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AL Wild Card Trade Deadline Recap

The AL West goes all in, but the rest of the league hesitates.

Chicago White Sox v Texas Rangers Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

We saw a fair bit of action at this year’s trade deadline, even if there weren’t quite as many earth-shakers as I might have anticipated. Looking up and down the Wild Card standings in both leagues, it’s a bit surprising how many teams in playoff spots — or within shouting distance of them — opted against making big splashes. The fact that it was the biggest seller’s market at the deadline in several years meant that while mid-upper tier players like Aaron Civale and Lucas Giolito were exchanged for more high-end prospects than we’ve seen in recent years, the price tag on some of the most exciting players — the ones who aren’t 40 years old and essentially going year-to-year on $40 million salaries — was high enough that hardly any of them moved.

John Griffin already gave you the goods on the rest of the AL East yesterday, so that spares me three teams’ worth of write-ups here. Lets see what the rest of the contenders (real or fake) got done during the trade season’s denouement.

Texas Rangers/Houston Astros

Neither of these teams are very concerned about the Wild Card hunt, because they’re probably going to be duking it out for the AL West title all the way until the end, with the Wild Card as a consolation prize. Consequently, we got a perfect opportunity for an “arms race” pun, as each team took turns plundering the Mets’ sinking ship, with the Rangers’ (61-46) acquisition of Max Scherzer being among the first major dominoes to fall in trade season, and the Astros’ (62-47) re-acquisition of Justin Verlander among the last.

In the meantime, the Astros also went out and got Kendall Graveman from the White Sox for catcher Korey Lee, and the Rangers bolstered their pitching staff even more by trading two minor leaguers to St. Louis for Jordan Montgomery and Chris Stratton. Texas also picked up catcher Austin Hedges from Pittsburgh in the wake of Jonah Heim’s wrist injury, clearing a 40-man spot by giving Spencer Howard to the Yankees for cash considerations.

Los Angeles Angels

I’m putting the Angels (56-53) up here even though they’re behind a few other teams in the standing because — apart from those two ahead of them in the AL West — they’re pretty much the only team in the league that didn’t buy in half-measures, going all in on a playoff chase this year before Shohei Ohtani’s presumed departure. First, they made the biggest non-move of the season by choosing the pull Ohtani from the trade market, then they bolstered their rotation and bullpen in one swoop by sending their consensus top prospect to the Chicago White Sox for Lucas Giolito (who was shelled for nine earned runs in his first start with LA on Wednesday) and Reynaldo López.

Then, they did more buying in bulk — in multiple respects — by picking up C.J. Cron and Randal Grichuk from the Rockies, returning them both to their original organization at the price of two 40 FV prospects, Mason Albright and Jake Madden. They wrapped up the deadline by adding to their bullpen one more time, sending infielder Jeremiah Jackson to the Mets for reliever Dominic Leone.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Mariners

Fans of the Mariners (56-52) endured a deadline much like Yankees fans, simply waiting and waiting for a move that never came. Like several teams within a stone’s throw of a playoff spot, they wound up subtracting more talent than they added, with their most notable deadline deal seeing them send their closer Paul Sewald — the second time in three years that they’ve traded their closer while still competitive — to the Arizona desert for Josh Rojas and minor leaguers Dominic Canzone and Ryan Bliss. They also sent fringe players AJ Pollock and Mark Mathias to San Francisco and executed an exchange of minor league relievers with Baltimore, sending 25-year-old Logan Rhinehart and receiving 27-year-old Eduard Bazardo. It was an unusually quiet deadline for the typically hyper Jerry DiPoto; where the Mariners go from here remains to be seen.

Cleveland Guardians

The Guardians (53-56) find themselves just 2.5 games out of first place in the AL Central, but naturally, it’s the division or bust for them, as they’re 6.5 games back of the third Wild Card spot. They didn’t seem very inclined to prove themselves better than the record they’ve played to, first sending Josh Bell (and his $16.5 million player option) to the Marlins for their own Wild Card hunt. They received Jean Segura, who has a 54 OPS+ this season and was immediately DFA’d, and Khalil Watson, a minor league shortstop who was taken 16th overall in the 2021 draft and was once seen as a top-10 talent at that point before struggling in Miami’s system.

More notably, as you surely read in John’s piece yesterday, they also acquired hard-hitting lefty first baseman Kyle Manzardo, who named the best prospect traded at the deadline, in exchange for Aaron Civale, his 2.5 seasons left before free agency, and whatever hope Cleveland might have had for any kind of sturdiness in their rotation before next spring. As of now, their only active starter with more 80 IP in the majors is Noah Syndergaard, who they acquired for Amed Rosario in a swap of free-agents-to-be who were being crowded off of their respective rosters. Unless Tanner Bibee and Logan Allen are the second coming of Josh Beckett and Dontrelle Willis, this team’s moves won’t mean anything until next year.

Minnesota Twins

I’ll throw one in for the Twins (55-53), who hold a 2.5 game lead in the AL Central and could still conceivably push for a Wild Card should Cleveland get hot and catch them. They didn’t act like it at all, though, doing jack squat this trade season apart for a minor Jorge López-for-Dylan Floro swap back on July 27th. Like every other team in the AL Central, the Twins are happy to win the division if it falls into their lap, but they sure ain’t gonna put forth any effort for it.