Tuesday at 4 p.m. marks the end of the non-waiver trading period for Major League Baseball, closing a July session that usually finishes in a flurry. Aside from 2016, when it was moved to Aug. 1 to avoid the weekend, the deadline has been July 31 since 1986, but remains a point of debate as to whether it should be adjusted again. The National League first established a trade deadline in 1917, when it was Aug. 20.
Before 1986, the deadline was June 15, which would be considered far too early in this wild-card age, with too many teams unsure if they should be buying or selling just yet. As strange as it sounds now, when the AL and NL still maintained separate identities, there were rules governing interleague trades as well (they were eliminated in ’86).
Before Saturday’s games, the AL had only six teams truly contending for a playoff spot, the five currently holding a ticket and then the A’s, who were one game behind the Mariners for the second wild-card berth. The Twins trailed the Indians by eight games in the Central. The surprising Rays were 8 1/2 games back of the wild card.
The NL was a bit more egalitarian in that sense, as 11 teams were within five games of a postseason spot. Every division is still up for grabs, most notably the West, where the Dodgers and Diamondbacks were tied for first, with the Rockies only a half-game out.
The trade market, however, accommodates teams at both ends of the spectrum, although the specter of tanking has become a more recent buzzword — and bugaboo — for MLB. As for the most active July traders of the past decade, the Red Sox are at the top of the list with 55, the Yankees are in the top five (tied with the Cubs at 49) and the Mets are in the middle of the pack, tied with the A’s and Blue Jays with 35.
After that brief history lesson, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at last year’s notable July deals and see how they panned out a year later. Remember, the most influential swap of last season — Justin Verlander to the Astros — took place in August, so that’s a list for another day. This one is listed in chronological order.
July 13: Cubs acquired LHP José Quintana from the White Sox for RHP Dylan Cease, SS Bryant Flete, OF Eloy Jiménez and 3B Matt Rose.
Theo Epstein struck quickly to bolster the rotation for the Cubs’ title defense, even though Quintana seemed to be underperforming on South Side (4.49 ERA, 1.323 WHIP). But those numbers turned with a winner, as Quintana went 7-3 with a 3.74 ERA the rest of the way (5.40 ERA in four playoff appearances). Controlling Quintana through 2018, however, cost the Cubs their top two prospects in Cease and Jimenez. This season, Cease, 22, has a 13.2 K/9 rate at Double-A with a 2.83 ERA. Jimenez, 21, is likely to be called up soon by the Sox with a slash line of .354/.398/.646 at Triple-A.
July 16: Nationals acquired LHP Sean Doolittle and RHP Ryan Madson from the Athletics for LHP Jesus Luzardo, 3B Sheldon Neuse and RHP Blake Treinen.
Badly in need of bullpen help, Nats GM Mike Rizzo went big in getting two of the best available. Doolittle had 21 saves in 30 appearances after coming to D.C., and has shaved nearly a run off his ERA this season (1.45) with 11.8 K/9. Madson had a 1.37 ERA in 20 appearances last season. Both could be flipped again, however, if the Nats choose to become sellers this year. As for the A’s, Treinen was an All-Star this year, with a 1.02 ERA and 27 saves. Luzardo, 20, is 7-3 with a 2.32 ERA in 15 starts since his promotion to Double-A. Neuse, 23, is the one lagging, hitting .248 with four homers in 100 games at Triple-A Nashville.
July 18: Yankees acquired 3B Todd Frazier, RHP Tommy Kahnle and RHP David Robertson from the White Sox for LHP Ian Clarkin, RHP Tyler Clippard, OF Tito Polo and OF Blake Rutherford.
This turned out to be a big winner for the Yankees, as Frazier not only hit 11 homers in 66 games, but became a valuable clubhouse voice for a team that surpassed expectations. The hard-throwing Kahnle also helped fortify the bullpen — before falling off this season — and Robertson fit back into the Yankees like he had never left, excelling again this year. On the flip side, Rutherford is hitting .307 with an .803 OPS at High-A, Clarkin has a 6.29 ERA in nine starts since his promotion to Double-A and Polo has a .650 OPS at Double-A.
July 18: Diamondbacks acquired OF J.D. Martinez from the Tigers for SS Sergio Alcantara, SS Jose King and SS Dawel Lugo.
Martinez already was having a great season for Detroit, but going to Arizona was a nice trampoline into free agency as he batted .302 with 29 homers, 65 RBIs and a 1.107 OPS in 62 games. The Diamondbacks, however, were swept by the Dodgers in the NLDS. Looking at that trade now, Arizona got a steal. Lugo, 23, was the fourth-ranked prospect in the Tigers system, and this season has a .614 OPS in 91 games at Triple-A.
July 25: Red Sox acquired INF Eduardo Nuñez from the Giants for RHP Shaun Anderson and RHP Gregory Santos.
The versatile Nuñez gave the Red Sox the righty bat they needed, and he thrived with the change of scenery, slugging eight homers with an .892 OPS — but was limited to 38 games due to an injury-plagued second half. It was convincing enough for the Sox to bring him back on a one-year, $6-million deal. Anderson was Boston’s No. 18 prospect and he has a 3.77 ERA in 19 starts split between Double-A and Triple-A this season. Santos, 19, has a 3.16 ERA in eight starts at low-A.
July 28: Mets acquired RHP AJ Ramos from the Marlins for OF Ricardo Cespedes and RHP Merandy Gonzalez.
This wasn’t a trade to enhance the playoff chances of either club, as Sandy Alderson wanted to get a jump on bolstering the bullpen for 2018 with the trade for Ramos. Unfortunately for the Mets, it didn’t work out that. Ramos’ strikeout ability was offset by his control issues, and never developed into the shutdown weapon Alderson imagined before having season-ending surgery in June to repair a labrum tear. Gonzalez, 22, has made seven appearances for the Marlins this season (5.71 ERA) and is 1-6 with a 5.03 ERA at Double-A. The Bronx-born Cespedes, 20, was recently promoted to high-A and is batting .252 with a .670 OPS in 30 games at three levels this year.
July 31: Dodgers acquired RHP Yu Darvish from the Rangers for RHP A.J. Alexy, 3B Willie Calhoun and SS Brendon Davis.
The Dodgers traded a pair of top 20 prospects for Darvish -- Calhoun was No. 4 -- but the deal didn’t quite pay off as planned as L.A. fell just short of a World Series title, partly due to Darvish’s disappointing performance. Darvish went 4-3 with a 3.44 ERA in nine regular-season starts, but ultimately wilted in the Fall Classic, lasting a total of 3 1/3 innings in two starts (21.60 ERA) -- including Game 7. Calhoun, 23, was recently called up by the Rangers after hitting .306 with an .804 OPS at Triple-A. Alexy, 20, was the Dodgers’ No. 17 prospect, and he has a 4.29 ERA with a 10.6 K/9 at Class A.
July 31: Red Sox acquired RHP Addison Reed from the Mets for RHP Gerson Bautista, RHP Jamie Callahan and RHP Steve Nogosek.
Reed was one of the handful of pending free agents the Mets were able to move last season and he went from closer in Flushing to setup man in Boston, where he had a 3.33 ERA in 29 appearances and 0.926 WHIP. The hard-throwing Bautista, who can touch 100 mph, has a 12.46 ERA in five appearances for the Mets, as well as a 5.33 ERA and 11.4 K/9 in 19 appearances for Triple-A Vegas. Nogosek, 23, has a 5.36 ERA and 9.9 K/9 in 31 appearances split between Class-A and Double-A.
July 31: Yankees acquired RHP Sonny Gray from the Athletics for OF Dustin Fowler, RHP James Kaprielian and SS Jorge Mateo.
Gray hasn’t been the controllable frontline starter the Yankees imagined, going 12-14 with a 4.55 ERA and 1.383 WHIP in his 31 starts since the trade. But the prospects Cashman dealt have been slow to develop for the A’s as well, mostly because of lengthy rehabs from major surgeries. Fowler, who had knee surgery a year ago, is hitting .232 with a .632 OPS in 57 games while Kaprielian’s return from Tommy John surgery was slowed by a shoulder issue. After a sluggish first half, the speedy Mateo was hitting .296 (16-for-54) in 15 games at Triple-A since the break, with two doubles and three triples.