Now that the 2018 MLB Trade Deadline has passed, we’re taking a look back at what each team in each division was able to accomplish (or not accomplish) before 4 p.m. ET on July 31. We continue our series with the clubs in the National League West.
While the Diamondbacks’ wheeling and dealing at the deadline may not have been as flashy as the Dodgers’, their July moves may be more beneficial down the stretch than Los Angeles’ will be. They kicked off trading season in earnest on June 6, acquiring outfielder Jon Jay from the Royals for pitching prospects Elvis Luciano (who was ranked as the club’s No. 26 prospect by MLB Pipeline) and Gabe Speier. Jay did a solid job of filling in while A.J. Pollock and Steven Souza Jr. were on the DL and has continued to provide versatility off the bench after their returns.
They made their biggest splash on July 27, acquiring third baseman Eduardo Escobar, who had an .852 OPS and a majors-leading 37 doubles with the Twins, for a trio of prospects that included outfielder Gabriel Maciel and Ernie De La Trinidad as well as right-handed pitcher Jhoan Duran. Escobar has continued to thrive in Arizona, posting a .779 OPS with five doubles and two homers through 62 plate appearances, and the move has turned out to be more necessary than the D-Backs ever could have envisioned now that incumbent third baseman Jake Lamb has gone down for the season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. Giving up two top-30 prospects in Maciel and Duran (albeit in a weak system) for just over two months of Escobar is certainly a bold move, and one that could hurt them long-term if they don’t make the playoffs. But with Zack Greinke aging, Pollock and Patrick Corbin free agents after this year and Paul Goldschmidt set to hit free agency following the 2019 season, it was necessary for a team that is very good right now but has a limited competitive window.
Though Arizona’s bullpen had been very effective all season — it still has a 3.14 ERA that ranks first in the National League — GM Mike Hazen recognized that it was running on fumes thanks to the lack of consistency from the back of the rotation, and he added significant reinforcements in late July. Over a one-week period, he acquired swingman Matt Andriese from the Rays, sidewinder (and former D-Backs closer) Brad Ziegler from the Marlins, and lefty Jake Diekman from the Rangers, parting ways with prospects Michael Perez, Brian Shaffer, Wei-Chieh Huang, Tommy Eveld, and a player to be named later in the process. While those are a lot of mid-level prospects to give up from a system that already wasn’t very deep, the moves gave them the opportunity to part ways with a couple of veterans, Randall Delgado and Jorge de la Rosa, who had been ineffective this year, while stashing Silvino Bracho — who has been very effective but has been yo-yoed because he has options — in Triple-A for the time being. The Diamondbacks gave up quite a bit of prospect capital in a bid to get better at the major-league level, and that’s somewhat risky, but it’s also what good teams do to become great, and if they even manage to win their first playoff series since 2007, it’ll all be worth it.
After the Rockies spent over $100 million to upgrade their bullpen prior to this season, it would’ve been reasonable to think they’d focus their deadline efforts on adding another veteran bat to their lineup or a front-of-the-rotation starter to their rotation. But with their high-priced veteran relievers largely struggling to put it together — and the bullpen combining for an ERA over 5.00 — the Rockies’ only trade ended up being one that brought right-handed reliever Seunghwan Oh to Colorado in exchange for slugging first base prospect Chad Spanberger, a sixth-round pick out of Arkansas in 2017, and Forrest Wall, a middle infielder who was taken in the first round by Colorado in 2014 but hasn’t really broken out over five minor-league seasons. Oh, who has posted a 2.08 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over nine appearances with the Rockies, has stabilized the bullpen a bit, but he certainly doesn’t seem to push them over the top as a World Series contender — or even a legitimate playoff contender, for that matter — and it feels as if they should’ve been more active with D.J. LeMahieu a free agent this winter, Nolan Arenado’s contract expiring after next season, and Charlie Blackmon seemingly headed towards his decline stage.
The Dodgers certainly had the loudest trade deadline of any NL West team — and arguably any club in baseball — but it remains to be seen if their midsummer moves will be enough to save a team that is running on fumes following their trip to the World Series last year and the quiet offseason that followed. They first forayed into the trade market on July 4, acquiring Dylan Floro — an unheralded 27-year-old reliever having a breakout season with the Reds — along with minor-league right-hander Zach Neal in exchange for two low-level pitching prospects (James Marinan and Aneurys Zabala). This was a smart and necessary move to replenish a bullpen that had virtually no reliable depth following a relatively inactive offseason and a preseason injury to free-agent addition and potential setup man Tom Koehler.
They made their biggest splash on July 18, acquiring four-time All-Star Manny Machado from the Orioles for a five-player package headlined by outfielder Yusniel Diaz, who is ranked as the No. 56 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline and was the only prospect in the deal ranked within the top 100. Giving up five prospects for a two-and-a-half-month rental — especially from a farm system that’s already been picked apart quite a bit recently — is a bold move, but if the Dodgers think that Machado is the missing piece on a team that’s trying to end a 29-year World Championship drought, it’s hard to fault them for going for it. With Corey Seager out for the season, it was necessary for them to plug the hole at shortstop.
The bigger issue is that the Dodgers didn’t do a very good job of improving in areas of weakness that should’ve been easier to fix. With a bullpen that lacked proven and reliable options beyond closer Kenley Jansen and Scott Alexander, their only move to upgrade their relief corps aside from the acquisition of Floro was a trade for veteran righty John Axford, who spent the second half of 2017 out of baseball and had posted a 4.41 ERA over 51 innings with the Blue Jays after making the team as a non-roster invitee in spring training. Axford gave up six runs in 3.1 innings before going on the DL with a fractured fibula. Meanwhile, they didn’t do anything to improve a wobbly rotation that has seen all of its members spent time on the disabled list this season.
Instead, for their final deadline move, the Dodgers added to a crowded middle-infield mix, aquiring second baseman and pending free agent Brian Dozier from the Twins for Logan Forsythe, Double-A first baseman/outfielder Luke Raley (who was ranked as their No. 19 prospect by MLB Pipeline), and Double-A left-hander Devin Smeltzer. While Dozier essentially traded places with Forsythe, he further complicated an infield mix that usually features Justin Turner at third, Machado at short, and Chris Taylor, Kiké Hernandez, Max Muncy, and Chase Utley as potential fill-in options at those positions. After struggling mightily in Minnesota (he had a 92 OPS+, which was on pace to be his worst since 2013), Dozier has been a major shot in the arm for the Dodgers’ offense, but his presence hasn’t resulted in much team success, as they are 5-8 since his arrival.
Ultimately it’s hard to fault the Dodgers too much for their deadline moves, as they brought in an All-Star middle infield, an emerging reliever who was having a breakout season, and a veteran bullpen arm who has had plenty of success in the past. The real problem is that they didn’t accumulate enough depth during the offseason to protect against the inevitable wave of injuries and fatigue that follows a long postseason run.
The Padres signaled that they believed they were perhaps a bit closer to being competitive again than most fans thought this offseason, as they signed the top position-player free agent on the market — 28-year-old first baseman Eric Hosmer — to a eight-year, $144 million deal while also giving 28-year-old closer Brad Hand a three-year, $19.75 million extension. After taking a step up the ladder back to relevance over the offseason, though, they took a step back down on July 19, trading Hand and sidearming rookie reliever Adam Cimber — who had posted a 3.17 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over 42 appearances for San Diego — to the Indians for 22-year-old catching prospect Francisco Mejia, who came into the year as one of the highest-ranked prospects in baseball but has had a rather unimpressive first season at the Triple-A level. That’s not to mention that Mejia doesn’t fit clearly into the Padres’ future plans, as 25-year-old Austin Hedges is performing well both offensively and defensively and doesn’t seem like a guy that’s going to have to be replaced soon. Of course, they could always deal Mejia to address another area of need, but if that’s the plan it makes you wonder why they didn’t just hang onto Hand until they were offered a more substantial return. The move wasn’t necessarily a bad one, but it’s just a bit confusing for a rebuilding team that seems conflicted on whether to press down on the gas pedal or stay in neutral for a while. Sure, relievers are volatile, and it’s easy to justify trading a couple of them for one of the top position-player prospects in the game if you have sufficent pitching depth. But Hand and Cimber really seemed like guys that could help the next good Padres team, and it’s not apparent what role Mejia will have on that club.
As if San Diego’s pre-deadline teardown wasn’t enough, they’ve accelerated their renewed youth movement even further during August, letting right-handers Tyson Ross and Jordan Lyles go on waivers to the Cardinals and Brewers, respectively, while designating veteran right-hander Phil Hughes for assignment.
Though the Giants made a cost-cutting (and near-useless-veteran-cutting) move by dealing reliever Cory Gearrin and outfielder Austin Jackson, along with pitching prospect Jason Bahr, to the Rangers for a player to be named later or cash on July 8, they were otherwise inactive during trade season. That was only a mild surprise for a team that was a reasonable 5.0 games out of the division lead in a winnable NL West (and 4.5 games out of the second NL Wild Card spot) on July 31. It’d now take a near-miracle for them to claw their way into the playoff picture, though, so they could still be active before the waiver trade deadline and move a pending free agent like Andrew McCutchen or Nick Hundley. Reliever Sam Dyson, who is making $4.425 million this season and will get raises in each of the next two seasons before hitting free agency following the 2020 campaign, could also be a waiver trade candidate. While dealing any of those players would be painful, as all of them have been effective this year and are by all accounts good clubhouse guys, it’s probably a necessary evil for a Giants club that is pressing up against the competitive-balance tax threshold (and has made a very conscious effort to stay under it all year). As they go through a transitional period, the Giants need to evaluate young players in September, and they might not be able to afford to call guys like Chris Shaw and Shaun Anderson up without either trading a veteran or going over the CBT.