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The trade deadline is a unique event in baseball, maybe more than so the games that occur on the date. It’s a date when eras end and teams hope to find sparks in the form of rentals who may or may not re-sign in the offseason.
In a way it is like a second opening day, especially for those who consider themselves buyers when 21 trades were completed Friday and more in the days leading up to the frenzied finish.
It also is the last chance for teams to bulk up with players eligible for the postseason since the complex waiver deals are a thing of the past. That was a process so complex Andrew McCutchen was bemused by it and then part of when the Yankees obtained him from the San Francisco Giants for the final month of the 2018 season.
The moves unfolding in the last week is pretty much it and it was a day of contrasts for the Mets and Yankees, who share similar records but different places in the standings.
The Mets acquired Javier Baez as part of the Cubs’ willingness to shed even further from the 2016 championship team. That gave them another dynamic bat and a shortstop for now until Francisco Lindor returns from an oblique injury. It also gave them a second baseman and a third baseman resulting in a rotation at the position between Baez and Jeff McNeil when Lindor returns.
What the Mets did not obtain was a higher end starting pitcher, a fact illuminated by the nugget dropped by GM Zack Scott. Shortly after expressing his excitement at acquiring Baez while sitting at the dais in an auditorium on the suite level for an in-person press conference, he dropped the news that ace Jacob deGrom had a setback in his recovery from forearm inflammation., on the same night Carlos Carrasco returned from the injured list, leaving the Mets with no TBA slots. It also came after Scott acknowledged they were not going to get Max Scherzer in the Washington Nationals’ sell-off that sent him to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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It still couldn’t dull the enjoyment of the Baez news, especially from Lindor, who has known him since childhood.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Lindor said. “I’m going to be playing alongside a good friend of mine — a great person, a great baseball player, and somebody who’s going to help us win. It can’t get any better. I’m very happy. I can’t wait for him to come out here and put on a show for everybody.”
Meanwhile while the Mets were going back in black, adding Baez and realizing deGrom’s return was not happening anytime soon, the Yankees were finally addressing the elephant in the room – a lineup that trends too much towards the right side of the plate despite playing 81 times at Yankee Stadium.
Those were addressed with two trades when the Texas Rangers sent Joey Gallo over and the Cubs sent Rizzo over. Besides showing a willingness trade with the Yankees, those teams also showed their charitable side by letting the Yankees off the hook from the financial aspect.
Texas is already paying a bulk of Rougned Odor’s salary so he could ply his trade with the Yankees and now the Rangers are paying a significant amount of Gallo’s contract that runs through next season.
The Cubs are also showing off their charitable side by paying the remainder of Rizzo’s expiring contract.
These charitable moves to the team playing in the largest market in the sport allowed the Yankees to stay under the luxury tax, something they have talked about doing often in recent years.
By being able to find such charitable trading partners, the lineup trotted out by the Yankees is now a better one than the one used for their season opener April 1 against the Toronto Blue Jays, who beat everyone in the Jose Berrios sweepstakes and also added a few more relievers to a shaky unit.
Pitching was not necessarily a major area of concern for the Yankees, though the optics of the trade deadline coming after Gerrit Cole got shelled in a 14-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays were a funny coincidence.
When it was apparent the Yankees were not going to get Berrios, they pivoted to Andrew Heaney, who has had his moments but is a middle of the rotation arm, though fans are hoping he might have picked up a pointer or two pitching in the same rotation with Shohei Ohtani. Heaney’s acquisition gave the Yankees even more depth but proved necessary when Domingo German landed on the injured list Sunday.
Importing Heaney came at a time when Luis Severino may be getting close to finally returning, but in the mean time the Yankees will find out about Heaney’s stuff Monday against the Baltimore Orioles.
The New York teams approached the deadline aggressively just like everyone else since according to STATS Research, 23 players with at least one All-Star selection and 14 players with at least one World Series title were moved between July 22 and Friday’s deadline.
“We have a two-month sprint now to try to push ourselves into the postseason and take a shot at the ultimate prize,” Brian Cashman said.
It was a different tone than the night Cashman said “we stink”, though his language was slightly harsher. That was way back (well not really way back) on June 28 as the Yankees prepared to face the Los Angeles Angels. They were coming off a three-game sweep by the Boston Red Sox and about to enter a week where they would allow seven runs in the ninth inning to the Angels and six in the final inning against the New York Mets, a string of events that brought them to .500 (41-41) and made you wonder if they were going to sell like they did in 2016.
The reality of it was the Yankees were never going to sell simply because they believe the youngish core is still good enough based on track records than won them 203 games in 2018 and 2019. They just needed a spark and some increased energy to go along with sorely needed balance at the plate.
The last year in baseball and the world has been a frenzy between entering a pandemic and trying to emerge from it. So it seems appropriate that the final opportunity to improve a team wound up with such a flurry of moves, ranging from the big names, role players and the willingness of two fairly recent champions to dismantle their rosters.