This was supposed to be the dullest of Trade Deadlines. Because the schedule is shorter. Because the playoff field is bigger. Because of COVID-19 complications and financial limitations.
But in the past few days, we were reminded of something elemental about human beings who ascend to seats of power on professional sports franchises: They’re competitive people.
We wound up with 32 trades featuring 66 players and 25 players to be named (and some cash, of course) from Aug. 21-31. So there was nothing dull about this Deadline at all. (Well, OK, fans of the Yankees, Rays, Braves, Dodgers, Twins and Astros might argue with that point, but most of us would agree with it.)
The Deadline Day itself was particularly plentiful, with 17 deals done. This is a ranking of just those deals, so we’re not including four of the busy Padres’ deals, among others. The deals are ranked in terms of the present intrigue and the potential impact they bring to this 2020 season.
1) Padres acquire RHP Mike Clevinger, OF Greg Allen and a PTBN from the Indians for C Austin Hedges, 1B/OF Josh Naylor, RHP Cal Quantrill, SS Gabriel Arias, IF Owen Miller and LHP Joey Cantillo
The very rare trade that dramatically reshapes two contending clubs. This is the good stuff.
Friar Barter Fest 2020 had some interesting opening acts. But the crowd really roared when the headliner came on stage. That’s Clevinger, who by virtue of his performance track record (among those with at least 400 innings, only Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Corey Kluber, Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw have a higher ERA+ over the past four seasons) and reasonable contractual control (he has two more arbitration years before free agency) was the No. 1 asset in this trade market. A Chris Paddack/Dinelson Lamet/Clevinger troika is dangerous in a best-of-three playoff series. Allen functions as a bench bat.
For the second year in a row, Cleveland took advantage of a market starved for starting help by selling while contending. With three of the Padres’ top 11 prospects (per MLB Pipeline) involved, this is a huge haul for a team that relies heavily on controllable young talent. But unlike last year’s Trevor Bauer trade, which added proven right-handed thump in the form of Franmil Reyes and Yasiel Puig, it’s more difficult to argue this deal makes the Tribe significantly better in the current season. That said, Hedges brings valued defense behind the dish, Quantrill gives some length to the bullpen and Naylor adds potential to the outfield.
2) Reds acquire RHP Archie Bradley from D-backs for OF Stuart Fairchild and UTL Josh VanMeter
This was the biggest of the flurry of moves that were announced after the 4 p.m. ET Deadline had passed. Bradley, who is under control through 2021, brings instant credibility to a Cincinnati bullpen that was horrendous early in the year but has shown improvement in the past couple weeks. Over the past four seasons, Bradley has a 3.01 ERA with a 3.2 K/BB ratio, 1.2 WHIP and just 0.7 homers per nine (and none allowed this year), despite pitching his home games in power-friendly Chase Field.
As frustrating as 2020 has been given the high expectations, second place in the NL Central, at the very least, is still well within range for the Reds, and they opted to seize the opportunity rather than sell. The D-backs get the Reds’ No. 11 prospect in Fairchild and a versatile position player with a strong Minor League track record at the plate in VanMeter.
3) A’s acquire LHP Mike Minor from the Rangers for two PTBN
A minor deal in name only. Because while Minor’s numbers have gone backward this year (5.60 ERA in 35 1/3 innings over seven starts), that could be attributable in part to his throwing program getting disrupted just prior to Summer Camp. He blanked the mighty Dodgers for six innings in his last start, and the A’s have a strong recent history of finding veteran value in the starting pitching trade market. Oakland has had many a frustrating experience trying to get out of the Wild Card Game or Division Series, but the A’s are well-equipped to advance deep into October this year.
4) Marlins acquire OF Starling Marte from D-backs for LHP Caleb Smith, RHP Humberto Mejía and a PTBN
The Fish woke up on Deadline Day in playoff position and, in a matter of minutes, wound up buying and selling (see below) and, arguably, getting better in the aggregate.
They tapped into their pitching depth to add Marte, a well-rounded player who is getting on base at a career-best .384 clip. The Marlins were a surprising destination for one of the few proven difference-makers in the market for bats. The D-backs weren’t likely to exercise Marte’s $12.5 million option for 2021.
5) Phillies acquire RHP David Phelps from Brewers for three PTBN
You can’t just look at this trade in isolation. It’s the total complexion of the bullpen bartering that the Phillies pulled off that counts. In addition to Phelps, who has been fantastic this season (2.77 ERA, 10.0 K/BB ratio, 62% groundball rate), they added Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree and David Hale 10 days earlier, in the first two deals of the Deadline period.
Knowing what we know about Joe Girardi’s ability to manage a bullpen, the Phillies look a lot more stable than they did just a short time ago. The Brewers are mathematically in the contention mix but seemed to acknowledge that aggressively adding to what has been a mediocre Milwaukee team wasn’t in their best interests.
6) Blue Jays acquire LHP Robbie Ray and cash from the D-backs for LHP Travis Bergen
A low-risk swap on the part of the Jays, who reportedly get a bit more than 20% of Ray’s remaining salary this year and fork over a 26-year-old relief prospect in exchange for Ray’s upside. Yes, Ray has had a terrible year (7.84 ERA, 31 walks in 31 innings), but he continues to entice with his four-seam spin and whiff rates (he’s striking out 27.9% of batters faced this season).
From the D-backs’ perspective, Ray’s troubles this year made it impractical to extend him a qualifying offer, so it was sensible to get some salary relief now.
7) Rockies acquire OF Kevin Pillar and cash from Red Sox for a PTBN or cash and international bonus pool money
The Rox had already added Mychal Givens to their bullpen, then dipped into a light outfield market to land Pillar, who was one of the few positives in an otherwise disastrous season in Boston. Pillar’s having perhaps his best offensive season (.274/.325/.470 slash), and, while that’s still not a huge offensive upgrade for a team that arguably needs one, his ability to go get it in the outfield (ranking 21st in Outs Above Average this season) is an asset in Coors Field’s large expanse.
8) Reds acquire OF Brian Goodwin from Angels for LHP Packy Naughton and a PTBN or cash
Goodwin was a nice find for the Angels, who got him off waivers prior to 2019, watched him turn in a respectable .258/.327/.469 slash over the past two seasons, then dealt him from a bad team with an outfield excess in its system. The Reds, who now have Goodwin through 2022, once looked overloaded in the outfield, but that hasn’t been the case in the reality of a regular season during which they’ve gotten a sub-.600 OPS in center and .750 mark in left.
Naughton, who was the Reds’ No. 14 prospect per MLB Pipeline, wasn’t the biggest name to change hands on Deadline Day, just the best name.
9) Mets acquire RHP Miguel Castro from Orioles for Kevin Smith and a PTBN or cash
Let’s be blunt: Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen is up against it. And because two teams from the disappointing NL East are going to make it to October, he had little choice but to go for it in some capacity. The bullpen was an obvious area of need with Steven Matz and Dellin Betances hitting the shelf on Sunday. Castro’s under control for another two full seasons, has a power arm and has a 4.8 K/BB ratio this year. That’s a potentially good get, but it cost the Mets their No. 12 prospect, per MLB Pipeline.
10) (tie) Cubs acquire Josh Osich from Red Sox for a PTBN or cash and Andrew Chafin and cash from the D-backs for a PTBN or cash
The Cubs had a hyper-specific wish list for a lefty reliever. They wound up double-dipping, and there’s really no sense in separating these two swaps on this list. Osich is active and struggling to prevent runs (5.74 ERA in 15 2/3 innings), while Chafin is injured (sprained finger) and has struggled to prevent runs (8.10 ERA in 6 2/3 innings). But both have solid groundball rates and decent K/BB rates that could point to better days ahead.
12) Blue Jays acquire IF/OF Jonathan Villar from Marlins for PTBN (reportedly OF Griffin Conine)
Because Isan Díaz, who had elected not to play in July, is applying for reinstatement, the Marlins deemed their starting second baseman and sometimes outfielder expendable. Villar was not slugging at the rate he did in Baltimore last season, but he did have a Major League-leading nine stolen bases. With the Blue Jays, he can help out at short until Bo Bichette returns from a knee sprain (hopefully in mid-September) and then move around the field.
The Marlins reportedly acquiring Jeff Conine’s kid is simply cool. And he hit 22 homers in A ball last year, so it’s not a strictly sentimental swap.
13) Blue Jays acquire RHP Ross Stripling from the Dodgers for two PTBN
Somehow, some way, Stripling was going to be traded in 2020.
After the Dodgers-Angels trade he was involved in back in February famously fell through, Stripling had a rough start to the season, with a 5.61 ERA and 12 homers allowed in seven starts. The Blue Jays are taking a calculated gamble on both Stripling (who is under control through 2022) and Ray, while also adding the successful (but homer-prone) Taijuan Walker, who had a terrific first outing for the boys in Buffalo. Stripling’s departure leaves a regular rotation spot for Tony Gonsolin on a Dodgers team that, otherwise, sat out the Deadline.
14) Padres acquire RHP Taylor Williams from Mariners for a PTBN
You’ve got to love when two teams make a seven-player trade one day and then still find a way to make another deal the next. So it is with the two most free-wheeling GMs in the game. If you talked to or traded messages with someone as much as A.J. Preller and Jerry Dipoto have in recent days, your spouse might get suspicious.
Williams’ numbers in the bigs aren’t pretty (5.34 ERA in 86 innings), but his appeal rests in his 95 mph fastball, 3.80 Fielding Independent Pitching mark and control through 2024. He’s yet another option for a Padres bullpen that has been ravaged by big injuries.
15) Cubs acquire OF Cameron Maybin from Tigers for IF Zack Short
Maybin had been traded seven times in the past 13 years, most recently in April 2019. So he was definitely due. And the Cubs were not one of the eight teams that have previously employed Maybin in the Major or Minor Leagues. So perhaps they were due, too.
In any event, Maybin has provided roughly league-average production in a limited capacity this year. And his arrival, when taken in tandem with the Cubs’ addition of José Martínez over the weekend, improves the Cubs’ bench.
16) Mets acquire C Robinson Chirinos, 1B/3B Todd Frazier and cash from Rangers for two PTBN
These were two separate trades, but we’re going to lump them together. “The Toddfather II” is now showing in Queens, but, unlike “The Godfather” franchise, the sequel is not on par with the original. At this point, Frazier (92 OPS+ in 121 plate appearances) is a bench option. Same with Chirinos, who will back up Wilson Ramos with regular backup backstop Tomás Nido currently on the injured list.
17) Giants acquire LHP Anthony Banda from the Rays for cash
This is a trade that happened. Carry on.