NL Central Roundup: A Look at Trade Deadline Moves, Winners and Losers

The MLB trade deadline has come and gone. The Cubs were active but not the most active team in their division. Here we take a look at the moves each team made in the NL Central.

Chicago Cubs (64-41)

The Cubs have won 6 of 10 and, more importantly, are showing that look of a team readying itself for the postseason. The headline-grabber move came earlier last week when Theo Epstein brought over closer Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees. In his first two appearances with the Cubs, Chapman wowed the Wrigley crowd – throwing 13 pitches at or over 100 mph on the radar gun in his first game. Then, the lefty flamethrower nailed down his first save in a Chicago uniform Thursday night, as the home team downed their crosstown rival White Sox, 3-1.

In addition to Chapman, the Cubs acquired left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery from the Seattle Mariners for first baseman, Dan Vogelbach.

Earlier in the week there were conflicting reports and opinions from those inside MLB on what the Cubs next move would be – we now know that they’ve traded for RHP Joe Smith. In exchange for Smith they sent prospect RHP Jesus Castillo to the Angels. Castillo is a pitcher that plays for the Short-Season Class A Eugene Emeralds.

Coming into the trade deadline, the biggest question about the Cubs was their bullpen. Both their offense and starting pitching has been nails this year, both first in the majors. But their bullpen has been rocky, ranking 11th in the majors with a 3.62 ERA. With these moves the Cubs now have the best bullpen in the NL Central, if not all of baseball.

Bottom Line: WINNER

St. Louis Cardinals (59-49)

As the Cardinals sit 8 games back of the Cubs, currently, the decision on whether to buy, sell, or stand pat seemed to be a precarious one. It does not appear the Cardinals have the team in place right now to make a serious run through the postseason – if they even clinch a berth at all. The team still struggles winning at Busch; big bats like Matt Holliday, Brandon Moss, and Jhonny Peralta cannot get or stay healthy; one-time ace Matt Carpenter is not expected to return until at least mid-August; and closer Trevor Rosenthal is now on the 15-day DL.

In an effort to supplement their bullpen the Cardinals acquired under-the-radar lefty Zach Duke from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for minor league outfielder Charlie Tilson. While this isn’t necessarily a sexy move, it is effective and it will improve an already solid bullpen for the Cardinals. Although, I’d stop short of saying this move puts them in a significantly better position to make a run for the playoffs.

What is clear for the Cardinals is they’re happy enough with their future prospects, irregardless of what happens this year, and they must have believed there was no good way to dramatically improve their team enough to pull the trigger on a impact trade, or at least without selling the farm.

Bottom Line: LOSER

Pittsburgh Pirates (52-51)

While the Central Division seems unrealistic for the Pirates, the team sits only 3.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot, as August rolls around. The starting rotation has been abysmal this year, plagued by injuries to their top arms Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. The team has had to rely on a hodge-podge of starting pitchers, led by Francisco Liriano, Jon Niese, and Jeff Locke, to keep the rotation from falling completely apart.

Pittsburgh made a series of moves at the deadline that seemed to be geared towards dumping salary and looking to the future. First, they traded reliever Mark Melancon to the Nationals for LHP Felipe Rivero and prospect, LHP Taylor Hearn. In terms of talent, this is a downgrade for the Pirates. But they dumped what’s left of Melancon’s $9.65 million contract.

In addition to trading Melancon, they also sent LHP Francisco Liriano, and two prospects – RHP Harold Ramirez and C Reese McGuire to Toronto for RHP Drew Hutchinson.

And finally, the Pirates dealt LHP Jon Niese to the Mets for LHP Antonio Bastardo. Oh, and they acquired RHP Ivan Nova from the Yankees for two other PTBNL.

All in all, it felt like the Pirates main objective was to clear salary space and look towards the future with these moves. While they made quite a few moves before the deadline, it seems like they set themselves up to bring some of their young prospects up this season to give them experience for future years. I’m not saying Pittsburgh has waved the white flag, but this is about as close as you get.

Bottom Line: LOSER

Milwaukee Brewers (47-57)

Rumors continued to swirl as the market for Brewers’ catcher Jonathan Lucroy heated up. Milwaukee had reportedly been in discussions with numerous teams for weeks about the All-Star backstop. I wrote last week that the Mets seemed to be the only serious partner in the National League, and that much held true. American League teams, like the Rangers, Red Sox, and Indians, were aggressively seeking Lucroy’s services.

In the end, after he vetoed a deal that would have sent him to the Indians, Lucroy and RHP Jeremy Jeffress were shipped to the Texas Rangers for two prospects, OF Lewis Brinson and RHP Luis Ortiz, the third and fifth ranked prospects, according to Baseball Prospectus, in the Rangers farm system.

Reliever Will Smith was then traded to the San Francisco Giants for a top prospect in RHP Phil Bickford and a former top prospect with a ton of upside, C Andrew Susac.

The Brewers were definitely sellers and they came away with quite a return that will have a long-term impact on how this team looks in the future.

Bottom Line: WINNER

Cincinnati Reds (42-62)

The fact that it took Jay Bruce so long to finally get moved is one of the more surprising storylines for the Cincinnati Reds. The lefty slugger is — without question — affordable, brings a pop to the middle of any team’s lineup, and served no purpose in Cincinnati any longer.

The Reds held out and ended up trading Bruce – with 25 home runs, 60 runs and 80 RBIs – to the New York Mets. Suffice to say, Cincinnati is going to have a hard time scoring without Bruce in their lineup. In return the Reds hauled in IF prospect Dilson Herrera and LHP prospect Max Wotell.

It wasn’t a big-time haul for Bruce but it did yield two solid prospects.

Bottom Line: WINNER


Feedback is always welcome through my website or my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

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