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A look at the National League landscape after a wild July

This year’s trade season did not disappoint. After a wild couple of days, we’re gonna do our best to recap the action from one of the busiest trade deadlines in recent memory. Let’s start with the headlines coming out of the Senior Circuit this month…

The Champs Are Still The Champs: This phrase, in many ways, could serve as an ironic headline for this year’s trade deadline, as we saw the dismantling of a couple of former championship teams. The reigning champ, however, was not one of them. The Dodgers reasserted themselves as the team to beat in the National League by making the splashiest move of the deadline in acquiring Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Nationals.

The Dodgers stepped up, and now they have perhaps the most intimidating starter of his generation slotted into a rotation with Clayton Kershaw, probably the best pitcher of his generation, along with young stud Walker Buehler. It’s an amazing collection of talent for a single team.

That said, the Turner acquisition might be even more impactful, as he’s under contract through next season. Turner and Mookie Betts as a 1-2 punch in the lineup is devastating. 

Interestingly, the Dodgers also got Corey Seager back from the injured list today, and it remains to be seen how the Dodgers will deploy their pair of All-Star shortstops (to say nothing of Gavin Lux and Chris Taylor). The Dodgers have options now and for the future. Remember, Seager is a free agent after the season. They can still bring back their World Series MVP at the right price point, but they won’t be pressured to now that they have Turner in the fold.

The Padres Don’t Land Mad Max: The trade deadline madness really began on Thursday night when it was announced that the Padres and Nats had agreed on the players involved in a Scherzer deal. That didn’t sit well with the Dodgers, who swooped in to remind the Padres of who still runs the West. The Padres were expected to turn their attention to Jose Berrios, but they weren’t able to get him either.

At the end of the day, the Padres didn’t get Scherzer, Berrios, Joey Gallo, or any other of the big names. They did add Adam Frazier, a versatile defender and good contact hitter, along with Daniel Hudson, who is a legitimate get for the bullpen, and Jake Marisnick, who compliments their centerfield options nicely, even if he’s not much more than a depth piece. 

It was a less impactful deadline than expected, but what’s worse: Fernando Tatis Jr. promptly reaggravated his shoulder injury. Add it all up, and the swing from potentially acquiring Scherzer to potentially losing Tatis is enough to give any Padres fan whiplash.

Giants Add Bryant: The Padres took a big swing and missed, the Dodgers took their swing and connected, and sure to form, the Giants played the deadline slow and steady. Does the tortoise win again? Time will tell, but the Giants did ultimately nab a former MVP in Kris Bryant without giving up a top prospect. Bryant fits their profile like a glove, and he’ll be able to fill in at third until Evan Longoria returns and then move to the outfield.

Remember: The Giants have a three-game head start on LA and a five-game lead on the Padres. Adding Bryant has game-changing potential, while Tony Watson was a solid, low-key add to the pen. The Dodgers are scary, but if the Giants keep playing their game, LA may find themselves in the wild card game anyway.

Cubs Collapse, Dismantle 2016 World Series Champs: In a vacuum, the Cubs had a pretty good deadline. They added a number of buzzy, interesting young players like Nick Madrigal, Pete Crow-Armstrong, and Alexander Canario. But it came at a cost. After years of rumors, Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez were finally shipped out of town, along with Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera, Marisnick, and Trevor Williams. New players — and new narratives — are long overdue in Chicago, and the next chapter awaits.

Nationals Collapse, Dismantle 2019 World Series Champs: It’s appropriate that the Cubs are in DC to play the Nats this weekend, because really, the two clubs are mirror images of one another. Both teams were trying to contend on the legs of recent title teams, both teams had disastrous months of July, and both clubs desperately needed an influx of young talent. Both teams got it on Friday.

The Nats farm system was even more barren than Chicago’s and their need to restock more dire given the presence of young stud Juan Soto. 

So, Washington said their farewells to Scherzer, Turner, Hudson, and Yan Gomes from the title team, plus recent additions Jon Lester, Kyle Schwarber, Brad Hand, and Josh Harrison. 

GM Mike Rizzo does not sell off pieces willy nilly, but in doing so, they got some high-end, near-ready pieces as they look to quickly rebuild a contender around Soto before the Scott Boras client reaches free agency after the 2024 season.

Brewers Take Their Place Atop The NL Central: Milwaukee made their big acquisition back in May, and Willy Adames has transformed himself and the club since his arrival. They were under .500 on the day before Adames arrived and have gone 41-19 since and taken firm hold of the NL Central. Still, some tinkering remained on the docket for July, as the Brewers picked up Eduardo Escobar, Rowdy Tellez, John Curtiss, and Daniel Norris.

Injuries Keeping Mets From Runaway Division Title: The Mets left deadline day with a more acute awareness of what they lost than what they gained: Jacob deGrom has been shut down for another couple of weeks, leaving the all-world hurler out until at least September. That’s heartbreaking for a Mets team with a clear path to an NL East title. 

Plenty of upside remains in the Mets rotation with Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker posting career years, Carlos Carrasco set to make his debut, and Tylor Megill providing the surprising rookie breakout contenders seek. Still, deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are questionable at best for the rest of the season, and the only rotation additions the Mets made at the deadline were Rich Hill and Trevor Williams.

They did, however, account for Francisco Lindor’s injury by adding Javier Baez, Lindor’s friend and countrymate who can fill in while Lindor is out and then slide to second or third when he returns. Baez may not be the former Cub that Mets fans expected, but he’s an excellent fit alongside Lindor and should bolster the pitching staff with his stellar glove — even if acquiring him did cost them a former first-rounder in Crow-Armstrong.

Braves Lose Acuna For The Season: The deadline might have looked a lot different for Atlanta had they not lost Ronald Acuna Jr. for the season back on July 10th. Without Acuna and Mike Soroka, the Braves weren’t expected to make any major swings at contention. But even a 13-12 July was enough to keep them within four games of first. A fourth consecutive NL East title remains in reach. So they nabbed one of the top available relief arms in Richard Rodriguez, as well as, seemingly, all the outfielders: Jorge Soler, old pal Adam Duvall, Eddie Rosario, and Joc Pederson, plus Stephen Vogt to reinforce their catching corps.

Soft Buys From The Fringes Of Contention: The Giants and Dodgers made headline additions, while the Nats and Cubs took a firm step away from contention. In the middle, there were a number of clubs that neither sold the farm nor raised the white flag. Such as…

…the Phillies… who seemed poised to add a bevy of arms given their bullpen situation, not to mention a starting rotation that’s received underwhelming performances from the back end. Instead, only Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy came to help, and they cost the Phillies’ top prospect Spencer Howard. Howard’s handling had been in question all season, and now he’s been served an unceremonious end to his Philly tenure. Gibson’s had a fine season thus far with the Rangers, but his groundball approach will be tested in front of Philly’s subpar infield defense. Sure, Freddy Galvis brings his glove back to help out, but will that be enough?

…and the Reds… who looked to undo their winter penny-pinching by restocking the bullpen. Justin Wilson, Luis Cessa, and Mychal Givens will try to help a bullpen that ranks 29th with a 5.31 ERA. The Reds’ inconsistent play in July kept them squarely on the deadline fence, however, and now that Nick Castellanos is on the injured list, they’re seven games behind the Brewers and looking like longshots for the postseason.

…and the Cardinals…who rather curiously added a few pieces at the deadline, despite being 9.5 games behind the Brewers and 6.5 out of a wild card spot. The additions were modest, however, as St. Louis went on a run of graybeard southpaws in July, adding 36-year-old Wade LeBlanc, 37-year-old Jon Lester, and 38-year-old J.A. Happ to a rotation fronted by 39-year-old Adam Wainwright and caught by 39-year-old Yadier Molina.

Cellar Dwellers Sell: The Marlins, Pirates, and Diamondbacks, each in last place of their respective divisions, made some moves to turn expiring talent into youth for the future. 

The Marlins added the biggest fish in Jesus Luzardo, but the Pirates did well for themselves, too, by adding some plug-and-play talent like Michael Chavis from Boston and Bryse Wilson from Atlanta, while also grabbing two prospects from Seattle for Tyler Anderson. The Dbacks weren’t quite as active, but they did move Escobar and Joakim Soria, though a COVID-19 outbreak has brought more pressing issues to their attention.

The Rockies Don’t Trade Trevor Story Or Jon Gray: The most perplexing moves of the deadline were the trades that didn’t happen. Despite having no shot at contention in a division with zero margin for error (in the short-and-long term), the Rockies chose to stand pat rather than build for the future. Holding Gray is one thing, but Story has stated his desire to move on, so their decision not to acquire a prospect or two for him before he walks might be the biggest shock of deadline season. However, the club can make a qualifying offer that will ensure it receives compensation should the shortstop sign elsewhere. Perhaps the club viewed that compensation as more valuable than any potential trade packages. 

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