As is always the case, there were plenty of rumors leading up to the MLB trade deadline, and many of those turned into actual transactions. We’ll assess how each team did now that the deadline was passed — whether the goal was to load up for a World Series run in 2023 or to build up a prospect pool to retool for future seasons.
Baltimore Orioles: B-
The Orioles waited until the final moments to pull off their primary deal when they acquired Jack Flaherty from the Cardinals. Baltimore has a solid but unproven rotation, so Flaherty has a chance to make a positive impact for the club. The grade isn’t higher because the team was rumored to have been in on Justin Verlander, who instead went to the Astros, a potential opponent in the postseason.
Tampa Bay Rays: C+
The Rays made an uncharacteristic move by trading away top prospect Kyle Manzardo for Aaron Civale. They needed additional rotation depth and Civale isn’t a rental, but Manzardo was a steep price to pay for a fairly average starting pitcher.
Toronto Blue Jays: C
The Blue Jays acquired bullpen depth in Jordan Hicks, Genesis Cabrera and a backup shortstop in Paul DeJong. Hicks could be of big consequence as a high-leverage reliever, though these moves were made to address potential injury concerns rather than moving the team significantly closer to a World Series. Assuming Jordan Romano comes back healthy to retake the closer role, this grade will bump up a bit.
Boston Red Sox: D
The Red Sox went with the theory that the return of Trevor Story from an elbow injury would be a big enough “acquisition.” The only other notable move was a last-minute deal to acquire Luis Urias, a utility infielder who fell out of favor in Milwaukee.
New York Yankees: F
The Yankees used to be hated for buying championships, now they’re relegated to acquiring mediocre middle relievers at the trade deadline.
Minnesota Twins: F
The Twins must feel comfortable that they can win this mediocre division as they are. They made no meaningful moves besides swapping relievers with the Marlins.
Cleveland Guardians: D
The Guardians had a head-spinning deadline, trading away Amed Rosario to the Dodgers to acquire Noah Syndergaard, only to turn around and trade away the aforementioned Civale. They ended the day by trading away Josh Bell for what amounted to prospect Khalil Watson. That essentially boils down to the team selling for promising prospects, but they also acquired a washed-up Syndergaard. To say the plan isn’t clear would be generous.
The Tigers received Hao-Yu Lee for the Phillies in exchange for Michael Lorenzen. The team also reportedly had a deal in place to send Eduardo Rodriguez to the Dodgers, but Rodriguez invoked his no-trade clause to veto the move. The Tigers weren’t going to alter the fortunes of their franchise at the deadline, but their completed deals and attempted deals both made sense given their current status in the standings.
Chicago White Sox: B
The White Sox could very well be among the worst teams in the league in the final two months of the season, but they weren’t going to contend even if they stood pat. So, they gutted their bullpen and traded away a pair of starters on expiring deals while picking up some decent prospects. Again, the results will be ugly in August and September, but the process was logical.
Kansas City Royals: C
The Royals are another team that selectively sold relievers and fringe starters. They didn’t retool their prospect pool as well as the White Sox, though Nelson Velazquez is an intriguing outfielder that didn’t get a chance with the Cubs but can contribute immediately for KC.
Texas Rangers: A+
The grades may have seemed harsh to this point, but things will turn around in the West. That begins with the Rangers, who reinforced their pitching staff with Max Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery while also adding to their bullpen with some high-to-middle leverage arms. The Rangers have been all-in since signing Corey Seager and Marcus Semien two offseasons ago, and they aren’t content to hand the division crown to the Astros without a fight.
Houston Astros: B+
The Astros likely felt some heat from the Rangers but punched back by reuniting with Justin Verlander. They also added Kendall Graveman in a move that was needed to bolster the bullpen. The return in the Verlander trade particularly was significant and it would have been nice to see them add a piece to the mediocre outfield. Still, they did what they needed to do to remain a true World Series contender.
Los Angeles Angels: B
When you still have Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, it’s a good time to push your chips into the middle of the table. That’s what the Angels did by acquiring Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, C.J. Cron and Randal Grichuk. It may not turn out to be enough given the competition in the West and across the American League, but we have to admire the team’s willingness to get talent on the roster and make an effort to go for it.
Seattle Mariners: C
The Mariners kept their roster largely intact and didn’t acquire much noteworthy talent for Paul Sewald or AJ Pollock. They’ll hope to keep their current hot streak going and leapfrog several teams for a playoff spot.
Oakland A’s: C
The A’s certainly weren’t going to buy and didn’t have much to sell. The roster stinks by design and it stayed that way.
Atlanta Braves: C
The Braves sniffed around the starting pitcher market but are satisfied that Max Fried and others will return from injury and reinforce the rotation. We can’t argue with the results as Atlanta should sleepwalk through the second half and to the best record in the National League. The regret could come in the postseason.
Philadelphia Phillies: C+
The Phillies acquired Michael Lorenzen and addressed a need in the rotation as a result. He wasn’t the best solution, but they did something.
Miami Marlins: B
The Marlins have stumbled out of the All-Star break but aren’t ready to give up on their postseason dreams. They brought in Josh Bell and Jake Burger to bring the lineup some needed pop and David Robertson gives them a proper closer. They get a “B” because if they don’t make the playoffs, the roster is a strange fit going forward — but it’s hard to be too critical of a team trying to win.
New York Mets: C
Whoa. The rotation in particular looks different after the departures of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, but there’s no doubt that the Mets rebuilt their farm system. We can debate whether the Mets should have hung on to make a playoff push, but at least they made a decision and followed it all the way through. If the prospects develop and prove to be a part of their core moving forward, this grade could improve. If they don’t develop as hoped, this deadline could set the team back several years. It’s a “C” for now but will likely be an “A” or “F” by 2025.
Washington Nationals: C
This grade hinges on the future performance of guys like Lane Thomas and Joey Meneses. If they’re a part of the next good Nationals team, the decision to stand pat is fine. If Thomas in particular regresses next season or even in the second half of 2023, their failure to trade him was a missed opportunity.
Cincinnati Reds: C
The Reds were one of the most watched teams at the deadline thanks to the unexpected leap they’ve taken in 2023. They reached those heights with homegrown talent, and they are keeping that philosophy after making minimal improvement to the roster. It would have been exciting to see them upgrade more aggressively, but this was likely the smart move.
Milwaukee Brewers: B-
Carlos Santana and Mark Canha won’t sell tickets, but they are competent major-league hitters. That’s more than can be said for much of the lineup, so that could be enough to push Milwaukee to the Central crown.
Chicago Cubs: B
The Cubs got hot at an interesting time, as they’re 8-2 across their last 10 games. That puts them out only 3.5 games out of a wild-card spot, so flipping from seller to buyer made sense. Jeimer Candelario fills a need at a corner infield spot, so the additions the team made were also sensible.
Pittsburgh Pirates: B
The Pirates mostly get a decent grade for not selling Mitch Keller and David Bednar. Much of their young core is in the majors, so it didn’t make sense to tear down by trading young players still under team control. By dealing away veterans like Rich Hill, Ji Man Choi, and Austin Hedges, they added to the depth of their farm system.
St. Louis Cardinals: C
The Cardinals primarily kept the core of their lineup intact, which has been solid despite a disappointing overall season. Both Jack Flaherty and Jordan Montgomery are pending free agents, so they didn’t necessarily hurt their future by dealing away the duo. The primary question now is how they upgrade their rotation this offseason, though we won’t have an answer to that for months.
Los Angeles Dodgers: B
The Dodgers didn’t land the most exciting players, but they did what they had to. For a team that has suffered from questions about the rotation all season, adding Lance Lynn made a lot of sense because he’s going to take the ball every fifth day and provide innings. Even if the results remain inconsistent, he’ll help the team reach the postseason and can then be removed from the rotation.
San Francisco Giants: C-
The Giants have been very aggressive in promoting their prospects this season and have mixed and matched their way to a successful campaign. We should expect that to continue, but if they wanted to truly contend, they needed to add pitching depth and perhaps an impact bat. Instead, they landed AJ Pollock, who is currently on the injured list.
Arizona Diamondbacks: C-
Arizona finally got a reliable back-end bullpen piece in Paul Sewald, and they didn’t have to give up much to get him. The team went on a significant slide in July, however, and they left a shaky rotation untouched. The Diamondbacks have a promising future, but they have the chance to end a significant playoff drought this year and didn’t do much to grab hold of that opportunity.
San Diego Padres: B
Perhaps it’s delusional based on their results to this point, but the Padres believe they can win. There’s no doubt the talent is there, and they only added to it with depth added across the roster. Ji-Man Choi and Garrett Cooper may not seem exciting, but San Diego has been desperate for production out of the DH spot all season and should be able to mix-and-match their way at the position now.
Colorado Rockies: B-
The Rockies are notorious for failing to make moves at the deadline, so the fact that they dealt away Randal Grichuk and C.J. Cron as well as several bullpen pieces is a step in the right direction. If they take the opportunity to move boring vets such as Jurickson Profar and Charlie Blackmon out of the lineup to let young guys play, this grade will move up to a solid “B.”
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