Now that the 2018 season has sadly come to an end, it is time to look back at some of the trades from the 2018 season and how they worked out through the end of the season. Every year, contending teams make trades in the hope of bolstering their team for the remainder of the regular season and the postseason. Most of the time, trades occur between a pennant chaser and teams with dwindling playoff prospects. Many times, the player being traded to the contender fills a specific, albeit expensive, need for the next few months, and then becomes a free agent at the season’s end. For example, superstar Manny Machado was traded in July from the floundering Orioles to the future NL-Pennant winning Dodgers in exchange for five minor league players. At the time, the Dodgers were in a close battle for the NL West. Now that the season is over, Machado is a free agent. In this two-part series, I am going to examine the best and worst high-profile trades and how they fared for the contending team.
5. OF Tommy Pham (Traded from the Cardinals with international bonus pool money to the Rays for OF Justin Williams, LHP Genesis Cabrera, and RHP Roel Ramirez)
The Rays were one of the most intriguing teams of 2018. Prior to the season, they traded away their franchise players and appeared headed for a rebuild. They continued to dump talented players throughout the season including, Denard Span, Nathan Eovaldi, and Chris Archer. Yet somehow, the Rays were able to consistently win. The Rays did, however, make one trade to improve their team. On July 31, the Rays traded for struggling outfielder Tommy Pham and a lump sum of international signing money for three prospects. After fracturing his foot in just his second game with the Rays, Pham went on a short DL stint before returning to go on a monster tear to end the season. Pham racked up a 191 wRC+ and produced 2.5 fWAR in just 39 games in Tampa. The Rays won 27 out of the 39 games in which he played. Unlike many of the other players in this article, Pham was not just a rental. The Rays have control over Pham for four more years and, though he had an inconsistent start to 2018, he still has the potential to be a star for the Rays for years to come.
4. 1B/DH Luke Voit (Traded from the Cardinals along with international bonus pool money to the Yankees for LHP Chasen Shreve and RHP Giovanny Gallegos)
Luke Voit deservingly stands out from the rest of the players on this list. Every other player had at least a few years of MLB experience. Voit did not. He also wasn’t even the centerpiece of the trade. The Yankees’ goal in this trade was to unload two struggling relievers and make room on the 40-man roster. Voit was a successful minor league first baseman who didn’t get much playing time in the majors because that role on the Cardinals was already filled. The Yankees were in desperate need of a consistent first baseman, so they gave Voit a shot and he took full advantage of it.
Voit was the hottest hitter in the AL over the last two months, leading the league with a 194 wRC+, 1.095 OPS, and his fourteen homers were the second-highest mark on the junior circuit. He powered the Yankees offense through September, sometimes batting as high as third in the high-octane Yankee lineup. In his first playoff game, Voit had an impressive at-bat against A’s closer Blake Treinen, who finished 2018 with a 0.78 ERA. He fought off a bunch of tough pitches, and on the ninth pitch, he hit a two-run triple that gave the Yankees a commanding lead in the AL Wild Card game. Voit did not hit particularly well in the ALDS, knocking just three singles and garnering four walks as the Yankees were knocked out. With that being said, the Yankees found a diamond in the rough with Voit as he has potential to be the first baseman for years to come.
3. RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Traded from the Rays to the Red Sox for LHP Jalen Beeks)
The trade market for starting pitching was relatively barren in 2018 as the trade deadline approached. There were no pitchers available with an ERA under four and any team wanting a starter had to take a chance on subpar talent. Eovaldi was one of these mediocre pitchers on the market was. Because of Tommy John Surgery in 2016, Eovaldi did not pitch in 2017 and made his 2018 debut in late May. Eovaldi put up an ERA and FIP above four in his ten starts with the Rays. He was part of the many pieces that the Rays looked to move during the trade deadline and on July 25, he was traded to the Red Sox.
Eovaldi’s tenure with the Red Sox was similar in many ways to that of Steve Pearce. Eovaldi was brought in as a low-end starter to just fill up innings. He made eleven starts for the Red Sox and improved his numbers from earlier in the season. He put up a respectable 2.88 FIP and 3.33 ERA in 54 innings of work. His real value, though, came from his impressive and momentum-changing postseason performances. In the ALDS, Eovaldi pitched seven innings, allowing just one run to quiet a rowdy Yankee crowd and turn the series on its head. He did the same in the ALCS, allowing two runs over six innings in the Game Three win. The Red Sox went on to win the other two games after that. His most impressive performance came in Game Three of the World Series. Eovaldi pitched the last six innings of the 18-inning marathon and though he gave up a walk-off home run to Max Muncy, his performance was still insane. His 97 pitches in relief were a World Series record, and his fastball was still touching the high nineties in the 18th inning. Eovaldi went from a mid-level pitcher to a postseason hero for the Red Sox with dominant postseason effectiveness.
2. 3B/SS Manny Machado (Traded from the Orioles to the Dodgers for OF Yusniel Diaz, RHP Dean Kremer, RHP Zach Pop, 3B Rylan Bannon, and IF Breyvic Valera)
Manny Machado was by far the highest caliber player traded during the deadline. Going into the season, it was a foregone conclusion that Machado would be dealt by the Orioles for a hefty return. Originally, the Dodgers were not competing in the Machado sweepstakes, but after a season-ending injury to starting shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers needed a replacement. The price for Machado was steep; the Dodgers had to give up five players for Machado, including one of their most talented prospects.
Machado was in the middle of an MVP season prior to the trade. He had accumulated a 155 wRC+ and 3.8 fWAR before heading to LA, both marks were top 10 in all of baseball at the time. Machado was unable to keep up those numbers with the Dodgers however. His walk-rate fell 2.5% and his strikeout-rate rose by almost 6%. His numbers in every other offensive category fell too, but he was still producing at an above-average rate. Despite the fall in numbers, Machado still generated 2.4 fWAR, good for eleventh in the MLB. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, Machado was unable to find his hot bat while playing in LA. This was especially in the postseason, where he hit for a lackluster OPS of .672. Machado filled an essential role in the 2018 Dodgers success, even though he was only the second-best Manny the Dodgers ever traded for.
1. Steve Pearce (Traded from the Blue Jays to the Red Sox for IF Santiago Espinal)
The Red Sox traded for the future World Series MVP on June 28th from the Blue Jays, making Pearce a no-brainer for the top of this list. They traded for Pearce for three reasons: he had potential to be a clutch hitter, he brought along a veteran leadership, and most importantly, he was a notorious Yankee killer. That last reason worked out particularly well for the Red Sox. In fourteen games against the Yankees, Pearce hit for an OPS of 1.152 and, on August 2nd, became the sixth player to ever hit three home runs in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. After this game, the Red Sox took a commanding lead in the AL East and never looked back.
Pearce’s biggest contribution came when it mattered the most: the postseason. Pearce took over the starting first baseman job after an injury to Mitch Moreland in Game Two of the ALDS. Pearce came up clutch in big spots the rest of the playoffs, especially in the World Series, after which he was crowned MVP. In the eighth inning of Game Four, he hit a game-tying home run against Kenley Jansen and in the next inning, hit a bases-clearing double to extend the Red Sox lead. In the final game of the season, Pearce hit two home runs, including a first-inning bomb off Clayton Kershaw. Not only was Pearce coming up clutch in big moments, but he was also doing it against some of the best in the league. Pearce was not a consistently dangerous bat in the Red Sox lineup, but he was able to produce runs when it mattered most. This trade was not a very noteworthy one when it happened, but it played out to benefit the Red Sox immensely.
Other noteworthy 2018 trades that deserve an honorable mention: J.A. Happ, Cole Hamels, Ryan Pressly, and Jesse Chavez.