If you thought the Thursday night megadeal in which the Washington Nationals shipped Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Los Angeles Dodgers was going to be the end of the stakes-raising at the MLB trade deadline, goodness were you mistaken.
Dozens of deals went down Friday, each one seemingly bigger than the last, culminating in Kris Bryant heading to the San Francisco Giants just before the 4 p.m. ET deadline as part of an incredible National League West arms race (the San Diego Padres got both Adam Frazier and Jake Marisnick, and many feel that wasn't anywhere near enough to keep pace).
MLB fans haven't said "blockbuster" this many times in a single day since making plans to pick up a Nintendo 64 copy of Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball from their local rental stores back in 1998.
But while big trade after big trade was announced, not every team was a big winner.
In fact, about a quarter of the teams in the big leagues badly botched this late July window of opportunity to get better, either immediately or in the future.
One team of note that will not appear on this list is the Chicago Cubs. They dealt Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Craig Kimbrel and Javier Baez, emphatically waving a white flag on the 2021 season. But at least they got an impressive return for their fire sale, particularly both Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer in the Kimbrel deal. What they got from the New York Yankees for Rizzo (Alexander Vizcaino and Kevin Alcantara) was also solid.
Other teams (Washington and the Texas Rangers) that hit the reset button didn't get anywhere near as much back. But at least they wisely steered into rebuilds.
The same surely cannot be said for the Colorado Rockies.
Coming into the 2021 campaign, there was one in-season transaction we all thought was a lock: Colorado trading Trevor Story before the deadline.
The Rockies were never expected to compete for a playoff spot, and they haven't. They are 15 games below .500 and have no hope of making the postseason. And after they traded Nolan Arenado in February, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that they wouldn't re-sign Story when he becomes a free agent this offseason.
Yet as an incredible number of major deals trickled in over the 24 hours before the deadline, Story never got dealt.
Neither did Jon Gray, who is in the last year of his contract and pitching pretty well by Colorado standards (3.67 ERA).
Both players surely had some value on the open market, especially Story. Even in what has been a down year compared to his previous three, the shortstop has 13 home runs and 17 stolen bases with a career OPS of .860. Put him on a team with something to play for, and maybe he turns things around in a big way.
But perhaps Colorado was aiming too high and got hung out to dry when the Nationals, Cubs and Rangers went into fire-sale mode, oversaturating the market with star players.
Now, all they'll get when Story signs a megadeal elsewhere is a compensatory draft pick.
On the one hand, we should probably grade the Seattle Mariners on a curve. They haven't made the playoffs since 2001, so this whole "try to get better at the trade deadline" concept is a new one.
On the other hand, you don't need to be an annual buyer to know it's not a great idea to improve a division rival that is ahead of you in the standings.
And yet, that's exactly what the Mariners did when they traded Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero to the Houston Astros for Joe Smith and Abraham Toro.
Graveman had a 0.82 ERA and 10 saves and was clearly the most reliable arm in the Seattle bullpen, and relief pitching is perhaps the only thing that's kept Houston from running away with the AL West. And while Toro has homered in each of his first two games with the M's, they gave away their closer for a 37-year-old with a 7.48 ERA and a third baseman who was triple-slashing .193/.276/.350 in 308 career plate appearances.
It might have made some sense from a buy low/sell high perspective if general manager Jerry Dipoto hadn't acknowledged it didn't make much sense as a stand-alone deal.
Really, what doesn't make sense is the pair of trades the Mariners made, as they also got closer Diego Castillo from the Tampa Bay Rays for Austin Shenton and JT Chargois. In summation, they traded a closer and a late-inning reliever for a young third baseman and a middle reliever...and then traded a third base prospect and a middle reliever for a closer. And in the process, they helped a division rival.
To their credit, at least they now have a potential long-term solution at closer. Graveman will be a free agent this offseason, while Castillo won't hit free agency until after the 2024 season. However, it was still a head-scratching pair of moves.
We'll need to wait at least a few years to find out whether the Nationals blew it at the trade deadline, but one thing's for darn sure.
They blew it up.
Closer Brad Hand was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. Primary setup man Daniel Hudson was dealt to San Diego. Top slugger Kyle Schwarber was shipped to the Boston Red Sox. Jon Lester is on his way to the St. Louis Cardinals. Yan Gomes and Josh Harrison were relocated to the Oakland Athletics. And in the blockbuster of all blockbusters, the Nationals sent both Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Dodgers—who are evidently content to spend almost $100 million more than any other team to ensure they are the favorites to win it all.
And in return for eight of their best and most expensive players, the Nationals got a boatload of prospects.
The most noteworthy of those 12 minor league acquisitions were catcher Keibert Ruiz and pitcher Josiah Gray, both of whom are in the top 50 of MLB.com's prospect rankings.
Prior to that, the Nationals had only two top-100 prospects, so at least they improved one of the worst farm systems in baseball. And most of the players they traded will be unrestricted free agents at the end of this season. Considering they are eight games below .500 and nowhere close to playoff position, getting anything in return for those expiring contracts has to be considered a win.
Speaking as a Nats fans, though, trading Turner hurts. Not only is he having an awesome season (.322 BA, 18 HR, 21 SB), but he is still arbitration-eligible (aka under team control) for one more season before he will hit free agency after 2022. His salary for that 2022 season is going to be a big one (he's making $13 million this year, and that will surely increase), but trading him makes it feel like Washington has not only given up on this season but on next season, too.
Of course, the prospect haul from Los Angeles would not have been anywhere near as impressive without Turner in the deal. But that doesn't make it any easier to stomach.