As the clock moved past 4 p.m. ET Wednesday, the Trade Deadline looked like it would be a bit of a dud. Sure, several impactful players had switched teams, but the biggest names that had been bandied about in recent days -- Madison Bumgarner, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Robbie Ray,
As the clock moved past 4 p.m. ET Wednesday, the Trade Deadline looked like it would be a bit of a dud. Sure, several impactful players had switched teams, but the biggest names that had been bandied about in recent days -- Madison Bumgarner, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Robbie Ray, Mike Minor, Felipe Vázquez and Raisel Iglesias among them -- were staying put.
Then, with seven words from Ken Rosenthal on MLB Network, the whole sport seemingly turned upside down.
"Zack Greinke is going to the Astros."
The reaction among executives was largely the same: Whoa.
Houston had cemented itself as favorites in the American League, if not all of Major League Baseball. The road to the World Series, it seems, now goes through Minute Maid Park.
We spoke with a number of executives in the hours after the closing bell sounded to get their thoughts on the teams that were surprisingly active or dormant, the players that moved and what they'll remember most from the 2019 Trade Deadline.
It was nearly unanimous that the most surprising player traded was Greinke, who joins Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole to form a dominant 1-2-3 punch in Houston. All month, we heard that Bumgarner, Syndergaard, Wheeler, et al, would be the starting pitchers on the move before the Deadline, but Greinke's name was mostly absent from the rumor mill.
"When [Trevor] Bauer was traded, you figured he would probably be the biggest starter to go," one executive said. "Some might think Bauer is better than Greinke, but you can't deny that Greinke will be a much bigger factor in this year's playoff race."
The shock of the Greinke deal was universal, but the four-player return that went back to Arizona -- which included Houston's Nos. 3, 4 and 5 prospects -- caught one AL executive's attention as much as the Astros adding Greinke to their rotation.
"I was surprised and impressed by the return," the executive said. "I don't love it for Houston."
As for which non-move was the most surprising, Wheeler was mentioned more than anybody else, followed by Bumgarner.
"I don't really understand why the Mets hung on to Wheeler," an NL executive said. "I guess they either couldn't get what they wanted -- or maybe Brodie [Van Wagenen] truly believes they can get a Wild Card. Either way, it surprised me."
"It had been out there that the Giants weren't trading Bumgarner," an AL executive said. "But I still thought he would wind up somewhere else."
Contenders around the Majors were expected to make moves to bolster their rosters for the stretch run, but which team was more active than expected?
"Arizona," one AL executive said, echoing one of the most popular answers given. "Mike Hazen did a really nice job with the moves he made."
The D-backs pulled off four trades, the most prominent being the five-player swap that landed Greinke in Houston. Arizona brought back four prospects -- 1B/OF Seth Beer (Houston's No. 3 prospect, per MLB Pipeline), RHP J.B. Bukauskas (No. 4), RHP Corbin Martin (No. 5) and INF Joshua Rojas (No. 22) -- to strengthen the farm system, not to mention saving more than $50 million on Greinke's contract.
"Wow," an NL talent evaluator said. "They moved the money and received a number of prospects."
Hazen also added veteran starter Mike Leake, as well as a Major League-ready starting pitcher in Zac Gallen, acquiring him from the Marlins for Jazz Chisholm, Arizona's No. 1 prospect. Gallen was mentioned twice as the player execs were most surprised to see traded.
"That was the most intriguing trade of the whole day," an NL exec said.
The Reds' active week also came as a surprise to a number of executives, beginning with Cincinnati's shocking trade for Trevor Bauer on Tuesday night. Wednesday, the Reds traded Tanner Roark to the Athletics and dealt second baseman Scooter Gennett to the Giants, completing their roster reshaping.
"Cincinnati is an interesting team going forward," an NL executive said.
Several executives noted the lack of activity by contenders including the Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox, with New York's rotation and the Los Angeles and Boston bullpens being named most as the biggest holes that went unaddressed.
The flurry of deals that went down in the final minutes -- including the Greinke blockbuster -- will be the most memorable part of the 2019 Deadline for many of the people involved in making the decision. But for one executive, the thing he'll remember most actually happened Tuesday night was seeing Yasiel Puig involved in a brawl during the Reds-Pirates game -- which took place minutes after it had been reported that he was headed to the Indians in the Bauer deal.
"As a front-office exec, you add Puig to bring energy and maybe even a little attitude to your team, but before the deal is even finalized, despite the fact that the entire world other than Puig himself knows about it, you get a 'Be careful what you wish for' moment with him," said the exec, who does not work for any of the three teams involved in the deal. "With trades midgame, the one thing that worries you most is getting your guys out of the game as quickly as possible when the deal is agreed upon, to avoid an on-field injury messing up your plans. But you never think it could happen in a fight. I can't even imagine what the front offices of those three clubs were thinking -- and saying, probably yelling -- while all of that was going down.
"That was one of the most interesting moments I can remember in a long time. It's one more example that truth is stranger than fiction. That plot wouldn't fly in a movie script because it's impossible to believe it could ever happen that way."
Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.