Column: Rangers, Astros among deadline's biggest winners

Field Level Media
We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Nov 3, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) throws a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning in game five of the 2022 World Series at Citizens Bank Park.
Nov 3, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) throws a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning in game five of the 2022 World Series at Citizens Bank Park.
Image: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 Major League Baseball trade deadline became a moment for a new crop of playoff contenders to show that their time is now, as the Texas Rangers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Miami Marlins all made key moves.

But while some clubs signaled their willingness to take chances, there were playoff mainstays like the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants who either didn't make all the moves they wanted, or barely made a move at all.


While the San Diego Padres were the clear-cut winner of last year's deadline after landing Juan Soto, there were multiple teams this year that could claim the title of champion of the trade season.



After not appearing in the playoffs since 2016 and not winning a playoff series since 2011, the Rangers decided they did not want to squander the current opportunity. Texas landed both RHP Max Scherzer from the New York Mets and LHP Jordan Montgomery from the St. Louis Cardinals to bolster a rotation that was sixth in baseball with a 3.88 ERA through July. They added LHP Aroldis Chapman to the bullpen a month ago.


Scherzer was deemed a deadline savior before, when he joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2021 and went 7-0 with a 1.98 ERA through the end of the regular season. Then again, there was the clumsy postseason usage and the awkward divorce when Scherzer departed. Montgomery had a 3.31 ERA in a year and a half with the Cardinals (32 starts) and has 5 1/2 years of experience in the American League.

Texas' next challenge: Getting and keeping SS Corey Seager healthy through October.


On the surface, a 40-year-old pitcher with more than 3,200 innings on his odometer does not seem like a move to toast. But the Astros pulled off a perfect fit, even without a top-50 prospect. RHP Justin Verlander won two Cy Young Awards with the Astros, led the charge to a World Series title and is back again, carrying with him as much optimism as talent. Houston also got back RHP Kendall Graveman from the White Sox to bolster the bullpen.


The Mets received OF Drew Gilbert, a 2022 first-round draft pick, as part of their package in the Verlander deal so it's not as if the Astros got a total steal. But in terms of getting better now with resources on hand, the Astros did just that. OF Ryan Clifford could be a huge get for the Mets, too. Gilbert will get his shot at some point in the near future, Clifford as well, and this deal figures to be viewed in a different lens at that point.


The Angels made additions all over the field, but it is the overall signal they sent while doing so that might have the biggest benefit to the franchise. So while Lucas Giolito bolsters the rotation, Reynaldo Lopez beefs up the bullpen and Eduardo Escobar, Mike Moustakas and C.J. Cron were added to the infield, maybe what the Angels ended up doing was making a pitch to keep two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani.


The Angels weren't exactly this active at past deadlines, when they were squandering away Mike Trout's best years. Now, with Ohtani about to become a free agent, they were willing to show baseball's biggest star that if he stays, they will add pieces to make it all work in order to earn a ticket to the playoffs. Signing Ohtani will still cost a record-breaking free-agent contract, but the Angels at least did their best to show they no longer will wait around for success to come.


--The Arizona Diamondbacks were a first-place team most of the first half, including the entire month of June, then hit a swoon while nursing a leaky bullpen. So the D-backs acquired closer Paul Sewald from the Mariners and then helped the lineup with moves for 3B Jace Peterson and OF Tommy Pham.


--The wild-card contending Marlins also embraced the moment, adding late-inning reliever David Robertson, slugger Jake Burger, first baseman Josh Bell and lefty Ryan Weathers.



Perennial contenders who are always active at the trade deadline, the Yankees were quiet this year aside from last-second acquisitions of RHPs Keynan Middleton from the Chicago White Sox and Spencer Howard from the Rangers. The club was confident in its roster heading into this season and seemed willing to let the assembled group prove itself. But even when the Yankees had top rosters in the past, they added pieces heading into the final two months. This year is different, but so is the Yankees' place in the standings after four months as the cellar dweller in the AL East.


OF Aaron Judge is back now after a toe injury, and perhaps the Yankees consider injured pitchers Nestor Cortes (shoulder) and Jonathan Loaisiga (elbow) the big second-half additions they are looking for. Both are on rehab assignments now. In a season when the Yankees are performing far from expectations, their roster strategy was nothing like anybody imagined, either.


The Dodgers needed starting pitching and they landed RHP Lance Lynn, who arrives with lingering questions that include a 6.47 ERA and 28 home runs allowed, the most in baseball. They thought they had a deal in place for Detroit Tigers LHP Eduardo Rodriguez, but he elected to reject the deal through his no-trade clause. They were unable to acquire Verlander. It was far from an ideal scenario with starting options in short supply near the final hour of the deadline. In a last-minute move, they landed versatile LHP Ryan Yarbrough from the Kansas City Royals.


Still scrambling after SS Gavin Lux (knee) was lost for the season and 2B Miguel Vargas was optioned back to Triple-A, the Dodgers did get back some versatility in INFs Enrique Hernandez and Amed Rosario. But pitching is what the team needed and while adding fan-favorite RHP Joe Kelly to the bullpen might appeal to loyalists, his continued command issues will test that love.


It was a brutal offseason for the Giants after missing out on both Judge and SS Carlos Correa. It seemed to be more swinging and missing when it came to the deadline, and that is not supposed to be a knock on OF AJ Pollock, who they did land from the Mariners. But even the Giants admitted Pollock was considered more of a "change-of-scenery candidate" than a game-changer.


The Giants' lack of a deadline splash was even more troubling considering they headed into the first day of August just 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Dodgers in the NL West. They are at the top of the NL wild-card standings and history has shown what San Francisco can do when it gets a foot in the playoff door. Perhaps the Giants are laying low for a charge at Ohtani in the offseason.


--The Cincinnati Reds are the talk of baseball, with young talent that has made a splash and vaulted the club into first place at the start of August. The Reds did kickoff deadline day by landing LHP Sam Moll from the Oakland A's, but so much for the idea that the Reds would be aggressive.


--By Doug Padilla, Field Level Media