5 winners of a wild, dizzying Deadline

July 31st, 2021

Whew! That was quite a couple of days! The MLB Trade Deadline has come and gone, and if you’re anything like most of us around here, your head is still spinning. It’ll be a while until we have a Deadline like that again. Remember a while back, when we were all worried that we already knew most of the playoff teams? You have to love that so many teams apparently do not agree: People are going for it.

It can be difficult to get your bearings, but let us try to be of assistance. Here are some clear winners at the Deadline:

1) Braves
Remember when Ronald Acuña Jr. went down, and you and your friends (you know who you all are) mentally crossed the Braves off your postseason contenders list? This wasn’t an insane idea: This season has felt sort of star-crossed for the Braves from the get-go. And yet, here they are, without Acuña and Mike Soroka and Marcell Ozuna … and they decided to floor it. The Braves were shockingly active, bringing in (deep breath) Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall (welcome back!) and Eddie Rosario, three key bats for an outfield that has been decimated with injuries. And don’t forget the add of Richard Rodríguez, who doesn’t have the name recognition of Craig Kimbrel, but has been nearly as good.

Seriously, two weeks ago, the Braves had essentially zero outfielders, and now, along with Joc Pederson (who came in a trade on July 16), they have four. Is this enough to catch the Mets, who didn’t sit on their hands either, bringing in Javier Báez? Maybe, maybe not. But no one would have blamed the Braves if they had decided to call this a lost season and lick their wounds heading into 2022. Instead, they are pushing hard to extend their division-winning streak to four. This is what, as a fan, you want your team to do: You want them to go for it. The Braves are going for it.

2) Brewers
Sure, the Brewers made some additions: Daniel Norris, Eduardo Escobar, John Curtiss. Nice players, definitely. But the real reason the Brewers were winners at the Deadline was the almost total abdication (or complete teardown) of the other teams in their division. The Cubs … well, you saw what the Cubs did. The Reds picked up some bullpen arms, but even with their bullpen woes, are bullpen arms going to be enough? And the Cardinals, for roughly the 400th Trade Deadline in a row, mostly sat idle, unless you are counting two veteran left-handers with massive ERAs over the last two months as “not idle.”

The Brewers’ real proactive move was bringing in Willy Adames in May, and that move, and the subsequent hot streak, sure looks like it scared away the rest of the division. The Brewers look like they are about to just sail into October.

3) Dodgers
Yeah, it’s probably fair to say the Dodgers are winners at the Deadline. Remember, 24 hours ago, we all thought Max Scherzer was a Padre. Now not only is he a Dodger, but Trea Turner is too. Trea Turner! You can actually make an argument that Turner -- who, after all, is signed for next year, and one of the best 20 players in baseball right now -- is a bigger add than Scherzer, though that might depend on whether the Dodgers can avoid the Wild Card Game. The Dodgers are still riddled with injuries, but some of those players, Mookie Betts, Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager, should be back for the home stretch. And now they have Scherzer and Turner as teammates. The Dodgers, for all their woes this year, still have the best roster in baseball. And they’re still, from this perspective, the World Series favorites.

4) White Sox
The White Sox have the most comfortable division lead in baseball, with four sellers “chasing” them. They also have gotten back Eloy Jiménez and are about to get back Luis Robert. Things are looking great! But you don’t bring in Tony La Russa, for better or worse, if you only want to make the playoffs. The White Sox have the look of a team that thinks it’s the American League favorite, and I’m not particularly prone to disagree with them. Craig Kimbrel -- at the cost of Nick Madrigal! Who saw that coming? -- gives them a downright terrifying triumvirate of Kimbrel/Liam Hendriks/Michael Kopech that has a 2015 Royals “you better not be behind in the seventh inning or you’re toast” vibe to it. (And that’s not even counting Ryan Tepera, also from the Cubs, a team White Sox fans surely don’t mind seeing be tortured right now.)

5) Yankees
The Yankees have a ways to go in the standings, but you have to respect a team that has had as wild and exhausting and tumultuous a season as they have and are still moving heaven and earth to get themselves in the playoffs. I know they’ve got a ways to catch up with the A’s, and I know the Mariners and the Jays and even Cleveland and the Angels aren’t going away just yet. But the Yankees, more than anything, needed left-handed power and OBP (not to mention some defensive help), and they got plenty of that in Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo. Are they going to be enough? We shall see. But if you are a Yankees fan who has been frustrated with their team this year -- and it feels like there are a few of you out there! -- this is just about all you could ask for at the Deadline. And if this team gets into an ALDS, who in the world would want to deal with this lineup?