The 2021 MLB season is shaping up to be one of the most interesting seasons in recent memory. A couple of heated division races —such as the NL West and the AL East—as well as plenty of talent on the trading block, ensured that this year’s trade deadline would be as active as ever. And boy was it just that.
Over 20 moves were made this week, meaning a huge shuffling of talent that could very well be the difference in this year’s race for the World Series. Let’s take a look at who won the trade deadline, as well as how this changes the playoff landscape.
1. Chicago Cubs: The Chicago Cubs put up an absolute fire sale at this year’s trade deadline. They traded away the core of their team that won them the 2016 World Series (the likes of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javy Baez all being shipped away in the past couple of days). However, it was a move that just had to happen to ensure the longevity of their organization’s success. They were 12.5 games back in the division and 10 games back in the wild card race, leaving them a very small margin of error to make the playoffs this year. There just wasn’t any potential this year for a legitimate playoff run, and a rebuild was in the cards. They got a nice haul of prospects in this series of deals, even trading away other large pieces like Craig Kimbrel, arguably the best closer in the league this year. Their farm system is stocked with young talent, and they should be able to bounce back strong in a couple of years.
2. Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays have one of the strongest lineups in the league. Their offense is top 5 in the league, even leading the league in home runs. However, no team needed pitching more than the Toronto Blue Jays. Behind their top 2 arms, their rotation left much to be desired, and their bullpen was nothing short of atrocious. That being said, they added some legitimate arms to both ends of their pitching staff this week. They added Jose Berrios to their rotation, as well as Brad Hand to their bullpen. Jose Berrios was the top pitching name behind Max Scherzer, and while Toronto did have to overpay for him, that is the price you pay to acquire a proven arm like that. Brad Hand may have had a rough July with 3 blown saves, but he has had a solid year as the closer for the Nationals and should bring some much-needed help to the Jays. They currently sit 4 games behind Oakland in the Wild Card, and with an offense like theirs, making up that difference should be no problem.
1. Padres: Don’t get me wrong, the Padres added some serious firepower to their lineup. Adam Frazier, the league leader in hits, gives them an All-Star infield. However, they just didn’t do enough to keep up with the other big powers in their division. The Giants added the biggest name of the deadline, Kris Bryant, and the Dodgers landed the biggest blockbuster trade of the year by far with Max Scherzer and Trea Turner coming to LA. The Padres were looking to grab either Berrios or Scherzer, but they were outbid for both of them. This doesn’t bode well for them, as the consistency of their pitching is what got them knocked out last year. Injuries to other key components of their rotation have left it up to Yu Darvish and “others”; yes, the rest of their rotation simply isn’t up to playoff-caliber. While nobody is going to argue that this uber-talented lineup will make it rain on any given day, pitching is what propels you towards championships, and they struck out on all the top arms this deadline.
2. Rockies: Behind Kris Bryant, Trevor Story was probably the biggest name of the trade deadline. He has been one of the best power-hitting shortstops in the league for quite some time, and plenty of teams could have used that production. Everyone was prepared to see him go, but as the dust clears, Trevor Story still stands nervously in a Rockies uniform. The Rockies seem fully prepared to wait it out with him, which isn’t going to do them any favors. Maybe they have another trick up their sleeve, but whatever it is, it won’t cover up this blatant missed opportunity.
So, as we look back on an especially busy trade deadline, one thing is clear: this is going to be a memorable second half of the season.