The 2020 MLB trade deadline is unlike any other in the history of the sport. With an expanded playoff format and a truncated season, most teams believe they have a shot at the playoffs this year, and we all know anything can happen in the MLB postseason if you make it.
Teams also have had less time to determine if they’re buyers or sellers, and perhaps more financial concerns than ever before given the lack of fans in stadiums. While there was some speculation teams could be hesitant to add salary in the weeks leading up to the deadline, we saw several aggressive moves with headline talent changing teams that reinforces just how wide open the World Series chase will be this season.
The San Diego Padres are all-in. The Oakland A’s added reinforcements. Cleveland traded a stud pitcher even while in first place in their division. Here are the winners and losers from the 2020 trade deadline.
The San Diego Padres are the trade deadline’s biggest winner
It’s been 14 seasons since the San Diego Padres last made the MLB playoffs. Now armed with arguably the most exciting young core in baseball after a long rebuild, San Diego entered the trade deadline with the third best record in the National League. Most expected the Padres to look to bolster their roster, but no one could have predicted just how aggressive executive A.J. Preller would actually be.
The Padres are all-in on trying to make the World Series. San Diego picked up the single best player moved during the trade deadline in acquiring starting pitcher Mike Clevinger. They also acquired slugging catcher Austin Nola from the Seattle Mariners, first baseman Mitch Moreland from the Red Sox, and veteran catcher Jason Castro from the Angels.
The Padres gave up depth for Clevinger, their No. 5 prospect Taylor Trammell for Nola, and two quality prospects — outfielder Jeisson Rosario and infielder Hudson Potts — for Moreland. The best part of San Diego’s moves? Their farm system is still loaded:
Even after this trade the Padres still have 2nd best farm by fangraphs using their value system
— B-L-M/Life Long Pelicans fan (@advancedstats23) August 31, 2020
The Clevinger deal feels like the biggest winner for the Padres, getting a top of the rotation starter while preserving most of the best talent in their farm system. The prices were higher than expected for Nola and Moreland, but we’re still naming San Diego a winner simply because they’re going for it. The aggression has to be such a welcomed sight for a long-suffering fanbase that has never seen a World Series championship.
Seattle and Boston are also winners for their trades with San Diego
Two things can be true: the Padres deserve praise for trying to win the damn thing this season, and they also gave up some promising long-term prospects for short-term success. That should be perfectly fine with San Diego: part of having so many talented young players and splashy free agent additions like Manny Machado is that there simply isn’t room for everyone. The Mariners and the Red Sox are happy to take some youngsters off their hands.
The big piece going to Seattle is Trammell, a super fast left fielder with power potential. While his throwing arm is questionable and his slugging percentage has dropped a bit after failed swing adjustments as a Reds prospect, it’s still a nice upside bet for the Mariners in exchange for an odd ball catcher like Nola who only has 108 career games at the MLB level under his belt despite being 30 years old.
Kate Preusser has a tremendous look at Trammell over at our Mariners community, Lookout Landing. Seattle will hope the soon-to-be 23-year-old’s power reemerges and his speed adds excitement to the big league club.
reminder that Taylor Trammell’s last official at-bat of 2019 (and as a Padres prospect) was a go-ahead grand slam for the @sodpoodles in the top of the 9th inning of the Texas League championship game pic.twitter.com/FxLSlkNFKZ
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) August 31, 2020
Trammell is also Rule-5 eligible in Dec., so San Diego would have to make a decision on him soon either way. It feels like a good exchange for both teams.
The Red Sox also got a nice haul for Moreland with Potts and Rosario. Like Trammell, both prospects going to Boston will be Rule-5 eligible at the end of the season. Potts is a third baseman with major power potential who has issues making contact. Rosario knows how to walk and has plus-speed, but his upside will ultimately be determined by how his hit tool comes along.
Our Red Sox community Over the Monster has a terrific look at Potts and Rosario from writer Matt Collins. The site has Potts slotting in as Boston’s No. 10 prospect, and Rosario as the team’s No. 13 prospect. Not a bad haul for an aging first baseman like Moreland who was hitting over his head this season for a team that isn’t in contention.
The Indians probably didn’t get enough back for Clevinger
Clevinger is one of the better starting pitchers in the American League when he’s on. Of course, he also broke the trust of his team by forgoing Covid protocol to go party in Chicago.
Cleveland has plenty of quality starting pitchers and an amazing history of pitcher development. Even still, it feels like they sold low on Clevinger, getting depth from the Padres but no studs.
Gabriel Arias was Padres’ No. 7 prospect, lefty pitcher Joey Cantillo was their No. 9 prospect, and middle infielder Owen Miller was No. 11. Cleveland also got Josh Naylor, who they intend to play in the bigs the rest of the season. Read Let’s Go Tribe for a full breakdown on Naylor.
Perhaps it comes down to organizational philosophy in determining whether Cleveland is a winner or loser. The Tribe acquired several young players who project as regulars, but no stars. When trading a true top of the rotation arm like Clevinger, the preference here would be to get a stud in return. We’ll see how it works out for Cleveland.
The Oakland A’s are a winner for getting two 2019 All-Stars for little
The Oakland A’s feel like they’re primed for a World Series run this year. The A’s entered the deadline with the second best record in the American League, and bolstered the roster by adding a pair of players who were All-Stars just last season at minimal cost.
Tommy La Stella feels like a perfect fit for Oakland. The infielder is an impressive contact hitter with surprising power who has a rare ability to avoid strikeouts. Alex Hall at our A’s site Athletics Nation wrote up a nice summary of why La Stella could be such a good addition for Oakland despite being poor defensively:
There is nobody in the majors who strikes out less than La Stella. He’s fanned SEVEN times in 117 plate appearances, good for a 6% rate. Seeing a single-digit value in that K-rate looks like a typo, but in this case it’s not. And it’s not a short 2020 fluke, as his rate the previous summer was 8.7%. That’s 438 plate appearances worth of a skill that takes far fewer than that to normalize
Even better, when La Stella hits the ball he actually does something with it. His 2019 breakout season featured 16 homers in 80 games, and this summer he has a .202 isolated slugging percentage — that would rank fifth on the A’s, ahead of Mark Canha, Marcus Semien, Ramon Laureano, and Sean Murphy. La Stella isn’t just a slap hitter, he’s a guy who hits everything and drives it.
The A’s also acquired pitcher Mike Minor from the Texas Rangers on Monday. He fills Oakland’s big need for starting pitching help. Minor has been very good the last three seasons, and was excellent last year — 3.59 ERA, 208⅓ innings pitched, 200 strikeouts — as he was named an All-Star.
Minor has struggled this season, posting a 5.60 ERA thus far. Even still, the A’s didn’t appear to give up too much for Minor, who feels like a buy-low option with a high ceiling and gives the rotation something it needed badly: a starter who can actually strike out opposing batters. Read Athletics Nation for more on Minor.
The Blue Jays are making a playoff push by improving their rotation
Nothing comes easy in the AL East with the league-leading Tampa Bay Rays at the top of the division and the Yankees always lurking. But credit the Toronto Blue Jays for making aggressive moves to get into the wild card in the expanded playoff format. Toronto made several acquisitions with a focus on improving their pitching depth.
The Blue Jays’ starting rotation was shaky, especially after the injury bug hit multiple players in the last few weeks. Enter Taijuan Walker, a 28-year-old who only needs to be league-average to be a big boost to the rotation. Walker had a UCL tear and subsequent Tommy John surgery in 2018, but has looked solid this year even as his velocity has dropped. In five starts this season with the Mariners, Walker posted a 4.00 ERA. In his first start with the Blue Jays, Walker went six innings, allowed zero runs, and only four hits to beat the Orioles.
The Blue Jays also added starter Robbie Ray from the Diamondbacks on Monday. Ray has impressive strikeout stuff, but has struggled with control. So far he’s been rocked this year for a 7.84 ERA, but he’s still worth a gamble as a rental if Toronto can unlock something that once made him a dependable starter in 2017.
Right before the deadline, Toronto acquired 29-year-old infield Jonathan Villar from the Marlins. He’s hitting .272/.328/.360 in 29 games this season and gives Toronto a switch hitter and someone who can fill a utility role.
Toronto made one last buzzer-beater, acquiring Ross Stripling from the Dodgers.
Ross Stripling has been traded from the Dodgers to the Blue Jays. That’s three new starters for Toronto.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 31, 2020
The Marlins are buying and selling at once
The Miami Marlins were expected to be one of baseball’s worst teams this year. Instead, Miami got off to a red hot start before falling back to Earth lately. Even still, the Marlins entered the deadline just one game under .500. It feels shocking to see Miami as one of the most active teams at the deadline, both buying and selling to give the team a shot at the expanded wild card this year while also still building for the future.
The Marlins acquired Starling Marte for the Diamondbacks, who posted an .845 OPS with the Pirates last year and has posted similar numbers at the plate in 33 games with Arizona this season. Marte is also under a team option next year, giving Miami a solid bat for two seasons with cost control.
As for dealing Villar, Miami was trading from a position of strength:
The main reason why Villar was dealt, is that Isan Díaz has returned to the club. Awaiting MLB joint committee reinstatement in Jupiter. Will take over as starter at 2B. Díaz opted out in July. He is back.
— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) August 31, 2020
The Reds bolstering their bullpen is a win
The Cincinnati Reds are trying to get back in the wild card picture, and improved their bullpen depth by acquiring 28-year-old righty Archie Bradley from Arizona for utilityman Josh Van Meter and outfielder Stuart Fairchild.
Bradley had 18 saves and a 3.52 ERA last season with the Diamondbacks. As Arizona has gotten off to a terrible start this season, Bradley has seen his numbers take a hit (4.22 ERA) but still has a pedigree as a successful bridge arm in the bullpen.
Fairchild is a former second round pick who has talent, but the Reds have better outfield prospects. Cincinnati is currently two games out of a wild card spot.
The Reds also landed Brian Goodwin from the Angels. Goodwin is hitting .242/.330/.463/.793 with four homers and 17 RBI and can play all over the outfield. Both Bradley and Goodwin are solid additions.
The Rangers feel like a loser for holding onto Lance Lynn
Veteran righty Lance Lynn was widely speculated to be one of the best available arms on the trade market coming into the deadline. Despite being the third worst team in the American League at 12-21 overall and numerous teams needing pitching help, Texas decided to hold onto Lynn.
The Rangers might feel like they can compete in 2021 with Lynn under contract next year. Perhaps they think he’ll be more valuable during the offseason or next year’s deadline. They should also get a comp draft pick for Lynn when he hits free agency in the winter of 2021, so ultimately it comes down to whether or not Texas thought it could get more later. Texas was reportedly asking for a big package.
Dodgers, Yankees and White Sox were among teams interested in Lance Lynn but all thought the price was too high
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) August 31, 2020
Lynn finished 5th in Cy Young last year, and has quietly been one of the better innings eaters in baseball the last two years. He would have helped a lot of teams.
You’d think they’d have learned their lesson about holding hot starting pitchers too long after what happened with Minor, as he went from being a hot commodity as recently as last winter to a cheap rental this summer.
The Yankees and Rays feel like losers
The Rays and Yankees are two of the best teams in the American League, but each could have done more to bolster their roster the way Oakland did.
The Rays entered the deadline at 24-11 as winners of five straight, so it makes sense that they thought they could compete for a championship as currently constructed. Even still, Tampa Bay has loads of depth in the minors and could have used a starting pitcher, a corner bat, or a catcher to gear up for the postseason. They chose to stay quiet instead.
The Yankees have been hit with an onslaught of injuries lately, and will see a boost when some of their regulars return. But New York was rumored to add pitching depth in the lead up to the deadline, and it’s a bit disappointing they didn’t make an impact move.