mess outside of Gerrit Cole. In particular, Luis Severino (7.49 ERA) and Carlos Rodon (6.29 ERA) have been big disappointments due to underperformance and injuries. The vibes are not good for the group wearing pinstripes and, clearly, the front office wasn’t willing to waste any more resources on this roster. – Ruminski

What was the best under-the-radar acquisition?

Jake Burger: Perhaps the least sensical deadline move was the White Sox seemingly giving up on Burger, who is in the midst of a breakout campaign. The 27-year-old has 25 homers and, while he could stand to develop some more plate discipline, is under team control through the 2028 campaign. A three true outcome slugger like Burger fills a role. And the Marlins merely had to part with left-handed pitching prospect Jake Eder, who is only two-and-a-half years younger than Burger and still trying to find his footing in Double-A. – Bradburn

Aaron Civale: The Rays didn’t do much during deadline week, but the one major move they did make was a great one. Civale isn’t the flashiest name, but he’s an excellent fit in Tampa Bay’s rotation. The 28-year-old comes with a sparkling 2.34 ERA that’s now the lowest among active Rays starters (albeit in only 77 innings), and a 1.04 WHIP that’s the second-lowest on his new team. Civale can step right into a rotation that’s been ailing all year and give them quality outings while taking some of the load off Shane McClanahan and Zach Eflin. And while they did give up a good prospect in Kyle Manzardo, he was blocked at first base in the Rays organization. This was a smart trade for Tampa Bay, and it should pay dividends down the stretch and during the next few seasons. – Sharkey-Gotlieb

Jeimer Candelario: Four hits in a debut with a new team is certainly a way to turn heads. The Cubs plan to give Candelario plenty of time at first base despite the team’s third-base issues for parts of this season. The impending free agent has been sneaky good with the bat and glove. He slashed .258/.342/.481 with 16 homers and 53 RBIs over 99 games with the Nationals. The 29-year-old is also poised to set a new career high for round-trippers, RBIs, and fWAR. His 4.6 defensive rating, per FanGraphs, is the best current total of his eight-year career. Candelario’s also in the 93rd percentile for outs above average. – Ruminski

What was the most head-scratching move?

Cohen blows up roster: The Mets deciding to turn their attention to contending in 2025 or 2026 is a shocker. The fall from grace from spring training to now is almost surreal. With Francisco Lindor locked up and Pete Alonso heading into his final season before free agency, it’s a little puzzling that Billy Eppler would pivot from aggressively improving the club this offseason. Free agency is never a guarantee but Mets owner Steve Cohen has proven that he will throw money around to bring in talent – or to make that talent disappear as we saw in the Scherzer and Verlander trades. Maybe something changes in the next few months but, all of a sudden, Mets fans need to prepare themselves for an unexpectedly lean year in 2024. Is this team already giving up on pursuing Shohei Ohtani? – Goldberg

Twins do nothing: With a slim lead over Cleveland in the AL Central, the Twins watched the Guardians move pieces out and still didn’t make a move. It really is shocking. The club was rumored to be looking for offense but clearly found the asking prices too high. Obviously, it isn’t good business to operate desperately, but Minnesota is fully built to win now. They clearly are a team that needs more than just one piece, but with an almost guaranteed playoff spot handed out for doing almost nothing, why not try to position yourself so that you can win in October? This proves once again that MLB’s next rule change should be eliminating automatic postseason berths for division winners. – Wile

Blue Jays didn’t add impact bat: This isn’t to say the Blue Jays had a bad deadline overall, having added the best bullpen arm available in Jordan Hicks, plus complimentary pieces Genesis Cabrera and Paul DeJong. That DeJong, a glove-first shortstop, was the only bat they added is a bit of a head-scratcher. Toronto really could have used one more impact right-handed bat, especially one with power, for the stretch run. There weren’t too many available, but even someone like Tommy Pham, who went to Arizona for a low cost, would have been a boon. Perhaps the Blue Jays plan to find this bat internally by promoting a prospect such as Davis Schneider, who’s been tearing it up in Triple-A, but prospects are no guarantee – and neither is a playoff berth. Maybe the Blue Jays will be fine, but it would have been nice to see them take one more step to shore up a glaring weakness. – Sharkey-Gotlieb

Which player are you surprised didn’t get traded?

Eduardo Rodriguez: The Tigers were stuck in a tough place when E-Rod invoked his no-trade clause in a deal with the Dodgers. But the team has no one to blame but itself. Handing a good – but not great – pitcher a 10-team no-trade list when signing him was a considerable mistake. They also should have worked with Rodriguez to find a situation in which he would accept a trade. It was reported after the deal fell through that Rodriguez didn’t want to go to the west coast, which the Tigers should have known well ahead of time given their position in the standings. Instead, they failed to move him, and could risk losing him for nothing this winter should he opt out of his contract. Rodriguez was already issued a qualifying offer, so there’s a very real scenario where he leaves Detroit with the Tigers recouping nothing. It’s another case of poor asset management for a club in what seems to be a perpetual rebuild. – Wile

Tim Anderson: Anderson’s name was bandied about as a likely candidate to be moved for much of the last week but, when the dust settled, he remained in Chicago. Although he’s been struggling this year, this was still surprising. This felt like the right time for the White Sox to finally deal Anderson even though his trade value likely decreased. Yes, trading for a shortstop with a .577 OPS and only one homer would be a risk, but this is also a former batting champion we’re talking about. At 30 years old, he can still be a valuable contributor to a contender, and a great candidate to rebound with a change of scenery. Since the White Sox are likely to decline his option in the winter, they should have taken a small return for him now that they’re embracing another rebuild. – Sharkey-Gotlieb

Teoscar Hernandez: Hernandez generated plenty of pre-deadline buzz, as several teams were reportedly interested in the former All-Star slugger. Nothing materialized, which is strange because the Mariners appeared to be sellers by moving Sewald to the D-Backs. The market was apparently strong for the outfielder but Seattle, on the fringe of wild-card contention, held onto him. However, Hernandez has not produced with his bat in 2023, amassing a .694 OPS despite 16 homers. He’s set to become a free agent after this season, so maybe the return just wasn’t that enticing for a rental. – Ruminski

Which prospect moved are you most intrigued by?

Korey Lee, White Sox: Lee’s path to playing time in Houston was blocked by the emerging Yainer Diaz. With Yasmani Grandal’s contract set to expire at the conclusion of the season, Lee has a realistic opportunity to emerge as Chicago’s starting catcher in 2024. Lee hit 25 home runs and stole 12 bases in just 104 games at Triple-A last season. Acquiring him for a reliever was a tidy piece of business for White Sox general manager Rick Hahn. – Goldberg

Kyle Manzardo, Guardians: One of the highest-ranked prospects moved at the deadline, Manzardo is also remarkably close to making an impact in the majors. The Rays aren’t known for losing deals, but they do have a recent track record of giving up on prospects in moves that immediately come back to bite them. For instance, in 2021, the club sent right-hander Joe Ryan to the Twins for Nelson Cruz. Ryan has bloomed into a borderline ace in Minnesota. More apt, though, is Tampa Bay jettisoning Nathaniel Lowe to Texas in a prospect-for-prospect deal. Since then, Lowe has grown into an elite slugger, posting a .817 OPS (127 OPS+) since the beginning of 2021, the ninth-best mark of any qualified first baseman. There’s obviously no guarantee Manzardo is the next Lowe, and the 22-year-old has struggled in his first taste of Triple-A, but there’s little doubt he could step into Cleveland’s lineup and immediately be one of the team’s better sluggers. – Bradburn

Luisangel Acuna, Mets: The brother of Atlanta Braves MVP candidate Ronald Acuna is a highly-intriguing prospect acquired by the Mets in the Max Scherzer deal. He was so alluring the Mets were willing to cover $22.5 million of Scherzer’s salary to nab the 21-year-old Venezuelan from Texas. Luisangel isn’t close to a finished product, but he’s speedy on the bases, has a tantalizing right-handed stroke, and could become the club’s everyday second baseman down the road, although he’s a natural shortstop. – Mcwilliam

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