The Biggest Trade Deadline Winners
By: Dylan Drummey (NL) and Will Prater (AL)
The 2021 Trade Deadline was one of the most exciting deadlines the modern generation of fans have ever seen. Buyers made sure to go all out, sacrificing many prospects in hopes of winning in the playoffs. Sellers did the same, with some trading about 2/3rds of their starting lineups at the time. All in all, it was exciting to the fans to see teams make a decisive choice about the future. But with all of these moves, which teams emerged to be the biggest victors of this deadline?
National League: Dodgers
As the Dodgers have already been discussed throughout several articles this year, the reader may know that I already viewed them as a true dream team… before the deadline. Now, they appear to be unstoppable. While everyone knew that the Dodgers were going to be buyers at the deadline, I do not think many expected them to be to this extent. They decided to completely disregard the luxury tax, having the largest MLB payroll by over 60 million dollars ($267m). It is clear that they want to be locked to win the World Series, and these moves only affirm that.
To begin their transactions, let’s take a look at the acquisition of LHP Danny Duffy and Cash Considerations from the Royals for a PTBNL. In the time before his injury, Duffy has looked incredible. He currently carries a 3.39 FIP and 1.6 fWAR through 61 IPs. Even though Duffy is an older player (32) and he is now somewhat injury-prone, one may be able to expect better performance in his new bullpen role. By no longer having to carry the responsibility of handling at least 5 innings per game, his arm will endure less stress, leading to less injury throughout the season. With less stress and injury, as well as no longer having to face batters a second and third time through the order, his numbers will likely improve from their current great state, making this a very high upside move for the Dodgers. And while this bullpen staff is already ranked 9th in fWAR this year, this addition supports an even higher rate of production than before, as well as an additional safeguard for this injury-prone team.
For their next move, the Dodgers acquired SS Trea Turner and RHP Max Scherzer from the Royals for RHP Josiah Gray, C Keibert Ruiz, OF Donovan Casey, and RHP Gerardo Carrillo. In other words, the Dodgers gain two high-tier starting players in exchange for a chunk of their farm system. While giving up this many high-tier prospects for a rental (Scherzer) and an arbitration-eligible player (T. Turner) may not seem logical at first glance, I am fully supportive of this move. On the first leg of this trade is Trea Turner, who is doing fantastic this year. Currently maintaining a .381 wOBA, 136 wRC+, and 4.2 fWAR, Trea is at the top of his game. On top of that, he is currently the fastest player in baseball, stealing 21 bases with his 30.7 ft/sec average sprint speed. He makes for a wonderful addition to an already loaded lineup. On the second leg is ace Max Scherzer, who is having one of his best seasons yet. With a 3.53 FIP, 11.97 K/9, and 2.7 fWAR, this type of addition to the Dodgers allows them to have one of the most unstoppable starting rotations in all of Baseball. While they were already ranked No. 1 by Fangraphs before the deadline, this moves them farther from the competition. And while they lost major prospects to do this deal, I believe adding these players is the difference between them winning the World Series this year or not.
With the Dodgers already committed to winning this year with their insanely high payroll, coming up short would be an utter embarrassment. And as of now, that is a possibility. They are currently 4 games behind the leading Giants in the NL West, barely holding onto the top Wild Card spot ahead of the Padres. Even though the playoffs are likely, it is not a guarantee with multiple hot teams making a valiant effort for those spots. By adding additional depth to an already deep team, the new magnitude of how good this team can be is quite impressive. And truthfully, I believe the addition of the three players mentioned makes the possibility of them winning that World Series increase by a major degree, now having so much backup in the case anything goes wrong on the roster. In turn, this is why I believe they were the winners in the NL of the 2021 trade deadline.
American League: Twins
This has been a sad year for Twins fans. Falling from a playoff contender last season to the bottom of the AL Central now, stress and anger have rippled through the Twins organization and their strong, loyal fanbase. The Minnesota Twins are a relatively old team, led by veteran slugger Nelson Cruz until the deadline, but after the tradeline, the Twin's organization gained several star prospects who could help turn the club around in the future. To all Twins fans reading this, keep your head up… there are brighter days ahead.
Minnesota pulled off what I believe was the biggest steal of the trade deadline, sending SP Jose Berrios to Toronto in exchange for Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson. The confusion felt was prominent, sending an average pitcher to Toronto in exchange for two Top 100 prospects has baffled us here at The Drummey Angle, but one thing is crystal clear... The Twins won. Jose Berrios has had an above-average season, boasting an 8-5 record with a 3.23 era and a WHIP of 1.03 across 22 starts this season. Adding him to the Blue Jays rotation could be beneficial but the damage has already been done to the farm system. Austin Martin was drafted 5th overall by the Jays in the 2020 Draft and has already been branded as the 14th best prospect in all of baseball. In Double-A, Martin is batting .292, slugging .394 and his OBP is .439. Martin has shown since his time at Vanderbilt that he is an elite hitter and a solid infielder. Along with Martin, the Twins got Woods-Richardson, who at the time of being traded was the 10th ranked prospect for the Jays. Simeon has shown his potential on the mound but has struggled this season after missing last year due to the pandemic. He’s 2-4 with a 5.76 ERA and a WHIP of 1.50 so far this year. Despite struggling, Woods-Richardson pitched for Team USA in the Olympics this past month and showed off his dominance versus international competition. Both prospects are still very young and have time to develop in the Twins farm system. The Twins clearly won this trade with the Blue Jays and still pulled off another trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, this time for veteran slugger Nelson Cruz.
The Twins traded Nelson Cruz to Tampa for minor league pitching prospects Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman. Cruz is having an age 41 season for the history books, batting .281 with a .355 OBP and 23 home runs. Adding Cruz’s bat to the DH position is a solid move by the Rays, who have struggled with a DH this season. Cruz’s bat is a key piece to an already solid team that could help them make it back to the classic in the fall. Though the Twins lost a big bat in their lineup they gained two solid right-handed pitchers for the future. Besides, with Minnesota’s flailing record, a slugger on a one-year deal is not very helpful right now. Joe Ryan boasted a 4-3 record with a 3.63 ERA at Triple-A Durham this season before he left the team to join his new teammate Simeon Woods-Richardson on Team USA at the Olympics in Tokyo. Along with Ryan, the Twins acquired Triple-A ace Drew Strotman. Strotman has been dominant this season posting a 7-3 record with a 3.59 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP across 15 starts, adding another young stud to the farm system.
Though the Twins have had an abysmal season, the future looks brighter than ever. Along with Martin, Woods-Richardson, Ryan, and Strotman, the Twins also have a top 10 prospect in Royce Lewis who can help in the middle infield as Andrelton Simmons reaches the end of his career. With those major trades, Minnesota has to be the winner in the AL of the 2021 trade deadline. Boss up Twins fans, the future is looking great.