Fans understood right away the approaching MLB trade deadline on July 31 would be a wild one.
After all, the sprint to the cutoff started with a bang in mid-July when the Chicago Cubs, looking to defend the World Series title, struck up a deal with the Chicago White Sox for ace Jose Quintana.
If those two sides can agree to a deal, it truly starts to feel like anything is possible as the days bleed into just hours before the deadline passes.
Though it’s hard to imagine the journey won’t offer more blockbuster deals, it’s important to look back on some of the biggest splashes already—several teams have already made it clear to their fans they consider this a prime year to make a run.
Rockies Grab Neshek
Mired in a bitter battle in the National League West, the playoff-minded Colorado Rockies sought out notable help Wednesday by striking a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies for reliever Pat Neshek.
The Phillies, who have been sellers on the market over the past few years, were more than happy to come to terms on the deal because it meant acquiring a trio of quality prospects to reinforce the depth of the organization:
The big winner here, though, is the third-placed Rockies, who are behind the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers in the conference.
Neshek is 36 years old and sitting on the best year of his career with a 1.12 ERA with 45 strikeouts over 40.1 innings, a gigantic jump from his 3.06 ERA and 43 strikeouts over 47 innings in Houston a year ago.
“It’s exciting,” Neshek said, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick. “You jump right into a playoff race. That’s a great team with a great offense.”
Indeed, Neshek is the sort of title-minded rental any team like the Rockies would love to secure ahead of the deadline. He can help with the push, then comes off the books after the season as he heads to free agency. Call it a quality blueprint for other would-be contenders to follow in the future.
Rays Gamble on Lucas Duda
Like the Rockies, the Tampa Bay Rays have big ambitions while sitting third behind the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in the American League East.
Sitting on a walk-year deal like Neshek, Lucas Duda seemed an obvious target for a team like the Rays because of his rental status. He’d spent eight years with the New York Mets, but a split was obvious with the team sitting on a 47-53 mark and needing to look toward the future.
MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand captured the details:
Duda‘s fit in Tampa Bay is, in a word, outstanding. The Rays rank in the top 10 with 146 homers this year, and he’s sitting on 17 of his own alongside an average of .246 and 37 RBI, making him an obvious boon for a rotation in need of more firepower.
“I’m excited to join the Rays. They’re in the hunt,” Duda said, according to ESPN.com. “Kind of mixed emotions. There are guys here I’ve grown pretty close to, and [the Mets] are a first-class organization. I was very proud to be a New York Met, and I’m gonna be very proud to be on the Tampa Bay Rays.”
Given the AL East is an arms race of sorts right now, it makes sense the Rays would capitalize on a team like the Mets selling off even their most beloved veterans and slap more firepower in the lineup in an effort to make a push.
It’s not hard to imagine this ending up as one of the best pre-deadline deals in hindsight.
Rays Land Dan Jennings
The Rays, clearly, aren’t pulling any punches.
Adding firepower at the plate is one thing—depth on the mound is what makes victories in lengthy playoff series possible.
Therefore, the Rays shipping away prospect Casey Gillaspie in exchange for reliever Dan Jennings classifies as a major win:
The 30-year-old Jennings has been an absolute workhorse this season, appearing in 49 games so far over 44.1 innings and sitting on a 3.65 ERA with a 3-1 mark and seven holds.
Jennings offered a goodbye before appearing in his first game as a member of the Rays on Thursday:
It might take Jennings some time to get used to his new settings, but he’s a multi-inning guy if necessary and a nice tactical deployment for the Tampa Bay coaching staff before lefties struggle against him at the plate.
From a contractual standpoint, Jennings heads to his third year of arbitration this offseason, a nice caveat for the Rays after ripping him from a team that has now sold four relievers over the course of the sprint to the deadline.
Like above, this already ranks as one of the deadline’s better moves.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.
Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com