AL West: Moving forward post-Trade Deadline
With three teams lined up for what figures to be a fascinating stretch run, the American League West did its share of dealing prior to Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
As expected, the Astros made a bold move to improve the back end of their bullpen, though not one many saw coming. The Mariners, behind ultra-active general manager Jerry Dipoto, made the most moves as they looked to bolster their chances of ending the longest playoff drought in the Majors. And the A's picked their spot wisely in trying to upgrade a bullpen that has helped make them the hottest team in baseball the past month.
Those three teams are among the top five in the AL, which figures to lead to a heated race to the finish. Even the fourth-place Angels have been above .500 most of the year, but they were far enough back to join the Rangers as "sellers" at the Deadline.
Here's how things played out across the AL West:
What they did at the Deadline: Traded catcher Martin Maldonado to the Astros for Class A left-hander Patrick Sandoval and second baseman Ian Kinsler to the Red Sox for Triple-A relievers Ty Buttrey and Williams Jerez
What it tells us: The Angels entered the 2018 season with heightened expectations after re-signing Justin Upton and adding Shohei Ohtani, Zack Cozart and Kinsler over the offseason, but a crush of injuries -- particularly to their pitching staff -- and inconsistency from the offense and bullpen torpedoed their postseason hopes. Facing sizeable deficits in both the division and Wild Card races, the Angels decided to flip two pending free agents for three pitching prospects they believe will make an impact at the Major League level in the near future.
What's the goal: With their playoff odds down to 0.4 percent, according to FanGraphs, the Angels' focus will likely turn to continuing to develop their core for next season. The departures of Kinsler and Maldonado creates openings for rookies David Fletcher and Jose Briceno to get extended looks at second base and catcher, respectively. Third baseman Taylor Ward, the Angels' No. 8 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, is also knocking on the door and could help bolster the infield at Angel Stadium soon.
Big question: Will manager Mike Scioscia be back in 2019? Scioscia is in the final year of the 10-year, $50 million contract he signed in January 2009, creating some uncertainty about his future with the organization. The longest-tenured manager in baseball, Scioscia led the Angels to their first and only World Series title in 2002, but the team has not won a postseason game since 2009 and is on pace to miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. General manager Billy Eppler and Scioscia appear to have a good working relationship, but another disappointing finish for the Angels could prompt the front office to seek a different voice for next season.
What they did at the Deadline: Traded for Maldonado and relief pitchers Thomas Pressly (Twins) and Roberto Osuna (Blue Jays)
What it tells us: The club clearly was determined to address its biggest need by adding a pair of relievers, including an All-Star closer in Osuna. Manager AJ Hinch had to get creative in the postseason last year by using some starters in relief, but he's better positioned to close out games this time.
What's the goal: The defending champs are poised for a repeat run and should be among the favorites to win the World Series when October starts. The offense has been inconsistent, but they have the best starting rotation in the game and now have a retooled bullpen and catcher who controls the running game in Maldonado.
Big question: Who is going to start in left field in the playoffs? The Astros have struggled to get production in left field, and in July they recalled top hitting prospect Kyle Tucker, who struggled. They wanted to add a bat at the Deadline but couldn't get it done. Marwin Gonzalez started in left in the postseason last year, but he hasn't come close to putting up the kind of numbers he did in 2017. Perhaps they'll pick up a bat in August.
What they did at the Deadline: Acquired RHP Jeurys Familia from the Mets on July 22
What it tells us: Though the A's were inactive on Tuesday, following an exhaustive search for more pitching help, they're thrilled with the addition of Familia, whose addition gives them a frightening trio at the back end of the bullpen with Lou Trivino and closer Blake Treinen, and further compensates for the lack of rotation stability.
What's the goal: Buyers at the Deadline for the first time since 2014, the surging A's are pressing forward with intentions of snagging a postseason spot. That means they'll keep an eye on the waiver wire ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline for postseason-eligible roster additions, in hopes of landing a player who could help increase these chances.
Big question: Though the A's possess an enviable bullpen, it remains to be seen just how long they can lean on their relief arms so heavily should the starters struggle to eat up innings.
What they did at the Deadline: Acquired center fielder Cameron Maybin from the Marlins and relievers Zach Duke (Twins), Adam Warren (Yankees) and Sam Tuivailala (Cardinals)
What it tells us: Dipoto likes the nucleus of a team that put together a surprisingly strong first half but knew he needed to provide reinforcements in the bullpen and to an offense that has struggled of late. Maybin provides a veteran presence and offensive upgrade in center and assures that Dee Gordon will be staying at second base once Robinson Cano returns from his 80-game suspension.
What's the goal: This is a club that knows it's in strong position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001, which is why Dipoto continues dealing prospects for Major League upgrades. The Mariners aren't normally big on rental players, but Maybin, Duke and Warren are all pending free agents acquired to help make the postseason push.
Big question: Dipoto chose to stick with his current rotation, which includes a struggling Felix Hernandez and a trio of starters -- Marco Gonzales, Wade LeBlanc and James Paxton -- who will soon be pushing well past their previous season's innings workloads. Last year, Dipoto acquired Mike Leake during the August waiver trade period and might have to go that route again if anyone in the current group falters.
What they did at the Deadline: Traded Cole Hamels to the Cubs for right-handers Eddie Butler, Rollie Lacy and a player to be named. Traded Keone Kela to the Pirates for lefty Taylor Hearn and a player to be named. Traded Jake Diekman to the D-backs for right-hander Wei-Chieh Huang and a player to be named
What it tells us: Everybody knew the Rangers would be sellers. This is a team looking two to three years into the future, and their main goal right now is to infuse their farm system with as much young talent as possible.
What's the goal: The Rangers added five young pitchers over five trades in July and are still owed three players to be named. They are heavily restocking their Minor League pitching with the hope of being able to develop their own over the next few years. The Rangers did so at the expense of the rest of this season and possibly 2019 as well.
Big question:Adrian Beltre's status remains a mystery. The Rangers will put him through waivers in August. If he is claimed, the Rangers could try to work out a deal. If he clears, he is in the same situation as he was at the Trade Deadline. He could be traded if he has a meaningful role on a legitimate World Series contender and the Rangers get value in return.