Wait, what? Five most surprising moments from a bizarre MLB trade deadline week

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I said often in the weeks leading up to the July 31 trade deadline that I was fascinated to see how this year’s extravaganza would play out. 

Lots of new factors were in the mix, primarily the elimination of the Aug. 31 trade deadline. Sure, that one was a bit more complicated; players had to placed on waivers, then either moved to the team that claimed them or traded to anyone if they passed through. But the bottom line was if a contender needed help, it could find help, and if a team fell out of contention and needed to move pieces for prospects, it could do that, too.

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The elimination of that back-up plan figured to make things interesting, and that’s what happened. But even when expecting the unexpected, we were surprised by several of the moves that played out in the week or so leading up to the deadline.

Let’s take a look.

1. Mets trade for Stroman

Wait, what? The Mets had been seen as definite sellers for months. Starter Zack Wheeler, a free agent after the season, was sure to be dealt and the only question was whether they’d trade Noah Syndergaard — Thor wondered himself — and struggling closer Edwin Diaz, along with guys like Todd Frazier and others. But then they pulled off the deal for Marcus Stroman, the Toronto All-Star who was seen as one of the most valuable starters on the trade market.

It was surprising not just because it was the Mets — not the Yankees, Phillies, Astros, Cardinals or any of the other above-.500 teams who needed starters — who pulled off the deal, but because it happened on Sunday, a couple of days before the deadline, and the package the Mets sent to Toronto wasn’t exactly overwhelming. Even now, we’re still scratching our heads. 

2. Reds trade for Bauer

Wait, what? This one really came from left field (not center field, where Bauer launched his final throw in a Cleveland uniform on the field in Kansas City), for a couple of reasons. First, it was still hard to believe that the Indians, a team in prime playoff position with World Series aspirations, would trade an ace-type pitcher like Bauer who wasn’t a free agent until after 2020. But nobody thought the Reds — a team in fourth place in the NL Central, still under .500 — would be the team to spring for the deal.

But that’s how it went down, a three-team deal that gave Cleveland a huge offensive boost (Franmil Reyes and Yasiel Puig) plus prospects and landed former Cincy prospect Taylor Trammell in San Diego. Not to mention, San Diego’s haul seemed very light; Trammell is a nice prospect, but Reyes has 27 homers this year in the majors and many years remaining of club control. 

3. Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinals, Phillies and Red Sox sit still

Wait, what? I wrote about this last night, but even after a night to sleep on it, it’s still kind of stunning that these five teams — all with World Series or at least deep-into-October dreams — let the trade deadline come and go without addressing serious flaws in their roster construction. From the fans’ perspective, it was infuriating. The front offices talked about high asking prices, but still.

4. MadBum & Co., the starters who stayed put

Wait, what? Coming into the season, and even heading into July, it was hard to imagine any scenario (short of an injury) that included Madison Bumgarner wearing a Giants uniform in August and September. But then the Giants rattled off a 19-6 record in July and climbed back to the fringes of contention, and suddenly a deal wasn’t a sure thing. And sure enough, the lefty with impeccable October numbers was not traded (or even asked to approve a deal to teams on his no-trade list). That was surprising, but he wasn’t the only lefty starter who won’t have a new uniform this month. 

Zack Wheeler, well, we discussed the Mets a bit already. He stayed put. The Mets talked about him, but they asked for the moon when the moon wasn’t on the table. 

Detroit lefty Matthew Boyd is under club control for three more seasons, but he’s having a breakthrough year — seriously, his strikeout numbers are WAY up — and it made sense that the Tigers would sell as high as possible on Boyd while supplementing their rebuilding process. He stayed put. Meanwhile, the Rangers have fallen out of playoff contention (mostly) and it made sense they’d trade Mike Minor, the lefty All-Star pitcher who has one more year on his contract. But, nope. Same thing with Arizona and lefty Robbie Ray. The asking prices were said to be astronomical. 

But, yeah, with so many contenders craving starting pitching, it was still very surprising to see so many available starting pitchers staying with their old/current teams. 

5. Astros land Greinke

Wait, what? OK, this one’s not surprising for the content of the deal — the Astros clearly wanted a top-of-the-rotation piece, and Greinke made sense for a lot of reasons — but for when the trade news broke, at 4:13 p.m. ET, in a tweet by Ken Rosenthal. It wasn’t the last trade news to break, but to have something that big go down almost 15 minutes after the deadline passed sent a bit of a shock wave through Twitter. 

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