There’s an awful lot that goes into ‘winning’ the trade deadline. Some teams are striving for long-term success, looking for controllable assets that may help them in future years. Others are in a complete rebuild, re-stocking the farm system as best as they can during a time in which prices run eschew. Teams like the Yankees and Brewers likely come to mind. And who is to say those teams didn’t necessarily win their versions of the trade deadline?
However, an alternative way to look at who won the deadline is by simply looking at which teams increased their chances at a postseason spot the most.
To do this, we’ll take a look at the Steamer rest-of-season Wins Above Replacement projections of everyone that moved at the deadline. Then, look at the projected win totals of every player a team lost and every player a team gained. With that, you have a pretty good estimate of how many wins the team is expected to win extra for the remainder of the year based on their trade deadline moves.
First though, some caveats. This method does not take into account who the acquired player is replacing. For instance, Josh Reddick replacing Yasiel Puig would likely have less of a WAR impact than Jonathan Lucroy replacing Robinson Chirinos.
Also keep in mind that these are current rest-of-season projections and do not take into account the WAR projection from before the deadline if the player was acquired earlier. Since we are working with all July trades as well, that means a player like Drew Pomeranz—who should hypothetically contribute more to the Red Sox by virtue of being acquired earlier—is still only projected from this point forward. In Pomeranz’s case though, this omits just -0.1 WAR from the calculation.
Here are the five teams that added to their win totals for this season the most:
The Rangers appearing on the top of this list should surprise no one. Not only did they add some key pieces at the deadline, they gave up prospects projected to make little-to-no impact for the remainder of this season.
Jonathan Lucroy is the single most influential token moved during this season’s deadline, projected to be worth 1.1 WAR over the last two months of the season. According to PECOTA—Baseball Prospectus’ projection system which implements catcher framing metrics—that should be closer to 1.6 wins.
Carlos Beltran was their second-most important addition, projected to be worth 0.3 WAR for the rest of the season. The 39-year old Beltran is on a torrid pace so far this year and that seems a tad pessimistic. Pro-rated over the remainder of the season, what Beltran had already contributed would translate into an additional 1.1 wins. While we shouldn’t expect Beltran to keep that pace up either, something in between would be a realistic expectation for the veteran.
In total, the Rangers added 1.6 wins to their roster by Steamer’s estimations. That translates to a 95- or 96-win season, which would be enough for another shot at the Fall Classic.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers were just narrowly edged out of first, totalling just 0.1 win less than the Rangers by their deadline moves.
By making a blockbuster move to acquire Josh Reddick and Rich Hill, the Dodgers added 1.7 projected wins to their roster. Add in Bud Norris and Jesse Chavez and you’ve got a full 2.1 wins added this deadline.
I know what you’re thinking: 2.1 wins is more than the Rangers’ 1.6. Unlike the Rangers though, the Dodgers didn’t deal only from prospects. With the loss of Jharel Cotton and Mike Bolsinger, the Dodgers lost 0.6 projected wins. Amazingly, Cotton—who has never made a major league appearance—is projected by Steamer to be worth half a win for the remainder of the season. That likely has a lot to do with his move to the Athletics, but it seems overly optimistic and would still need to involve him playing in the majors.
With these moves, the Dodgers are looking at a 92-win season. Considering that the trade of Cotton probably doesn’t hurt the Dodgers as much as it helps the Athletics, a higher win total could be well within reach.
Boston Red Sox
Dave Dombrowski got an early start to his trade deadline and made some relatively impactful moves.
Most notably, Pomeranz was added from the Padres just after the All-Star game. While his debut has been less-than-impressive in Boston, the remainder of the season should be near-dominant according to Steamer. Pomeranz is expected to contribute nearly a full win to the Red Sox cause by himself. While that may seem optimistic for Pomeranz, the 27-year old lefty is entering what should be his prime years, something Steamer is somewhat attached to.
Meanwhile, the additions of Aaron Hill, Brad Ziegler, and Fernando Abad combine to contribute 0.4 wins of projected value to the Red Sox’s roster. With Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara currently on the disabled list, one would expect Ziegler’s and Abad’s contributions to be more significant than that though.
In all, 1.3 wins added to their current winning percentage would turn into roughly a 91-win season. We’re in for a tight race in the AL East.
The last of the teams that added at least one win, the Indians did it by adding just two players.
Despite their attempts to add a third, the Indians acquired Andrew Miller and Brandon Guyer this deadline. By himself, Miller is projected to contribute 0.7 WAR by Steamer—an extremely impressive total for a relief pitcher. He has already been worth 1.8 WAR this season, posting a 2.06 FIP and a 1.49 DRA. In short, he has been nothing short of spectacular.
Perhaps most amazing then is that Steamer projects Guyer to be worth 0.4 WAR. To put that into perspective, remember that Beltran is projected for 0.3. While Guyer doesn’t have a full-time job on lock, the Indians’ need for a fourth outfielder was pretty dire, and this will help give Tyler Naquin days off against lefties at least.
While the Indians—like the Rangers—gave up a substantial amount of prospects that may hurt them in future seasons, they’ve only helped their chances this season. With an extra win, the Indians could end up with a 94-win season and their first pennant since 1997.
Toronto Blue Jays
Squeaking in just under the one-win-added threshold, the Blue Jays added 0.8 of a win almost completely on August 1st.
The acquisitions of Francisco Liriano, Scott Feldman, and Mike Bolsinger all came in the fleeting moments of the trade deadline. Those moves alone contributed 0.9 wins to the Blue Jays’ cause according to Steamer. Add in the earlier acquisitions of Joaquin Benoit and Melvin Upton Jr., and the Jays are up to 1.1 wins added.
Unfortunately though, the Blue Jays traded away rostered assets. Unlike the three teams above who all dealt away players Steamer believes will not be worth anything for the remainder of this season, the Blue Jays shipped off both Jesse Chavez and Drew Storen who should combine for 0.3 wins of value over the remainder of the season according to Steamer.
Part of it might be that the Jays don’t have the prospect depth of the previous teams, however, they’re also in a slightly different stage of development from the other teams. While adding to their playoff chances seemed to be on the agenda, so too was adding to their prospect depth for longer-term success. The Blue Jays could lose franchise cornerstones in Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista this offseason.
With 0.8 wins added, the Blue Jays look to be at around a 92-win pace. Between the Red Sox and Orioles, the AL East race could need a higher win total than that to clinch.
Chicago Cubs/San Francisco Giants
Thats right, there’s a tie for fifth so you get some bonus coverage. The Cubs and the Giants all made major moves prior to the deadline that—in different ways—contributed 0.7 wins by rest of season projections.
First, the Cubs added elite closer Aroldis Chapman along with Mike Montgomery and Joe Smith. While those acquisitions add one win of value, the loss of Adam Warren and Dan Vogelbach set them back 0.3 wins. At their current pace and with these moves considered, a 101-win season is well within reach.
Next, the Giants’ major addition was Matt Moore. Combined with Eduardo Nunez and Will Smith, the Giants added 1.5 projected wins. Those wins come at the expense though of Matt Duffy and Andrew Susac, who combine for 0.8 wins. All told, the Giants appear to be a 94- to 95-win team thanks in part to their deadline additions.
All six teams likely expect postseason berths this fall; especially after making these extra additions to their roster. Whether all of these teams occupy one of those coveted spots is yet to be decided. However, according to projections, these teams added the most potential wins on the path to the postseason thanks to trade deadline acquisitions.