In the week leading up to Monday’s Trade Deadline, one executive after another made the same prediction, echoing a sentiment that was nearly universal around the league:
The Padres are going to make a lot of noise.
Words like “aggressive,” “active” and “relentless” were used to describe San Diego’s approach to the Deadline. When all was said and done, general manager A.J. Preller didn’t disappoint.
A total of 26 players were involved in the Padres’ six trades, none bigger than the nine-player deal that brought right-hander Mike Clevinger to San Diego. Seven of those players were on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Prospects list for the club, and while three of those players were in their Top 10, the Padres were able to keep their five highest-ranked prospects.
“San Diego gave up a massive amount of future value for some potentially marginal short-term gains,” a National League executive said. “Kudos to them for having the farm system that made it possible.”
Some of the acquisitions are more than rentals, of course. Trevor Rosenthal and Jason Castro will be free agents at the end of the season, but Mitch Moreland is under control through 2021, Clevinger through 2022, Austin Adams through 2024, and Austin Nola through 2025.
“Twenty-six players!” another NL exec said when asked what stood out most from the past few days. “That’s pretty amazing.”
The executive liked the Padres’ moves as a whole, calling San Diego a “really good” team. The only concerns, he said, were the impact inside the clubhouse and the unusual decision to add two catchers (Nola, Castro) this late in the season.
“I do worry about messing with the chemistry of a team that really seemed to be having fun and enjoying playing together,” the executive said. “Adding a whole new catching tandem is going to be a challenge for them, as well; they have to get to know an entire staff really quickly.”
Did Preller’s memorable Deadline shopping spree put the Padres in position to make a deep run in October?
“With every team having to play a three-game series to start the playoffs, anyone can advance,” another NL executive said.
Executives were torn on the D-backs’ decision to sell big on Monday, which resulted in the trade of Starling Marte to the Marlins, Archie Bradley to the Reds, Robbie Ray to the Blue Jays and Andrew Chafin to the Cubs for a total haul of seven players.
“Maybe the biggest surprise was watching all of the guys come off the board in Arizona,” an NL executive said. “I didn’t see them moving all of those guys.”
Less than two weeks ago, the D-backs were 13-11, good for the fifth-best record in the NL. A 1-10 skid left them at 14-21 at the Trade Deadline, so while Arizona was just 2 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, GM Mike Hazen decided to collect pieces for the future despite having Marte and Bradley under control for another year.
“It’s been a tough couple weeks for them, which is like a tough month and a half in regular baseball time,” an NL executive said.
“They were the anti-Padres,” a second NL exec said. “It was similar to Cleveland; they acquired a lot of decent pieces. Whether any of them become regulars or two- to three-win players is an open question. It was likely the right strategy for a club with limited financial resources. They need to fill as many Major League holes as cheaply as possible over the next few years.”
One of Monday’s biggest surprises was the Rangers’ decision not to trade Lance Lynn, who had plenty of suitors but remained in Texas as the Deadline passed.
“I think the Rangers missed an opportunity to capitalize on Lynn’s value,” an NL talent evaluator said. “It will likely never be higher than it was today.”
Lynn, who had a 1.93 ERA over an MLB-high 51 1/3 innings entering Monday’s games, is under control through next season. With an $8 million salary for 2021, the right-hander could be shopped this offseason, but given the number of contenders in need of rotation help, most around the industry considered it a fait accompli that he would be traded by Monday.
“Texas was asking a boatload for him — and rightly so, given his cost and impact,” an NL executive said. “But I was surprised [that he wasn’t dealt]. I’d guess he’ll be a pretty hot topic of conversation this winter.”
Another pitcher many expected would be traded Monday was Kevin Gausman of the Giants, but San Francisco — which entered the day just a half-game out of the final NL Wild Card spot — opted to stand pat, making just one minor deal with the Rays to acquire left-hander Anthony Banda.
“They told us they weren’t moving Gausman unless someone made them move him,” the NL exec said of the 17-19 Giants. “They are giving it a run. That’s how this weird season is impacting everyone. It’s so bizarre.”
Business as usual?
Teams combined to make 32 trades between Aug. 21-31, with 17 of those coming down on Monday. Given that many around the league were predicting a slow trade market, things seemed as frenetic as ever when 4 p.m. ET arrived.
“It was more active than I thought it would be, considering the shortened season,” an American League executive said. “You can tell who is really looking to try to win this.”
“It appears that the Deadline may have been more reflective of normal than anything that we have experienced this season,” another AL exec added.
An NL executive said Monday felt “pretty ordinary” for a Trade Deadline.
“Lots of buyers, not a ton of sellers,” the exec said. “Some big trades, but not as many as were rumored. A lot of teams got reasonably priced guys to shore up weak spots or depth.”
There were certainly some unorthodox aspects to the trade season. With 14 NL teams sitting within 2 1/2 games of a playoff spot as of Monday morning, some seemed undecided whether they should be buying, selling or standing pat.
“The compressed season played into teams defining themselves as buyers or sellers over the past week,” an NL exec said. “It felt almost game-by-game at times, when most of us try to avoid making decisions that way.”
Although the Padres went all-in to upgrade their roster, a number of clubs determined that the shortened season made it more difficult for trade acquisitions to make a major impact.
“It’s hard to get significantly better with a one-month Trade Deadline,” a third NL executive said. “If you get a 4 WAR player and have him replace a 1 WAR player, you added a half-win the last month. Whether we win or lose tonight’s game is more important than anyone we could add.”
Several contenders were “surprisingly quiet,” one NL exec said. The Rays, White Sox, Braves and Dodgers — all first-place teams — made minimal moves, while the Twins and Astros joined the Yankees on the sidelines.
“The prices were high for meaningful impact,” the third exec said.
Despite Monday’s flurry of activity, another NL exec noted the bizarre nature of a Deadline without the benefit of a customary packed war room.
“What a strange day it was, at times trying to get in touch with people that are not in the room,” he said. “I definitely miss the scouts and other staff being around just to talk baseball in the week leading up to the Deadline.”
Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.