That was a fun deadline, as trades trickled in over two weeks, and then we ended up with a rush of activity in the final 24 hours. What made this trade period especially unique was that most teams in playoff contention made multiple trades. As always, a slew of relievers changed hands, but so did a couple of starting pitchers under team control past 2018. The biggest impact of the trade deadline doesn’t necessarily come in the regular season — even a superstar player is worth only two or three wins over two months. It comes in October.
With October in mind, which seven teams might have seen their fortunes change at this trade deadline?
Teams that might have won a World Series at the trade deadline:
Everyone tends to believe you need to add pitching at the deadline, but that’s only because everyone dreams on the scenario Justin Verlander provided the Astros last year, when he went 4-1 in the postseason with a 2.21 ERA. The Dodgers traded for the best player — by far — to change teams in Machado and doubled down on right-handed, power-hitting infielders with Tuesday’s acquisition of Dozier. They did so while giving up only one significant prospect in Yusniel Diaz.
The Dodgers now have incredible lineup depth and versatility, and they have hedged against the return of Justin Turner, who is currently on the DL with a groin strain and hasn’t been right all season after fracturing his wrist in spring training. Dozier hasn’t had a great season, but he has a history of heating up the final two months (17 home runs in 2017; 23 in 2016).
What can go wrong: The bullpen has been hot in July but is still inexperienced, and Axford isn’t really a dependable eighth-inning guy. Clayton Kershaw is healthy … for now. Matt Kemp and Max Muncy were two of the biggest surprises of the first half and are strong regression candidates.
Hamels is a complete wild card, as he was plagued by the long ball with the Rangers, with whom he posted a 4.72 ERA. The projection systems don’t forecast a return to greatness (ZiPS projects him for a 4.25 ERA the rest of season). Still, of all the starting pitchers to change teams, Hamels might be the one you most want out there in a postseason game, a guy who can get hot for three or four starts in October when the pressure is hottest. Kintzler is bullpen depth, especially with Brandon Morrow on the DL with biceps inflammation.
What can go wrong: Maybe Hamels just isn’t that good right now. Jon Lester had a 6.31 ERA in July. Jose Quintana hasn’t been super effective. Yu Darvish has one win. Oh, and Kris Bryant’s ailing shoulder and DL stint have created a temporary hole in the lineup.
The Braves added some much-needed depth with a starter, a couple bullpen arms and a power bat in Duvall. Gausman’s numbers with Baltimore don’t jump out (4.43 ERA), but he moves from one of the majors’ worst defensive teams to one of the best, and GM Alex Anthopoulos alluded to some possible changes to Gausman that the Braves believe might help him get more out of his talent. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Gausman power through a strong final two months (not to mention, he’s under control for two more seasons) and give Atlanta a third hard-throwing weapon behind Mike Foltynewicz and Sean Newcomb.
What can go wrong: Venters has thrown only 15 innings, and Brach hasn’t had a good season, so they’re depth pieces but not necessarily impact upgrades. The offense has come back to earth a bit in July. How will Foltynewicz and Newcomb hold up as they surpass career highs in innings? Anibal Sanchez (3.00 ERA) can’t possibly keep this up.
There’s a lot of uncertainty here, but the three pitchers could certainly pay huge dividends. Britton and his power sinker could provide a dominant lefty to match up against a Red Sox lineup that has been weaker against southpaws, but he has struggled with walks in his limited action in 2018. Happ and Lynn provide veteran moxie to a rotation that needed some depth at the back end.
What can go wrong: They’re five games behind the Red Sox, so these three could pitch great, and the Yankees could still end up in the wild-card game … and anything can happen there. Luis Severino is suddenly struggling with 20 runs allowed in his past 19⅓ innings over four starts. What if Aaron Judge doesn’t come back 100 percent after his wrist fracture?
Teams that might have lost a World Series at the trade deadline:
With Bryce Harper trade rumors hot and heavy by Tuesday, GM Mike Rizzo finally said he believed in his team and that Harper wasn’t going anywhere. But the front office’s indecision means the Nats missed a golden opportunity to acquire Gausman or Chris Archer, two non-rental starters who would have helped a rotation that has been awful the past two months.
What can go right: Hey, they beat the Mets 25-4 on Tuesday! The division is still winnable, and there’s plenty of talent here to go on a run. The Nats have 16 games against the Braves and Phillies — plus 16 more against the lowly Mets and Marlins — so if they beat the playoff rivals and clean up against the weaklings, they could have a nice surge the final two months. Oh, and it was just last season that Harper hit .319/.413/.595, as opposed to his current .223/.371/.479. There’s a major hot streak coming soon … right?
Let’s see: The Dodgers add Machado and Dozier, and the Rockies add … a 36-year-old relief pitcher (though a pretty good one). It’s a disappointing deadline for a team that started Tuesday just one game out of first place. Do you want to win or not? The Dodgers pushed the petal to the metal, while the Rockies were content to chase a pennant on their Schwinn.
What can go right: The bullpen — remember, the Rockies spent $106 million on it in free agency — has been so bad that it can only get better. The rotation has been dominant in July, and Jon Gray looks ready for a strong stretch run after a third straight excellent start after his temporary demotion to the minors. Nolan Arenado, MVP candidate. Ian Desmond and Carlos Gonzalez have actually been not awful of late.
Hand and Cimber were much-needed acquisitions for the bullpen, and Martin at least provides a better glove in center field, but did the Indians do enough to do battle with the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros in October? The offense is heavily dependent on the brilliant Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, and there are still holes in right field and second base. Given that Dozier and Jonathan Schoop were traded Tuesday and Eduardo Escobar and Asdrubal Cabrera were moved a few days ago, there were options out there.