In the month of July, teams have to begin evaluating themselves to see if they have a chance to compete in the month of October. The crucial decision of being a buyer or a seller determines a team’s fate for this year and the years to come. Last year, the Kansas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays, and New York Mets all made monumental moves to at least reach the League Championship Series. The Mets traded top prospect Michael Fulmer in a deal for Yoenis Cespedes. The Royals got Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto while giving up Brandon Finnegan. The Blue Jays got David Price and Troy Tulowitzki, but moved Daniel Norris. Zobrist and Cueto won with Kansas City, and both walked in the offseason. They were able to help the Royals win their second World Series, and their first in 30 years.
This year, we saw some blockbuster names be moved, and some have been otherworldly for their teams. Let’s rank who’s had, and continues to have, the biggest impact for their new clubs in 2016.
Miller has been nothing less than sensational since his arrival in Cleveland. The struggling Yankees were given the green light by ownership to sell, which included Miller. The Indians were willing to meet the steep asking price for Miller that included Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield in order to win now. Miller is a dominant left-hander, and perhaps the best reliever in baseball. His arsenal consists of a fastball that can hit the high 90s and a killer slider that leaves right-handed hitters looking foolish. Miller’s sidearm delivery while standing six-foot-seven makes it even more difficult for hitters to pick up the spin of the ball. He was also recognized as the MVP of the ALCS.
Manager Terry Francona has broken all the rules of when to you use your closer and has adopted the philosophy of using your best reliever in the most critical circumstances. Whether its the fifth inning or the ninth inning, Miller has been lights out. In the ALCS against a stacked Toronto lineup, Miller allowed only three hits and had a K/9 ratio of 16.4. The Indians have punched their ticket to the World Series, and if they can finish the job, the deal was worth it, no matter what those prospects become.
This trade was made with the Oakland Athletics, back when the Dodgers’ starting pitching was flooded with injuries, including Clayton Kershaw on the disabled list, while still trying to acquire a right fielder because Yasiel Puig‘s future with the team was up in the air. Hill had blister issues in the past, but was the best starter on the market who could be had at a reasonable price. The Athletics are in rebuilding mode, and it was obvious that Reddick’s time in Oakland was coming to an end.
When Hill arrived in Los Angeles, he picked up right where he left off with a 1.83 ERA in six regular-season starts with the Dodgers. He also had a perfect game through seven innings in one start down in Miami, until manager Dave Roberts removed him while thinking long-term. Well, the long-term is now, and Hill is coming off a six-inning shutout performance in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Cubs. Hill is a free agent at the end of the year, but the present is now, and Hill has been a much needed addition to this pitching staff plagued by injuries all year long. If the Dodgers are going to win the NLCS, it will be up to Hill and Kershaw to overcome the 3-2 deficit they currently face.
Reddick has not made the impact that Hill has with the Dodgers, but has been an upgrade in right field. He’s playing nearly every day in the postseason, and he is hitting .375 with three stolen bases in the NLCS. The Dodgers are still alive, and probably are not in this position without the acquisition of these guys.
The Cubs already had a substantial lead in the NL Central when they traded for Chapman, but closer was the one area where they knew they could improve. Theo Epstein was aggressive in the pursuit of Chapman, as this could be the year the Cubs break the curse.
Chapman recorded 16 saves with a K/9 ratio of 15.5 and a 1.01 ERA during the regular season. He had one hiccup in the postseason to Conor Gillaspie, but other than that, Chapman has been the pitcher that nobody wants to see in the ninth inning. It’s nearly impossible to catch up with his 104 MPH fastball, and now the Cubs can feel confident with a lead after eight innings and their flamethrower coming in to close it out.
4. Matt Moore
Moore was traded to the San Francisco Giants as someone who can help this year as depth in the rotation, but also is a controllable pitcher that the team has until 2019. Moore pitched fairly well for the Giants as more insurance behind Madison Bumgarner and Cueto going forward. In his start in the NLDS against the Cubs, he went eight innings with only one earned run while striking out ten.
Moore also took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the rival Dodgers before falling one out shy of completing the historic accomplishment. Moore did not come cheap, as they sent starting third baseman Matt Duffy to Tampa Bay, but is someone they can rely on when it’s his turn on the mound every fifth day.
5. Matt Kemp
The trade of Kemp to the Atlanta Braves for Hector Olivera might be the biggest steal at the deadline. I know the Braves did not reach the postseason this season, but Kemp’s impact on the team in 2016 cannot go unnoticed. The Braves finished with a 37-35 record in the second half, and are approaching their rebuilding process with a blend of young players and high-character veterans.
San Diego moved Kemp for salary reasons, but the Braves still found value in Kemp, and both sides have seemed to embrace each other in their first few months together. Kemp hit .280 in 56 games with the Braves. Overall in 2016, Kemp hit 35 home runs and 108 RBIs with an OPS of .803. We haven’t seen numbers like that out of Kemp since his days in Los Angeles. Just when we thought Kemp’s career might have come to an end, the Braves took a chance, and he seems rejuvenated by the optimistic future that’s ahead.