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Analysis | Winners and losers of the MLB trade deadline

A trade deadline that was confusing, surprising and everything in between passed Tuesday afternoon. It may have bent some teams’ trajectories more firmly toward October and left other teams’ fates almost stunningly unchanged. Time will be the truest evaluator, but in the immediate aftermath, a few teams seem to have emerged as clear winners, just as a few others have spent the hours since justifying deadline approaches that seem unjustifiable.

MLB trade deadline winners

The Rangers, who have looked determined to chase down the Houston Astros in the American League West since the offseason, continued their efforts with an aggressive deadline performance. The headline addition was, of course, Max Scherzer, for whom they surrendered a top prospect but will not pay full price. But they also traded for starter Jordan Montgomery and reliever Chris Stratton, already had added Aroldis Chapman to their bullpen, and made a last-minute move to acquire catcher Austin Hedges from the Pittsburgh Pirates after losing starter Jonah Heim to injury this week.

They will not have Jacob deGrom down the stretch, but even in a down year, Scherzer helps replace that credibility atop their rotation. With their offseason spending spree and deadline splurge, the Rangers are all in.

Max Scherzer takes his battle with Father Time to the Rangers

For much of the past few months, the biggest storyline leading up to the deadline was how the Los Angeles Angels would handle Shohei Ohtani. When they decided to keep him, they took a risk, trying to build out a roster that looked equipped to hover on the outskirts of the playoff picture but perhaps not do much more. But with a flurry of deals entering Tuesday, then a quiet deal for an extra reliever made that afternoon, the Angels bolstered their rotation and their bullpen while adding much-needed depth to their lineup. They have some ground to make up in the AL West and in the wild-card standings. But no one will say they didn’t try.

The Angels are making one last push to win with Shohei Ohtani

Their neighbors up in Chavez Ravine, meanwhile, also carefully pieced together a more formidable roster. The Dodgers acquired Kiké Hernández to play wherever they need him, Amed Rosario to help them at shortstop and starter Lance Lynn to bring depth and experience to a shallow rotation. They added relievers Joe Kelly and Ryan Yarbrough to what had been one of their least proven bullpens in recent years. Even so, the most memorable part of the Dodgers’ deadline might be the deal that did not go through — a trade they had in place for Eduardo Rodriguez, one of the top available starters, before he vetoed it and stayed in Detroit. But the Dodgers’ deadline was not dependent on one deal. They are still much better than they were when trade season began.

Nobody had a better deadline day than the Astros, who traded for Justin Verlander in the early afternoon, then watched Framber Valdez toss a no-hitter Tuesday evening. The defending World Series champions have many of their key pieces still in place from last year but had seen cracks emerge in their starting rotation after they let Verlander go and did not replace him. But in Verlander, Houston now pairs a familiar ace with Valdez, though they will still be without key starters Lance McCullers Jr. and Luis Garcia after each suffered a season-ending injury. They did not fully restore the starting pitching depth that won them the title, but they did give themselves a chance. And they also brought back an old bullpen friend, Kendall Graveman, to help offset disappointing seasons from Rafael Montero and others. You could argue they needed to do more. But with so many teams doing very little, they made a splash for a proven commodity.

MLB trade deadline losers

The Yankees have a one-trick offense that cannot score without Aaron Judge, an old and creaky starting rotation that has been picked apart by predictable injuries, one of the biggest payrolls in the game and an almost glaring need to hit the reset button. But instead of making creative deadline buys to try to improve their offense while also adding flexibility or selling off key pieces for prospects and clearing payroll for an offseason reboot, the vaunted Yankees traded for … one rental reliever named Keynan Middleton, the last of the many Chicago White Sox pitchers to be jettisoned at the deadline.

“I’m sure some people out there say tear it down and sell and other people are out there saying to add something big. There wasn’t a big thing to add, to be quite honest, that was going to solve the immediate problems that we had,” Yankees President Brian Cashman told reporters Tuesday. So instead, the Yankees will try to win, problems and all, in what might end up being the deepest division in recent baseball history.

The Twins are leading the weakest division in the sport, the AL Central. The team nearest them in the division, the Cleveland Guardians, sold key pieces at the deadline in a quiet-but-unmistakable concession that this might not be their year. But instead of bolstering their roster for what seems likely to be a playoff-berth-by-default, the Twins made no moves.

Perhaps there is an argument to be made for not giving anything up when the division parts at your feet. It seems the Minnesota front office made that very argument. The Twins didn’t have major needs, but they had the kind of needs — a left-handed bat, a reliever or two — that playoff teams address so they aren’t an issue in October. But the only deal the Twins made this year was a somewhat surprising reliever swap with the Miami Marlins, exchanging Jorge Lopez for Dylan Floro.

The Reds have been one of the season’s most pleasant surprises, a dynamic team loaded with young talent that has revived a city’s baseball fandom. But other than acquiring a reliever from the Oakland Athletics, they did nothing to add to that roster over the past few weeks. The Reds rely on one of the youngest rotations in baseball, but they did not augment it. They could have used relief help but did not make substantial adds in that realm, either.

How far can the Reds go this season?

It may be that the Reds look smart in hindsight. They might ultimately be pleased that they didn’t part with young talent for veteran help just to do it if the right fit wasn’t available. Indeed, many general managers said Tuesday they found the market to be frustratingly unpredictable and surprisingly sparse. But the NL Central may never be quite so wide open, and the Reds might not find themselves in this position again next year or beyond. Either way, they will push forward with what they have — a roster loaded with young talent that seems to be betting on having many midsummer chances in years to come.

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