In some sense, the MLB trade deadline is just like the movies: Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) and Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) on the phone frantically coaxing general managers into a trade they are reluctant to make in a mad dash in order to beat the ticking clock.
While not nearly as effortless as “Moneyball” made it seem, the deadline is just as fun, for general managers, players and fans alike. This year’s hot stove was no exception; in fact, it was quite possibly the most exciting deadline in baseball history.
Almost every playoff contender made a helpful acquisition to make a postseason run, while multiple flailing teams gutted their rosters in exchange for franchise-altering prospects.
With all the action, Pitt’s adage rings ever more true: How can you not be romantic about baseball?
A few teams played the role a little better than others, however, leading to some winners and losers of the 2021 MLB trade deadline.
The rich only get richer. While the defending World Series champions have had arguably the most talented roster in the major leagues for the last few years, that hasn’t stopped Dodgers President of Operations Andrew Friedman from being one of the most aggressive signers in the market. This trade deadline was no exception — the Dodgers added two of the most sought-after players on the trade block: veteran starter Max Scherzer and shortstop Trea Turner.
Manager Dave Roberts truly has an embarrassment of riches now, boasting the best starting rotation in baseball and two of the best shortstops in the game in Turner and Corey Seager. Though baseball’s richest team just won the World Series in the shortened 2020 season, with the incredible amount of talent up and down the roster, the 2021 season remains World Series or bust for the Dodgers.
The White Sox
What was the last thing the White Sox needed heading into the final stretch of the season?
A closer. Liam Hendricks has been one of baseball’s best this season, posting a 2.47 ERA and 26 saves for the Sox this year.
So naturally, they went out and got their crosstown rival’s closer, Craig Kimbrel, the best reliever on the market. Now the team from the South Side has two of the best closers in all of the MLB to go along with a top-tier starting rotation. This might be the year for the Sox to break through to the American League Championship Series.
The Atlanta Braves
Atlanta seemed out of the hunt after the devastating season-ending injury of star outfielder Ronald Acuña. And while the Braves still sit four games out of first place in the National League East, they made some late deadline moves to restock their outfield and make a push in the weakest division in baseball.
Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario and Adam Duvall are Atlanta’s newest additions for the next two months, creating a formidable outfield out of thin air. Along with reliable MVP candidate Freddie Freeman in the infield, the Braves have put together a solid lineup to make a playoff run.
All that is left is for Atlanta, which actually sits two games under .500, to prove it can consistently win games.
The Oakland A’s
Though the Oakland A’s were known as a particularly unaggressive team when it comes to trade deadlines, they made a few under-the-radar, albeit impressive, splashes in the last week. The green and gold, who ranked in the bottom half in the MLB in most hitting categories, added proven veterans Starling Marte, Yan Gomes and Josh Harrison to their stumbling lineup. Though all three players will be free agents by year’s end and unlikely to re-sign, the A’s were forced to give up very few of their top prospects, making the acquisitions a worthwhile investment.
The A’s hope this will give their lineup a jumpstart at just the right time; they trail the Houston Astros in the AL West by 4.5 games.
The surprise Mariners, who sit just a few games back of the second wild-card spot despite a grotesque -56 run differential, were thought to be a possible frontrunner for some major deadline pieces, including infielders Turner and Whit Merrifield. Though the team made helpful acquisitions to its lineup and bullpen through trades with Houston and Pittsburgh, in the end, it seemed to give up more than they got.
Gone is closer Kendall Graveman, the Mariners’ most valuable and reliable bullpen piece. And while their general manager promised more moves to make up for the departure, nothing major materialized other than a last-minute trade for talented reliever Diego Castillo.
Though this practically ends their chance at their first postseason appearance since 2001, the moves, or lack thereof, are probably the best route for the young Mariners, who are instead planning for their bright future.
Cubs and Nats fans
The Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs acted as the honorary Toys R Us’ of the MLB, hosting their very own “going out of business” fire sales during the trade deadline.
The Nats traded nearly every solid player other than Juan Soto, including the aforementioned Scherzer and Turner. Meanwhile, the Cubs traded most of their remaining 2016 World Series team players, as core members and fan favorites Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javi Baez were shipped out to contenders.
While both teams were well out of postseason contention and the trades will undoubtedly help the future of their franchises, losing players who have built their careers around a single team and city is heartbreaking.
Still, locals should stay tuned for the local flash flood warnings with all the tears that will be shed over the losses.
Noah Parker covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].