We would never declare a Trade Deadline winner until the very last out of the World Series. So these rankings are, well, preliminary. However, let’s just say that if the Cubs want to start clearing some trophy space, they’d get no argument from us.
There are Trade Deadline acquisitions, and then there are Trade Deadline acquisitions that can end up saving an entire season. The Astros made one for Justin Verlander in 2017, and the Red Sox did nearly that well by getting Nathan Eovaldi in 2018.
The Cubs may not have made a deal as good as those, but no team made one better. The Brewers, A’s and Braves did well, too. So did the Astros with the acquisition of Zack Greinke.
Anyway, here’s a look at the best Trade Deadline (or thereabouts) acquisitions with their stats entering play Thursday:
1. Nicholas Castellanos, Cubs OF (15 HR, 19 2B, 1.037 OPS, 45 games) (acquired from Tigers for RHPs Alex Lange and Paul Richan)
Trades don’t get much better than this one. Castellanos is tied for fourth in the National League in home runs since the deal, and is first in doubles and sixth in OPS. The Cubs were 25-20 since his acquisition at the beginning of play Thursday and still fighting for a playoff berth despite injuries to Javier Báez, Anthony Rizzo and Craig Kimbrel.
2. Jordan Lyles, Brewers RHP (9 starts, 49 IP, 2.39 ERA, 1.102 WHIP, 186 ERA+) (acquired for Pirates RHP Cody Ponce)
Wait, haven’t we seen this movie before? Lyles did a nice job for the Brewers when he was acquired in 2018. He has been even better this time, giving a depleted rotation a string of solid starts.
3. Zack Greinke, Astros RHP (8 starts, 49.1 IP, 3.10 ERA, 1.155 WHIP) (acquired from D-backs for 1B Seth Beer, RHP J.B. Bukauskas, RHP Corbin Martin and OF Josh Rojas)
The Astros surrendered a boatload of top prospects in order to add a third dominant arm behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Greinke has been everything that the Astros hoped he’d be.
4. Homer Bailey, A’s RHP (12 starts, 68.1 IP, 4.21 ERA, 1.171 WHIP) (acquired from Royals for prospect SS Kevin Merrell)
The A’s have done this so often that it doesn’t even feel like a surprise anymore. Bailey arrived from Kansas City and promptly has had one of the best stretches of his career. He’s pitching his best at the most important time of the season with a 1.88 ERA in his last seven starts.
5. Tanner Roark, A’s RHP (8 starts, 47 IP, 3.83 ERA, 1.234 WHIP) (acquired from the Reds for OF Jameson Hannah)
Roark was solid in 21 starts for the Reds and has been even better in eight for the A’s. He has been hit hard his last two times out, but before that, he had a 2.70 ERA in six starts.
6. Adam Kolarek, Dodgers LHP (22 games, 0.84 ERA, 0.938 WHIP) (acquired from the Rays for OF Niko Hulsizer)
Kolarek has become a one-batter lefty specialist for manager Dave Roberts after being acquired from Tampa Bay in one of the most under-the-radar moves of the Trade Deadline. He has faced one hitter in eight of his last 12 appearances and gotten them all out.
7. Nick Anderson, Rays RHP (19 games, 1.50 ERA, 0.556 WHIP, 17.5 K/9) (acquired from the Marlins with RHP Trevor Richards for OF Jesus Sanchez and RHP Ryne Stanek)
Anderson has benefited from Tampa Bay’s trove of data in helping him harness a fastball-curveball combination that is as good as any in the game at the moment. He has helped transform an inconsistent bullpen into one of MLB’s best.
8. Zac Gallen, D-backs RHP (8 starts, 43.2 IP, 2.89 ERA, 1.260 WHIP) (acquired from the Marlins for SS Jazz Chisholm)
This one was no secret. Gallen was one of Miami’s best arms, and the D-backs surrendered a highly regarded 21-year-old shortstop to get a quality arm to replace Greinke.
9. Sergio Romo, Twins RHP (23 appearances, 3.60 ERA, 0.950 WHIP, 10.8 K/9) (acquired from the Marlins with RHP Chris Vallimont for first baseman Lewin Diaz)
Never mind that Romo is 36 years old with 704 games and five teams on his Major League resume. He still has the deceptive delivery and the pinpoint control to make his stuff work.
10. Yasiel Puig, Indians OF (2 HR, 11 2B, .790 OPS, 41 games) (acquired from Reds as part of a three-team, seven-player deal)
Puig has not delivered the power that the Indians were hoping for, but he has upgraded Cleveland’s lineup.
11. Shane Greene, Braves RHP (22 games, 3.98 ERA, 1.230 WHIP) (acquired from the Tigers for LHP Joey Wentz and OF Travis Demeritte)
Greene has settled nicely into a setup role after a couple of rough outings at the start. He has allowed 11 baserunners in his last 16 innings.
12. Mark Melancon, Braves RHP (18 games, 5.17 ERA, 1.340 WHIP, 10 saves) (acquired from the Giants for RHPs Tristan Beck and Dan Winkler)
Melancon has converted 10 straight save chances, held opponents scoreless in 14 of 18 appearances and helped upgrade the Braves' only worrisome area.