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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Winners and losers in the busy baseball trade market

Yankees starting pitcher J.A. Happ  against the

Yankees starting pitcher J.A. Happ  against the Royals on Sunday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

BOSTON — Within a week of Tuesday’s nonwaiver trade deadline, the Yankees’ biggest rotation upgrade already was on the disabled list, as J.A. Happ was forced to sit out this AL East showdown at Fenway Park due to hand, foot and mouth disease.

The affliction is rare among adults, so we spent more time on the Mayo Clinic’s website than FanGraphs for the most up-to-date scouting reports on Happ, who was acquired for his success against the Red Sox and yet was home watching on TV this weekend. Point is, trades are very much an inexact science, and for all the analytics, teams have to rely on their best guesses in pulling the trigger by the end of July.

There’s no way Brian Cashman could have seen the coxsackievirus coming. Fortunately, it’s a short-term virus, and Happ should be as good as new in a few more days. The Rays also experienced a spot-deadline setback when they lost new acquisition Tommy Pham to a fractured foot (after only eight plate appearances) and the Red Sox had Ian Kinsler suffer a hamstring strain in Friday’s win over the Yankees.

As for some of the other post-deadline deadline wrinkles, the Reds were never able to move Matt Harvey — condemning the Dark Knight to finish the season pitching in the Queen City — and his former Mets’ rotation-mates all stayed put in Flushing, which was a bit of surprise for the likes of Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz.

Overall, there were 65 trades between June and July, the most since MLB went to 30 teams in 1998. Monday alone had 18 deals, tied for the busiest day with 2016 as the most since 1995. Now that the dust has cleared, we have a list of this year’s winners and losers, which also contains plenty of Gray area — and not just because the Yankees chose to remain stuck with struggling Sonny.


DODGERS. Combine money to burn with one of the sport’s deepest farm systems and you get a franchise that pretty much adds whoever it pleases this time of year. This season, the Dodgers netted the top prize in Manny Machado, who was batting .268 (15-for-56) with two homers and an .817 OPS through his first 14 games, then traded for more infield help in grabbing Brian Dozier from the Twins. Despite a sub-par season, the change of scenery is working for Dozier, who had homered twice in his first two games.

PIRATES. On the surface, basically swapping Gerritt Cole — who they traded to the Astros over the winter — for Chris Archer doesn’t feel like a win for the Pirates. But  this is nearly seven months later, so we’ll give Pittsburgh credit for grabbing the affordable Archer, who is under team control through 2021 at a cost of roughly $27 million. The Pirates have some serious chasing to do for a playoff spot, so adding former Rangers closer Keone Kela was as much for the future (also not a FA until ’21) as for these next two months.

 NATIONALS. It’s not that GM Mike Rizzo made any significant upgrades during this deadline  like he had in the past. But Rizzo made the winning half of this list for finally grabbing the reins of his dysfunctional club, which has been baseball’s most underachieving team this year. First, he ended the speculation early on the morning of July 31 by saying Bryce Harper would remain in DC for the rest of this season, then chose to keep the whole roster together for a final push — with the exception of reliever Brandon Kintzler, who he traded to the Cubs, reportedly because he was suspected of leaking info to the media. There’s some dispute over what Kintzler actually did, but the Nats did win three straight right after the deal.

 RED SOX. Ok, so GM Dave Dombrowski didn’t get the bullpen help that the Red Sox supposedly need in a market flush with relievers. Then again, Boston was 77-34 through Friday, rarely loses, and seems to be managing just fine with the relief crew they have so far. Plus, the Red Sox were able to secure cheap rotation help in Nathan Eovaldi — seven scoreless in his debut — and solidified second base by acquiring Kinsler. Again, not bad for the team that apparently has everything working right now.

YANKEES. Brian Cashman was unable to get an ace-caliber upgrade for his rotation, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. The GM was unlucky that the Mets had all the top starters this year, making it just about impossible to trade for one. Instead, the Yankees acquired a top reliever in Zach Britton to strengthen a great bullpen, and added rotation help in Happ and Lance Lynn. The latter seemed excessive at first, but three days later he replaced the demoted Sonny Gray. Cashman also gets extra credit in trading for $3.75 million in international bonus pool cash, which he immediately turned into a pair of top 10 prospects in righthander Osiel Rodriguez and shortstop Alexander Vargas.

 ORIOLES. There were no half-measures in Baltimore, where EVP Dan Duquette gutted the franchise, trading six of the O’s foundation guys for 15 players — including 13 prospects — while dumping $30 million in payroll and adding $8 million in international bonus pool money, according to the Baltimore Sun. That’s a busy deadline. “It’s a lot like building a house,” Duquette said. “I think it’s easier to demolish the house and build a good foundation from the ground up rather than renovating it one room at a time.” Few teams have the fortitude to pull that off.


 METS. While it’s true the Mets did make two trades in moving Jeurys Familia to the A’s and Asdrubal Cabrera to the Phillies, they wound up on the bottom half of this list because of the expectations they fueled in the weeks leading up to the deadline. Familia and Cabrera, as pending free agents, were easy to trade. No long-term decisions there. But after Sandy Alderson stepped down, the Mets had us believe they would be considering “outside the box” moves at this deadline, as well as potentially dealing a starting pitcher or two. None of that came to pass, however. The GM triumvirate dumped every cent of those contracts and chose to wait until the offseason to figure out what to do with the rotation value — presumably when someone else is in charge.   

ASTROS. The defending champs needed bullpen help, and with plenty available, took the only one serving a 75-game domestic-violence suspension: the Blue Jays’ Roberto Osuna. Others have made similar moves, including the Yankees with Aroldis Chapman. But GM Jeff Luhnow looked much worse for sending out mixed messages, among them claiming the Astros had a zero-tolerance for domestic abusers while still bending the rules enough for the addition of Osuna, who will be eligible for the postseason — unlike PED offenders such as Robinson Cano. 

BREWERS. What the Brewers needed most was another starting pitcher, and they were linked with all the potential candidates, including the Mets’ rotation members. But GM David Stearns didn’t wind up with any of them, and instead pivoted to adding even more offense in trades for Mike Moustakas and Jonathan Schoop. While those certainly are decent bats, Stearns now has to hope a serviceable arm gets through waivers this month.

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