The trade deadline was only six days ago, and teams more or less have the roster they intend on using for the remainder of the season and into the postseason. Over 100 players changed uniforms, and every team got in on the action in one way or another save the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Blue Jays, Astros, and Rangers clearly improved their major league team while the Tigers and Phillies front offices did their best to rebuild for the future (lot of good that did for Dave Dombrowski).
Despite the myriad of moves, several contending teams missed clear opportunities to upgrade on the margins, where it is often said playoff runs are made. Additionally, there are teams who are simply not close enough to competing who didn't do enough to secure their future at the expense of a few more losses this year. Below is a list of the biggest misses of the trade deadline and the potential impact.
Team: Pittsburgh Pirates
Missed Opportunity: Right handed outfielder
With a current outfield of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco, one would not view the Buccos' outfield as needing an addition. Polanco simply cannot hit lefthanded pitching--with the mixing and matching required in the playoffs, the Pirates really should have added a right handed outfielder who could enter the game in the latter innings.
Polanco has not been a stellar hitter this season (89 wRC+), but much of this has to do with his inability to hit southpaws. Against right handed pitching, he is about a league average hitter, with a slash line of .252 / .325 / .379. Against lefties, .190 / .277 / .224, for a putrid wRC+ of 44.
The low-payroll Pirates will not go out and make a big splash for a Cole Hamels or a rental like a Johnny Cueto, but improving on the margins would give them a better shot at winning the division rather than playing for a one-game, winner-take-all wild card, as well as position them better in the latter innings of a key playoff game. Someone like Rajai Davis or Marlon Byrd (who may have too much history with the club to boomerang back into Pittsburgh) would have been a relatively low cost improvement.
Team: New York Yankees
Missed Opportunity: Starting pitching depth
It's no secret that in the playoffs, teams only need three decent starters. Last year, the Royals made it to within one game of winning a World Series without stellar pitching. James Shields was hardly the ace he was proposed to be, pitching nine innings and giving up seven runs in two World Series starts.
Pitching depth is something that is generally discussed as necessary over the course of the long season, but for an aged team like the Yankees, and one where even some of their young pitchers have health issues, neither the next eight weeks nor a playoff rotation is a given.
Thus far this season, Yankees starters are 23rd in innings pitched but have been effective, and have posted the 12th-highest fWAR for starters.
Michael Pineda leads Yankee starters in fWAR with 3.0, but he is currently on the disabled list with forearm tightness. Masahiro Tanaka has also dealt with injuries throughout the season, and although he is effective when healthy, the Yankees are relying on him to toss significant playoff innings.
The Yankees missed an opportunity to add starting pitching depth as they attempt to stay in first place in the AL East. The Dodgers essentially gave up little in terms of players but acquired pitching depth by adding payroll, the Yankees would have done well to do the same.
Team: San Diego Padres
Missed Opportunity: Improving the farm system by trading lame duck players
On the other side of the ledger is a team that views itself on a different part of the win curve than they probably are. During the offseason, A.J. Preller bought everyone who wasn't nailed down, yet the team currently sits a handful of games below .500 and would have to leapfrog numerous teams to nab even the second wild card slot.
The Padres have a plethora of players whose contracts expire at the end of the season, several of whom could've potentially fetched good prospects. The most obvious player is Justin Upton, who has 18 home runs and is hitting 11 percent above league average--and likely to leave town at the end of the season.
Joaquin Benoit would also have been a good trade candidate, although he probably would not have fetched much--a lottery ticket would have been better than keeping him in San Diego. Although his ERA and ERA- are good (2.17 and 61, respectively) his K:BB rate is the lowest since 2008.
Preller could have also packaged these players with Corey Leubke or Will Venable, both of whom are free agents at the end of the season.
Team: Cincinnati Reds
Missed Opportunity: Trading expiring contracts and perhaps a star; identifying a timeline for contention
My colleague Nick Lampe wrote about why the Reds should consider trading Todd Frazier, and he makes a pretty compelling case. The Reds, much like the Padres, are in an extremely competitive division, with multiple teams that do not look like their reign as a contenders will end anytime soon. With the perennially-strong Cardinals, reinvigorated Pirates, and up-and-coming Cubs, the Reds look unsure about their timeline to compete.
Frazier would have fetched an excellent return, and it would make sense for him to have been moved (you should really read Nick's piece), but the Reds do not seem to be showing a discernible plan for a rebuild, nor are they looking like they will be contenders any time soon.