Successful acquisitions, or disappointing pickups?
It’s been three weeks since the MLB trade deadline, which is just enough time for us to assess how some of the deals have fared for teams making a push for the playoffs. Now, you might think three weeks is a small sample size to really evaluate whether these trades have worked out. But, that’s the entire point of the trade deadline for buyers. Front offices hand-picked players they believed would make immediate, positive impacts in the clubhouse and in the win column.
Without further ado, let’s check in on a few playoff hopefuls — including aspiring contenders and an ill-fated roster.
Talk about winning the trade deadline. The Rangers added Max Scherzer, Aroldis Chapman, Jordan Montgomery, Austin Hedges and Chris Stratton by Aug. 1. It was an aggressive strategy that filled roster holes while avoiding giving too much, away. Three weeks ago, the Rangers were obvious winners for this approach. Let’s see how those deals have fared.
Scherzer is 3-1 with a 2.66 ERA in 23.2 innings and four starts since joining Texas’ rotation. Most surprisingly, he’s allowed only one home run in that span after struggling with the long ball during his Mets tenure. Montgomery has been even better. The southpaw has a 1.73 ERA in 26 innings and four starts for Texas. He’s also striking out batters at a higher clip than he did in St. Louis, while cutting his walk rate in half. Chapman, the top reliever on the market, has a 2.00 ERA, one save, one win and two blown saves in 17 relief appearances since becoming a Ranger.
In the three weeks since adding those arms, Texas peaked as high as 3.5 games above the Astros for first place in the AL West. But a six-game losing streak now has the Rangers in the same spot (half-game lead) as they were on Aug. 1. The white-hot Mariners and defending champion Astros, though showing some vulnerabilities, will make this division race a close call until the final day of the regular season. But this has always been about more than first place for the Rangers. They have a real shot at winning their first World Series title, and so far their acquisitions have shown they can succeed in Texas. Their pedigrees will be that much more important come October, but these past three weeks have shown that the Rangers still won the deadline.
Arte Moreno’s Angels shut down all the guesswork early. For weeks, we wondered whether this club would broker perhaps the largest prospect haul this sport has ever seen, or support what might be Shohei Ohtani’s final season in Anaheim by making upgrades. Moreno chose the latter when he parted ways with two of his top three prospects for right-hander Lucas Giolito, who had a 3.79 ERA in 21 starts for the White Sox this season. Los Angeles also added first baseman CJ Cron, outfielder Randal Grichuk and right-hander Reynaldo López.
Well, it simply hasn’t worked out.
Giolito owns a — shield your eyes — 6.67 ERA in 27 innings and five starts for the Angels. Yes, he’s faced some of baseball’s top offenses in that span — Toronto, Atlanta, Texas and Cincinnati, to name a few. But those are the types of teams he’d face in the playoffs, that promised land where the Angels are trying and failing to reach. To place the entirety of L.A.’s demise on Giolito would be inaccurate and unfair. Mike Trout returned Tuesday after being sidelined for 38 games. Cron and Grichuk are hitting .217 and .169, respectively, since joining the Angels. This is only the scratching the surface with a club that has lost 14 of its past 19 games and now sits 10 games back of the final AL wild-card spot.
Give credit to the Angels for putting everything they have in 2023. Alas, they’ve essentially hemorrhaged their future in the process. The thought of Ohtani wearing a Halos uniform while both he and Trout played in the postseason would have been all kinds of fitting, thrilling and long overdue. Instead, their trade deals were duds, the team has unraveled, and the organization’s future is bleak and uncertain. Ohtani is likely to join a contender this offseason following a captivating free agency, bringing him that much closer to his first MLB playoff experience. Trout, on the other hand, could be waiting years before his Angels are back in contention.
Unlike the Rangers and Angels, the Phillies didn’t go for a trade-deadline haul and only made one big move to address their need for starting pitching by acquiring right-hander Michael Lorenzen from the White Sox. It was a mildly active deadline for president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. He couldn’t have wished for a better pickup when Lorenzen threw a no-hitter against the Nationals in his first home start for the Phillies, which followed a solid two-run debut against the Marlins a week earlier.
But then Lorenzen threw a seven-run (six earned) clunker against the Nationals his next time out, lasting just 3.1 innings for his shortest start since July 1, 2022 against the Astros. That rough outing could stem from the no-hitter, in which he threw 124 pitches and then received eight days off, as well as facing the same team in consecutive starts. Or it could be an ominous sign of things to come.
While three starts are hardly enough to measure Lorenzen’s success in Philadelphia, his latest subpar outing is a reminder that fans expected Dombrowski to add at least one more high-end starter to the rotation before the deadline. A Phillies staff headlined by Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Taijuan Walker has slightly underperformed this season, and now Rob Thomson will go with a six-man rotation to keep everyone fresh in these final weeks of the regular season. Starters are showing weaknesses, with Walker’s velocity dipping and Cristopher Sánchez eclipsing his career high in innings (and counting). It’s fair to wonder whether the sole addition of Lorenzen was enough for Philly to make another run to the Fall Classic.
Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.
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