MLB Trade Deadline Review: The Winners, the Losers, and Everything in Between


Juan Soto to the Padres was the marquee move of a thrilling trade deadline. (Courtesy of Twitter)

One of the wilder trade deadlines in recent memory has come and gone. Now it’s time to take a deep breath, recover from the hectic chaos of the past few days, and assess how teams shape up as the dust settles. 

The clear and away winners of the trading festivities are the San Diego Padres. The Padres acquired the headliner of the 2022 trade deadline in 23-year-old superstar outfielder Juan Soto, but it goes far deeper than that. Without losing much in the way of current talent, the Padres have bolstered two gigantic areas of need, and go from a solid playoff team to a legitimate World Series contender. 

Already boasting a deep and dominant starting rotation, the Padres made significant improvements to their offense and bullpen. With an offense that currently ranks 19th in OPS and 12th in runs scored, they added one of the best bats in the league in Soto and improved their depth by acquiring  Josh Bell and Brandon Drury. For a bullpen that could certainly be improved upon, they add Josh Hader, one of the most dominant closers in the game.

Let’s start right there in the bullpen. Hader is currently having the worst season of his six-year MLB career, pitching to a 4.11 ERA after recording a sub 3.00 ERA in every season besides 2020. Before everyone freaks out, his ERA is heavily skewed by a July 15 outing where he allowed six earned runs while only recording one out. Take out that one blowup and he has a much more respectable 2.60 ERA. Hader didn’t allow an earned run through the first two months of the season and carried a sub-2.00 ERA into mid-July. If the Padres get that version of Hader, it adds a whole new element to a bullpen that has been very average and has the ninth most blown saves in the MLB. Taylor Rogers gets sent to Milwaukee alongside Dinelson Lamet and prospects in what is essentially a closer swap. Rogers is an excellent reliever, but like Hader, he’s struggled since June. If you had to bank on one of them returning to form, you go with Hader, who won the NL Reliever of the Year award in three of the last four years and has another year of team control after this season. 

On the offensive side, Juan Soto is an absolute game changer. He currently has the 10th highest OPS in all of baseball at .894. Most players would call that a career year. For Soto, it’s the worst OPS of his young major league career after posting an OPS well above .900 in each of his first four seasons. At 23, Soto is one of the toughest at-bats for any pitcher. He’s got an excellent eye, great bat-to-ball skills, and an awe-inducing power stroke. As an added bonus, there’s no need to worry about this guy if the Padres make it to the World Series. He hit .333 with a 1.178 OPS and 3 home runs in the 2019 World Series. The Padres had to give up three top 100 prospects and one former top 10 prospect in starting pitcher MacKenzie Gore, but in the grand scheme of things, it feels like San Diego got way more than they gave. At a bare minimum, they have two and a half years of Soto, who by all accounts is a future Hall of Famer, and they’ll have first dibs at extending him. 

Soto may be the clear headliner, but it’s important not to undervalue the acquisitions of Bell and Drury. Josh Bell accompanies Soto in the massive trade, and while he doesn’t fall into the elite category, he’s having his best season since 2019 when he was an All-Star with the Pirates. Bell is hitting .300 with an .876 OPS this season and is a clear upgrade over Eric Hosmer and Luke Voit. With Voit sent to the Washington Nationals alongside the haul of prospects and Hosmer shipped off to the Boston Red Sox, Bell will be the starting first baseman moving forward. The Brandon Drury trade may have gone a bit under the radar, but it’s a really nice deal that lengthens the lineup for San Diego. Drury is having the best season of his career, hitting .275 with an .864 OPS. Dubbed “Slam Diego” in recent years, Drury made himself right at home with the Padres, hitting a grand slam on the first pitch he saw with the team. He adds some much needed infield depth, particularly with Fernando Tatis’ injury. If he continues to produce numbers of the same ilk, he should be an excellent middle of the order bat. 

The Dodgers currently hold an 11.5 game lead over the Padres in the NL West. Barring a collapse for the ages, San Diego will be forced to settle for one of the three wild card spots. The moves they made at the deadline are not indicative of a team that sees itself as a wild card team. San Diego believes they can contend for a World Series, and after this flurry of moves, they most certainly can. The Dodgers have a stacked lineup, but with the acquisitions of Soto, Bell and Drury, the offenses are closer to even footing. LA probably still has the edge, but you can make the case that Tatis, Soto and Machado are the most dangerous trio of hitters in the entire league. Pair that with an elite fivesome of starting pitchers and the potential for utter dominance at the closer position, and San Diego is a scary out for any postseason opponent. 

While not making as big of a splash as the Padres, the Yankees also emerge as winners of the deadline. Despite being the best team in baseball for the first two months of the season, the Yanks had glaring flaws that became more apparent as the team faltered in July. The starting rotation began to show signs of weakness, the bullpen suffered major injuries and holes in the lineup became increasingly apparent. Yankee fans clamored for help in all three categories and Brian Cashman did just that. 

Frankie Montas comes over from Oakland to help the rotation. Pitching to a 3.14 ERA, Montas was the consensus second-best starter available. He provides much needed stability for a rotation that will have its share of question marks come postseason. 

Historically one of its strengths, the Yankee bullpen also has a number of question marks. Outside of Clay Holmes in the ninth inning, things get a little messy. Chad Green’s season ending injury and the struggles of Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Loaisiga created a need for bullpen help that Michael King’s season ending fractured elbow only exacerbated. Lou Trivino and Scott Effross also came to New York, adding depth and talent to a bullpen that was in dire need of it.

To calm any offensive concerns, the Yankees traded for Royals left fielder Andrew Benintendi. Currently hitting well over .300, he’s a consistent contact bat that plays gold glove defense. He’ll add depth to a bottom half of a lineup that has struggled at times. 

The Yankees ended the deadline with a curious move, dealing starter Jordan Montgomery to the Cardinals for center fielder Harrison Bader. Bader provides elite defense and speed, but isn’t expected back from his foot injury until September. Montgomery may not have been part of the postseason rotation plans, but he was a solid starter that pitched deep into games. 

The Yankees moves reflect a team whose mindset is solely focused on the postseason. Their moves don’t make them significantly better than the Houston Astros, but it does strengthen every aspect of their team. Montas, Benintendi, Effross, Trivino and possibly even Bader should play important roles in a postseason run. The Yankees will still need to rely on Gerrit Cole to be their $36 million ace, but Montas provides security in case Luis Severino or Nestor Cortes struggle. The Montgomery trade significantly weakens the Yankees starting pitching depth for the remainder of the regular season, but their defense in the postseason will benefit greatly from it. With Bader alongside Benintendi and Aaron Judge, the Yankees can run out an outfield composed of three gold glovers if they wish. 

Down in Queens, the other New York team was not quite as aggressive. While not an abject failure, it’s hard not to be disappointed in the Mets after a rather lackluster deadline. The Mets have an elite starting rotation, particularly with Jacob DeGrom’s return, but would have benefited greatly from a couple more bats and some arms in the pen. The Mets made minor moves for both, acquiring lefty bats Daniel Vogelbach and Tyler Naquin and right-handed first baseman Darin Ruf from the Giants. Mychal Givens comes over from Chicago as the lone addition to the bullpen, and promptly serenaded himself, allowing five earned runs in his first appearance with New York. They’re not bad moves at all, but they just don’t move the needle for a team that has World Series aspirations. Outside of Edwin Diaz, who’s been lights out all year, the bullpen is chalked full of question marks and noticeably lacking a trustworthy lefty reliever. Ruf gives them a platoon bat against lefties and Vogelbach and Naquin add depth, but none of them really change the overall outlook on the offense. As Mets play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen astutely noted, the Mets got the best player at the deadline with DeGrom returning from injury. It’s a nice way of looking at things, and the Mets will absolutely be a threat with the 1-2 combo of Degrom and Max Scherzer, but starting pitching wasn’t much of an issue to begin with. In fact, Mets starters have excelled despite missing Degrom and even Scherzer for lengthy stretches. Ultimately, with the Padres making a splash and the Phillies and Braves adding big pieces, it feels like the Mets are running in place as other NL contenders take big leaps. 

The Mets weren’t the only NL contender to remain stagnant at the deadline. The Los Angeles Dodgers were uncharacteristically quiet. Reeling in superstars like Manny Machado, Trea Turner and Max Scherzer in past seasons, it was hard to rule out the Dodgers as major players for Soto, even after reports surfaced that the Padres were close to a deal. LA pivoted, trading for former All-Star outfielder Joey Gallo. It would be miraculous if they get Gallo to return to form, considering they failed to do so with their own in-house lefty outfielder in Cody Bellinger. With Gallo, Bellinger and Max Muncy, the Dodgers have three bats that rank bottom 10 in batting average. LA will bank on talent like Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Justin Turner and Chris Taylor returning from injury rather than seeking options outside the franchise. The Dodgers are still plenty good enough with the best record in baseball, but the pressure will be on if they come toe to toe with a Padres team that went all out to match them. 

Not everything is black and white. Many things are gray. I think that’s how the expression goes. Point being, there are a few teams that don’t quite fall into either category of winner or loser. 

First up is the Houston Astros. Like the Dodgers and Mets, Houston refrained from making an aggressive trade. That being said, Houston’s situation differs from its NL counterparts. The Astros are one of the few teams that really doesn’t have any glaring flaws. They’ve got great starting pitching, one of the league’s best bullpens, and a top five offense. Acquiring Christian Vazquez from the Red Sox gives them some versatility at the catcher position. Martin Maldonado is an excellent defensive catcher and will probably see more time than Vazquez in the postseason, but his offensive numbers are well below average, even for a catcher. Vazquez is no slouch behind the plate and is much more of an offensive threat. With starting pitching depth to spare, the Astros dealt Jake Odorizzi to the Braves for lefty reliever Will Smith. The Astros lead the league in bullpen ERA, but feature mostly righty arms. Smith is a reliable lefty arm that can come in to give hitters a different look out of the pen.

It will be near impossible for the Atlanta Braves to replicate their success from last year’s deadline. The addition of Angels closer Raisel Iglesias is a big get for their bullpen. Jake Odorizzi adds some depth to their rotation and outfielder Robbie Grossman will do his best to fill in for Adam Duvall after his season ending injury. The Braves are in striking distance of the division and should be a lock for a wild card spot. They haven’t taken the gigantic leap they took last year, but it’s enough of a step to compete with the Mets and cause some trouble in the postseason. 

The Philadelphia Phillies were surprisingly aggressive at the deadline, trading for Angels starter Noah Syndergaard and Cubs reliever David Robertson. Despite all their struggles, the Phillies are currently tied with the Brewers and Cardinals for the third Wild Card spot. They’re probably not a legitimate playoff contender, but the moves at least give them an outside chance at making a run if they can hold off one of those two NL central teams. 

The Seattle Mariners snatched up the best available starting pitcher, trading a large prospect package for Luis Castillo. The Mariners have a sneaky good offense and a significantly improved rotation. Seattle’s willingness to give up so much value in prospects is no doubt a product of their 21 year playoff drought. They’re an exciting young team that’s probably a couple years away from being true playoff contenders, but the trade for Castillo signifies that they’re ready to compete as their rebuilding days come to an end. 

The MLB trade deadline is hyped up every year, but very rarely does it actually manage to live up to the lofty expectations. It did this year, and that’s something to be thankful for. With the anticipation and excitement of the trade deadline in the rear view, all that’s left to do is sit back and enjoy as the playoff picture makes itself clearer over the next two months.