Dave Dombrowski had no trades to announce on Tuesday at Fenway Park, which made him the exception among top decision makers in baseball. Dombrowski, the president of baseball operations for the Red Sox, could hardly keep track of his peers’ deals on a frenetic non-waiver trading deadline.
“They’re pouring in left and right,” he said, adding later, “All of a sudden, conversations were coming out of everywhere.”
Those conversations led to deals for almost every team in July, including the Red Sox, who acquired starter Nathan Eovaldi from the Tampa Bay Rays last week and second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night.
The rotation depth became especially important Tuesday when the Red Sox put Chris Sale, their ace left-hander, on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Sale will be replaced by Brian Johnson on Thursday against the Yankees, but he could return soon after that.
“Fortunately for us, we’re a very deep team,” said Sale, who did not want to go on the disabled list. “We trust everybody.”
The standings support that feeling. The Red Sox reached the deadline at 75-33, the first time in 72 years that they have been this many games over .500. They did not add a reliever, as many had expected, but finally found a sure-handed replacement at second for Dustin Pedroia.
“It’s pretty simple,” said Kinsler, a four-time All-Star. “They’re the best team in baseball right now, so I’m happy to be aboard.”
The rest of the league is chasing the Red Sox, who before Tuesday held a six-game division lead over the Yankees, who had baseball’s second-best record at 67-37. The Yankees kept most of their best prospects in July, while adding pitchers Zach Britton, J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn and significant international bonus money.
The other teams in the American League East, meanwhile, shed many of their best players. Happ was the Toronto Blue Jays’ only All-Star, and the Rays traded catcher Wilson Ramos, who was voted to start the All-Star Game, to the Philadelphia Phillies for a player to be named.
The Rays also shipped starter Chris Archer — a two-time All-Star and perhaps their most recognizable player — to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday for pitcher Tyler Glasnow, outfielder Austin Meadows and a player to be named. The Pirates, who won 15 of their last 19 games before the deadline, also traded for reliever Keone Kela from the Texas Rangers on Monday night.
Including option years, Archer is scheduled to earn $27.5 million over the 2019-2021 seasons, a contract that makes him especially attractive to the Pirates, who rarely chase expensive free agents.
“As we looked at the market, the ability to impact this year’s club and put ourselves in a better spot this year” was critical, General Manager Neal Huntington told reporters in Pittsburgh. “But it’s also important that we’ve impacted next year’s club and clubs beyond that.”
With Archer and Eovaldi gone, the Rays will continue to start games with relievers. They have just one active pitcher who has made more than seven starts this season: Ryne Stanek, who averages fewer than two innings per start.
The last-place Baltimore Orioles, as expected, were the majors’ most aggressive seller. They reached the deadline a staggering 42 games behind the Red Sox and completed a sweeping set of changes that began over the All-Star break when they dealt their centerpiece shortstop, Manny Machado, to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In the weeks since, the Orioles have sent Britton to the Yankees and reliever Brad Brach to the Atlanta Braves, who also grabbed pitchers Kevin Gausman. The Orioles also sent second baseman Jonathan Schoop, an All-Star last season, to the Milwaukee Brewers for second baseman Jonathan Villar and two prospects.
Schoop has no clear spot on the Brewers, who recently moved Travis Shaw to second to accommodate their new third baseman, Mike Moustakas. The Brewers acquired Moustakas in a trade with the Kansas City Royals on Friday, a day after trading with the Chicago White Sox for reliever Joakim Soria.
Nearly every contender acquired more than one player who could potentially make a big impact in July, reflecting the clear lines of competition within the game this summer.
“Certain teams have comfortable leads in their division races and are loading up for October baseball; I think that’s largely the American League teams,” said Matt Klentak, the Phillies’ general manager. “And I think in the National League, where there’s more contenders, a lot of teams are aligning their rosters to make a push to make the playoffs. There’s just a lot of teams that were active and looking to fill holes.”
For the Phillies, who reached the deadline with the National League’s third-best record despite ranking 10th in runs scored, that meant adding reliable veteran hitters like Ramos and Asdrubal Cabrera, an infielder who arrived from the Mets in a trade last Friday.
The Phillies held a half-game lead in the East over the Braves at the deadline, matching the Los Angeles Dodgers’ margin over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the N.L. West. Since the Machado deal, the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks have fortified their rosters in strikingly similar ways.
Both acquired everyday infielders from the sagging Minnesota Twins in July, with the Diamondbacks getting third baseman Eduardo Escobar last Friday and the Dodgers getting second baseman Brian Dozier on Tuesday. The rivals also traded for setup relievers on Tuesday: John Axford to the Dodgers from Toronto, and Jake Diekman (from Texas) and Brad Ziegler (from Miami) to the Diamondbacks.
If you need some time to process it all, you are not alone. Like Dombrowski, Klentak was eager to see how the landscape had changed after the blustery July trade winds.
“I don’t even know if I know the full extent of everything that’s happened,” Klentak said, just after the 4 p.m. deadline. “This is one of the first times I’ve come up for air in the last few days.”