The trade deadline is a few days away. By the start of August, we’ll know which teams are the buyers, the sellers, and the middlers who decided to do nothing. Already, we’ve seen some big moves shake up the baseball landscape and impact a handful of teams. So, let’s dive into some of the big things from this week and what they mean for their respective teams.
This Week in Baseball: The Trade Deadline Looms!
Ohtani Isn’t Traded: Seems Like A Wise Move Right Now
The Los Angeles Angels made the biggest headline this week with the decision to not move Shohei Ohtani. The presumable MVP in the American League and a pending free agent at the end of the season won’t be traded for a big haul. Instead, the Angels are trying to make a push for the postseason and more importantly, make the case that he should remain in Orange County.
The move sent a message to the roster and all of baseball. Sure the Angels aren’t in playoff position at the moment with a 55-51 record but they are willing to do whatever it takes to snap the nine-year postseason drought. The decision paid off in the short term that goes without saying. Ohtani had himself a week. He pitched a scoreless outing against the Detroit Tigers in the first game of a doubleheader and then homered twice in the second game. To start off the weekend strong, he hit a home run against the Toronto Blue Jays for his 39th of the season.
Since announcing that Ohtani wouldn’t be moved, the Angels have gone 4-2 which is good but the question is how far their best player can take them. If Mike Trout returns and the pitching additions from the week strengthen the rotation, the Angels can get hot. The problem they face is that Ohtani, while incredible, can only impact the game so much. He can give the team a chance to make the postseason but that’s not a guarantee with how the American League standings are shaping up. Say the team does reach the postseason, just barely, is that enough to call the season a success? Specifically, if they reach the wild card, and lose the series, can they still convince the star to stay? It’s an unknown that makes the next few months all the more exciting.
That leads to the other question. Was it a good idea to keep Ohtani and not trade him in the long term? If the Angels, who are still four games out of a wild card spot, miss the postseason, it will be another disappointing year with him and a reminder that even the best players can’t propel a team to the playoffs.
It makes you wonder if the Angels managed to receive a haul for him and the surplus of young prospects helped form a well-rounded roster, that the team would be off for success for years to come. The bottom line is that we’ll never know. Instead, this team is going all in on Ohtani and will make the postseason with him or without him and then this offseason will try to do what they can to keep him.
Mets Trade Scherzer to Rangers
Let’s start with the New York Mets on this trade since they are the more curious team. This season has been arguably one of the worst in franchise history, and that’s saying a lot considering this is a cursed team. The biggest spenders in the winter are 50-55, over five games out of a wild card spot, and have the 11th-best record in the National League (which is the polite way of saying the fifth-worst record).
This week, it became official, they were selling at the trade deadline. David Robertson was moved to the Miami Marlins and now Max Scherzer was traded to the Texas Rangers. The question now is if Justin Verlander will remain on the team or not in the next few days.
The return for Scherzer feels underwhelming. Sure, they landed Luisangel Acuna, a talented prospect with all five tools but they only landed one player for a future Hall of Fame pitcher. The other thing to consider in the fallout of this trade is what it means for the Mets this winter.
There are two ways to view this. Either these trades help open up some payroll to allow them to make a push at signing Ohtani or the lack of star power heading into the offseason hurts their chances as they are a less desirable place to play now. Ohtani wants to be paid and the Mets can make that happen but he also wants to play on a contender and this team has yet to prove it can be that.
Now, to the Rangers. They’ve been one of the most fun teams to watch this year, boasting a 60-45 record and the division lead in the American League West Division. However, they know they’ll be in a dogfight with the Houston Astros in the final two months of the season. It’s the Astros division to lose until it’s not and everyone knows that. Adding Scherzer not only signals they are looking to win the division but the World Series. They now have a rotation build to dominate in October with Nathan Eovaldi and Scherzer being the one-two punch while Jon Gray and Dane Dunning round things out. Add that to a lineup that averages 5.77 runs per game and they check a lot of boxes.
What makes this deal better for the Rangers is Scherzer opting into the extra year of his contract following the deal. He’ll be a part of the rotation this year and next year, meaning they got more than a rental. Imagine how great this rotation will look when Jacob deGrom throws 50 pitches in five games next year.
The Cardinals Won’t Trade Arenado, They’ll Trade Everyone Else
The St. Louis Cardinals made it clear that they won’t trade star third baseman Nolan Arenado. The veteran has bounced back from an awful start to the season and has slashed .302/.351/.616 in June and .308/.359/.604 in July. He would allow the Cardinals to rebuild in a big trade but the front office wants to avoid doing that at all costs.
Instead, they’ll trade all the other players that were “tradeable” in recent days. They moved Jordan Montgomery, one of their better starters, they traded Jordan Hicks, the hard-throwing reliever, and are rumored to be ready to move on from a handful of others, especially in their rotation. The Cardinals see this season as a bump in the road and they won’t tear things down despite an aging roster starting to catch up with them.
Did The Cubs Get Hot At The Wrong Time?
The Chicago Cubs were 42-47 at the All-Star break. They look poised to sell at the deadline with a roster that had a lot of holes in it but valuable trade chips, most notably Cody Bellinger, who is having a resurgence in the city. A few moves could have boosted their farm system and set them up for next year.
Then the Cubs started winning. They lost two of three to the Boston Red Sox but then won two of three against the Washington Nationals. Then they started winning even more. They rattled off eight consecutive wins before dropping Sunday’s game to the Cardinals.
At 53-52, they are in no man’s land. They’ve been playing too well to sell and aren’t close enough to a playoff spot to buy in. The recent resurgence forced their hand on Bellinger as they announced they won’t move him and it’s hard seeing others traded in the coming days, especially since they are 3.5 games out of a wild card spot. So, this hot streak right before the deadline could spell doom for the team’s long-term plans and path to contention which is a bit unfortunate since they looked like a team poised to take a big leap entering this year but they never did.
Other Notes Ahead of the Deadline
One of the lingering questions is if and when the San Diego Padres will start to sell. They are well out of playoff contention and making a late-season push isn’t realistic. That said, they’ve sold out a lot of home games, and trading away players after making moves to go all-in for a few years now would be a slap in the face to the fans. The best guess is that they only make a few minor trades but don’t tear the whole thing down.
The other thing to watch is how the Astros and the Atlanta Braves add in the coming days. Both teams know they’ll be in the postseason barring any collapse. However, the two teams need to make a move or two to set themselves up for a postseason run.
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