The Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves, and Los Angeles Dodgers are currently battling it out for the right to play in the World Series. Like most contending teams, the Yankees added players at the trade deadline at the end of July, trying to give their struggling roster a badly needed boost and still be playing in mid-October too. Ultimately, these four playoff teams appeared to have made shrewder deals, as their trade deadline additions for the most part markedly outperformed those of the Yankees.
At the end of July, New York added starting pitcher Andrew Heaney, reliever Clay Holmes, outfielder Joey Gallo, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Only Holmes could be said to have been a true success in pinstripes. He struck out 35 batters in 28 innings, pitching to a 1.61 ERA. The Andrew Heaney Era is going to live in infamy — in 12 games pitched, he had an ERA over 7.00, and has already been jettisoned from the roster and is a free agent.
More than pitching, the Yankees needed offense, but Gallo and Rizzo could not really deliver. Both hit some big home runs and played solid defense, but could not sustain any real success at the plate. Rizzo hit .249/.340/.428 for his new club, which is okay but certainly not exciting. Gallo was frankly bad with the bat, with a .160/.303/.404 line and 88 strikeouts in 58 games played.
The rival Red Sox were much less active at the deadline — they made their moves count, though. Their big acquisition was Kyle Schwarber from the Washington Nationals, who generated 1.4 fWAR for the team in only 41 games. The Sox also got relievers Austin Davis and Hansel Robles at the deadline, who have both been about league average for the team so far.
The Astros’ moves were more minor — they got relievers Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero from the Seattle Mariners, and Phil Maton from Cleveland. Graveman saw his ERA rise from under 1.00 to over 3.00 with Houston, though he did increase his strikeout rate. Montero was only able to throw six innings for Houston before getting injured. Maton was also average at best for his new team, with a 4.08 WHIP. Of the remaining playoff teams, Houston had the least productive trade deadline.
In the National League, Atlanta chose to go big on acquiring hitters, getting Jorge Soler from the Kansas City Royals, Adam Duvall from the Miami Marlins, Joc Pederson from the Chicago Cubs, and Eddie Rosario from Cleveland. Soler seemed rejuvenated after his trade, blasting 14 home runs and playing at a nearly 2.0 better WAR pace than he did for KC. Duvall was successful after moving as well, with 16 home runs for Atlanta and a 106 wRC+. Pederson was mostly average for the Braves, but has had an impact on their postseason run. Rosario was also able to improve somewhat over his performance in Cleveland too.
No other team went as big at the trade deadline as the Dodgers, however. With their acquisitions of Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, LA was able to add onto their already loaded roster with two of the best players in the game. Scherzer was flat-out dominant for his new squad, striking out 89 batters over 11 starts; Turner hit .338/.385/.565 with 11 stolen bases (not to mention another season of team control). Though it took two top prospects to get them, the Dodgers have to be thrilled with that trade, even if they don’t end up winning the World Series.
So, whether it was a failure to properly scout players, an unwillingness to part with the prospects needed to get anyone better, or just bad luck, the Yankees were not able to get a true difference maker at the trade deadline. Their early playoff exit can’t be blamed solely on that — if their initial hitters played like they were capable of, there probably wouldn’t have been a need to add an impact bat at all — but the teams remaining in the playoff hunt prove the benefit a successful trade deadline can have.