The 2021 MLB trade deadline was one of the wildest in league history. Nine players who featured in the 2021 All-Star game were dealt. Front offices were more aggressive than they have been in years, with even fringe contenders giving up significant prospect capital to improve their chances in 2021 and 2022.
Both the NL East and NL West witnessed three-way arms races. It was a similar story in the AL East, while the division leaders in the AL Central and AL West made marked bullpen improvements.
MLB trade deadline 2021 analysis
It will take weeks to know the short-term implications of the MLB trade deadline 2021. For some trades, it will be years before they can be properly evaluated.
We haven’t got that long to wait, though, so here are our five takeaways from the 2021 deadline.
End of two eras
Two of the last five World Series winning teams tore it down on Friday. The Nationals and Cubs waved goodbye to World Series heroes in Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Max Scherzer, Anthony Rizzo and Trea Turner.
Both were pushed towards this by slumps over the last few weeks. Chicago and Washington were pushing for their division leads not so long ago, but by the time the 2021 MLB trade deadline rolled round, they had no choice but to sell.
Cubs-Nationals play tonight. In total, they traded:
— Max Mannis (@maxmannissabr) July 30, 2021
It wasn’t just World Series icons on the move either. Chicago flipped relievers Craig Kimbrel and Ryan Tepera, while the Nationals made numerous other moves, leaving them with a raft of open roster spots.
Most teams are forced to sell-off at some point, yet few have done as dramatically as the Cubs and Nationals did over the last few days.
Dodgers go big
Max Scherzer, Trea Turner and Danny Duffy is one of the great hauls at a trade deadline. The injuries to Dustin May and Clayton Kershaw, paired with the allegations against Trevor Bauer, meant the Dodgers were in need of starting pitching.
They didn’t get any random pitchers. Duffy is an experienced southpaw. Scherzer is a future Hall of Famer who has shown no signs of decline, and proved in a start a couple of days ago that his recent injury issues are behind him.
Turner provides injury insurance all over the field. He’s putting in a monster season of his own, and he can cover for Corey Seager or any of their star outfielders.
The Dodgers have made a habit of making big moves at the deadline. This was their biggest splash yet, however, as they look to chase down their bitter Californian rivals.
Yankees refuse to give up
They also landed Andrew Heaney for some rotation depth, and a few days before the 2021 MLB trade deadline, they acquired Clay Holmes and his power sinker. They might be 7.5 games back, but the Yankees went for it at the trade deadline, and they have compiled the most ball-crushing outfield in MLB history in the process.
Anthony Rizzo wasted no time hitting homers for the Yankees 💥
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 31, 2021
New York were never going to be real sellers. Perhaps that justifies going for it in this manner, as the only other alternative was sticking with what they had.
Regardless of if it works, this falls into the ‘good to see‘ category for a neutral. Baseball needs teams trying to win.
Giants get their man
Kris Bryant was always the perfect fit for the Giants. They didn’t realize their desire to land a starter, but Farhan Zaidi worked his magic to land two low-cost deals for Bryant and Tony Watson.
Bryant takes his walks and brings versatility. He’s an ideal Zaidi player, and that versatility is particularly valuable for San Francisco with the injuries they have suffered to Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt. Bryant’s ability to play the outfield will be key once Longoria returns.
Kris Bryant was emotional after getting traded to the Giants @BRWalkoff
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 30, 2021
Enjoying a good year in general, the former MVP has always mashed lefties. The Giants are in the bottom 10 in OPS against southpaw starters.
This trade made sense on paper, and as other potential suitors made deals, it looked increasingly likely that Bryant was heading to north California. Announced just a few minutes before the deadline, this could be a pivotal move in the National League West.
White Sox become favorites
The Astros made smart moves to improve their bullpen. Boston was quiet. Tampa Bay moved early to land Nelson Cruz. The Chicago White Sox, though, were bold in their trade deadline moves. They went all-in to acquire Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel from the Cubs. The ChiSox now an intimidating three-headed monster at the back end.
They were noisiest of the American League contenders. Given that they hold a nine-game lead in the AL Central, these are clearly postseason-motivated moves. If they all stay healthy and dominant, the White Sox can really shorten games with Liam Hendricks, Kimbrel and Tepera.
The White Sox already had the highest pitching K% in baseball. Before Kimbrel. (+Tepera.) Gooood luck with that, American League.
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) July 30, 2021
With the division almost locked up, the White Sox became the clear American League favorites on Friday. They paid a high price for their additions, but that will be forgotten if they’re celebrating after the final game of the season.