The MLB’s trade deadline has come and gone, with some teams making deals right up until the 4:00 PM cutoff on Monday afternoon. As usual there was a flurry of activity in the final week, and we saw plenty of talented players and prospects moved. With the deadline now behind us, here’s a look at five of the most interesting acquisitions.
1.) Yu Darvish – Los Angeles Dodgers
It may be a fairly predictable angle to take, but there probably wasn’t a more fascinating deadline acquisition than Yu Darvish. On the surface, it was a devastating blow dealt by the Dodgers to the rest of the National League. At 74-31 as of deadline day, the Dodgers are on pace for 114 wins and an easy NL West title. Adding a pitcher with Darvish’s reputation seems borderline unfair.
But it’s not quite that simple. The Dodgers recently lost Clayton Kershaw (who owns a 15-2 record with a 2.04 ERA and 0.88 WHIP) to a back strain, and it’s unclear how long he’ll be out. The team has enough of a cushion to make the postseason without Kershaw, but for the time being Darvish is meant to help the Dodgers stay where they are, rather than propel them to new heights. Furthermore, he’s actually been awful of late. His 4.01 ERA on the season is high for him, and he let up five HRs and 13 earned runs in his last two starts in Texas.
We can probably toss out the recent performance as an aberration; Darvish is not going to make anybody’s staff worse. But it’s going to be interesting to see how this trade ages. LA will still need Kershaw, and is clearly in World Series-or-bust mode. They also gave up three solid prospects despite the fact that Darvish is a free agent this winter.
2.) Sonny Gray – New York Yankees
It’s hard to believe it was just a summer ago that the Yankees started to sell off talented big leaguers in an effort to bolster their farm system. That’s the reality though, and it’s starting to look like they did such a good job of it they’ll be able to get back to World Series contention ahead of schedule. The Yankees lead the AL East and are getting very strong performances form a host of young players.
Those young players aren’t just helping the MLB club, however. They’re also making some of the younger prospects in the Yankees’ system expendable, and that’s what allowed GM Brian Cashman to go shopping for starting rotation help at the deadline. As had been rumored for days, Cashman ultimately worked out a deal for Athletics ace Sonny Gray, sending three good prospects to Oakland in return.
Gray is not quite a bona fide ace outside of Oakland, but he should slot in as the Yankees’ number two starter behind 23-year-old All-Star Luis Severino. And that’s why this trade is so fascinating for the Yankees. Yes, it signals that the Bronx Bombers are going for it in 2017, a year or two earlier than most expected. But Gray is under affordable team control for two more seasons as well, which means as the Yankees’ youngsters continue to improve in the coming years, Severino and Gray should continue to anchor the rotation.
3.) Eloy Jimenez – Chicago White Sox
José Quintana was one of the biggest names traded this summer, and the deal was all the more interesting because it represented a rare cross-Chicago transaction. The Cubs have looked more like the team that won the 2016 World Series of late, and solidifying their rotation with Quintana was a powerful move. We know he’ll help the Cubs; the more interesting aspect of the trade, however, might be what the White Sox got in return.
There were a few prospects in the deal, but Eloy Jimenez is the best of the bunch, and he could wind up leading a generation of young, talented White Sox. Just last summer the Cubs gave up another top prospect, sending Gleyber Torres to the Yankees in exchange for closer Aroldis Chapman. Torres is now considered one of the most promising talents in baseball and has essentially been penciled in as the Yankees’ third baseman of the near future. Like the 2016 Yankees, the White Sox have made a clear determination to sell assets and improve their farm system, and Jimenez will immediately be the top player in that system (now that Yoan Moncada, who was acquired from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade, has joined the big league club).
4.) Ryan Madson – Washington Nationals
As well as they’ve played all season, the Nationals are a little bit easy to overlook in the broader National League picture. The Dodgers are simply having a remarkable season and already look like the presumptive NLCS champions, even if they’ve had some playoff struggles in recent years. The Cubs have hogged some of the spotlight as well, first by underachieving and more recently by finding their form. But the Nats are poised to coast into the playoffs, boasting a 14-game first place cushion at the time of this writing.
Washington needed some bullpen help, however, and got it in spades as the deadline approached. They actually brought in a trio of above-average relievers to better support their starting rotation. But Ryan Madson ought to have the biggest impact of the bunch. A strong late-inning reliever for most of his career, Madson has been outstanding in 2017. He currently has a 1.83 ERA with a 0.79 WHIP and 46 strikeouts to just seven walks in 44 innings pitched. He’ll be a vital weapon for the Nationals as they face possible playoff battles against the Cubs and/or Dodgers, both of whom have the types of lineups that can make a poor bullpen pay.
5.) J.D. Martinez – Arizona Diamondbacks
As you may have noticed, most of these deals are about division leaders getting stronger, or in the case of the White Sox, improving a farm system for future contention. But the Diamondbacks deserve some recognition as well for choosing to compete despite looking at an impossible division. Miles behind the Dodgers yet still in line for a Wild Card berth, Arizona made an early deal for Tigers’ slugger J.D. Martinez.
Martinez has been hitting just under .300 for most of this season, and hits for power as well. He has 21 home runs, an impressive .638 slugging percentage, and a 1.012 OPS. Pairing him with Paul Goldschmidt in the middle of the lineup could make the Diamondbacks one of the more impressive Wild Card teams we’ve seen in recent years – and they really didn’t even give up top prospects to get him.