The Texas Rangers have been in a funk for the last month. Even with their current three-game winning streak, the Rangers are 7-16 in their last 23 games and have lost their lead in the AL West. The Rangers, who were in first place in the division by three-plus games as recently as Aug. 15, are now at risk of missing the postseason entirely.
Should that come to pass, you can’t blame Max Scherzer. The Rangers’ veteran ace has pulled his weight since joining the club at the deadline. In seven starts with Texas, he’s compiled a 3.63 ERA (122 ERA+) and a 3.64 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those marks are pulled down by his most recent start, a disaster against the Houston Astros that saw him.
Even with the Rangers flatlining, Scherzer’s resurgence inspired us to take a look back at the Aug. 1 trade deadline six weeks later. Below, you’ll find five moves that have really worked out since they were made, as well as five that have not. Do note that this is for entertainment purposes only.
Now, let’s get to it.
Five best moves
1. Royals: LHP Cole Ragans
As if things couldn’t get any worse for the Rangers, huh? The Royals were the sellers in this trade, but Ragans has been excellent since the deal was made. In nine starts, he’s amassed a 1.69 ERA and a 4.06 strikeout-to-walk ratio while pumping mid-to-upper-90s heat.
To be fair, Chapman has performed well for the Rangers, and Ragans wasn’t this pitcher with Texas — he picked up his new, swing-and-miss slider with the Royals’ Triple-A team. Lefties with this kind of stuff and control are hard to find. The Royals, for all their failings on and off the field in recent years, appear to have gotten this one very right.
2. Astros: RHP Justin Verlander
Whereas Ragans has been an Accidental Ace, Verlander has been exactly what the Astros wanted when they reacquired him from the Mets. He’s served as a rotation-stabilizing force who makes up for the absences of Lance McCullers Jr. and Luis Garcia, as well as the down seasons by Cristian Javier and José Urquidy. In seven starts, he’s collected a 3.43 ERA (125 ERA+) and a 4.22 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That’ll work just fine, thanks.
3. Marlins: 1B Josh Bell
4. Marlins: 3B Jake Burger
It only makes sense to pair these additions together. The Marlins badly needed an offensive boost, and Bell and Burger have provided them with that and then some. They rank No. 1 and 3 on the Marlins in OPS+ as of this writing. The Marlins have started September hot after going through a two-month cold spell.
We’ll see if they’re able to fully recover now that they’ll be without ace Sandy Alcantara and slugging Jorge Soler for the time being. If so, our guess is that Bell and Burger will end up being two reasons why.
5. Dodgers: LHP Ryan Yarbrough
- Acquired from the Royals for OF Derlin Figueroa and INF Devin Mann
We liked the Yarbrough gamble at the time, noting that he did “enough things well to qualify as a sneaky-solid deadline addition.” So far, so good. Yarbrough hasn’t actually started a game for Los Angeles, but he’s compiled a 3.08 ERA and a 24-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio across eight appearances — all but one of which has lasted three or more innings. We suspect that he’s going to play a larger role in Los Angeles’ postseason plans than originally planned given all the recent developments occurring within their rotation: Julio Urías is on administrative leave as the league continues to investigate his recent domestic violence arrest and Tony Gonsolin and Walker Buehler are out for the year while Clayton Kershaw is showing reduced velocity.
1. Angels: Everything
We were on board with the Angels buying at the deadline under the belief that they were doomed no matter how or when Shohei Ohtani left the organization. Why not take one last swing and hope for a miracle? The Angels have since validated Murphy’s Law. Everything that could’ve gone wrong — their deadline additions struggling; Ohtani tearing his UCL; Mike Trout returning to the IL after a single game — has gone wrong.
The Angels even felt like contributing to their own misery by waiving Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López, and others to save a buck. The cherry on top of their trash sundae was their decision to place Max Stassi on the restricted list, a move that will get them under the CBT threshold while withholding salary and service time from him as he deals with a family matter. There are baseball reasons for doing what they’ve done the past few weeks — their draft-pick compensation for losing Ohtani will be significantly better now — but we’re not sure that’s worth the cost.
2. Guardians: RHP Noah Syndergaard
Don’t stare a gift horse in the mouth, don’t tug on Superman’s cape, and don’t expect to fix a pitcher the Dodgers couldn’t get back on track. The Guardians have a history of getting the most from arms, but they couldn’t work their magic with Syndergaard. He made six poor starts, tallying a 5.40 ERA and a 1.80 strikeout-to-walk ratio, before being dismissed. We’re not going to pretend Rosario is amazing, but he’s productive enough against left-handers to merit a roster spot. That’s better than what we can write of Syndergaard.
3. Marlins: RHP David Robertson
- Acquired from the Mets for INF Marco Vargas and C Ronald Hernandez
We gave the Marlins credit for adding Bell and Burger earlier. It’s only fair that we dock them for Robertson. He was charged with four losses in his first 13 appearances with the Fish. That would be a problematic stretch regardless of the team’s circumstances, but it’s a potential backbreaker in a tight race. To make matters worse, opposing evaluators are high on Vargas, the young infielder the Marlins sent out as part of the deal. There’s a real chance the Marlins come to regret this one — be it because Robertson contributes to them missing the playoffs, because Vargas develops into a quality player, or both.
4. Padres: LHP Rich Hill
We thought this was a solid deal for the Padres at the time. Hill had pitched like an average starter prior to the trade, and they also fetched much-needed lefty first baseman Ji-Man Choi as part of the swap. Unfortunately for San Diego, this trade has played out as poorly as it possibly could have. The Padres have lost each of Hill’s first six appearances, with him surrendering 23 runs in 19 innings despite being limited to 18 batters faced or fewer each time out. Choi, for his part, went 0 for 11 with the Padres before fracturing his ankle. In a season full of things going wrong for the Padres, this is yet another entry.
5. Blue Jays: SS Paul DeJong
- Acquired from the Cardinals for RHP Matt Svanson
If you’ll recall, Bo Bichette suffered an injury the night before the deadline. The Blue Jays, presumably unsure of how long he would miss, chose to add DeJong as an insurance policy. We think it’s safe to write that the Blue Jays are thrilled Bichette didn’t miss more time than he did. DeJong was horrible with Toronto, going 3 for 44 with 18 strikeouts and no walks or extra-base hits. The Jays waived him three weeks later, and he’s since had a similarly unproductive run with the Giants. We don’t blame the Blue Jays for making the deal in the first place, but this one was an absolute stinker based on the results alone.