Padres make a super-team, Cubs bafflingly hold assets

The San Diego Padres got sensational 23-year-old Juan Soto to boost their World Series hopes, while the runaway Los Angeles Dodgers countered by taking on the Yankees‘ Joey Gallo.

The New York Yankees got a frontline starter in Frankie Montas, two relievers and outfielder Andrew Benintendi. The rest of the AL East watched in awe, with the Baltimore Orioles even bowing out of the race despite being just 2 ½ games out.

The Milwaukee Brewers, who are leading the NL Central, dumped their four-time All-Star closer. The St. Louis Cardinals, giddy at that development, responded by grabbing two starters (Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery).

NATIONALS: Juan Soto trade leaves Washington stunned and starless

SOTO TO SAN DIEGO: Padres go all-in with blockbuster trade

JOEY GALLO: Traded to Dodgers, slugger reflects on Yankee struggles

The American League Central, with three teams fighting for first place, had only one (Minnesota Twins) who bothered to do anything. The Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Guardians, who are right behind the Twins in the standings, stood by admiring.

And the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco sold, bought and stood pat, confusing the daylights out of everyone wondering what they’re doing.

Padres make a super-team, Cubs bafflingly hold assets

Fernando Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto greet before a July 2021 game in Washington.

WINNER: San Diego Padres

So, do want prospects or you want a parade?

The Padres traded five of their top 11 prospects and landed the ultimate prize in Soto along with four-time All-Star closer Josh Hader, first baseman Josh Bell and third baseman Brandon Drury.

“Props to the San Diego Padres,’’ Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said at his press conference. “[GM] A.J. Preller is not afraid.’’

The Padres left no doubt, sending a dozen prospects who earned $20.5 million in signing bonuses for the star of stars.

While Soto naturally stole the headlines, giving the Padres a lethal lineup with Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr., the acquisition of Hader may prove to be their most treasured move come October.

The four-time All-Star has been one of the game’s most dominant reliever since 2017 and had a league-leading 29 saves for the Milwaukee Brewers, while striking out 15.9 batters per nine innings.

Bell and Drury will fortify the Padres’ lineup. Bell is having the finest season of his career, hitting .302 with a .385 on-base percentage and a .493 slugging percentage. The same goes for Drury, who has hit a career-high 20 homers and is hitting .274 with a .335 on-base percentage and .520 slugging percentage.

There were 30 teams wheeling, dealing or at least talking, but the Padres absolutely owned the Trade Show, and it wasn’t close.

WINNER: New York Yankees

Anthony Rizzo and Aaron Judge celebrate a Yankees win against the Mariners.

Anthony Rizzo and Aaron Judge celebrate a Yankees win against the Mariners.

The Yankees may have the best record in baseball, but they knew they weren’t going to go to the promised land without shoring up their pitching – season-worst 4.38 ERA by their starters in July – and getting another outfielder.

So they grabbed Oakland A’s ace Frankie Montas, with closer Lou Trivino too,

They plucked rookie reliever Scott Effross away from the Chicago Cubs, who had the Dodgers and Rays each aggressively pursuing him.

They got their bat last week with Kansas City Royals outfielder Andrew Benintendi.

It cost them nine prospects, but none of their top four – Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, Austin Wells and Jasson Dominguez – as they positioned themselves to win their first World Series title since 2009.

The most curious move might have been trading starter Jordan Montgomery to the St. Louis Cardinals for injured center fielder Harrison Bader. Bader is a Gold Glove center fielder, but is currently out with plantar fasciitis. Montgomery was a workhorse in the rotation. They tried to get another starter to replace him, focusing on Marlins starter Pablo Lopez, but couldn’t reach a deal.

The Yankees were going to win the AL East with or without their new players, but this gives them an edge for home-field advantage. They have a 41-13 record at home and 29-21 record on the road. They want that extra game at Yankee Stadium instead of Minute Maid Park in Houston.

WINNER: Seattle Mariners

Say goodbye to the longest playoff drought in North American team sports.

The Mariners went out seeking a pitcher to pair with Robbie Ray to help them end their 21-year postseason absence, and wound up with a co-ace in Cincinnati Reds starter Luis Castillo.

Castillo is the perfect fit, and has been pitching better than ever, yielding a 1.59 ERA over his past five starts with a 2.86 ERA this season. The Mariners now have one of baseball’s best rotations with Ray, Castillo, Logan Gilbert, Chris Flexen, Marco Gonzalez and rookie George Kirby.

They also sent the day picking up some smaller pieces in backup catcher Curt Casali, reliever Matt Boyd and infielder Jake Lamb.

“We’ve got a chance to do something really big this year,’’ Mariners manager Scott Servais told reporters. “You have to step out and take a chance once in a while if you ultimately want to get the reward, take a little risk.’’

WINNER: Minnesota Twins

Twins outfielder Byron Buxton was a first-time All-Star in 2022.

Twins outfielder Byron Buxton was a first-time All-Star in 2022.

The Twins, one of the biggest surprises in baseball leading the AL Central, showed they want to see this thing through.

They picked up Tyler Mahle, the Cincinnati Reds’ No. 2 starter, for three prized prospects, with Christian Encarnacion-Strand considered a powerful middle-of-the-order bat down the line.

They got All-Star closer reliever Jorge Lopez from the Baltimore Orioles for three prospects, highlighted by left-handed starter Cade Povich. And picked up veteran reliever Michael Fulmer from the Detroit Tigers.

They could have used another starter, but hey, they’ll now have Lopez for another 2 ½ years, and Mahle for 1 ½ years. Mahle could turn out to be the best starting acquisition of the deadline. He had a 5.24 ERA with 28 homers in 142 ⅔ innings in Cincinnati, but a 2.73 ERA with eight homers in 141.2 innings on the road.

They’re the only team in the division who bothered trying. The Cleveland Guardians did nothing, and all of the White Sox did was grab veteran reliever Jake Diekman.

WINNER: Atlanta

Alex Anthopoulos was the genius at last year’s trade deadline, grabbing three outfielders who helped lead Atlanta to the World Series championship.

He might have out-done himself this year.

Let’s see, he acquired 2021 All-Star reliever Raisel Iglesias from the Angels , taking on the remaining $44 million of his salary.

He grabbed veteran starter Jake Odorizzi.

He picked up veteran outfielder Robbie Grossman, and infielder Ehire Adrianza, too.

And in between making trades, he was signing All-Star third baseman Austin Riley to a franchise-record 10-year, $212 million contract.

WINNERS: Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds

GM Mike Rizzo speaks with reporters about the team's trades on Tuesday.

GM Mike Rizzo speaks with reporters about the team’s trades on Tuesday.

Sure, it stinks to trade Juan Soto.

It’s awful giving up your No. 1 and No. 2 starters, starting third baseman and left fielder, too.

But, man, did the Nationals and Reds clean up.

While everyone knew that the Nats would bring in a haul for Soto, the biggest surprise was just how many prospects the Reds acquired in their trades of Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle.

The Reds got three of the Seattle Mariners’ top 10 prospects – including their top two –and three of the Minnesota Twins’ top 14. They wound up with three top prospects on Baseball America’s top 100 list, led by shortstops Noelvi Marte and Edwin Arroyo and infielder Spencer Steer.

The Nationals, meanwhile, brought in the one biggest collection of top prospects at the trade deadline in history.

They got the Padres’ best prospects in shortstop C.J. Abrams, outfielders Robert Hassell III and James Wood, and pitchers MacKenzie Gore and Jarlin Susana; and veteran first baseman/DH Luke Voit.

LOSER: Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles, the feel-good story of the season, are just 2 ½ games out of a wild-card berth, and waved the white flag.

This is a team that has wildly overachieved with a 52-51 record, winning 31 of their last 52 games (fourth-best in the American League), matching their season victory total of a year ago, and leaving those dreadful 110-loss seasons in the rear-view mirror.

The Orioles’ front office needed to reward their players.

They instead ripped out their hearts trading away Trey Mancini and All-Star closer Jorge Lopez.

“Part of the reason our division is so difficult is the teams in our division have done such a spectacular job over the last decade of balancing present, future, near-term, long-term considerations with their moves,” Orioles GM Mike Elias told reporters. “It’s important for us to do the same things. When a player is a free agent in nine weeks, you have to consider opportunities to bring in high-upside talents that have the potential to contribute many years down the road.”

But how can you surrender when you’re in the wild-card race?

“Ultimately, I have to tether my decisions to the outlook and the probabilities of this year,’’ Elias said. “We have a shot at a wild card right now. But it is not a probability that we’re going to win a wild card.’’

LOSER: Chicago White Sox

White Sox manager Tony La Russa is in his second season.

White Sox manager Tony La Russa is in his second season.

This is the most underachieving team in baseball, sitting in third place in the AL Central.

They picked up Jake Diekman from the Boston Red Sox, couldn’t stomach the prices for starting pitchers or sluggers on the market, and stopped dealing.

“We’re disappointed that we weren’t able to do more to try to improve this club,” GM Rick Hahn said. “Anyone out there feeling a level of frustration and disappointment, I’m right there with you.”

Just imagine the uproar in Chicago if they don’t make the playoffs.

“We’ve lost a little bit of our swagger,’’ Hahn said. “I’d like to see that come back.’’

LOSER: Chicago Cubs

Contreras waves to fans at Wrigley Field.

Contreras waves to fans at Wrigley Field.

Remember that emotional scene when the Cubs gave All-Star catcher Willson Contreras a standing ovation, with Contreras crying in the arms of teammate Ian Happ, thanking the Cubs for all of the memories?

Well, it turned out to be nothing more than a dress rehearsal.

Contreras is back. So is Happ.

The only players to leave on Tuesdaywere relievers David Robertson to the Phillies and Mychal Givens to the Mets.

Cubs president Jed Hoyer put a high price tag on Contreras and Happ, and when no one blinked, Hoyer decided to simply keep them. Happ still is under club control for another year, but Contreras is a free agent, and won’t be returning.

So all they get back for Contreras, the best position player on the market not named Juan Soto, is a draft pick when they make him a qualifying offer.

“We were willing to listen if someone gave us a piece that could really help our future,’’ Hoyer said. “We never crossed that threshold. Willson is a really valuable player. He’s been a great Cub for six years now and we never got to that place where we felt comfortable making a deal.”

LOSER: San Francisco Giants

The Giants are 37-44 since the start of May, and it looked like they were going to start a firesale with the trade of power hitter Darin Ruf to the New York Mets, dumping injured catcher Curt Casalli to the Mariners, injured reliever Trevor Rosenthal to the Brewers and injured starter Matt Boyd to the Mariners.

But then they stopped.

They listened to offers for All-Star starter Carlos Rodon and All-Star outfielder Joc Pederson, but never budged.

They remain in no-man’s land. They’re not in the race, not out of the race, and just hangin’ around, 4 ½ games out of a wild-card berth.

“We’re always kind of juggling the present and the future,” president Farhan Zaidi said. “There’s a lot of motivation to finish the year strong. And if we do, we have a chance to be a dangerous team…

“I don’t see it as mixed message. We think we can compete with the guys we have so we think we’re very much in the race.”

LOSER: Milwaukee Brewers

You know it’s a bad sign when the Brewers issue a lengthy statement on their social media account trying to calm their fan base on why they traded four-time All-Star closer Josh Hader.

“Today’s trade is about doing everything we can as an organization to continue our mission and our goal of giving our team as many bites at the apple as we possibly can,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “To sustain competitiveness and to avoid some of the down cycles that we’ve seen throughout baseball in the not-too-distant past.

“As we look around the industry, teams that have been able to sustain consistent competitiveness, get into the playoffs, compete for the playoffs every single year — these are teams that at times have to make very difficult decisions.’’

The Brewers have All-Star setup man Devin Williams to replace Hader as the closer. He has gone 30 appearances without giving up a run, yielding a .115 batting average with 47 stirkeouts in 28 ⅔ innings. Yet, he made it clear to reporters that Hader should still be around.

Surprised by the trade?

“You could say that,’’ Williams said. “Lots of things that that don’t really make sense, you know. I don’t know. I want to win. That’s the biggest thing to me. I don’t really have much to say about it.”

Sorry, getting late-inning reliever Trevor Rogers from San Diego, Matt Bush from the Texas Rangers and Trevor Rosenthal from the Giants hardly soothed his feelings.

LOSER: Boston Red Sox

Boston didn't trade designated hitter J.D. Martinez.

Boston didn’t trade designated hitter J.D. Martinez.

You try to figure these guys out.

Are they in? Are they out? What in the world are they doing?

They traded catcher Christian Vazquez along with veteran reliever Jake Diekman, but then turned around and acquired outfielder Tommy Pham from the Cincinnati Reds, spending $4.1 million on his salary and player option.

Pham, who played for Red Sox GM Chaim Bloom, seemed like the natural replacement for J.D. Martinez. Only Martinez didn’t go anywhere after trade talks with the Dodgers died.

Starter Nate Eovaldi, who would have been a great trade chip to land more prospects, stayed put.

And when Eric Hosmer vetoed his trade to the Nationals, the Red Sox stepped in and grabbed him, with the Padres paying the remainder of his $44 million owed the next three years.

“When you get into a deadline period,’’ Bloom said, “you never know exactly what it will bring. … Simply put, we do think we have a chance to make a run.

“When we have a shot, even when it’s not the shot we anticipated in April, we should take it.’’

You’re not the only one confused after hearing that.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB trade deadline winners and losers: Padres, Yankees get high marks