Summing up a jam-packed Deadline week

July 31st, 2021

Now that the Trade Deadline has passed, it’s time to reflect on just what happened during one of the most frenzied weeks in recent baseball history. A group of beat writers who cover teams that were active during trade season gathered to discuss the week that was.

Alyson Footer, moderator/editor: We’ll start with the NL West. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the Dodgers won the Trade Deadline, given they acquired a No. 1 starter in Max Scherzer and an All-Star shortstop in Trea Turner. How does this change the landscape of the most interesting division in baseball?

Let’s consider the other teams in this, too -- the Padres added a decent reliever in Daniel Hudson, a solid hitter in Adam Frazier and a defensive piece in Jake Marisnick. The Giants added Kris Bryant with less than an hour to go. Are we being a little presumptuous to think the Dodgers are going to wind up on top of this division?

AJ Cassavell, Padres beat reporter: Those moves might make the Dodgers the favorite, but I'm also not sure if they ever weren't the favorite. They're really good, and now they're better. From a Padres perspective, the Scherzer acquisition feels somewhat crushing because of how badly they needed starting pitching. And, as you may have heard, they were after Scherzer in particular.

Maria Guardado, Giants beat reporter: I think the last 24 hours have been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for the Giants. They took two of three from the Dodgers to push their lead in the NL West to three games following Thursday's game, and shortly thereafter, news broke that Scherzer and Turner were heading to Los Angeles. As has been reported, the Padres made a big push for Scherzer, but the Giants were in the mix, too, and there was obviously a feeling that a blockbuster like that could potentially tip the balance of power in the division.

Still, the Giants landed a big counterpunch with their move for Kris Bryant. I think they're feeling good about their chances of unseating the Dodgers, who they'll only face three more times in the regular season. But their second-half schedule is pretty tough, so they'll have to earn it.

Scott Merkin, White Sox beat reporter: I still think the Dodgers are the best team in baseball, but it's always tougher if you have to go through the Wild Card game first.

Anthony DiComo, Mets beat reporter: From an East Coaster's perspective, the Padres are the team that looks vulnerable now -- particularly because they have to play the Dodgers and Giants so much. We've all been assuming for weeks that the West will have three playoff teams, and it probably still will. But the NL East-leading Mets opened Friday's play only four games back in the Wild Card. They don't consider it completely out of bounds for them.

Juan Toribio, Dodgers beat reporter: I actually disagree a little bit with AJ that the Dodgers were always the favorite. With Trevor Bauer on paid administrative leave and Clayton Kershaw dealing with some injuries, they were relying on David Price, Tony Gonsolin and Josiah Gray to pitch most of their innings. Not to mention that they're dealing with a fragile Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger, who just doesn't look like himself.

But after this trade, now there's no doubt which team has the most talent, and that's saying a lot because the Giants and Padres are really good. They took Scherzer from both of those teams and they just casually added an MVP-type player in Trea Turner. We're looking at situations where Chris Taylor might be on the bench (yes, All-Star Chris Taylor) or Bellinger, the 2019 NL MVP, platooning in center. The talent in that room is scary now.

Footer: I looked at the Giants' record today, and said, "Yeesh." They have a .625 winning percentage, and everyone just keeps waiting for them to crater. Do the Giants have a chip on their shoulder at all from everyone from the outside figuring they're going to blow this thing?

Guardado: I think they actually like being viewed as the underdogs. I think it's helped to keep some of the pressure off and allowed them to keep doing their thing.

Toribio: That is one thing that is working on the Giants' side. If the Dodgers don't win the division and the World Series, it's going to look like a huge failure. The Giants and Padres are playing with house money at this point.

Cassavell: At this point, with that record, the Giants are too good not to be taken seriously. But there are three really good teams in the division right now, and it feels somewhat inevitable that two of them will be gone by the time the NLCS rolls around because they'll all have to play each other.

Guardado: The Giants have been in first place since Memorial Day and haven't lost more than four games in a row at this point, so it doesn't look like they're going away.

Cassavell: Three teams for one spot creates a fascinating dynamic for the Padres. It feels like their chances of winning the division got worse the past two days. It'll be difficult to catch both the Dodgers and Giants with only two reliable starters right now. But this does feel like a roster that's constructed somewhat nicely for the early rounds of the postseason.

The bullpen has the best ERA in baseball and just added Daniel Hudson. The offense was very good, and now feels complete with Adam Frazier and Jake Marisnick on board. The Padres would prefer not to play in the Wild Card Game, then a five-game series against a really good team. But if they ride their bullpen and their offensive versatility, it's not crazy to see them finding a way through it.

Footer: This was a rollercoaster of a day for the Mets. They landed Javy Báez and Trevor Williams from the Cubs, two moves that should fortify a team that has a great chance to win a very, how shall we say, winnable division. But they also got some not-great news on Jacob deGrom, who’s going to be out until September with arm troubles. Tony, compared to what the Phillies did -- adding a starting pitcher, closer and backup shortstop -- did the Mets do enough to stay on top of the division?

DiComo: I think you still have to consider the Mets the NL East favorites. It's less about them than the other teams, who have already squandered multiple opportunities to make more noise than they have. The Trade Deadline was another such chance -- yes, the Mets fell short of acquiring multiple All-Star players or drastically improving their rotation. But how much did the Braves improve their ceiling? How about the Phillies?

The Mets have quietly played sub-.500 ball for about six weeks without losing an inch of ground in the NL East. As a result, the Deadline doesn't really change much for me, because all three contenders improved. The Mets still have 11 games to come against the gutted Nationals, as well. It's their division until someone truly proves capable of rising up to challenge them.

Footer: This deGrom news is more than a little worrisome, though.

DiComo: Oh, for sure. This is a flawed team. The Mets are missing their best player for at least the next month, and who knows? Maybe longer. They still lack pitching depth, and their lineup has consistently frustrated everyone around Citi Field. But, again, this is less about them and more about the Braves and Phillies. What have they shown to prove they're better? Something like 87 wins might realistically be enough to win the NL East. Then, if you have a healthy deGrom for October...well, anything can happen.

Footer: The Yankees certainly addressed their need for lefty bats when they added Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo. They also added a pretty decent arm in Andrew Heaney. We weren’t sure which way they’d be approaching this Deadline. Seems like a lot of tinkering for a team that far back in the division. They clearly think they can make a run. How do you see this playing out?

Bryan Hoch, Yankees beat reporter: One of my biggest gripes with this team was the lack of balance in the lineup. How can you play 81 games in Yankee Stadium and have Brett Gardner and Rougned Odor as your biggest left-handed threats? Gallo and Rizzo solve that problem, and when you add those guys in with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, there should be plenty of "slug," as Aaron Boone likes to say. They're going to strike out a bunch, but their DNA is in the three-run homer and maybe this gets them back to the production we expected earlier in the year. We saw a little bit of the Bronx Burners/Bunters out of necessity, and it was fun, but I don't think that formula works for them long-term.

They're a bit too far back to take seriously in the division, but they are right there in the Wild Card chase. They appear to be banking on Gerrit Cole in a one-game playoff, then go from there.

Merkin: Do you think they have the pitching to get to that one-game playoff?

Hoch: Yeah, I think they do. Cole has showed me a lot in the last few weeks when everyone was ready to say the lack of sticky stuff was going to make him a different pitcher -- that shutout in Houston was probably his best performance as a Yankee. Jameson Taillon has quietly come around too, and Jordan Montgomery consistently gives them a chance to win almost every time out. I'm curious to see how Andrew Heaney fits in -- they plan to put him in the rotation but already seem to be looking ahead to bumping him when Luis Severino and/or Corey Kluber come back.

Footer: Did you think they'd be this active? Did this surprise you at all?

Hoch: It surprised me a little. The way they were playing, losing three out of four in Boston -- heartbreaking, gut-wrenching "worst loss of the year" type stuff, I think they could have looked at the team and said, "Nope, not our year." I didn't expect a 2016 style selloff, when they did stuff like trading Aroldis Chapman for Gleyber Torres, but I thought they might stand pat or only make small moves. They're going for it, and credit to Brian Cashman for creativity. They got big names and somehow convinced other teams to pay for it.

Footer: The White Sox are in a somewhat different situation, in that they could have stood pat and still run away with the division. They obviously are looking a little further into October. I have to say, I didn’t have the Sox on my bingo card of teams that might land Craig Kimbrel. Now they have Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks in the back of the bullpen. How big is this? That had to electrify the clubhouse.

Merkin: Not only do they have Kimbrel and Hendriks, but let's not forget Michael Kopech, who has some of the most dominant raw stuff in the game. That's a pretty fearsome trio behind a very talented starting rotation, especially in the playoffs.

Rick Hahn told us today about a conversation he had with Ken Williams a couple of weeks ago, asking the one question of if they could only acquire one guy at the Deadline of the expected available players, who would it be? They both answered Kimbrel.

But you are right. Barring something totally unexpected, the White Sox are now playing for October.

Footer: While I don't see the AL Central being super competitive in the near future, it was interesting to see the Sox do so much, considering the division is pretty much theirs right now. Now I think you have to put them in the same group as the Dodgers in terms of legit chance at a World Series.

Merkin: They are in the group, but I still thing the biggest thing is get their core players healthy: Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert, Yasmani Grandal.

Footer: How can a splashy move, like a Scherzer or a Kimbrel, unify/spur on a clubhouse? Am I making too much of this?

Toribio: Landing Scherzer definitely gives the Dodgers some extra juice. Gonsolin, Price and Gray are solid options, but they weren't scaring anyone with that trio. You throw Scherzer in with Walker Buehler, Julio Urías and Kershaw and you start looking like that dominant team again.

Offensively, I actually think it'll be interesting how they make Turner work. Corey Seager is back and said all the right things about not caring that the Dodgers added another shortstop, but I don't think any player of that caliber loves when your team adds another star player at your position, especially in a contract season. Does Turner take at-bats away from Bellinger, Betts, Taylor? Dave Roberts might have the best job in the world writing that lineup card, but I don't envy the fact that he's going to have to find a way to keep everyone happy with playing time.