At the MLB trade deadline, the Yankees elected to make quieter, less splashy moves than some of their opponents around the game. They did their due diligence on the main pitching targets, Jeff Samardzija and David Price, but ultimately did not have the prospects to match up with the Cubs and Rays, respectively. Nonetheless, their series of acquiring Martin Prado and three mostly two-month rentals in exchange for minor prospects and role players were generally well-reviewed by people around the game. They focused on 2014 and didn't do too much to damage their future, though waiting for that burgeoning talent might take some time to pay off and the next couple years might be shaky.
I would probably put the Yankees in the "winners" column of the classic post-trade deadline article, but I'm going to shift my focus away from them and onto the other 29 teams. With that being said, here's who I think had the best and worst trade deadlines:
I don't remember the last time a team made so many big moves before the trade deadline. During the month of July, GM Billy Beane was at his wheeling-and-dealing best, acquiring Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, Jonny Gomes, and most surprisingly, Jon Lester. (Last names beginning with "J" are the new market inefficiency.) Hammel has gotten off to a slow start back in the American League (shocker), but Samardzija has been great in five starts thus far. Lester should thrive in Oakland, and Gomes is an adequate replacement for Yoenis Cespedes in the lineup. The cost was heavy, as the A's lost their most popular player in Cespedes and a couple blue-chip prospects in Addison Russell and Billy McKinney.
However, Beane recognizes that the A's time to win is now. Losing the slugging Cespedes will probably affect their status as the highest scoring team in the league (4.95 R/G), but they still have an elite offense. The larger impact is in the rotation, where their playoff rotation will likely include Samardzija, Lester, Sonny Gray, and Scott Kazmir, a quartet arguably better than their scary rotations led by Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder in the early 2000s. Although the Tigers certainly made a splash of their own with the three-way trade for Price, I would still take Oakland's rotation over them, especially if Justin Verlander can't figure himself out. Look out, American League.
It's amazing what one off-season can do for a franchise. When they signed Robinson Cano to that monster ten-year contract last December, the Mariners instantly jumped from "slowly building toward the future" mode to "win now" mode. Cano is an elite player, but he probably doesn't have too many prime years remaining after his first few in Seattle. Same goes for ace and franchise player Felix Hernandez. The Mariners have managed to stick around in the Wild Card race, and while some pitching help would have been nice, they were able to boost their lineup by adding Austin Jackson, Chris Denorfia, and Kendrys Morales. (It probably would have made more sense to just sign Morales in the off-season and not have to give up anyone in a trade, but whatever.)
Jackson and Denorfia are clear upgrades to the outfield, and while it wouldn't be surprising to see infield prospect Nick Franklin bloom in Tampa, the Mariners just didn't have a place for him in the infield. The Mariners might not make the playoffs, but even if they don't, they didn't really damage their future. Although the day is rare when I give credit to Jack Z, he had a good deadline.
A trade deadline winner for a different reason than the aforementioned teams, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer hung a big ol' "For Sale" sign in the middle of Wrigley Field, and they received a great haul of young talent. Russell and McKinney are very talented prospects, Victor Caratini is an intriguing catching prospect from the Braves' system, Dan Straily was a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate just last year, and acquiring Felix Doubront has the potential to work out as well as their buy-low trade for Jake Arrieta last year. It's still going to be a couple years before there's joy again at 1060 West Addison, but the talent is on its way. (As far as sellers go, I liked the Cubs' haul more than the Red Sox, whose moves were more focused on 2015 and 2016 alone, and at the moment, it's unclear if there is enough talent there to remain a serious competitor.)
I don't understand Ruben Amaro, Jr. Never have, never will. He's not a complete incompetent, as he proved to be very capable assistant GM under Ed Wade and Pat Gillick in Philadelphia as the Phils built the core of their tremendous teams from 2007-2011. However, since taking the reins as official GM in 2009, he has seemingly done nothing to shed the tag of "Ruin Tomorrow, Jr." as some of my Philly friends like to say. They've backpedaled from regular playoff contenders to NL East also-rans, and for the second straight year, they basically did nothing at the trade deadline.
The Phillies aren't going anywhere and are a miserable team. Now is the time to sell off pieces, especially those not especially relevant to the future like Marlon Byrd. Not a single trade package met Amaro's satisfaction though, so the Phils are just going to continue their downward spiral with no resolution or support in sight. Welp.
(On the other end of the spectrum, an honorary mention for "losers" goes to the to the Diamondbacks and Padres, who did sell off players, but appeared to receive unimpressive return for their players. The Padres' situation was especially weird, as they don't have a full-time GM yet since they fired Josh Byrnes. At least they seemed to try, though, and maybe the underwhelming packages they received and return were really the best they could do. Amaro just did nothing.)
The story is the same for both of these teams, so I'm just going to lump them into one. The Blue Jays haven't made the playoffs in 21 years. The Royals haven't made the playoffs in 29 years. Toronto currently holds one of the AL Wild Card spots, and KC is just 2.5 games out. One would think that their general managers would make a real effort to supplement the team to try and secure the odds of a playoff berth, especially with their Wild Card competitors making moves around them. Unfortunately for these long-deprived fanbases, their GMs mostly took a nap for July and made hardly any moves that will really make a difference in the long run.
Obviously it takes two to tango, and maybe other GMs simply didn't like what Toronto and KC were offering. Nonetheless, both teams are in good positions to make playoff runs. They elected to pass and roll with the guys they have. Sometimes that's fine, but I am not confident that the cores of each team have enough talent to get the job done.