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#pounditSunday, September 20, 2020

Eight MLB teams that improved the most at the trade deadline

Brian Cashman

Though waiver trades can still be made until the end of August, the July 31 trade deadline is generally seen as MLB teams’ last, best shot to improve for a playoff run. Subsequently, the moves made Tuesday and in the leadup to the date are going to be heavily dissected to see how it sets up teams going forward. Who got better? Who got worse? Who didn’t do enough?

Here are eight teams who made the moves to get much better ahead of the stretch run.

8) Atlanta Braves

Acquiring reliever Brad Brach was a nice low-risk move for the Braves, and the same goes for the addition of power-hitting outfielder Adam Duvall to boost an offense that hasn’t quite been running on all cylinders recently. Their decision on Tuesday to trade for Baltimore Orioles starter Kevin Gausman is an intriguing one. A former top prospect who has never quite lived up to the billing, Gausman still has a good arm. A change of scenery might be just what he needs, as well as the entry into a pennant race.

7) Chicago Cubs

The Cubs made two significant moves, acquiring starter Cole Hamels and reliever Brandon Kintzler in separate deals. Kintzler isn’t a great reliever, but he is a good, sturdy option who will provide Chicago with a good amount of bullpen depth. Hamels is interesting. He’s not really an ace anymore, but he’s been good in the NL and has a whole lot of playoff experience. It’s a risk, but not a huge one. For the Cubs, it’s a risk worth taking.

6) Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers will be rightly criticized for failing to add a starting pitcher ahead of the deadline (something Lorenzo Cain defended them for), but they did make several other moves to make themselves better. Mike Moustakas is an interesting addition, as is Jonathan Schoop. It gives Milwaukee an overload of infielders, but given how bad they’ve been offensively at several of those positions — they’ve been below league average at both second base and shortstop — adding their bats will help. So will reliever Joakim Soria, who boosts an already solid Milwaukee bullpen.

5) Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates being buyers is really surprising, and what they’ve given up for Chris Archer is risky, but there is no denying that they are better now than they were before making these deals. Archer may be another player who simply needs a change of scenery. Keep in mind that his strikeout numbers have never suffered even as his ERA has risen. He’s also played great lately. Don’t overlook the addition of pitcher Keone Kela, a 25-year-old reliever armed with an upper-90s fastball who has found some success with the Texas Rangers.

4) Arizona Diamondbacks

Eduardo Escobar is a quality player who can hit and field anywhere in the infield, and he should fit very nicely into the Arizona lineup. The fact that they didn’t have to part with any quality prospects is even better. More under-the-radar but perhaps just as important are the moves to bolster the bullpen. Jake Diekman was brought in from Texas and Brad Ziegler from Miami, with both players pitching very well of late. Arizona’s bullpen has not been sharp. Adding these arms should do a lot to address that.

3) Cleveland Indians

The Indians only made one major trade before the deadline, though they were linked to a lot of other significant moves. They addressed their nightmarish bullpen by acquiring both Brad Hand and Adam Cimber from the San Diego Padres. Hand was in demand at the deadline last year, and arrives in Cleveland with a sub-3 ERA and lots of strikeouts as a lefty who can face righties. Cimber is a rookie, but he’s been solid this season and his unorthodox delivery throws hitters off. The bullpen is Cleveland’s only notable weakness, so to address it so swiftly with one trade is a big win for them.

2) Los Angeles Dodgers

When you acquire the best player who is moved in the month of July, you definitely got better, and that’s what the Dodgers did by landing Manny Machado. He should put up big numbers for them and be a key part of their run toward the playoffs. Two other smaller moves could also pay dividends. Adding power-hitting second baseman Brian Dozier from the Minnesota Twins could be exactly what he needs. It’s definitely what the Dodgers need, as their second base production has been very bad this season. John Axford is a capable reliever too, and he should give the Dodgers another useful piece in the bullpen. They had a very good deadline and are well-positioned for another lengthy playoff run.

1) New York Yankees

The Yankees were heavily linked to Machado, but they wisely stuck to smaller moves aimed more at addressing their actual pitching needs. J.A. Happ is a very good addition to the rotation — a lefty with lots of AL East experience who has also pitched in the playoffs. Zach Britton, once one of the best left-handed relievers in the game, is a low-risk addition who could end up making the back end of the bullpen nearly impenetrable. Lance Lynn looks like a curious acquisition, but he has a 4.30 ERA since the start of June, was a good starter as recently as last year, and gives the Yankees starting pitching depth that they can never have enough of. They kept virtually all of their top prospects in making these moves, too. They had an excellent deadline.

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