Then the best team in baseball stunned everyone.
Darvish to the Dodgers
After it appeared the Rangers had decided in the end not to trade pitcher Yu Darvish, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal broke the news at 4:12 p.m. that the Los Angeles Dodgers had, in fact, acquired the Japanese right-handed starter. (Deals have to be done by the 4 p.m. deadline, but that doesn’t always mean they are reported in the media before 4 p.m., though most are.)
Darvish, a 30-year old four-time All-Star who has pitched to a 4.01 ERA with 148 strikeouts in 137 innings this season, will join the Dodgers for the rest of the season before becoming a free agent.
The move gives the Dodgers, who boast an MLB-best 74-31 record and a 14-game lead in the NL West, further rotation depth for the postseason, and helps for the immediate future as Clayton Kershaw sits with a back injury.
Darvish wasn’t cheap, but the Dodgers were able to avoid trading their top two prospects–considered untouchable–instead sending the Rangers 2B/OF Willie Calhoun, RHP A.J. Alexy and IF Brendon Davis. All were among the Dodgers top 27 prospects, according to MLB.com, with Calhoun ranking as the fourth-best prospect in the Dodgers minor-league system, and the 69th-best in all of baseball.
Darvish wasn’t the only addition to the Dodgers pitching staff, as the team added two left-handed relievers in Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani. Both add to an already deep bullpen, and will help in setting up closer Kenley Jansen.
Watson, an impending free agent, was acquired from the Pirates, who receive IF Oneil Cruz, the Dodgers’ 21st-ranked prospect, and RHP Angel German. Cingrani, signed through 2019, was acquired from the Reds for OF Scott Van Slyke (son of Andy) and C Hendrik Clementina.
All three moves by the Dodgers appeared to happen in the final hour before the deadline, as the team is clearly “going for it.” The additions make the Dodgers, who are already clearly the best team in baseball, the overwhelming World Series favorites as they try to win their first championship since 1988.
Gray to the Yankees
Before the Dodgers acquisition of Darvish, the biggest move of the day was made by the Yankees, who acquired right-handed starting pitcher Sonny Gray from the Athletics.
The 27-year old is signed through 2019, filling a Yankees need for starting pitching both for this year and the future—Gray has a 3.43 ERA in 16 starts this season totaling 97 innings, and a 3.42 career ERA in five seasons, all with the A’s.
Given that Oakland was giving up two more seasons of Gray, they required a big prospect package from the Yankees. They got one, acquiring the fourth, eighth and 12th-ranked Yankee prospects in OF Dustin Fowler, the 77th-ranked prospect in MLB, SS/OF Jorge Mateo and RHP James Kaprielian. Fowler and Kaprelian are both out for the season with injuries.
The move furthers the chances of both making the postseason and making a deep run in it for the Yankees, who lead Boston by a half-game in the AL East.
Another of the biggest deadline moves was agreed to late Sunday night, as the Cubs acquired left-handed reliever Justin Wilson and C Alex Avila from the Tigers for two prospects: Jeimer Candelario, a corner infielder who was the Cubs’ top-ranked prospect (and MLB’s #92) but was blocked at the major-league level by stars Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, and SS Isaac Paredes, the Cubs’ 10th-ranked prospect.
Wilson, who will likely be the setup man for closer Wade Davis, is signed through 2018. Avila will be a free agent this winter; Tigers GM Al Avila became the first GM to trade his son at the major-league level since Al Campanis in 1967.
The Dodgers and Cubs were not the only teams to trade for relief pitching. The Nationals, who acquired relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from Oakland two weeks ago, added their biggest piece yet in their continued search for bullpen help, getting closer Brandon Kintzler from the Twins, adding LHP Tyler Watson (Nationals #17 prospect) and increasingly-valuable international bonus pool money.
The Red Sox acquired RHP Addison Reed, who will set up for closer Craig Kimbrel, from the Mets; Dillon, S.C. native RHP Jamie Callahan was part of a return that included three top-30 Red Sox prospects but none of their top 17.
Veteran LHP Francisco Liriano was acquired by the Astros, the best team in the AL at 68-36, where he is expected to move to the bullpen. Veteran OF Norichika Aoki and ninth-ranked Astros prospect Teoscar Hernandez were shipped to the Blue Jays in return. The move was the only move made by the Astros, however, who lost ground to the Dodgers in a potential World Series matchup.
The Brewers got RHP Jeremy Jeffress from the Rangers, where he had been dealt at last year’s deadline. The Indians added RHP Joe Smith from Blue Jays, the Diamondbacks acquired RHP David Hernandez from the Angels, and the Pirates acquired RHP Joaquin Arias from the Phillies, all for low- to mid-level prospects.
On a day pitching dominated the headlines, only two major-league position players were moved. The Diamondbacks traded for 2B Adam Rosales after IF Chris Owings broke his finger on Sunday and IF Ketel Marte was placed on bereavement leave due to his mother’s death. The Orioles, who were surprise buyers sitting 5 ½ games out of the playoffs, traded for Rays IF Tim Beckham.
A Quiet Deadline
This deadline, the story of who wasn’t traded is as big as the stories of who were. After a July filled with rumors about numerous big-name players, most remained with their current club when the dust cleared.
These names include a trio of Tigers in RHP Justin Verlander, 2B Ian Kinsler and SS Jose Iglesias, Orioles relief ace LHP Zach Britton, Padres LHP Brad Hand, Cardinals RHP Lance Lynn, Marlins RHP Dan Straily, Blue Jays RHP Marco Estrada and LHP J.A. Happ, and numerous veterans on out-of-contention teams including the Braves, Giants and White Sox.
The relative lack of deadline drama is in part due to the high volume of trades between the All-Star Break and now, as teams opted to make moves sooner rather than later to address their weaknesses and add personnel, rather than waiting until the deadline.
Deals over the last three weeks include LHP Jose Quintana to the Cubs, OF J.D. Martinez to the Diamondbacks, IF Todd Frazier, RHP David Robertson and RHP Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees, RHP David Phelps to the Mariners, 1B Lucas Duda, LHP Dan Jennings, RHP Sergio Romo and RHP Steve Cishek to the Rays in separate deals, IF Eduardo Nunez to the Red Sox, RHP Anthony Swarzak to the Brewers, RHP Pat Neshek and C Jonathan Lucroy to the Rockies in separate deals, RHP A.J. Ramos to the Mets, 2B/OF Howie Kendrick to the Nationals, RHP Jeremy Hellickson to the Orioles, and LHP Jaime Garcia to the Twins, who in turn traded him to the Yankees.
Trades can still be made after Monday’s deadline, but players have to pass through revocable waivers to be traded, making the process more difficult. To be allowed to participate in the postseason for their new club, players must be acquired by August 31.