This Isn’t Your Typical Deadline Winners and Losers Post

© Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the day after the trade deadline, which always means one thing: baseball writers begrudgingly cleaning up their gross, sparkling-water-can-filled workspaces. Oh, wait, actually it means two things: that, and a flood of “who won the trading deadline” articles.

This year, I’m going to do something slightly different. I won’t claim that I’ve re-invented the wheel, but I’ve always thought that those winner/loser columns are too deterministic and don’t leave enough room for nuance. I thought about listing each team that made a trade as a winner, with a “maybe” appended to indicate that we don’t know what will happen in the future; if you really want to know who won and who lost, check back in October… or maybe in October of 2025. I thought about making each team a “loser (maybe)” for the same reason. In the end, I settled on some broad archetypes. I’ll throw a subjective grade on how much I like the move, and also endeavor to explain the risks around each team’s deadline. You can find all of our deadline coverage here. Let’s get started.

Frenzied and Impactful

San Diego Padres
What They Got: Juan Soto, Josh Hader, Josh Bell, Brandon Drury, miscellany
What It Cost: Everything
Life Experience Comparison: Your boss loved your big, bold pitch. Now she wants you to pitch it to the head of the company. Tomorrow.

If you like risk and you like reward, the Padres are the deadline team for you. They acquired the best player who has ever been traded at a deadline, particularly when you consider how far Soto still is from free agency. In doing so, they also turned first base into an asset – Bell represents one of the biggest upgrades any team made at the deadline, though he’s clearly behind Soto in that hierarchy. Their closer is now literally Josh Hader, the closer that every team wishes they had, instead of Taylor Rogers, “basically Josh Hader” only if you were a Padres apologist. They even scooped up Drury to replace Luke Voit, the lone healthy everyday player they traded to the Nationals for Soto.

I don’t know what the Padres plan to do with Soto long-term, but their best three hitters will stack up favorably to any group in baseball when Fernando Tatis Jr. returns to the field. For the next three postseasons, they’re going to be a member of the ruling class of the NL, joining star-studded operations like the Dodgers, Braves, and Mets. That’s pretty neat for a team historically treated as a little brother, and it’s especially neat that they’re doing it with an explosion of superstars.

As for the prospect cost, if you’re the type who likes to add up projected surplus values and compare, the Padres gave up quite a bit. But the prospects they sent out had quite a bit of risk, and the most likely outcome here is that the Nationals end up with two serviceable players but no stars, while the Padres end up with Bell for one October and a Hall of Fame level hitter through 2024.

Could one of the Padres prospects have joined Tatis and Machado as an established star in a few years? Sure, yeah, maybe. Probably not, though – most players don’t become stars. Soto is one, and Bell is, too. The Padres have pried open a window where they’ll be one of the best teams in baseball for a few years, and while it’s risky, the upside alone makes me like it.

New York Yankees
What They Got: Frankie Montas, Andrew Benintendi, Harrison Bader, Scott Effross, Clayton Beeter
What It Cost: Seven pitching prospects, one hitting prospect, Jordan Montgomery, Joey Gallo
Life Experience Comparison: You’re handily winning a board game with your friends, but suddenly have an opportunity to pull further ahead.

The Yankees took a roster that has so far trounced the rest of the American League and added a star pitcher, two plus outfielders, and an impact reliever. They did it without sacrificing much from the major league club at all; the only regulars they sent out were a pitcher displaced by their headline acquisition and an outfielder who lost his job and needed a change of scenery.

This trade spree is a triumph of the Yankees’ pitching development pipeline. They swapped out a metric ton of pitchers who dotted the top of their farm system, and got meaningful upgrades in return. Montas, Bader, and Effross aren’t even rentals; all will be around next year, and Effross isn’t a free agent until after the 2027 season. If you don’t like the Yankees, get used to being annoyed by his funky delivery and inarguable results in endless Sunday Night Baseball matchups.

I particularly like the Bader trade as a clever way to leverage that pitching machine. Montgomery was something like the fifth or sixth starter (depending on Luis Severino’s health) for the Yankees this year, which meant his playoff role would be small. Once he’s healthy, Bader shores up a key defensive area, giving the Yankees a maximum-defense configuration they can go to late in games while also being a league average hitter. Montgomery’s departure lets the Yankees move Clarke Schmidt or Deivi García into the rotation next year if they’re so inclined. By starting with an embarrassment of pitching riches and using it wisely, Brian Cashman improved an already-excellent squad without unduly changing the team’s long-term trajectory.

Minnesota Twins
What They Got: Jorge López, Tyler Mahle, Michael Fulmer, Sandy León
What It Cost: One 45 FV prospect, three 40 FVs, and a pile of fliers
Life Experience Comparison: Locked in a tight race against your two mortal enemies, you hop on a bike that you see by the side of the road. They also consider hopping on a bike, but instead choose to continue on foot.

The Twins have to push it. The AL Central is exceedingly winnable this year, and that was clearly their goal when they signed Carlos Correa to a short-term deal. You can’t assume health from Byron Buxton, either, and the Guardians and White Sox have strong long-term cores. The Twins should be aggressive in making 2022 count, and they absolutely were.

Mahle was an absolute bargain, a solid top-of-rotation arm whose fly ball tendencies suit the Twins particularly well: they have two elite defensive outfielders, while their infield specializes in pratfalls and short first basemen. If I were the Twins, I would have preferred him to Montas, but the industry clearly doesn’t agree with me. The result is that the Twins were able to pick up a pitcher exceedingly similar to the one they traded last deadline (José Berríos) and win on the prospect exchange. As an added benefit, they’re getting Mahle when they’re in the playoff hunt, while they were out of it last year.

López is a great option at the business end of the bullpen, and Fulmer can soak up relief innings. I don’t think the team will fret too much about the loss of prospects, either: with plenty of teams shopping good-but-not-great relievers, bulking up bullpens became a good value proposition for contenders. Add in the fact that the rest of the AL Central sat on their thumbs, and I think the Twins should be quite pleased with their day.

Seattle Mariners
What They Got: Luis Castillo, Curt Casali, Matthew Boyd, Jake Lamb
What It Cost: Noelvi Marte, Edwin Arroyo, assorted other prospects
Life Experience Comparison: Surely this will be the year you land that promotion, right? You might as well go all out to get it, and maybe spend a little extra on yourself in doing so.

The Mariners are in the strange position of having a lot of pitching but not really knowing who their best pitchers are. Everyone other than Logan Gilbert and George Kirby has question marks. The solution? Get a new best pitcher! Castillo is awesome, and will be around next year too, when almost every contributor on the team will be back for another bite at the apple.

Winning this year is the task at hand, though, and the constellation of bit pieces the team picked up should help with that. A motley lineup has served the Mariners well thus far, but making small upgrades there never hurts. Lamb is a nice platoon bat, Casali is a big step up from Luis Torrens, and Boyd is… I don’t know, actually, that one’s more of a head scratcher to me.

Will the Mariners regret trading Marte? Maybe. He’s the prospect I’d lose the most sleep over dealing this deadline, with all due respect to the Nationals’ haul. Did they overpay for Castillo given the rest of the market? Possibly. But given their position in the standings and extensive playoff drought, I’d rather overpay than end up empty-handed, and they mostly managed to keep the future intact while getting better now. Sounds like a nice deadline to me.

Frenzied and Confusing

Tampa Bay Rays
What They Got: David Peralta, Jose Siri, Garrett Cleavinger, Jeremy Walker
What It Cost: Ford Proctor, Seth Johnson, Brett Phillips, assorted other prospects
Life Experience Comparison: If you’re already juggling an assortment of household items and flaming torches, why not add a bandsaw and a baton to the mix?

I’ve given up on figuring out the exact ins and outs of Tampa Bay’s maneuvering. Adding Peralta makes plenty of sense, as the team is good at maximizing value from platoon bats, but the rest feels like a lot of motion for little change. There was some 40-man roster massaging. There was some great-defensive-outfielder swapping. There was even a classic Dodgers-and-Rays-exchange-bit-parts trade. I just don’t think the net of it all amounts to much, which feels strange given their position in the standings.

Quietly Effective

Houston Astros
What They Got: Christian Vázquez, Trey Mancini, Will Smith
What It Cost: Jake Odorizzi, Jose Siri, prospects
Life Experience Comparison: Sipping whiskey by the fire is nice, but wouldn’t it be nicer if you also had a warm, fuzzy blanket?

The Astros are the unquestioned rulers of the AL West. The Mariners could have acquired Soto, Castillo, Montas, and the super-laser from the original Death Star, and I’d still project the Astros to win the division this year. Their team has a few holes, though. Yuli Gurriel and Martín Maldonado are hitting a combined .216/.271/.371 – gross! They also don’t have a single lefty reliever. Not ideal.

What did they do? They got a slugging first baseman, an average-bat/good-glove catcher, and a lefty reliever. That’s clean living. They dealt from surplus; Odorizzi has been useful but wouldn’t have a playoff role, Siri was their third center fielder, and none of the prospects they gave up change the trajectory of their farm system. The road to the AL West runs through Houston a little more today than it did yesterday.

Atlanta Braves
What They Got: Raisel Iglesias, Jake Odorizzi, Robbie Grossman
What It Cost: Will Smith, Tucker Davidson, Jesse Chavez, prospect fliers
Life Experience Comparison: Out of the blue, someone nearby contacts you. They have to get rid of a $2,000 TV. They’re asking for $100 and gas money.

Hey, if someone wants to dump an All-Star closer in your lap, and someone else wants to turn your surplus and possibly-spent former closer into starting depth, why not do it? The Iglesias trade is just found money; the Angels got rid of him to save a few bucks, not because he’s anything other than an effective reliever. Even without him in the fold, Smith was losing relevance, and their rotation could use some bulk, populated as it is by young arms hitting innings limits.

Will they miss Davidson? Maybe; he could have done a serviceable Odorizzi impression as a fifth starter. But probably not, because the Braves are pretty good at developing fifth starters, and we all know what Brian Snitker can do with a good bullpen. The Braves are competing for now and the future, and they acted like it this deadline.

Toronto Blue Jays
What They Got: Zach Pop, Anthony Bass, Whit Merrifield, Mitch White
What It Cost: Jordan Groshans, a giant pile of 40 FV prospects
Life Experience Comparison: Look, shopping at Wayfair isn’t glamorous, but it makes your house look better and doesn’t cost that much.

I’ll keep this one brief, because this list is getting long. I thought the Blue Jays did a great job shoring up the middle of the bullpen, a weakness so far this year. They also added a fifth starter who can become a reliever if necessary in October. They even got 2018’s hottest trade chip in Merrifield.

Groshans probably won’t come back to bite them, but even if he does, this is a good time for Toronto to press their advantages. They’re in a solid position to make the playoffs in a tough division. Living for the now without unduly mortgaging the future is a smart move. Could they have gone bigger in relief? Sure, if they could have somehow snagged Raisel Iglesias, but short of that, I like what they did just fine.

Thank God the Brewers Didn’t Add Much

St. Louis Cardinals
What They Got: Jordan Montgomery, José Quintana, Chris Stratton
What It Cost: Harrison Bader, Johan Oviedo, Malcom Nunez
Life Experience Comparison: You didn’t put your usual effort into this year’s neighborhood chili cook-off. Luckily, your closest competition thought it was next week and brought chips.

The Cardinals shopped in the middle of the market at the deadline, adding two pitchers who should comfortably slot into the St. Louis rotation as good-but-not-great sinker-based pitchers. They added a reliever to soak up a few innings, though in trading Oviedo they gave one up as well. But I think the moves betray that surplus-value-thinking I harped on up above. The Cardinals traded for the kinds of players who let you hold on to your top prospects, even if it meant not improving as much as they needed to at the major league level.

The Cardinals are in a three-way chase for two playoff spots with the Brewers and Phillies. Their two best players are having monster years, a real shot in the arm to the team’s playoff chances that the Red Birds certainly can’t count on getting every year given their ages (Paul Goldschmidt is 34, Nolan Arenado 31). The next few years are going to be the last hurrah for this corner-infield-fronted iteration of the Cardinals, though they’ve done a good job developing players for so long that it’s reasonable to imagine a new hitting core percolating to the majors in the future.

Missing the playoffs with a combined 15-ish WAR from Goldschmidt and Arenado would be gross malpractice by John Mozeliak, and in my opinion, it would be worth trading a few of the prospects he’s clutched so tightly for an upgrade somewhere. Sure, maybe they were never actually going to get Juan Soto; Mozeliak quipped, “You saw what they got in return, it was better than what we were willing to do” in response to a question about the Soto trade. But missing on Soto didn’t mean the Cardinals had to sit out the market for Bell, Montas, or even Mahle.

Instead, the Cardinals moved a major league contributor to get Montgomery. Maybe Dylan Carlson can handle center field – he grades out well there so far – but the team is now going with an unproven, patchwork outfield in a playoff chase. I’d also be worried about moving Montgomery from the Yankees’ pitcher-nurturing system; St. Louis has done much better at developing hitting than pitching in recent years. If the Brewers had done much more, I’d consider this a disaster of a deadline. Instead, I think it’s just a missed opportunity that shows a lack of vision.

Philadelphia Phillies
What They Got: Noah Syndergaard, Brandon Marsh, David Robertson, Edmundo Sosa
What It Cost: Logan O’Hoppe, JoJo Romero, assorted mid-level prospects
Life Experience Comparison: Your mom is visiting soon, so it’s time to pull out all the stops and make your apartment look nice. Well, within reason. Fine, look, it means doing a half-hearted cleaning job and buying some food to put in the fridge so you don’t look like a complete slob.

The Phillies have a brutally bad defense. They got a plus defensive shortstop and a plus defensive center fielder at the deadline. They have a gaping hole in the rotation after their two top starters; they got a mid-rotation guy. They need bullpen arms; they got a reliable one. They checked off every item on their to-do list.

None of the players they got are true impact players right now. Marsh and Sosa project as average thanks to their defensive contributions and offensive ineptitude. Syndergaard wasn’t one of the best pitchers moved at the deadline. Robertson – yeah, okay, I actually think Robertson is great, leave him out of this.

If the Cardinals had added Soto, or the Brewers had done more, I’d like the Phillies’ deadline less. But they were workmanlike, and managed to plug a lot of holes. They even swapped O’Hoppe for Marsh, who I think is just straight up better in addition to playing a position of extreme need. The Phillies didn’t have the prospect capital the Cardinals do, but managed to improve themselves by a similar amount without making any Faustian bargains. Good enough for me.

What are We Doing Here, Folks?

Milwaukee Brewers
What They Got: Taylor Rogers, Dinelson Lamet, Matt Bush, Trevor Rosenthal, Esteury Ruiz, prospects
What It Cost: Josh Hader, Mark Mathias, prospects
Life Experience Comparison: You’re thinking five steps ahead, lining up the end of your workout class across town with the haircut you’ve just scheduled, conveniently next door to the studio. Halfway there, though, you suddenly feel like you’ve forgotten something – did you bring your wallet?

I liked the Hader trade more for the Brewers when it looked like a prospect-building setup that would allow them to pivot to adding an impact player somewhere. It’s not that the Brewers are bad, but they could use offensive juice, and there were hitters out there. The Brewers got worse next year by subtracting Hader. You’d think they would counteract that by getting better this year, but the rest of their moves didn’t really do that. You can’t even point to Rogers and Lamet and say the Brewers added in depth what they lost in top end, because they’ve already designated Lamet for assignment and seem likely to lose him to a waiver claim.

If you’re being charitable, you could assume that the Brewers didn’t want to get into an arms race with the cash- and prospect-advantaged Cardinals. But the Cardinals didn’t really do much either! The Brewers ended up leaving the playoff race in a decidedly unsettled spot, when the two teams they’re competing against cleaned up around the edges but did nothing more. I would have liked to see no trades at all over what they actually did, even though the Hader deal could end up working out just fine for them – they’ve been trying to move Hader for years, after all.

Reveling in Expected Riches, Mourning the Present

Washington Nationals
What They Got: MacKenzie Gore, C.J. Abrams, Robert Hassell III, James Wood, Jarlin Susana, Luke Voit
What It Cost: Juan Freaking Soto, Josh Bell
Life Experience Comparison: “Sorry I accidentally burned down the house we all live in,” you tell your family. “Great news, though: I was able to swap the foundation for a great plot of land we can build a new house on.”

Let’s take for granted that the Nationals are going to be bad for the next few years, and that they had no way of convincing Soto to sign an extension with them. Given that, I think they did well in getting a giant package of high-upside prospects in return. There are no Cardinals-y, high-likelihood average regulars here, with the possible exception of Hassell. It’s all boom/bust types who could either win awards or be terrible, which is smart if you’re forced to be in this situation.

Do I hate it? Of course I do. If you’re a Nats fan, should you hate it? I’m not so sure. You should be sad you won’t get to see Soto for his whole career, of course, but it sounds like that was already out the window. At least Mike Rizzo primed the farm system with a bunch of new guys who probably won’t, but theoretically could, turn into the Nationals’ next galactic star.


Los Angeles Angels
What They Got: Logan O’Hoppe, Tucker Davidson, Jesse Chavez, outfield prospects, financial flexibility
What It Cost: Brandon Marsh, Raisel Iglesias, Noah Syndergaard, any shred of credibility
Life Experience Comparison: Ugh, why did I buy this $2,000 TV when the rest of my house is falling apart? I’m gonna go sell it to a neighbor for $100 to recoup costs. Maybe they’ll even kick in gas money.

Sorry, Angels fans. This was a disaster of a deadline. The team didn’t try to get better for next year, their last with Shohei Ohtani. In fact, they got meaningfully worse: they got rid of a starting outfielder and their best reliever in exchange for a prospect who is probably more than a year away and a fifth starter. At that point, maybe they should have dealt Ohtani, but presumably ownership nixed that idea.

But uh, if you’re going to keep Ohtani, it’s pretty strange to tear down around him. The Iglesias trade was downright embarrassing in my eyes. Why sign him if you don’t want him? Sure his ERA is elevated relative to last year, but what really changed in the past six months? The same is true of the Marsh/O’Hoppe swap; unless the Angels are just completely out on Marsh, making half-measure moves towards the future while the bulk of your team’s talent lies in the present makes no sense to me.

There are other teams that deserve mention, but this column is too long already, so let me do a quick lightning round to close out. I’ll give the Mets a pass for not doing more because they’re in the “assemble-the-Death-Star” phase of juggernaut building; they’re trying to use money to build now while the farm system regrows, so I don’t hate treating it with kid gloves, though I’m not as bought in on Darin Ruf as they are. The Dodgers decided to take a crack at Joey Gallo and churned some marginal arms; both seem fine to me. The Red Sox spun around in circles, but didn’t do anything drastic. The Orioles? They got enough for Mancini and López that I would have made those trades too even considering their unexpectedly good season. The White Sox didn’t do much of anything, but I wouldn’t have either in their shoes; they have a bad farm system and a bright future. That just leaves the Rockies; no trades at all gets you an unexcused absence. Maybe their decision-makers were at a team-building retreat in Aspen this week. Poor scheduling, that.

Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

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1 year ago

Guardians life lesson: Planning for your future home sucks a lot when you don’t own it yet, but you already have all the furniture.

In other words WHY DIDN’T YOU DO S O M E T H I N G TO IMPROVE INSTEAD OF NOTHING?! Taking a flyer on a decent young reliever is nice, but they had four areas they could have cheaply improved. Even without trading for Sean Murphy, they could have done much more.

Last edited 1 year ago by EonADS
1 year ago
Reply to  EonADS

The Guardians blew this one. I don’t know what they should have done, but whatever it was it would be better than watching the rest of the league raid their prospects in the Rule 5 draft this winter.

1 year ago
Reply to  EonADS

Guardians: Owning all the red, green, and yellow properties in Monopoly, but refusing to spend any money on houses for them because you’re concerned about having cash on hand to be able to pay the rent in the event you land on Park Place when it has a hotel 86 turns later.

Left of Centerfield
1 year ago
Reply to  EonADS

Yeah, but at least they still have the #2 farm system. So they’ve got that going for them…

1 year ago

Don’t pull something reaching for those straws!