For the intrepid general manager, winning the MLB trade deadline is a relatively straightforward proposition. There are exceptions, but generally aggressiveness is hailed, while passivity is panned.
Once the deadline passes however, the real consequences of moves begin to be felt. And while the overall ramifications of a given trade can take a long time to come into focus, for contending clubs the short-term judgment isn't hard to pin down. The question is simply whether or not the players you acquired help you to get into the playoffs.
The San Diego Padres won this year's trade deadline by near-universal agreement. They added a generational talent in Juan Soto, bolstered their lineup with a pair of big bats in Josh Bell and Brandon Drury, and seemingly plugged a major hole in the back of the bullpen by landing one of the game's premier closers in Josh Hader.
The most important word in that previous paragraph is "seemingly" because the pitcher the Padres acquired from Milwaukee looks very much like Hader in appearance, but his performance has been unrecognizable from the reliever who had dominated the National League for 5½ years prior to the trade.
Over his first seven outings for the Padres, Hader gave up 12 runs in 4? innings, or four more than he gave up all of last season. Even after Hader's first Padres save Wednesday night, it's translated to a 19.06 ERA and a general feeling of horror whenever he has emerged from the bullpen.
Add to that so-so performances from Drury and Bell and the Padres' massive deadline haul suddenly doesn't look so triumphant. There is still time for all of these players, including Hader, to turn things around, but the thing about these moves for contenders, there isn't any time to waste.
The Padres' chances of getting into the postseason bracket have dropped by about 10% since the deadline, and instead of gearing up to challenge the mighty Dodgers in October, San Diego has to be more concerned with fending off Milwaukee for the sixth playoff slot in the National League.
These deadline stories remain a work in progress, but a month after the last major deals of the season, it's a good time to check in with how they are working out.
To do that, I calculated a version of my AXE rating for every player acquired via trade by a contending team during this year's trading period.
This version of AXE is based on comparing the numbers produced by players for their new clubs to the performance of all other players who have changed teams during the season. A bit more emphasis on contextual results (win probability added and championship probability added) has been introduced for this purpose, and only players on contending teams have been listed. Some players with little to no impact have been filtered out.
Jackpot! Acquisitions that have been huge wins
Jordan Montgomery, St. Louis Cardinals (127.2 AXE): This has nothing to do with Montgomery's AXE score, but it is illustrative: Montgomery has won more games during his first month with the Cardinals than he did during the first four months of the season with the Yankees. St. Louis has him throwing more four-seamers and attacking the upper part of the zone and the end result has been transformative.