Early this year I made the bold statement that the San Diego Padres had “won the offseason.” While that may have been the truth in that they made the biggest, most provocative moves, I was clearly very far off when it came to how the regular season has played out. This is especially obvious being that it appeared that the Padres were attempting to have a fire sale with less than 24 hours to go before the 2015 MLB Trade Deadline. As it turned out, despite the players they put together and the contracts they took on did not help them in anyway when it came down to actually playing during the season.
You’d think I would be gun-shy then to write a piece on the biggest winners of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, but I’m not. Once again I am going to go for it and give you my predictions at the expense of possibly appearing foolish in the near future. But without further ado, here are the top three teams that, in my opinion, won this year’s very crazy, down to the wire trade deadline.
The Houston Astros made probably the best trade of the deadline when they brought over Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers from the Milwaukee Brewers. Gomez, a dynamic two-time All-Star outfielder who can play at all three positions, adds a needed bat to the Astros lineup and provides the team with another speedy, savvy base runner to compliment reigning batting champion Jose Altuve. The Astros’ are currently ranked 25th in the league in batting average and strikeout more than any other team in the league with the exception of the Chicago Cubs. Yet, they’re still in first place in the American League West, mainly due to their ability to hit the long-ball. Gomez may be the piece they need to boost their offense and make a run deep into October.
Houston has had a losing record for the past six seasons which has allowed them to stockpile most of baseball’s highest ranked prospects. This means that they were able to keep players like the ace of their staff left-hander Dallas Keuchel and shortstop Carlos Correa, who has already garnered comparisons to Derek Jeter, while still being able to trade high level prospects for the likes of Gomez and Fiers. In all, the Astros sent four prospects to Milwaukee for the two they received. Fiers should help the Astros’ young rotation, easily sliding right in as the team’s solid third starter.
The Astros dealt two more prospects to the Oakland Athletics to obtain their number two starter, left-hander Scott Kazmir. Kazmir has been stellar all year, posting a 2.38 ERA in 18 starts with Oakland. He was so good in his Astros debut that he lowered his ERA to 2.10. The Astros are definitely winners now that the non-waiver deadline has passed. They fortified their starting rotation and added a well-rounded player in Gomez, while dealing just six of their many prospects. Even if they end up not winning the AL Western Division Title, you should expect to see them in the postseason.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays were VERY busy during the week before, and right up to 4:00 pm ET on Friday afternoon. Their efforts paid off as they managed to pull off the two most significant, blockbuster trades so far this season. They shocked everyone when they sent shortstop Jose Reyes along with top pitching prospects Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco to the Colorado Rockies for Troy Tulowitzki, arguably the league’s top shortstop, and reliever LaTroy Hawkins.
The acquisition of Hawkins helped fortify their bullpen and the addition of Tulowitzki made, what was once a seemingly amazing offense, into a completely insane lineup that also includes Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. The Blue Jays already have the American League’s highest run differential and have scored more runs than any other team in the Majors. Now they have Troy Tulowitzki. If the other 29 teams in the Majors aren’t afraid, they should be.
Toronto also made a huge splash by trading for an ace for their pitching staff acquiring David Price from the Detroit Tigers. While their pitching staff could likely use one more starter on along with Price, the team can always use Aaron Sanchez to start or out of the bullpen in long relief situations. They made a flurry of other smaller moves that also added to their pitching depth including trading for the Seattle Mariners’ Mark Lowe who is currently having a career year, sporting a shiny 1.83 ERA. All these moves combined with their bold offseason moves, technically, should secure the Blue Jays at least a Wild Card spot, as they are currently sitting in third place in the AL East. That ranking though is definitely subject to change in the Jays’ favor, making them another trade deadline winners.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals were already one of the best teams in the American League going into the trade deadline and they added two major pieces prior to the deadline that could all but guarantee their return to the World Series again this season. In competition with many other teams for Cincinnati Reds’ ace Johnny Cueto, the Royals were able to come out victorious.
They did have to sacrifice three of their top pitching prospects in left-handers John Lamb, Cody Reed and Brandon Finnegan but for the Royals it could end up being well worth it. The Royals are trying to guarantee that they do not land in the same position as they did last season. That place was being 90 feet away from tying game seven of the World Series. The World Championship Title wasn’t in the cards for the Royals last season, who were making their first postseason appearance since 1985, but it might just be their destiny in 2015.
Along with Cueto, team also added super utility-man Ben Zobrist from the Oakland Athletics. They had to let go of two more top prospects in pitchers’ Sean Manaea and Daniel Mengden, both of whom have already begun to prove their worth, making stellar starts for Oakland’s Double-A and High Class-A minor league affiliates on Friday night. The Royals may end up being short on pitching in the future, but they desperately want the Championship that eluded them last season. And it appears that they may have made the moves necessary to make that happen.
Los Angeles Dodgers
I’m sure you noticed that I didn’t include a team from the National League, but most of the teams in the National League didn’t make any truly game changing trades. If I had to choose a winner from the NL, it is my opinion that the best trade made prior to the deadline by a National League team was made by the Los Angeles Dodgers. It could actually end up being a game changer. One that, assuming it works out, could ultimately help the Dodgers play farther into October than they have in the past couple of seasons.
The Dodgers have needed pitching depth all year. They have two of the greatest pitchers in baseball in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, however, those two can’t do it alone. First their number three starter Hyun-Jin Ryu went down for the season and then back of the rotation starter Brandon McCarthy went down as well. This left the Dodgers’ with Kershaw, Greinke and the oft-injured Brett Anderson.
Just recently their lack of pitching depth was exposed when Greinke was out on paternity leave, Anderson had injured his heel and Kershaw, who has been fighting a sore hip, had his start pushed back twice. They were left with what? A Triple-A rotation? The Dodgers have now added starters Alex Wood and Mat Latos in a three-way trade with the Atlanta Braves and the Miami Marlins. Wood is young and Latos has struggled with injuries, but both are legitimate starters that the Dodgers can insert into their rotation for depth. I’d call the Dodgers the winners of the National League. Their trade has the potential to make the biggest impact in the race for the NL Pennant.
New York Mets
Now, many would say that I am leaving a huge void by excluding the New York Mets from my list of winners. The Mets obtained a slugging left fielder from the Detroit Tigers in Yoenis Cespedes, during the trade deadline’s very last moments. This was called THE game changer for the Mets by almost everyone. However, Cespedes has been anything but game changing in the past. While there are many who would argue that he’s a game-changing enough player that his trade to the Boston Red Sox on July 31, 2014 was the sole cause of the collapse of the Oakland Athletics last season, they’d be mistaken. And they would be giving Cespedes way too much credit.
In reality the A’s had begun slipping into a slump, one that they still haven’t been able to come out of, in early July, almost a full month prior to Cespedes being traded to the Boston Red Sox for lefty starter Jon Lester. Then there are the other facts regarding Cespedes’ stats in 2014. He was hitting just .256 at the time of the trade and would have finished the season third on the A’s in home runs behind both Donaldson and Brandon Moss had he remained with the A’s. That isn’t even taking into consideration the fact that Moss played the second half injured, hitting only four home runs after the All-Star Break. Prior to the break, Moss had hit 21 long balls.
Yes, Cespedes made a name for himself by winning the Home Run Derby in 2013 and 2014, but that has never truly been an indication of actual regular season performance. Boston wasn’t too thrilled with the left fielder as they traded him to the Tigers who have now flipped him to the Mets. All I’m saying here is that the impact of Cespedes on the Mets’ last place offense might not quite as big as some people believe it will be. The presence of his bat will certainly help but the Mets still may end up on the periphery of the playoffs.
You never really know what will happen in a sport where anything can, will and usually does happen. Last season two teams that barely made the playoffs, grabbing Wild Card spots near the season’s end, ended up battling it out for the World Championship Title. This indicates that my predicted “winners” of the trade deadline could all end up falling flat on their faces with two months left in the regular season and all of October still to play. I have no idea how all this will end up playing out, but based on the moves made leading up to Friday’s trade deadline it appears that the Astros, Blue Jays and Royals are the ones that came out above the other 27 teams in the Major Leagues.