MLB Playoff Watch: Ranking contenders’ roster upgrades from the trade deadline

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Action doesn’t always breed success. Inaction doesn’t always lead to failure. 

Just look at the American League West. 

The Angels did what they felt necessary in what could be Shohei Ohtani’s final few months in Anaheim, shifting gears from sellers to buyers and tapping the trade market in bulk. They added Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López, CJ Cron and Randal Grichuk, then responded with … a six-game losing skid. 

On the other end, the Seattle Mariners dealt one of the most reliable relievers in the game in Paul Sewald, added a couple of hitters who have performed below-league-average this year, and … have since looked unstoppable. They’re 5-1 post-deadline and have moved within 2.5 games of a wild-card spot. 


It is, of course, a tiny sample size. One week shouldn’t completely skew whatever you thought about the deadline moves. We don’t know how it will all unfold with two months of baseball still to play. 

What we do know is which teams did the most to shake up their lineups and pitching staffs. 

This is not a revision of our winners and losers, which spotlighted baseball’s most positive and negative outlooks on deadline day. In the first edition of our weekly MLB Playoff Watch series, we’re examining which contenders’ current big-league rosters changed the most from their trade activity — and thus potentially altered their 2023 fortunes, for better or worse. 

(Only teams within five games of a playoff spot entering Monday were considered for this list. Sorry, Angels.) 


19) San Francisco Giants
Playoff position: 61-51, NL wild card No. 1
Notable additions: OF AJ Pollock, UT Mark Mathias

18) Cincinnati Reds
Playoff position: 59-55, percentage points back of NL wild card 
Notable additions: LHP Sam Moll

On July 31, the Reds were in first place, the Giants were in second and both flawed but productive clubs seemed a piece or two away from really making their division races interesting. San Francisco needed middle-infield help, and a power righty or another lefty in the rotation wouldn’t have hurt. 

Meanwhile, it seemed like it might be an interesting time for Cincinnati to move one of its highly regarded but blocked infield prospects — hello, Noelvi Marte, Cam Collier and Edwin Arroyo — to find starting pitching. Instead, both teams hit the snooze button at the deadline. Now, the upstart Reds are on an L-6 as the Brewers and Cubs ascend, and the Giants were just swept by the A’s. 

Best moments from the A’s 2-1 victory over the Giants on Saturday

Best moments from the A's 2-1 victory over the Giants on Saturday

17) Boston Red Sox 
Playoff position: 57-54, 5.0 games back of AL wild card 
Notable additions: INF Luis Urías 
Notable subtractions: UT Kiké Hernández

16) New York Yankees 
Playoff position: 58-54, 4.5 games back of AL wild card 
Notable additions: RHP Keynan Middleton

Either of these playoff hopefuls could have made a splash to try to gain ground in the sport’s most demanding division. Or, they could have punted and thought toward the future. Instead, they mostly did neither, though the Red Sox did get some prospect value back for Kiké Hernández — who might have been designated for assignment anyway — and took an interesting flier on Urías.

What is happening with the Yankees?

What is happening with the Yankees?

15) Minnesota Twins 
Playoff position: 59-54, first in AL Central 
Notable Additions: RHP Dylan Floro 
Notable subtractions: RHP Jorge López

Leading the abysmal AL Central, the Twins asserted their position atop the division by … dealing Jorge López in a one-for-one swap of underperforming bullpen arms? That’s it. Still, their inaction was rewarded. Simply by not selling, they arguably did more to change their playoff fate at the deadline than any other club. All-in! 

14) Seattle Mariners
Playoff position: 60-52, 2.5 games back of AL wild card 
Notable additions: OF Dominic Canzone, INF Josh Rojas, RHP Trent Thornton
Notable subtractions: RHP Paul Sewald, OF AJ Pollock

In a more uneventful deadline than most, even Trader Jerry Dipoto barely got involved. The Mariners found themselves among many clubs in the in-between zone. Their additions cost them one of the top closers on the market, but they also didn’t deal any of their top young starters. Without adding an impact bat, they’ll have to hope Teoscar Hernández can get going. 


13) Atlanta Braves
Playoff position: 70-39, first in NL East 
Notable additions: RHP Pierce Johnson, LHP Brad Hand, INF Nicky Lopez, RHP Yonny Chirinos

The best roster in baseball had no real holes to fill. The Braves bolstered the bullpen and flipped recently DFA’d reliever Taylor Hearn for Lopez, who I now assume will end up winning NLCS MVP. 

Is this the best Braves team of all-time?

Is this the best Braves team of all-time?

12) Philadelphia Phillies
Playoff position: 61-51, NL wild card No. 2 
Notable additions: RHP MIchael Lorenzen, INF Rodolfo Castro

11) Chicago Cubs 
Playoff position: 58-54, NL wild card No. 3
Notable additions: INF Jeimer Candelario, RHP José Cuas
Playoff position: 58-54, NL wild card No. 3 

10) Baltimore Orioles
Playoff position: 70-42, first in AL East 
Notable additions: RHP Jack Flaherty, RHP Shintaro Fujinami 

Each of these teams addressed a flaw. But while the Orioles made a late play to add Flaherty, they decided against using their significant position player prospect riches to add a frontline, impact ace. If not now, with the AL’s best record, then when? 

MLB playoff picture: Will Orioles hold on? Astros the team to beat?

MLB playoff picture: Will Orioles hold on? Astros the team to beat?


9) Tampa Bay Rays 
Playoff position: 68-46, AL wild card No. 1 
Notable additions: RHP Aaron Civale 

Who doesn’t love a one-for-one trade? The Rays wanted more depth in a rotation that lost Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen for the season, and they got a pitcher in Civale who’s under team control for another two years by parting with one of their top prospects. The careers of Civale and Kyle Manzardo will forever be intertwined. Whatever Manzardo becomes, if the deal helps deliver the Rays their first championship, they won’t mind. 

8) Houston Astros 
Playoff position: 64-49, AL wild card No. 2 
Notable additions: RHP Justin Verlander, RHP Kendall Graveman 

If this were simply a ranking of the biggest or best deadline moves, as my colleague Jordan Shusterman so eloquently compiled, you’d find Houston right toward the top. The Astros added nothing to their offense, but what they lacked in overall quantity they made up for in quality, making their chances of a repeat all the more believable. 


7) San Diego Padres
Playoff position: 55-57, 3.0 games back of NL wild card
Notable additions: RHP Scott Barlow, LHP Rich Hill, 1B/DH Ji Man Choi, 1B/DH Garrett Cooper
Notable subtractions: LHP Ryan Weathers

In a similar boat as the Mets, the Padres took a different route. They could have sold Blake Snell and Josh Hader but instead continued adding, making a plethora of moves at the margins to address some deficiencies and maybe bring a vibe change to a talented but confounding club. 

Padres rally late versus Dodgers en route to victory

Padres rally late versus Dodgers en route to victory

6) Milwaukee Brewers 
Playoff position: 60-53, first in NL Central
Notable additions: OF Mark Canha, 1B Carlos Santana, LHP Andrew Chafin
Notable subtractions: RHP Peter Strzelecki, INF Luis Urías

5) Toronto Blue Jays 
Playoff position: 63-50, AL wild card No. 3 
Notable additions: RHP Jordan Hicks, SS Paul DeJong, LHP Génesis Cabrera

4) Arizona Diamondbacks
Playoff position: 57-56, 1.5 games back of NL wild card
Notable additions: RHP Paul Sewald, OF Tommy Pham, UT Jace Peterson 
Notable subtractions: 3B Josh Rojas, OF Dominic Canzone, LHP Andrew Chafin

The Brewers needed more pop and had no lefties in the bullpen beyond Hoby Milner. The Blue Jays were dealing with the absences of closer Jordan Romano and shortstop Bo Bichette. The D-backs have had a revolving door at closer and were in the market for more outfield power. The immediate needs of all three clubs were addressed — surprisingly, Chafin went from one of these teams to another — even if they didn’t fundamentally alter the landscape of their respective divisions. 

Brandon Belt smashes home run to get Blue Jays started versus Red Sox

Brandon Belt smashes home run to get Blue Jays started versus Red Sox


3) Los Angeles Dodgers
Playoff position: 64-46, first in NL West
Notable additions: RHP Lance Lynn, RHP Joe Kelly, SS Amed Rosario, UT Kiké Hernández, LHP Ryan Yarbrough
Notable subtractions: RHP Noah Syndergaard, OF Trayce Thompson, RHP Phil Bickford, LHP Adam Kolarek, LHP Justin Bruihl

Missing out on the top-line ace they coveted, the Dodgers instead bolstered their depth. It’s more quantity over quality, but all five additions are contributing, the losses to the farm system were minimal and the (very) early returns on the reclamation projects are overwhelmingly positive through a week in Los Angeles. 

2) Miami Marlins
Playoff position: 58-55, 0.5 games back of NL wild card
Notable additions: RHP David Robertson, 3B Jake Burger, 1B Josh Bell, LHP Ryan Weathers, RHP Jorge López
Notable subtractions: RHP Dylan Floro, INF Garrett Cooper, INF Jean Segura

The Marlins were buyers, folks! They needed more corner infield pop and help at the back end of the bullpen, and they went out and got each in a shallow market. Was it all worth losing prospects Marco Vargas, Jake Eder and Kahlil Watson? Only time will tell, but in the present, Miami is without a doubt more equipped to battle for a wild-card spot. 

MLB Power Rankings: Rangers move into top 3

MLB Power Rankings: Rangers move into top 3


1) Texas Rangers
Playoff position: 66-46, first in AL West 
Notable additions: RHP Max Scherzer, LHP Jordan Montgomery, RHP Chris Stratton, LHP Aroldis Chapman, C Austin Hedges
Notable subtractions: LHP John King, LHP Cole Ragans

Financial investments in Corey Seager and Marcus Semien last offseason, then Jacob deGrom and Nathan Eovaldi this offseason, signaled a team ready to win now. Even after losing deGrom, the Rangers’ hopes of winning their first division title in seven years remain in front of them. They needed rotation help, so they added two of the best available. They needed bullpen help, so they added the top reliever on the market. 

By overhauling its pitching staff again — while only dealing one top prospect (Luisangel Acuña) in the process — Texas has given itself a chance. Is it enough to hold off the defending world champs? It’ll be tough, but there’s something to be said for the Rangers’ willingness to go for it.

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and MLB as a whole for FOX Sports. He previously was the Dodgers’ editor of digital and print publications. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner. 

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