The 2016 non-waiver trade deadline is freshly behind us, and now it's time for board-certified initial reactions. Obviously, you can judge trades only on a superficial basis at this early hour, and none of us really has any idea how the veteran contributors will perform over the short run (i.e., the stretch drive) or how the prospects going the other way will develop. That said, we can assess who took advantage of or failed to take advantage of deadline market conditions. Because this is the internet -- province of the zero-sum affair -- we'll declare winners and losers from high atop Mt. Take. Also, we're taking into account all trades that went down in July and not just those that came together on Monday in the late hours.
Let's start with the good news first ...
The 2016 deadline winners
New York Yankees
Presumably, it took mighty powers of suasion for Brian Cashman to get a rebuild of sorts approved by the Steinbrenners. The thinking goes that the Yankee fan base will not abide such indiginities, so better to creep along with expensive veterans than build toward a better tomorrow with unrecognizable pups. However, a move toward youth is something the Yankees badly needed to undertake, and Cashman did very, very well for himself leading up to the deadline.
He flipped two months of Aroldis Chapman for, most notably, Gleyber Torres, a high-ceiling shortstop who may be one of the top 10 prospects in baseball going into 2017. The Andrew Miller deal landed him a top-50 overall prospect in outfielder Clint Frazier and a hard-throwing young lefty with upside (gloriously) named Justus Sheffield. Heck, Cashman was even able to deal a 39-year-old on an expiring contract (Carlos Beltran) to the Rangers for Dillon Tate, the fifth overall pick of the 2015 and one of the top 40 or so prospects in baseball. There's improving the farm system, and then there's remaking the farm system. Cashman achieved the latter. Pair this deeply impressive haul with guys like Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, Gary Sanchez, and Blake Rutherford, and the Yankees suddenly have one of the strongest farm systems in all of baseball.
On the one hand, the Rangers are in first place by a semi-comfortable margin and are very likely bound for the postseason. On the other hand, they've significantly outplayed their run differential and their plate appearance-outcomes indicators, which doesn't bode well for the future. Perhaps informed by this latter fact, the Rangers and GM Jon Daniels were quite active leading up to the deadline. They landed perhaps the best player available in Jonathan Lucroy, a skilled defensive catcher who boasts excellent production at the plate by positional standards (he's also on a highly team-friendly contract). He's a true needle-mover who's under team control for 2017.
There's also the fact that Texas DHs this season have combined to "hit" .223/.305/.349. That's chiefly the doing of Prince Fielder, who's now out for the remainder of the year. Obviously, that's patently unacceptable production from a bat-only role. For an upgrade, Daniels, as noted above, landed Beltran from the Yankees. Yes, he's pushing 40, but he's raked this season. Over at FanGraphs, the ZiPS projection system tabs Beltran for a line of .272/.325/.475, which would obviously constitute a big improvement over the status quo. As for the money, the Yankees are paying half of Beltran's remaining salary, so that means the Rangers are laying just $4 million or so to add Beltran and Lucroy to the lineup. Efficient, that.
Of much lesser importance but still notable is the addition of Lucas Harrell, who provides some temporary rotation depth. And while the Rangers paid dearly, they made these moves without parting with Jurickson Profar, Nomar Mazara, or Joey Gallo -- who all have long-term value and value in the here and now.
Let's "bottom line" these improvements via the SportsLine Projection System ...
Keep in mind, that's hard to add too much value in the standings via deadline trade. It's late in the season, and baseball is such that the contributions of one or two players are necessarily limited. That said, these moves gave the Rangers a significantly better shot at making the playoffs and winning the division.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have almost an entire rotation on the disabled list right now, and presumably most of the guys will work their way back at some point. That, however, didn't stop the front office from adding reborn veteran Rich Hill to the mix. Provided he gets past his blister problems, there's little doubt he'll provide near-term value and some much needed stability in the current rotation. If the Dodgers wind up with a surfeit of starters at some point down the stretch, then they can file that under "not the worst problem to have."
In that same deal, they added Josh Reddick, a genuine "two-way threat" among outfielders to a corps that's been hit by injury (Andre Ethier), under-performance (Yasiel Puig, Scott Van Slyke, Enrique Hernandez), and questionable deployment (Howie Kendrick). Insofar as that weakness is concerned, Reddick's bat and glove address it directly.
The Dodgers also added bullpen depth with Jesse Chavez and Josh Fields. They also retained Julio Urias and wisely passed when it comes to selling low on Yasiel Puig, who, lest we forget, is still just 25 years of age -- even if he is currently possibly in the midst of another controversy.
Now back to the SportsLine Projection System ...
In particular, the Dodgers significantly boosted their chances of overtaking the Giants in the NL West.
The price was high, but the Cubs leading up to the deadline turned a question mark into the best bullpen in baseball. This isn't about the regular season, though. The Cubs are as close to locks for the playoffs as a team can be in early August, and they've learned from recent history that a lockdown bullpen can get you deep into October. They have some growing concerns in the rotation, but by adding Aroldis Chapman, Mike Montgomery, and Joe Smith to a relief corps that already included the excellent likes of Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop, you've got a bullpen to dream on. Given the frequent rest afforded teams in the postseason, the Cubs suddenly needs just five or six innings from their starters before this conga-line of high-velocity fire-breathers brings it home. They can dominate from either side, and they have depth to spare. These moves were about October, and the Cubs didn't miss.
The 2016 deadline losers
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have gone to great lengths to contend in each of the last two seasons, but since the start of 2015 they're a cumulative 13 games under .500. At present, the SportsLine Projection System gives the Sox just a 0.7 percent chance of making the postseason in 2016. To an extent, GM Rick Hahn and the Sox realize this, as they opted for a "soft" sell-off that involved send Zach Duke to the Cardinals. The idea, of course, is to keep this core intact and make another push for it in 2017. I'm not sure I see the sense in that, though. The Indians will again be well poised, and the Tigers will presumably angle for contention once again. The Royals, despite the 2016 back-slide, may again be relevant. The Sox have a lot of roster holes, and they're up against one of the weakest free agent classes in history. As well, they don't have much in the way of expendable young talent, so they don't really have any sure ways to plug those roster holes.
Given the latest clubhouse controversy and the fact that Chris Sale and Jose Quintana are both deeply valuable assets, the White Sox could have pivoted in a big way and restocked the system with sorely needed young talent. Those two veterans plus, perhaps, Todd Frazier and even Jose Abreu could've netted the Sox a sheik's ransom in young, controllable upside. Instead, they've closed ranks for another charge in 2017 -- efforts that will likely come to grief. Again.
The Marlins continue to find themselves in the thick of the NL wild card race. A core that includes Jose Fernandez and perhaps the best all-around outfield in baseball will do that, you know. However, the Fish badly needed multiple rotation upgrades. They got one in Andrew Cashner -- flawed though he may be. And they seemed to get another in Colin Rea.
However, Rea injured his elbow in his first and only start for the Marlins. Fortunately the Marlins kept the receipt, and on Monday they sent him back the Padres for a Low-A arm who was involved in the original trade. That said, a rotation void is back, and the Marlins weren't able to nab a replacement for Rea before the deadline arrived. Will the injury-prone and inconsistent Cashner be enough to stabilize the rotation behind Fernandez? In making the deal in the first place, the Marlins obviously recognized the need for not one but two starters. Now they're back to one new starter. Sure, misfortune (or perhaps a lack of due diligence) played a role, but the Marlins didn't adapt even though Rea's injury occurred two full days before the deadline.
New York Mets
The Mets landed Jay Bruce, but this isn't a great fit for them. Consider ...
#Mets plan is Bruce and Cespedes in corners, Grandson/Conforto in CF. Feel need offense too much to sweat the defense— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) August 1, 2016
Yes, the Mets have a great strikeout capabilities in that rotation, but that's a pretty terrible defensive alignment in the outfield. As well, yes, Bruce has enjoyed a power resurgence this season, but let's bear in mind that over the last three seasons -- i.e., since the start of 2014 -- he's batted .233/.295/.446, which is sub-optimal for a corner outfielder who's a defensive liability these days. Injuries sapped his production in 2014 and 2015, but injuries are an ongoing concern with Bruce. As well, Citi Field, while a good park for left-handed power hitters, can't compare to Great American Ballpark on that front. So that's another consideration for Bruce.
Once defense, offensive environment, and Bruce's mixed recent performance history are taken into account, I'm not sure the Mets got any better, despite the conspicuous nature of the acquisition.
Keep in mind, of course, that trades are still possible during the August waiver period, and it's possible will see some big contracts moved this month. For now, though, these are the teams who have made the most and least of tradin' season.