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MLB trade deadline: Ranking the 10 biggest deadline deals

29 teams shook up their major-league rosters via trade this July. Here are ten of the most impactful moves.

St Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

While this year’s MLB non-waiver trade deadline was top-heavy and less exciting than other deadlines in recent memory, it was packed with activity. Monday’s deadline featured 13 deals, 41 trades occurred from June 26 until the end of July, and 29 of the 30 teams made trades that impacted their 25-man major-league roster (with the Cardinals being the lone exception). Here are the 10 deadline trades that created the biggest shakeups this year:

10. Mets acquire RHP AJ Ramos from the Marlins for RHP Merandy Gonzalez and OF Ricardo Cespedes (July 28)

It’d take a miracle for the Mets to reach the playoffs this season, so this move seemed extremely odd when first announced. Upon further examination, however, it’s a trade that significantly boosts the Mets’ odds for 2018. With Jeurys Familia’s future uncertain due to blood clots in his throwing arm, Ramos provides the Mets with a proven closer who is under club control through the end of next season.

While the Mets could stand to boost their infield, their window is wide open to compete for World Series berths over the next few seasons, so it makes sense for them to have a strong bullpen. Ramos, a 2016 All-Star who has 92 saves over the past three seasons, helps them achieve that. It’s somewhat risky for them to move Gonzalez and Cespedes—two low-floor, high-ceiling A-ball prospects—within the division, but starting pitching and outfield depth are their two greatest organization areas of strength, so it was a move they could afford to make.

9. Cubs acquire LHP Justin Wilson and C Alex Avila from the Tigers for 3B/1B Jeimer Candelario, SS Isaac Paredes, and a player to be named later or cash (July 30)

Wilson, who earned the Tigers’ closer job in mid-May, and Avila, who’s enjoyed a career-best season while splitting time with James McCann, aren’t guys that are going to make a bad team good, but they could be the missing ingredients that help make an already-great Cubs team elite once again. Wilson will be a fine setup guy in front of Wade Davis and should help make the Cubs’ bullpen one of the best in the NL again. While Avila’s playing time may be more sparse than it was in Detroit, he’ll provide the depth behind Willson Contreras that the Cubs had been lacking since designating Miguel Montero for assignment in late June. His acquisition allows the Cubs to secure more minor-league development time for 23-year-old Victor Caratini, who has tons of offensive potential but was obviously raw behind the plate during his month-long stint as Contreras’ backup.

While Candelario was rated as a top-100 prospect and the best player in the Cubs’ system by MLB Pipeline, he was hopelessly blocked as a corner infielder behind Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. The more significant aspect of the deal is that the Cubs cashed in their last major trade chip by dealing him, meaning they’ll have to take advantage of the free agent market or start developing a new crop of premium prospects if they want to add elite talent over the next few seasons.

8. Nationals acquire LHP Sean Doolittle and RHP Ryan Madson from the Athletics for RHP Blake Treinen, LHP Jesus Luzardo, and 3B Sheldon Neuse (July 16)

The Nationals’ bullpen was in shambles entering the month of July, so any addition would’ve qualified as an upgrade. The Nationals chose to go big, acquiring two-time World Series champion Ryan Madson and former All-Star closer Sean Doolittle from the A’s in exchange for Blake Treinen—one of the many pitchers they had auditioned in the closer’s role this year—as well as two highly-regarded prospects in Luzardo and Neuse. Along with Brandon Kintzler, who was acquired from the Twins on deadline day, Madson and Doolittle complete the Nationals’ puzzle and give them a great chance to compete with the Dodgers and the other NL contenders for a spot in the World Series. As an added bonus, both will help provide stability to the Nats’ relief corps in future seasons; Madson is under contract through next season, while Doolittle is under club control next year with club options for 2019-20.

7. Royals acquire RHP Trevor Cahill, RHP Brandon Maurer, and LHP Ryan Buchter from the Padres for LHP Matt Strahm, LHP Travis Wood, INF Esteury Ruiz, and cash (July 24)

While none of Cahill, Maurer, and Buchter have exceptionally long histories of success, they all provide intrigue and should provide the finishing touches to an already-strong Royals pitching staff. Cahill was experiencing a renaissance while pitching on a one-year contract, posting a 3.69 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 11 starts for the Padres, and while he struggled in his first Royals start, he should solidify Kansas City’s rotation for the rest of the season. Buchter will team up with Scott Alexander and Mike Minor to form a trio of imposing lefties in the Royals’ bullpen, while Maurer is unscored upon in three outings with Kansas City and could finally be ready to achieve the potential that one would think he’d have considering his high-90s velocity and spectacular command. The fact that Royals GM Dayton Moore was able to acquire three useful pitchers for Strahm, a back-of-the-rotation starter who’s out for the season, and Ruiz, an 18-year-old in rookie ball, while also unloading the contract of Wood, who had a 6.91 ERA and 1.82 WHIP in the first season of a two-year, $12 million deal, qualifies as a major victory.

6. Rays acquire 1B Lucas Duda from the Rays for RHP Drew Smith (July 27)

Depending on what metrics you use to evaluate offensive talent, the Rays’ acquisition of Duda might not be that exciting, as he has a .250 average this year and has driven in just 64 runs over the past two seasons. But Duda has strong on-base skills, having posted a .354 OBP this season, and game-changing power, with 20 homers and a .557 slugging percentage. On a low-budget Rays team that wasn’t going to compete for hitters with multi-year contracts, Duda was the perfect middle-of-the-lineup bat they were looking for. With Duda and Logan Morrison splitting the first base and DH duties, Corey Dickerson can shift to the outfield and replace the departed Colby Rasmus, completing an imposing Rays lineup that should give them a fighting chance if they end up advancing to the playoffs.

5. Yankees acquire RHP David Robertson, RHP Tommy Kahnle, and 3B/1B Todd Frazier from the White Sox for RHP Tyler Clippard, OF Blake Rutherford, LHP Ian Clarkin, and OF Tito Polo (July 18)

The Yankees filled their biggest need at third base by acquiring Frazier, one of baseball’s most productive power hitters over the past four seasons, but perhaps more significantly, they assembled the American League’s most imposing bullpen for 2017 and beyond by acquiring Robertson (who’s under contract through 2018) and Kahnle (who’s club-controlled through 2020) to combine with Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman in the late innings. We’ve seen the last three AL pennant winners, the 2014-15 Royals and the 2016 Indians, reach the playoffs largely due to their strong bullpen depth, and the Yankees could be setting themselves up for a similar trip to the World Series.

The Yankees did have to give up one of their best prospects, Blake Rutherford, in order to complete the deal, but since they already have Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier in the majors with one of baseball’s best center field prospects, Estevan Florial, in the minors, they should be fine in future seasons without Rutherford.

4. Diamondbacks acquire J.D. Martinez from the Tigers for INF Dawel Lugo, INF Sergio Alcantara, and INF Jose King (July 18)

Like most other contenders, the Diamondbacks didn’t necessarily have a pressing need for a middle-of-the-lineup bat. But when they got the chance to acquire Martinez, one of baseball’s most underrated pure hitters who has posted a .293/.375/.638 slash line with 21 homers in 267 plate appearances this season, for three mid-level prospects, they understandably jumped at the opportunity. Martinez makes it more difficult for opponents to justify pitching around Paul Goldschmidt, and his acquisition puts the Diamondbacks’ lineup right up there with the Dodgers, Nationals, and Rockies in terms of being the best in the NL. Even though Martinez is a free agent after this season, the fact that Arizona was able to get him without parting with any of their best prospects is impressive.

3. Yankees acquire RHP Sonny Gray and international bonus money from the Athletics for OF Dustin Fowler, SS Jorge Mateo, and RHP James Kaprielian (July 31)

While his size, injury history, and inconsistent 2016 season provided some reason for concern, Gray was right up there with Jose Quintana as one of the best controllable starters on the market. Since he’s making just $3.575 million this season and still has two arbitration years remaining, he’ll come cheaper than Quintana, and he provides the Yankees with a much-needed front-of-the-rotation arm, both for the stretch run and the future. While Fowler, Mateo, and Kaprielian could very well all be above-average big-league contributors at some point, the fact that two of them (Fowler and Kaprielian) are on the mend from season-ending injuries yet were still treated with enough regard to fetch a former All-Star starter with postseason experience is surprising.

2. Cubs acquire LHP Jose Quintana from the White Sox for OF Eloy Jimenez, RHP Dylan Cease, INF Matt Rose, and INF Bryant Flete (July 13)

When this trade was made on the day after the All-Star Game, it rightly drew some skepticism, as the Cubs dealt one of baseball’s best hitting prospects in Jimenez and their best pitching prospect in Cease for Quintana, who had a 4.49 ERA and 1.32 WHIP at the time while making an unusual mid-career transition from ground-ball pitcher to strikeout wizard. But the 28-year-old lefty has bounced back to his 2016 All-Star form since the trade, posting a 2.37 ERA and 0.89 WHIP in three starts with the Cubs.

Even if Quintana hadn’t achieved success with the Cubs as he has thus far, though, the move would be a solid one, as he’s signed through next season and has club options for 2019-20, providing the Cubs with some cushion if they lose pending free agents John Lackey and Jake Arrieta this offseason. It was particularly necessary that the Cubs acquire a proven controllable starter since they don’t have much intriguing pitching depth in the upper minors, so while they had to ravage their farm system to do so, trading for Quintana was definitely in their best interest.

1. Dodgers acquire RHP Yu Darvish from the Rangers for 2B/OF Willie Calhoun, RHP A.J. Alexy, and SS Brendon Davis (July 31)

Sure, Yu Darvish is just a rental, and his 7.20 ERA in July provides cause for concern. But since he’s pitched like a legitimate ace for four-and-a-half of his five big-league seasons, it stands to reason that he’ll bounce back for the Dodgers. At the very least, Darvish should combine with Clayton Kershaw to provide L.A. with the one-two starter punch that has been elusive in every postseason in which Kershaw has competed. If Alex Wood continues to exceed expectations and Rich Hill stays healthy, the Dodgers could have an extremely imposing four-man rotation for the playoffs, one that would stack up nicely against that of the Nationals. Giving up Calhoun—who may have had more raw power than any player not named Cody Bellinger in the Dodgers organization—as well as two other top-30 prospects couldn’t have been easy for the Dodgers’ front office. With that said, Calhoun and Davis were likely going to be blocked in L.A. for the foreseeable future anyway, and it will all be worth it if Darvish can help propel them to their first World Series in 29 years.