Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? The greatest, most exciting MLB trade deadline in memory — maybe ever — was an exercise in how quickly baseball fans could refresh their Twitter homepage. And every click brought not just new rumors, but new news.
It was intoxicating.
This feels like the final day of the 2011 regular season, when everything went crazy and playoff fortunes changed moment by moment.
— Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan) July 30, 2021
Here’s a full rundown of the deals, as they happened.
Let’s take a look at the teams who did the buying — or wanted to do the buying — and pick the two biggest winners and two biggest losers on a day of dealing. We’ll tackle the selling teams (hi, Cubs and Nationals!) down the road.
Who they added: SP Max Scherzer and SS Trea Turner, plus SP Danny Duffy (separate deal)
Why they’re here: Yes, the costs were steep — financial and prospect costs — but the Dodgers have plenty of both. Any money they fork over to luxury tax penalties will be made back with an October run to what would be a second consecutive World Series title. And this is why teams collect as much young talent as possible, to be able to make a move like this without emptying a farm system.
Lots has gone wrong for the Dodgers this year, despite what their record might say. It’s not just rotation issues — Dustin May is done for the season, Clayton Kershaw’s on the IL and Trevor Bauer is on administrative leave — but don’t forget that shortstop Corey Seager has only played 37 games, Cody Bellinger has only played 45 (and struggled massively when in the lineup) and Mookie Betts has spent a couple of weeks on the IL, too. Still, they’ve persevered.
Now, they add Scherzer to the rotation and Turner to the lineup. We haven’t even talked about the outstanding season Turner is having — recent COVID positive test notwithstanding. He’s in his Age 28 season and playing like an MVP candidate. In 96 games, he has 18 homers, 21 stolen bases, a .322/.369/.521 slash line, a 146 OPS+ and a 4.1 bWAR. He’ll man shortstop until Seager returns, then shift over to second base, allowing Chris Taylor — who’s having an outstanding year himself — to be that invaluable play-everywhere starter. Duffy, a free agent after the season, is currently on the IL but should be back in September. The lefty is a great insurance policy who could pitch out of the bullpen in October if the other starters stay healthy.
Scherzer, of course, is a free agent after this season. Turner has one more year of arbitration and then is eligible to become a free agent after the 2022 season. That gives the Dodgers a little security if Seager leaves as a free agent this offseason, though it seems like the club will try and retain his services long-term.
Who they added: OF Joey Gallo and 1B Anthony Rizzo (plus others, separate deals)
Why they’re here: Remember how the Yankees’ lineup used to be predominantly right-handed? Not anymore. Lefty hitters Gallo and Rizzo have combined for 39 homers this season. Lots of teams were after Gallo, and but the Yankees got it done by offering a premium four-prospect package, which meant the Rangers were willing to take on the rest of Gallo’s salary for the year. That allows the Yankees to stay under a luxury tax threshold. Same thing with Rizzo and the Cubs; the Cubs are footing the money in exchange for a better prospect package.
The short porch in Yankee Stadium’s right field might not benefit Gallo — he’s prone to prodigious home runs — but it could do wonders for Rizzo’s power totals.
Anthony Rizzo has 14 home runs this season, but there’s another 10 balls he’s hit that would’ve been gone at Yankee Stadium (per Statcast).
Here they are: pic.twitter.com/msks5HxkeA
— Max Goodman (@MaxTGoodman) July 30, 2021
Oh, and they traded for lefty starter Andrew Heaney. His FIP (4.05) is much better than his ERA (5.27), which is reason for the Yankees to think he’ll perform better down the stretch, and his 10.8 K/9 is solid, too.
Who they added: SP Kyle Gibson and RP Ian Kennedy
Why they’re here: Yes, they needed rotation and bullpen help. No doubt. So theoretically adding pieces to both elements of the pitching staff is a good idea. But Gibson doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense for the Phillies. He’s a contact guy, compared to most starters out there, which is why his ERA (2.87) is significantly better than his fielding-independent pitching number (3.75). His strikeouts-per-nine ratio of 7.49-to-1 ranks 40th of 54 pitchers in baseball with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.
And the Phillies defense, putting it kindly, is not very good, especially when compared to the Texas infield defense. Feels like a recipe for disaster. And it’s a small sample size, sure, but he has a 7.79 ERA in his past three starts. And then there’s the cost: They gave up on Spencer Howard, a hard-throwing right-hander who has was rated as the No. 27 prospect in baseball by Baseball America each of the past two seasons. He’s struggled at the big league level, but he’s been bounced around in various roles and wasn’t helped by the Philly defense, either.
Who they got: SP J.A. Happ and SP Jon Lester (separate deals)
Why they’re here: Sure, the player they traded for Happ (John Gant) was on the outs because of his lack of control. And, sure, they didn’t want to trade any of their big prospects for big-impact rentals, which is understandable for a team that’s clung to the .500 mark like the .500 mark is a frozen custard shop that serves toasted ravioli.
But Happ is a 38-year-old pitcher with a worse WHIP (1.586) than Gant’s (1.572) and has an 8.74 ERA in his past 14 starts. You read that correctly. Happ’s ERA over his past 14 stars is 8.74, which includes a 9.22 ERA in July. Yikes.
Lester is 37, and he’s been better than Happ but that’s not a tough bar to clear. He has a 5.02 ERA/ in 75 1/3 innings over 16 starts this year. He has a 7.11 ERA in his past six starts, and he’s failed to make it four full innings in three of those six outings.
The Cardinals were rumored to be involved in players under contract or control for multiple years, but nothing happened out of those discussions.