Major League Baseball
Grading 5 of the most active teams at the 2023 MLB trade deadline
Major League Baseball

Grading 5 of the most active teams at the 2023 MLB trade deadline

Published Aug. 3, 2023 8:21 a.m. ET

The buzzer has sounded, and the 2023 MLB trade deadline has come and gone. As the dust settles across the new baseball landscape, let's take a closer look at five contending teams who were among the most active before Tuesday's deadline. 

The Houston Astros, of course, made the biggest upgrade by bringing back one Justin Verlander in a blockbuster trade with the New York Mets. But they were far from alone within the American League West. The first-place Texas Rangers made a number of upgrades to their own pitching staff, and the Los Angeles Angels went all-in after deciding to keep Shohei Ohtani

Over in the national league, the Milwaukee Brewers made some nice additions to their lineup while the Los Angeles Dodgers improved around the fringes but tried and failed to make a big, much-needed splash in their starting rotation. 

With that said, let's grade how each of these teams did in gearing up for the stretch run of the 2023 season. 


Houston Astros 

Added: SP Justin Verlander (from Mets), RP Kendall Graveman (from White Sox

Prospects traded: OF Drew Gilbert (No. 1 in MLB Pipeline team rank), OF Ryan Clifford (No. 4), C Korey Lee (No. 5)

In my opinion, the Astros needed a couple of things leading up to the deadline — a bullpen arm and starting pitcher. Despite general manager Dana Brown saying they were out on the market for starting pitching — which I don't know if I believe exactly, especially given what happened — they were able to fill both of those needs with guys they were familiar with. They got the biggest name available on the trade block and brought back a guy who has already won multiple Cy Youngs and World Series titles in an Astros uniform. 

They gave up a lot. Gilbert, their 2022 first-round draft pick out of Tennessee, is an absolute stud and going to be a star in this league. Clifford is really highly rated as well. However, the financial aspect of this trade with the Mets is a major one. 

Last winter, Justin signed a two-year contract with the Mets worth $43.3 million per year in average annual value, and the Astros were either not willing to or not able to pay that. Who would have thought that a few months later, he would have walked right back into Houston’s hands? 

[Astros reunite with Justin Verlander in blockbuster trade with Mets]

Not only that, but he is doing so at a massive discount. I didn’t know this during my initial reaction to the trade, but according to the New York Post, the Mets are sending $35 million to the Astros to help cover his contract for the rest of this year and next year. If Justin activates the $35 million vesting option in his contract for 2025 by pitching at least 140 innings, then the Mets will pay half of that ($17.5 million) as well.

In other words, the Astros will pay Justin $40 million at the absolute max — less than just one year’s worth of the contract he signed with the Mets — for him to pitch for them for the rest of this year, next year and possibly the following year, too. It’s the best-case scenario for Houston.

Add in that they brought back Graveman, another familiar face who they also acquired in 2021 and won a pennant with, and the Astros did really well overall. Another bat to lengthen that lineup would have been the cherry on top, but they filled their biggest needs in the best way possible.

Grade: A

EMERGENCY EPISODE: New York Mets have traded Justin Verlander back to the Houston Astros

Texas Rangers 

Added: SP Max Scherzer (from Mets), RP Aroldis Chapman (from Royals), SP Jordan Montgomery (from Cardinals), RP Chris Stratton (from Cardinals) 

Prospects traded: INF Luisangel Acuna (No. 3 in MLB Pipeline team rank), P Tekoah Roby (No. 11), INF Thomas Saggese (No. 14), MLB RP John King, MLB OF Cole Ragans

It feels like months ago, but let’s not forget that the Rangers also acquired Chapman in the first major trade of this year’s deadline back on June 30. Then they got Scherzer, the Mets’ other top pitcher available. Montgomery and Stratton are great pickups as well. The Rangers have really gone for it.

[MLB odds: How Verlander, Scherzer and big trades impacted World Series odds]

But there is more risk here than meets the eye. Yes, Scherzer is also a future Hall of Famer and multi-time Cy Young winner, but the 2023 Scherzer is not the pitcher we have been accustomed to watching dominate over the course of his career. He’s having one of the worst seasons of his career. Scherzer currently has a 4.01 ERA, and his fastball velocity has sunk to 93.6 mph, virtually tied for his career low. 

When you hear the name Max Scherzer, you immediately think, "Wow, what a big pickup for the Rangers" and I do think it’s a good pickup for them. But the reason I’m not going to give this team an A is because I think that they have added pitchers who will be good but not great for them. But they did what they needed to do, adding Scherzer and Montgomery to the rotation and Chapman and Stratton to the bullpen. I think the Rangers have gotten exponentially better over the past month.

Grade: B+

MLB Trade Deadline: Houston Astros & Los Angeles Angels come out as BIGGEST winners

Los Angeles Angels 

Added: SP Lucas Giolito (from White Sox), RP Reynaldo Lopez (from White Sox), INF Mike Moustakas (from Rockies), INF Eduardo Escobar (from Mets), OF Randal Grichuk (from Rockies), 1B/OF C.J. Cron (from Rockies), RP Dominic Leone (from Mets)

Prospects traded: C Edgar Quero (No. 2 in MLB Pipeline team rank), P Ky Bush (No. 3), P Jake Madden (No. 8), OF Jeremiah Jackson (No. 9), P Mason Albright (No. 28).

You can’t talk about what the Angels did at the deadline without starting the conversation with their decision to keep Shohei Ohtani and take him off the trade market, then immediately ending any uncertainty by becoming buyers for good and trading for Giolito and Lopez. 

Deciding to keep Ohtani set all this in motion. From that moment on, the Angels were all-in on making the playoffs in order to mount a desperate bid to re-sign him, and they have really gone for it. Giolito is a solid starter and Lopez has a triple-digit fastball that he has already flashed a bit in an Angels uniform.

Can the Angels re-sign Shohei Ohtani, Ohtani's Triple Crown chances & MORE

I called Cron going back to the Angels (just saying) and they immediately addressed the unfortunate Taylor Ward injury by adding Grichuk to their outfield as well. This is all in addition to the early moves they made to bring in Escobar and Moustakas as veterans that can shore up their infield. They’ve done a lot and really changed their team around.

But when it comes to the Angels, my belief has always been that they need arms, arms and more arms. They need pitching more than anything. I would have loved to see them add to their rotation with something more than just Giolito, but that’s being nitpicky. They needed to add to that exhausted bullpen and they did so with Lopez and Leone. 

They’ve been playing great baseball since the All-Star break and several of those new additions are already making an impact. Maybe they could have gone all-in for a bigger star, but they took a more widespread approach with the trade assets they had, and ended up with a good haul.

Oh, and remember, they’re supposed to get a guy named Mike Trout back from the injured list soon.

Shohei Ohtani remains with Angels post MLB trade deadline | THE HERD

Tom Verducci joins Colin Cowherd to discuss the latest baseball stories after MLB’s trade deadline.

Grade: A

Milwaukee Brewers 

Added: 1B/DH Carlos Santana (from Pirates), OF Mark Canha (from Mets), P Andrew Chafin (from Diamondbacks)

Prospects traded: P Justin Jarvis (No. 30 on MLB Pipeline team rankings), INF Jhonny Severino, MLB RP Peter Strzelecki

I remember sitting here last year repeating myself, begging the Brewers to add a bat to their lineup. Instead, they traded star closer Josh Hader to the San Diego Padres. This year, they had the same desperate need for offense and did much better. I really like the Canha pickup. I like the added power threat that Carlos Santana brings. They needed a solid lefty in the bullpen and they got that by adding Chafin, who can get them some big outs down the stretch. 

I like what the Brew Crew has done. This is not 2008 — they didn’t add an elite starting pitcher, nor did they add an elite hitter, few of which were on the trade market to begin with, but this is a very solid haul for Milwaukee.

Grade: B

[MLB trade deadline tracker: Grades, analysis, details on every transaction]

Los Angeles Dodgers 

Added: IF/OF Kiké Hernéndez (from Red Sox), IF Amed Rosario (from Guardians), SP Lance Lynn (from White Sox), RP Joe Kelly (from White Sox), SP Ryan Yarbrough (from Royals)

Prospects traded: P Nick Nastrini (No. 9 on MLB Pipeline team rank), P Jordan Leasure, P Nick Robertson, P Justin Hagenman, MLB SP Noah Syndergaard

The Dodgers missed. From what I heard, they were in play on Justin until the bitter end. They thought they were close there. Then they turned their sights to Eduardo Rodriguez, another huge arm available, only to have that blow up in their face.

They got a deal done, and confirmed as much on Tuesday that they had a deal in place with the Detroit Tigers for him. They had their deal for their impact starting pitcher, only for him to use his no-trade clause to flat-out block the trade after it had all come together. That left them in a position where they did not get the impact starting pitcher they needed.

Rodriguez said he wanted to stay closer to his family on the East Coast, and he has a 10-team no-trade clause that included the Dodgers, which is wild to think about. Normally, when you’re a good pitcher with that sort of clause, you will list teams that — no offense — are now bottom-tier like the Rockies, the A's or the Royals. But instead, Rodriguez put the Dodgers on his no-trade clause and then used it to block that move to a World Series contender.

This is something I spoke about with Justin and his no-trade clause as well; there are logistics that most fans don’t think about. Rodriguez has family in Florida, so he would probably rather have spring training there than in Arizona. Maybe he didn’t want to pull his kids out of school and have to move them away from their friends. 

I don’t know what Rodriguez is thinking any more than what I said earlier, but I do know that these are humans with families having to uproot their entire lives in the middle of a season as Max Scherzer's wife has pointed out on social media, and he decided against that.

In terms of what the Dodgers actually have done, yes, they added some solid pieces with Lynn, Kelly, Hernandez and Rosario, as well as Yarbrough, my friend and old college teammate. And they set their sights bigger and worked hard. They set their sights on Justin, then they set their sights on Rodriguez, and those moves fell through. 

So they end up with this underwhelming haul after some big swings and misses. This sucks for Dodgers fans.

Grade: C

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