Welcome to the trade deadline. Yes, Opening Day was only a few weeks ago. Yet here we are, forcing teams to decide how they fit into the 16-team playoff puzzle. The vast majority of clubs are within earshot of a postseason berth, which might lead you to believe that could stall the trade market. We’re about to find out.
SI’s MLB experts–Emma Baccellieri, Matt Martell and Connor Grossman–will weigh in on all the rumors and news they can as we creep toward the 4 p.m. ET deadline. Enjoy.
All times listed in Eastern Standard Time.
12:04 p.m.: What does this Padres deal mean for the long term?
Connor Grossman: A rotation fronted by Mike Clevinger, Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack will play in 2020 … and for years to come. I’m not ready to declare the Padres the class of the NL like Matt (somehow) already has, but is it possible this is a foreshadowing of a changing of the guard in the NL one or two years from now? Sure, I think it’s possible. At least more possible than it has been during the Dodgers’ run of seven consecutive division titles. Given the size of this deal I’m immensely curious to see how we’ll look back on this trade (and all of San Diego’s swaps over the weekend) a few years down the road. Padres have given up a lot of prospect capital. Surely one player will come back to bite them, right?
11:14 a.m.: Report: Padres Acquire Indians Starter Mike Clevinger
Connor Grossman: Welp, have we already seen our blockbuster of the day go down? Looks like it. There’s no question about it: The Padres are going for it, and along the way they’ve picked up a talented young pitcher they’ll have for three-plus seasons.
Matt Martell: The Padres are the best team in the National League. Yeah, I said it. It took less than three days for them to grab that mantle, but that’s what happens when a really good young team adds two solid catchers (Jason Castro, Austin Nola), a resurgent closer (Trevor Rosenthal), a veteran lefty slugger (Mitch Moreland) and, now, Clevinger, the best starting pitcher available. If the Dodgers weren’t feeling the heat before, they sure are now.
Emma Baccellieri: Did A.J. Preller sleep last night? In all seriousness, though, it’s fun to see a team going all the way in right now, and Clevinger represents a serious upgrade to this pitching staff. And the initial reporting on the return seems decently promising for Cleveland, too—an outfield bat was easily their top need here, so enter Josh Naylor, plus apparently more.
10:37 a.m.: What move(s) have already caught your eye?
Emma Baccellieri: In the space of 24 hours, San Diego completely retooled its catching corps. By adding Jason Castro from the Angels and Austin Nola from the Mariners—the latter as part of a monster seven-player trade—the team has pushed through a backstop overhaul. And it was much needed: The Padres’ catchers, Austin Hedges and Francisco Mejía, weren’t the worst pairing in baseball, but they were close enough. The Padres’ .515 OPS at the position was among the weakest in the majors, and the two of them weren’t anywhere near close to making up for that with their defense. (Their collective -0.8 WAR was the third-lowest in baseball.) Now? They’ve replaced them with two of the better offensive backstops right now, and if anyone was unsure about San Diego’s intentions around October, it should be clear now: A.J. Preller & Co. don’t simply want to make the expanded playoffs, they want to make sure that they’re prepared to go deep.
Matt Martell: While the Padres are making all the noise, let’s not forget the deal the Cubs and Rays made Sunday, with Chicago acquiring designated hitter José Martínez for a PTBNL and some cash.
Martinez, a lifetime .319/.392/.554 lifetime hitter against left-handed pitching, could fill a similar role for the Cubs this year as Nick Castellanos did down the stretch last season. Whereas Castellanos was entering free agency at the end of 2019, Martinez is under club control through 2022. Plus, unlike Castellanos last year, the Cubs won’t have to put Martinez in the field, with the universal DH in effect this year, and possibly forever. Chicago has a .659 OPS against lefties this season, which ranks 24th in MLB. This is a good first deadline move for the playoff-bound Cubs, but to make a run at their second title since 2016, they’ll need to add another bullpen arm or two before the day is done.
Connor Grossman: It’s hard to ignore what the Padres have done, as Emma outlined, with the team shooting for its first playoff berth since 2006. Brushing aside their notable catching moves, I’ll zoom in on San Diego’s acquisition of Trevor Rosenthal. The right-hander hasn’t been an elite reliever since 2015 but seems to have figured something out this season with the Royals. But with Kirby Yates and Drew Pomeranz on the shelf for now and a 5.20 bullpen ERA so far this season, bolstering that unit made plenty of sense.