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Checking in on AL contenders after 2021 trade deadline

The A’s stocked up, but so did everybody else

MLB: AUG 03 Astros at Dodgers
Kendall Graveman moves to a different AL West rival
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2021 MLB trade deadline might have been the wildest in history. The number of star names on the move was staggering, and it seemed like every potential buyer went on a full shopping spree. Click here for a full roundup of all the deals around the majors.

Now that the dust has settled, let’s take a look around the American League to see what changed. The Oakland A’s are thoroughly enjoying their new additions, but all the other AL contenders also made serious upgrades.

There are seven AL teams realistically competing for postseason spots. That’s not counting the Seattle Mariners, who are still five games over .500 but fading fast after completely failing to keep pace on the trade market.

As a refresher, the A’s picked up four new players:

Oakland gave up their share of prospects in these trades, but so far they’ve also gotten everything they needed from their new acquisitions. Chafin is a perfect fit on and off the field, and he’s yet to be charged with a run through his first six outings. Marte is exactly the hitter the lineup needed as a sparkplug with on-base ability and game-changing speed, and he’s on an absolute tear at the plate right now and already hit a walk-off homer. Gomes turned the second catcher spot from a weakness into a strength, and Harrison has already started at three positions as a valuable new super-sub.

But what about the rest of the league? We’re not worrying today about what prospects the other AL clubs gave up in these trades, unless they drew from their current MLB roster. This is strictly about 2021.

Houston Astros

Standings: Leading AL West, 2 games above A’s


  • RHP Kendall Graveman (from SEA)
  • RHP Rafael Montero (from SEA)
  • RHP Yimi Garcia (from MIA)
  • RHP Phil Maton (from CLE)

Houston already has the most productive offense in the majors, even despite a couple key injuries, and their starting rotation is good and deep. But their bullpen needed help behind All-Star closer Ryan Pressly, so they went and got the closers of two other teams in Graveman and Garcia. Toss in Maton (high strikeout rate) and Montero (was good in 2019-20), and they picked up half a new bullpen.

It took more than prospects to get this done, though. The Astros had to draw from their bench, dealing pesky outfielder Myles Straw to Cleveland and promising young infielder Abraham Toro to Seattle. Perhaps they can fill those roles without missing a beat, but they did lose some immediate depth from their win-now roster.

Chicago White Sox

Standings: Leading AL Central, separate path to postseason from A’s


  • RHP Craig Kimbrel (from CHC)
  • RHP Ryan Tepera (from CHC)
  • 2B Cesar Hernandez (from CLE)

The White Sox play in a different division, and none of the other Central teams are competing for anything, so Chicago is not directly competing with Oakland in the standings in any way. They have fully separate paths to October. However, they haven’t faced off at all yet this summer, so they do have seven head-to-head matchups remaining, starting next week.

When we see the Pale Hose, they’ll have the fiercest bullpen duo in the sport. They already had Liam Hendriks and now added Kimbrel, fresh off his eighth career All-Star berth, and in a separate deal they also picked up the underrated Tepera. Promising young infielder Nick Madrigal was out for the season due to injury, so they got Hernandez to fill 2B.

The Kimbrel deal cost them two MLB players, though. They gave up reliever Codi Heuer to make the upgrade, and also cashed in Madrigal’s sizable future value, though the latter won’t affect their 2021 chances since he was already hurt.

The White Sox now have a Top 10 offense, a rotation of five legit star pitchers, and perhaps the two best relievers in the majors.

Tampa Bay Rays

Standings: Leading AL East, not currently in A’s path to October


  • DH Nelson Cruz (from MIN)
  • RHP JT Chargois (from SEA)
  • RHP DJ Johnson (from CLE)
  • UT Jordan Luplow (from CLE)

For most of the season we’ve been watching the Rays in the Wild Card standings, but they recently moved into the AL East lead so they’re not in the A’s path for now. That could change if they fall back out of first place.

In the meantime, they made a huge splash by getting Cruz, who’s been slow to get going in his new home but at least has a few dingers already. Then they did the most Rays thing ever by trading away their current closer Diego Castillo, but they picked up a pair of new relievers along the way. They also traded away an MLB starter in Rich Hill. Whether they saw future decline coming in those pitchers, or wanted to save a few bucks for other uses, you can bet they had good reasons for their transactions.

Tampa Bay has a Top 5 offense. Their pitching staff is full of names you either haven’t heard of or didn’t know were on the Rays, but that’s usually the case and oftentimes they all turn out to be awesome.

Boston Red Sox

Standings: First Wild Card, tied with A’s (but Sox have current tiebreaker via intradivision record)


  • RHP Hansel Robles (from MIN)
  • LHP Austin Davis (from PIT)
  • OF Kyle Schwarber (from WAS)

While A’s fans now have sights set back on catching the Astros, it’s also worth watching Boston now because they’ve been relegated to the Wild Card hunt.

The Sox have some obvious stars but also a lot of holes in their roster. One of those weaknesses is at 1B, and they picked up the injured Schwarber hoping to eventually plug him in there, though he’s hit a setback in his recovery. They already traded away one of their previous 1B options in Michael Chavis, who netted them the similarly unspectacular Davis for their middle relief crew. Robles was closing for the Twins but with mediocre numbers, and so far he’s working in mopup duty for Boston.

In other words, they didn’t add much at the deadline. They have a Top 10 lineup but it’s cooled off lately, and their rotation has shaky ERAs but looks better in the FIP and Name columns. On the bright side they have Chris Sale returning from injury to make his season debut, so that could provide the same kind of boost that a trade would have.

New York Yankees

Standings: Trailing Second Wild Card, 2.5 games behind A’s


  • LHP Andrew Heaney (from LAA)
  • RHP Clay Holmes (from PIT)
  • RHP Joely Rodriguez (from TEX)
  • OF Joey Gallo (from TEX)
  • 1B Anthony Rizzo (from CHC)

The Yankees are having a disappointing season, but they’re still close enough that they went big at the deadline, snagging two significant star hitters in Gallo and Rizzo. Their pitching acquisitions are less impressive, as starter Heaney and reliever Rodriguez are having bad years, but Holmes is off to a nice start in their pen and has earned a couple holds already.

Will the boost be enough to make up for four months of mediocrity, including a below-average offense? They’re 6-2 in August so far despite dealing with a COVID outbreak that has forced several players to sit out.

Toronto Blue Jays

Standings: Trailing Second Wild Card, 3 games behind A’s


  • RHP Jose Berrios (from MIN)
  • LHP Brad Hand (from WAS)
  • RHP Joakim Soria (from ARZ)

The Jays lineup is already well-known, ranking third in MLB in runs-per-game. But the pitching staff was thin after a few stars, and they added to it in a big way. Berrios is a two-time All-Star just entering his prime, and Hand and Soria are former closers who have a ton to offer in setup roles.

If you want to add impact pitching quickly, then these were three good choices, and Berrios has been lights-out in his first two starts — though Soria is already on the injured list. Toronto is 7-2 in August.


While the Yankees and Blue Jays are especially hot right now in their pursuit of Oakland, the A’s themselves are 5-1 in August and have won eight of their last 10 games overall. And perhaps the Wild Card won’t matter anymore if they can pass the Astros in the West, or maybe it’ll be the slumping Red Sox who drop out of the Wild Card race to make room for New York or Toronto.

Only time will tell! But these are the new names everybody is working with now.