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MLB Trade Deadline: AL East recap

How did the Yankees’ division rivals fare at the deadline?

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a year makes. One year ago today, we talked about the Yankees’ fire sale and how that showed a commitment to the future at the cost of two top bullpen arms. Now, in what was once characterized as a rebuilding year, the Bombers found themselves on the other end of the spectrum. They bought to win in 2017.

The Yankees entered Tuesday on top of the AL East, although the competition within the division is fierce as always. You could make the argument that it’s the only division race still undecided, with the possible exception of the Royals and Indians fighting in the AL Central. With that said, let’s take a look and the division’s moves, beginning with the most active.

New York Yankees

The Yankees were wheeling and dealing at the deadline. Brian Cashman made some brilliant moves that were nothing short of wizardry. The bullpen proved major cause for concern during the Yankees’ June slide, so he went out and orchestrated a reunion with David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. You could make the argument that this bullpen ranks among the best ever in terms of piling up strikeouts. Oh, and Todd Frazier was brought along in that deal as well.

Then there was the big move on deadline day to bring Sonny Gray in from Oakland. Cashman filled the team’s biggest need with one of the best pitchers over the past four years in terms of ERA. He’s also been lights out in his last six starts. The cost was two prospects coming off major surgery, and another who was going to switch positions just to have a role on the major league roster. Ultimately, the Yankees kept six of their top seven prospects. Simply put, they had a fantastic deadline.

Boston Red Sox

Boston entered August a half game behind the Yankees, and they’re struggling to find some offense. Life without David Ortiz has proven more difficult than most imagined, and now injuries are mounting. Both David Price and Dustin Pedroia both landed on the disabled list in the past week.

Old friend Eduardo Nunez covered second base after Pedroia went down, and he’ hit extremely well since arriving in Boston. Nunez is now batting .321 on the season, and he’ll enjoy hitting towards the Green Monster. His defense, despite what Pedro Martinez says, figures to remain a liability.

The team’s other big move was acquiring reliever Addison Reed, which bolsters a bullpen that already ranks third in the league in ERA. Still, the offense could use some help with guys like Mitch Moreland and Mookie Betts not playing up to their potential. The Red Sox are 10-14 since the Fourth of July and are a .500 team when Chris Sale isn’t on the mound. Many are debating whether their activity at the deadline was enough, but we’re fine with it over here.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Red Sox could have used a corner infield bat like Lucas Duda, but it was the Rays who grabbed him from the Mets. As we saw in last weekend’s series at Yankee Stadium, Duda seems like a good pickup for a team that can already hit plenty of home runs. They also acquired reliever Steve Cishek from Seattle, who has a 2.70 ERA and struck out the side against the Yankees in his debut outing with Tampa. They also added southpaw reliever Dan Jennings from the White Sox, who has a 3.60 ERA this season.

Those moves seemed like steps in the right direction for a team that wants to fight for a playoff spot, but they also traded Tim Beckham for an A-ball pitcher, which was a little surprising. Sure, he struggled a bit, but infielder Brad Miller has been bad all year long. This was one confusing move.

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles tried to go against their usual grain and sell at the deadline, but they just couldn’t break their mold. General Manager Dan Duquette was given permission to shop his top relievers — including Zach Britton — but instead kept them all. He actually added pieces, like Beckham from the Rays and starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson from the Phillies.

The Orioles appeared ready to sell, but refused to deal Britton for anything less than the load the Yankees brought back for relievers Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. That’s despite the fact that Britton saw little action this season due to elbow soreness.

Overall, it was a puzzling week for the O’s. Perhaps they can get more for Britton if they showcase his ability to return to form down the stretch, but their farm system is weak. They could have gotten a nice return for him at the deadline. For now, they stay put in competitive limbo.

Toronto Blue Jays

The struggling Blue Jays also appeared reluctant to sell, even though they’re going nowhere fast this season. Despite their fate seeming clear, the team decided to deal two players for minor returns in Francisco Liriano and reliever Joe Smith. To be fair, both players had expiring contracts, so moving them did make sense, but it feels like they should have been more aggressive in selling.

The Blue Jays got back outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez in the deal for Liriano, who now sits as the fifth-best prospect in Toronto’s system. That’s nice, but they likely need more help since it will be hard to hold onto a guy like Josh Donaldson after next year. They could begin to fall further behind teams like the Yankees and Red Sox.