The two days leading up to the 2021 MLB trade deadline were exhilarating, weren’t they? But which players will make the biggest impacts for their new teams?
Glad you asked.
Let’s take a look at the 11 biggest impact players, using only guys moved on Thursday or Friday. It’s an arbitrary cutoff, sure, but that’s why you won’t see Starling Marte (traded on Wednesday to the A’s) Nelson Cruz (traded on July 22 to the Rays) or Adam Frazier (traded on July 26 to the Padres) on this list.
Let’s jump in.
11. Josh Harrison, A’s
Remember, there are no more trade deadlines. The August 31 waiver deadline is a thing of the past. The players on your favorite team are the players who are going to stay on your favorite team, win or lose. Reinforcements can only come from the minor leagues, or from players who were cut by other teams. And that’s why a guy like Harrison, who can play so many positions — he has played third, second, left, right and center field this season — is so very valuable. So many times, getting to the postseason and advancing in October is about how a team handles adversity and injuries, and a guy like Harrison is exactly the type of player a manager loves having at his disposal. And he’s having an outstanding season at the plate, batting .294 with a 124 OPS+ and a 2.5 bWAR.
10. Adam Duvall, Braves
The Braves brought Duvall home on Friday. He played for the club from 2018-20, swatting 26 home runs in 131 games, but signed with the Marlins as a free agent this offseason.The power is still there — 22 homers in 90 games — but the same types of issues persist. He’s batting .229 with just a .277 on-base percentage. So maybe consider Duvall as a combo entry along with Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler, the other two outfielders the Braves traded for on deadline day.
9. Anthony Rizzo, Yankees
The short porch in Yankee Stadium’s right field was designed for left-handed hitters such as Rizzo, and you can bet he’s excited to take shots at the stands out there. But don’t just take my word for it.
Anthony Rizzo has 14 home runs this season, but there’s another 10 balls he’s hit that would’ve been gone at Yankee Stadium (per Statcast).
Here they are: pic.twitter.com/msks5HxkeA
— Max Goodman (@MaxTGoodman) July 30, 2021
8. Javier Baez, Mets
Say what you want about Baez, but the man has a flair for the dramatic. His versatility will help, too: He’ll fill in at shortstop with Francisco Lindor out, and then can play either second or third base. The simplest way would be to play him at third, but his best defensive position is second, and that would allow Jeff McNeill to slide back to third base. Baez, who’s a free agent after the season, won’t shirk from the NYC spotlight. He has not been as consistent at the plate this year (NL-high 131 strikeouts, .292 obp), but does have 22 home runs, 65 RBIs and 13 stolen bases.
7. Kyle Schwarber, Red Sox
It’s easy to see Schwarber popping more than a few big homers down the stretch and in October. Remember how hot he was in June for the Nationals? But the Sox already have a DH (J.D. Martinez), and their outfield is pretty solid. So where does he play?
“We want you to play first base for the Boston Red Sox.”
“OK, well I’ve only ever played outfield and DH.”
“Kyle, it’s not that hard. Tell him, Alex.”
“It’s incredibly hard.” https://t.co/UprETBF6TB
— Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan) July 30, 2021
Yep. That’s the plan. How will that play out? We’ll see.
6. Jose Berrios, Blue Jays
As the hours and minutes ticked down to the 4 p.m. ET deadline on Friday, the Jays were feeling the pressure. The Yankees — their rival and competitor in the AL East and for the AL wild-card — had already traded for Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo. The Red Sox had dealt for reinforcements. The Rays had been active and rumors were swirling. So the Jays made the call and landed Berrios, the ex-Twins ace who jumps to the top of the rotation alongside Hyun Jin Ryu and Robbie Ray. Toronto had done a good job fortifying its bullpen, trading for Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards already, then adding Brad Hand — who had 21 saves for the Nationals this year — but Berrios was the piece they needed. And he’s under control through 2022, when the Jays fully intend to contend again.
5. Craig Kimbrel, White Sox
With Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks at the back of the bullpen, the White Sox should never run out of rested ninth-inning options in the regular season, when the two will likely share save opportunities. But this move was all about the postseason, when you’ll almost certainly see both anytime the White Sox have even a relatively narrow lead in the later innings. Kimbrel has a 0.49 ERA with a 15.7 K/9 and 23 saves. Hendriks has a 2.58 ERA with a 14.1 K/9 and 25 saves. Ridiculously solid.
4. Trea Turner, Dodgers
He’s in his age 28 season and playing like an MVP candidate. In 96 games, he has 18 homers, 21 stolen bases, a .322/.369/.521 slash line, a 146 OPS+ and a 4.1 bWAR. Corey Seager is back off the IL, so Turner will likely man second base when he’s free from Covid restraints and on the active roster. That will move Chris Taylor back to a play-everywhere role, most likely. Turner can also play center field, when needed.
3 Joey Gallo, Yankees
The Yankees have their work cut out for them. They entered play Friday 8 1/2 back of the Red Sox in the AL East and 3 1/2 out of the second wild-card spot in the AL. Some wondered exactly how they’d approach the deadline, but those questions were answered with one big ol’ trade for another big ol’ slugger. Gallo is the type of hitter who can carry a team’s offense: Remember that stretch leading into the All-Star break, when he hit 11 homers and had 19 RBIs in 12 games. The Rangers were 6-6 in those games, which roughly translates to a 10-2 record for a team that’s not 30 games under .500 100 games into the season. And in that Yankees lineup, along with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, there’s nowhere for pitchers to hide.
2. Max Scherzer, Dodgers
The Dodgers mostly traded for Scherzer to win in October, and his track record is outstanding. Scherzer has started Game 1 of a playoff series five times. He started Game 1 and Game 7 of the 2019 World Series for the Nationals and had a 2.40 ERA in 30 October innings during his club’s stunning run to the championship. He owns a career 3.38 ERA in 112 postseason innings, with only 81 hits allowed and 137 strikeouts.
But the Dodgers find themselves in a dogfight with the Giants (and Padres, kind of) in the NL West, and the stakes are high. The division winner jumps to the NLDS, which is a best-of-five series. The two wild cards get thrown into a winner-take-all win-or-go home contest during which anything can — and does — happen. Eight to 10 starts from Scherzer can go a long way toward helping L.A. catch and pass San Francisco.
1. Kris Bryant, Giants
We’ve been writing for weeks that Bryant was an ideal addition to pretty much any contender because of his ability to be a full-time third baseman, a full-time first baseman, a full-time right-fielder or a full-time center fielder. Well, the Giants’ primary first baseman (Brandon Belt) and primary third baseman (Evan Longoria) are both on the IL. Their primary left fielder (Alex Dickerson) has a .287 on-base percentage and 87 OPS+.
So, yeah, Bryant made a ton of sense for the Giants. And, if nothing else, the club’s last-hour deal to land Bryant was a needed answer to the Dodgers’ baseball-shaking trade for Scherzer and Turner. The NL West race is going to be fun, folks.