MLB Power Rankings: Red Sox unravel, plus we re-grade this season’s trade deadline moves

MLB Power Rankings: Red Sox unravel, plus we re-grade this season’s trade deadline moves

The Athletic MLB
Sep. 18, 2023

By Grant Brisbee, Rustin Dodd and Andy McCullough

Hindsight isn’t 20-20; it’s 20-15, with your eagle eyes picking up on details that were impossible to see before. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easier to be critical, snarky and judgmental, which is right in the wheelhouse for baseball writers.


Predicting the future? Impossible and guaranteed to make you look like a fool.

Litigating the past? Oh, heck yeah. We can do that. So let’s go back to the trade deadline and re-grade those moves. Who were the winners? Who were the losers?

Note that we absolutely reserve the right to come back in October after Jack Flaherty’s dominant World Series performance (or whatever other goofiness the postseason has in store for us), and give entirely different grades for everyone. Hindsight rules.

Read the latest edition of MLB Power Rankings.

1. Atlanta Braves

Record: 96-53
Last Power Ranking: 1

The Braves were good enough that they didn’t need to do much at the deadline. But even their small-bore maneuvers have worked out. The team traded for Pierce Johnson and Brad Hand to reduce the workload of the high-leverage relievers heading into October. Johnson has actually been better than expected, throwing more strikes than he did in Colorado and emerging as a potential middle reliever for the postseason roster. Nicky Lopez lengthened the bench, offering a steady glove and a fresh set of legs for manager Brian Snitker. Atlanta looks frightening heading into October. The additions only enhanced that vision. — Andy McCullough 

Trade deadline re-grade: B



Braves and Spencer Strider clinch another NL East title, made sweeter by being at Philly

2. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 93-56
Last Power Ranking: 2

The Orioles bet on the upside of two arms: St. Louis starter Jack Flaherty and Oakland reliever Shintaro Fujinami. Fujinami has been much better with Baltimore, but remains walk-prone and will likely be terrifying for Orioles fans to watch in October. Flaherty has been the same confounding pitcher he was with the Cardinals. His outing this weekend against the Rays was emblematic of his tenure: Flaherty looked confident and dominant in his first turn through the batting order, then could not collect an out in the fifth. He has a 7.11 ERA in seven outings as an Oriole. The team expected more. — AM


Trade deadline re-grade: C



Orioles' emphatic turnaround is complete — but the Magic could be just beginning

3. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 92-59
Last Power Ranking: 4

Tampa Bay made an intriguing challenge trade, giving up contact-focused minor-league first baseman Kyle Manzardo for Guardians pitcher Aaron Civale. Some within the sport thought the Rays might be buying the dip with Civale, who was in the midst of a career year. But the Rays also simply required pitching depth as the club absorbed a slew of injuries. Civale hasn’t been as good as he was in the first half, but he’s been decent: A 4.43 ERA but a 3.31 fielding-independent ERA in eight starts with the Rays. He has completed the sixth inning once for Tampa Bay. Odds are, he won’t be asked to go much more than five in any postseason outing, either. — AM

Trade deadline re-grade: B-



Orioles, Rays clinch playoff berths

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 91-57
Last Power Ranking: 3

After a tremendous first four starts with his new team, Lance Lynn was absolutely bombed in a pair of recent starts and the dingers have stuck around while the strikeouts have disappeared. Amed Rosario has been disappointing, and while Ryan Yarbrough and Kiké Hernández have been fine, it feels the Dodgers missed an opportunity. Their rotation is a huge variable in their postseason run, with Clayton Kershaw’s barking shoulder and Julio Urías currently on administrative leave. They’re counting an awful lot on rookies, and while they’ve already won the NL West and will get a first-round bye, another starter would have helped an awful lot.

Someone like, say, Max Scherzer?

OK, maybe they did just fine, considering how that worked out for the Rangers. But I’ll bet Aaron Civale, Justin Verlander or Jordan Montgomery would have looked mighty good in their October rotation. They needed a big swing, but they slapped a ball to the right side and moved a runner from second to third. Not a disappointing result, but not that exciting, either. — Grant Brisbee


Trade deadline re-grade: C



The Dodgers clinch: How the West was won (again)

5. Houston Astros

Record: 84-66
Last Power Ranking: 5

When I wrote about the winners and losers of the deadline, I put the Astros as a surprising loser because what they really needed was offensive help. Since then, they’ve scored 10 runs or more in a dozen games, including three straight games against the Rangers, sweeping them by a combined score of 39-10. I was wrong. They were right.

I’m still not entirely sold on Justin Verlander’s October efficacy, for mostly ageist reasons, and he’s given up seven home runs in his last 20 innings. But when the universe gives you the opportunity to add Verlander for a pennant chase, you take it. — GB

Trade deadline re-grade: B+

6. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 84-65
Last Power Ranking: 6

The Brewers, still fending off the Cubs in the NL Central, made some modest bets at the deadline. They acquired reliever Andrew Chafin from Arizona, grabbed veteran Carlos Santana from Pittsburgh, and landed outfielder Mark Canha from the Mets.

Chafin and Santana have been … OK. (Santana has been a little more valuable than Chafin.). But Canha, 34, has far exceeded the cost, posting a 133 OPS+ in 30 games. Canha has long possessed strong on-base skills and baseball acumen, but he was showing some noticeable signs of decline this year in New York. He looks revived in Milwaukee, however, and the move has vindicated a simple strategy: Place enough small bets and one of them is bound to hit. — Rustin Dodd

Trade deadline re-grade: B+

7. Texas Rangers

Record: 82-67
Last Power Ranking: 9

Hoo boy, lots to unpack here. Let’s go bullet-point style:

  • Max Scherzer is gone for the season, which is awful.
  • After not walking a batter from June 22 to July 23, Aroldis Chapman has been Aroldising a lot more recently, with seven walks in his last 5 2/3 innings.
  • Jordan Montgomery has been fine, for the most part, but the Rangers have lost four of his last five starts.
  • Chris Stratton has improved the overall bullpen depth.
  • Wait, Max Scherzer is out for the season? Good gravy.

Yeah, there’s not really a way back from that last one. Chapman, Montgomery and Stratton will help the postseason push, but Scherzer was the big swing. It was a big swing and a miss, though, and all the Rangers will get is a pat on the butt from a bench coach as they dejectedly walk down the dugout steps. — GB


Trade deadline re-grade: D+

8. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 83-67
Last Power Ranking: 6

Toronto imported a trio of Cardinals, some more useful than others. Jordan Hicks and Génesis Cabrera have aided the bullpen as the Blue Jays jockey for position in the American League Wild Card race. Hicks has cut down on his walks and emerged as part of the bridge to closer Jordan Romano. Same story with Cabrera. Paul DeJong’s tenure with the Blue Jays was brief. He played 13 games, hit .068 and got cut on Aug. 21. His importance was reduced after Bo Bichette returned from the injured list, so Toronto could move on without worry. — AM

Trade deadline re-grade: B

9. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 81-68
Last Power Ranking: 10

If we were grading on Aug. 9? A+! Lorenzen threw a no-hitter that night in his second start as a Phillie. He posted a 7.96 ERA in his next five outings. Philadelphia has moved him into the bullpen. He could still help the club in October as a bulk reliever or perhaps in high leverage, but the team had higher hopes when Lorenzen was acquired. — AM

Trade deadline re-grade: C

10. Seattle Mariners

Record: 81-68
Last Power Ranking: 8

Josh Rojas has been a very nice player for them. Dominic Canzone, less so, but he has age on his side and some goofy Triple-A numbers to dream on. To get them (and the spectacularly diminutive Ryan Bliss), they traded away their closer, Paul Sewald, who is currently scuffling a bit with the Diamondbacks.

So there are three ways to grade this deadline: one based on present returns, one based on future returns and one based on the crazy-like-a-fox decision to trade away a closer while still contending for the second season in a row. — GB

Trade deadline re-grade: B-  (It’d be much, much higher if Canzone were giving them immediate value, but I still like the concept.)

11. Minnesota Twins

Record: 79-71
Last Power Ranking: 13


The Twins were curiously quiet at the deadline. Their only move consisted of sending reliever Jorge López back to Miami in exchange for reliever Dylan Floro — a trade that didn’t really work for anyone. Floro has largely been ineffective for the Twins, while López was so bad for the Marlins that he was ultimately placed on waivers and claimed by the Orioles — the team that traded him to Minnesota in the first place. That deal was ultimately an inconsequential one, either way. The real question was whether the Twins would regret not being more active.

They’re going to win the AL Central and it seems likely that any additional moves would have only marginally increased their odds to win a playoff series or two. In that sense, the Twins’ front office appears to have been vindicated. It’s not the kind of deadline that draws big praise in the moment — and perhaps they could have done more — but they will make the playoffs while preserving their farm system. — RD

Trade deadline re-grade: B+



If the MLB playoffs started today: Projected matchups, key pitchers in wild-card round

12. Chicago Cubs

Record: 78-72
Last Power Ranking: 11

Sometimes it’s the trades you don’t make. The Cubs stood pat at the deadline, and if there was anyone doubting the strategy … look at them now. (Score a victory for the run-differential hawks among us.)

Of course, sometimes it’s the trades you do make, too. Chicago (re) acquired Jeimer Candelario from Washington in exchange for DJ Herz and Kevin Made, and while Candelario has regressed a bit from his sterling numbers in Washington (125 OPS+), he’s recorded an OPS just above league average as the Cubs fight for a wild-card spot.

It’s not always the stars that win in October. Sometimes it’s the lineups that have the fewest holes. — RD

Trade deadline re-grade: A

13. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 78-73
Last Power Ranking: 17

The Reds were in first place on Aug. 1. They were 59-50. The Brewers were 58-50, a half-game behind. The Cubs were 54-53. Nearly seven weeks later, the Reds are in third place and hoping to grab the final wild-card spot in the National League.

You can’t draw a perfect line from their deadline strategy — their only move was to acquire reliever Sam Moll — and what happened next. For one, Moll has been terrific, nearly spotless, and it’s not as if the Brewers and Cubs loaded up. That said, the Reds didn’t act with much urgency to take advantage of their position. If they miss the playoffs by a game or two, perhaps they will wish that they had. — RD

Trade deadline re-grade: B-

14. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 79-72
Last Power Ranking: 12

It took a while for Tommy Pham to get going in Arizona, but he’s had a strong September. So they have that going for them, which is nice. The rest of the deadline, though, hasn’t been quite as helpful. Paul Sewald was supposed to be the shutdown closer the Diamondbacks lacked, but he’s been as mercurial as every other reliever to hold that role for them this season. You make a costly trade for a high-leverage reliever because you don’t want late-inning surprises in October, but that doesn’t work if the high-leverage reliever isn’t helping them get to October.

Also, utility infielder Jace Peterson has a .500-something OPS with the Diamondbacks, and he replaced Josh Rojas, who is thriving with the Mariners. That’s a whoopsie, to use some technical baseball jargon. If you’re still impressed with their deadline, it’s Pham doing all the heavy lifting. — GB

Trade deadline re-grade: C-



Beyond the slap: 'Whatever you think you know about Tommy Pham, you don't'

15. Miami Marlins

Record: 78-72
Last Power Ranking: 14

David Robertson, the former All-Star acquired to close, has not exactly worked out. A series of stumbles forced him into a setup role. But he still might be able to contribute to the team in October — if the two other acquisitions, first baseman Josh Bell and third baseman Jake Burger, can drag them there. The Marlins have benefited from an uptick from Bell, who often plays a portion of his season as Dr. Jekyll and a portion as Mr. Hyde. Burger continues to have the best year of his career, and he’ll be under team control for most of the decade. — AM

Trade deadline re-grade: B

16. New York Yankees

Record: 76-74
Last Power Ranking: 18

Not good enough to contend, not laden with much worth trading, the Yankees stood pat the deadline, save for acquiring pitchers Keynan Middleton and Spencer Howard. The team was able to offload some of Harrison Bader’s salary in the late-August waiver-wire dump. The team could have been more aggressive in shopping some of its relievers, but the franchise also intends to contend next year. Either way, it’s all a bit of deck-chair shuffling. The franchise’s problems run far deeper than anything one deadline can fix. — AM

Trade deadline re-grade: C

17. San Francisco Giants

Record: 76-74
Last Power Ranking: 14

From the deadline to the start of Sunday’s play, the Giants hit .237/.310/.369, and it took a pair of four-homer games to get those numbers that high. If you had to describe the Giants’ offense right now, the best way to do it is by remembering that they almost got no-hit in Coors Field. It’s simply not a very good lineup right now.

To address this, the Giants acquired A.J. Pollock, who went hitless in six at-bats before landing on the IL and eventually getting released. Woof.

The only thing saving them from a cold, unforgiving “F” grade is that it’s hard to pick out a hitter who would have made a difference. The Marlins got a heckuva value meal with their Jake Burger/Josh Bell acquisitions, but that’s only exciting with the benefit of hindsight. There wasn’t a Juan Soto at this deadline, and there wasn’t anyone who was especially close, so there isn’t a “shoulda, coulda, woulda” to point out.

They could have figured something out, though. — GB

Trade deadline re-grade: D-

18. Boston Red Sox

Record: 74-76
Last Power Ranking: 16

John Henry and the Fenway Sports Group did not wait for our latest power rankings to drop before rendering their own judgment. Chaim Bloom was fired last week. He wasn’t fired because of the team’s inactivity at the deadline, though one doubts that helped his cause. All the Red Sox, who were still contending for a wild-card spot back then, could do was dump Kiké Hernández. Bloom found the prices for pitching upgrades to be too costly. And so he stood pat. His successor will probably thank him for the caution. But it did not change the endgame. — AM

Trade deadline re-grade: C



With Chaim Bloom fired and plenty of blame to pass around, Red Sox are at a crossroads

19. San Diego Padres

Record: 72-78
Last Power Ranking: 19

Shoulda sold. That’s easy enough to say from here, but it wasn’t that hard to see when they were three games under .500 at the deadline, either. They went 10-18 in August, and they missed pulling off the rare Reverse Preller, making bold moves to replenish the farm instead of their typical strategy, which is exactly the opposite. They could have blown up the market, trading pending free agents Blake Snell and Josh Hader and getting a whopper of a return for both.

Instead, they made minor moves, some of which have been absolute disasters (Rich Hill has a 9.25 ERA in eight appearances and five starts, and Ji-Man Choi is still looking for his first Padres hit as of this writing) and some of which have been merely inoffensive (Garrett Cooper has a 97 OPS+, which, yeah, he’s Garrett Cooper).

The lesson? Don’t get tipsy on your own run differential at the trade deadline. That there’s fool’s gold. — GB

Trade deadline re-grade: D-



Padres' Yu Darvish shut down for season

20. Cleveland Guardians

Record: 72-78
Last Power Ranking: 20

Do we include post-deadline waiver claims in our grades? (Hold on, checking with an editor … ) In any case, the Guardians had a bizarre deadline. In retrospect, their collection of moves seemed like a white flag. They sent Amed Rosario to the Dodgers for Noah Syndergaard, off-loading a pending free agent, in part, because they needed arms after trading Aaron Civale to the Tampa Rays for top prospect Kyle Manzardo. (They also dealt Josh Bell to Miami for prospect Kahlil Watson and veteran Jean Segura.)

The weirdest part was they then hopped into the Angels’ waivers sweepstakes and claimed basically everyone. The only downside, of course, was money spent, and it was a Hail Mary that didn’t work.

Civale’s numbers in Tampa Bay have been fine despite him having slightly better peripheral numbers than he had in Cleveland, while the acquisition of Manzardo was a play for 2024 and beyond. The Guardians quickly fell out of contention after the deadline, which might have been the result of dealing Civale. But one could also argue the Cleveland front office correctly evaluated their team and rightfully sold. In the end, it’s still too early to grade this deadline. But that won’t stop us.  — RD 

Trade deadline re-grade: B

21. Detroit Tigers

Record: 70-79
Last Power Ranking: 23

The Tigers were pummeled by the commentariat at the deadline when starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez refused a trade to the Dodgers. As a result, the Tigers will likely lose Rodriguez for nothing this offseason when he opts out of his contract and heads back to the market. 

Six weeks of time isn’t going to make that situation look any better. The Tigers did complete one trade, sending starting pitcher Michael Lorenzen to the Phillies for infielder Hao-Yu Lee. Lorenzen has had a strange run with the Phils; he threw a no-hitter and then posted a 7.96 ERA in his next five starts. Lee, meanwhile, played in just eight games in High A before landing on the injured list. He’s still an intriguing prospect to watch. — RD

Trade deadline re-grade: C-

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 70-80
Last Power Ranking: 24

The Pirates did what most bad teams do and sold off their expiring contracts. Rich Hill and Ji-Man Choi went to San Diego, netting first baseman Alfonso Rivas, left-hander Jackson Wolf and 18-year-old prospect Estuar Suero.

Rivas entered the weekend having slashed .203/.289/.418 for Pittsburgh, while Wolf put up a 4.06 ERA in his first seven starts at Double-A Altoona. Bailey Falter, acquired from Philadelphia for infielder Rodolfo Castro, has been solid in a brief cameo, logging a 3.62 ERA in 37 1/3 innings, including five starts. — RD

Trade deadline re-grade: B-

23. New York Mets

Record: 69-80
Last Power Ranking: 22

If you liked what the Mets did in late July, effectively shipping out almost every useful veteran on a short-term contract, then you still feel good about it now. Such is the benefit of tearing down: You buy yourself some time. Max Scherzer’s repeated physical breakdowns have made the acquisition of top Rangers prospect Luisangel Acu?a look more impressive. The farm system will be stronger at the end of the season than it was at the beginning, benefiting incoming head of baseball operations David Stearns. — AM

Trade deadline re-grade: B+



What can David Stearns' track record tell us about the Mets' future?

24. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 68-82
Last Power Ranking: 21

The alphabet (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite, perhaps infinite, number of letters. These are not just the 26 English letters you’re used to, or even ex-letters like the ampersand, but a collection of all the letters that could ever and will ever be.

Like all the scholars of the Library, in my younger days I traveled; I have journeyed in quest of a letter, perhaps the letter of letters. Now that my eyes can hardly make out what I myself have written, I am preparing to die, a few leagues from the first alphabet that I had ever learned.

This letter is a letter that is so low on the alphabet that it goes past Z, down, down, down, and its very existence is debated and argued among orthographists, but I’ve seen it, I’ve touched it. It exists. It’s kept in a secret vault, guarded by sentries cursed with eternal life, or, rather, a state of eternal un-death. They’re cursed because they saw the Lowest Letter, and it drove them mad. I was fortunate enough to escape with my sanity, but just barely.

Trade deadline re-grade: Anyways, the Angels’ trade deadline gets this letter. And when you’re finished writing it, slap a big ol’ minus next to it, because it was even worse than that. — GB



Chaos over cohesion: Angels’ handling of Shohei Ohtani’s injury highlights drama that follows them

25. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 66-83
Last Power Ranking: 25

The Cardinals were cast in an unusual role this deadline, selling reliever Jordan Hicks to the Blue Jays for pitchers Sem Robberse and Adam Kloffenstein, dealing starting pitcher Jack Flaherty to Baltimore for three prospects, and sending shortstop Paul DeJong to Toronto for righty Matt Svanson.

When the dust settled, Robberse was the only prospect who wound up in the Cardinals’ top 10, according to MLB Pipeline. The Dutch right-hander has an ERA above 5.00 since advancing to Triple-A Memphis, but he won’t turn 22 until next month. Infielder César Prieto, who came over from Baltimore in the Flaherty trade, is similarly struggling since arriving at Triple A. Kloffenstein, however, has been a dependable arm at the Triple-A level, posting a 2.45 ERA in his first 33 innings, including six starts. — RD

Trade deadline re-grade: B

26. Washington Nationals

Record: 66-84
Last Power Ranking: 26

It was pretty challenging to get excited about either end of the Jeimer Candelario trade. It was challenging then. It is challenging now. — AM

Trade deadline re-grade: C

27. Chicago White Sox

Record: 57-93
Last Power Ranking: 27

The White Sox were among the most active sellers at the deadline, wisely matching up with the Angels and landing prospects Edgar Quero and Ky Bush for pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. The latter arms spent about 15 minutes in Orange County, while Quero put up a .372 on-base percentage in his first 30 games at Double-A Birmingham.

The numbers are a little less rosy for Bush, a 23-year-old lefty, and Jake Eder, a lefty acquired from Miami in exchange for Jake Burger. But the farm system added some depth.  — RD

Trade deadline re-grade: B

28. Colorado Rockies

Record: 56-93
Last Power Ranking: 28

None of the six pitching prospects the Rockies acquired are setting the minor leagues on fire, exactly, but that’s not the point. They passed the test and actually made moves to bolster their farm system at the deadline. Plus, it’s really fun to say Victor Vodnik in a Russian accent, especially if it’s an over-the-top one like John Malkovich’s in “Rounders.”

There wasn’t much they could have done other than what they did. They can’t get an A without nabbing some top-100 prospects, but they did as well as they possibly could have, at least in theory. — GB

Trade deadline re-grade: B+. It could get bumped up to an A- with a contentious parent-teacher conference, but it’s not like they’re getting into college anyway.

29. Kansas City Royals

Record: 48-102
Last Power Ranking: 30

The Royals made perhaps the most underrated move of the deadline, in part, because it came in late June. General manager J.J. Picollo jumped the market and acquired left-hander Cole Ragans for reliever Aroldis Chapman, who signed late in the offseason. Chapman has been fine for Texas, logging a 3.28 ERA with three saves and a ton of strikeouts. But Ragans, 25, has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since July 1, posting a 1.69 ERA in his first nine starts (before giving up five runs to the Astros on Saturday). Only San Diego’s Blake Snell (1.58 ERA) had been better during the stretch. Ragans — a two-time Tommy John survivor — is still under club control for another five years.



The (re)making of a 101 mph arm: How Cole Ragans became a flamethrower in the offseason

The Royals also moved reliever Scott Barlow for two prospects, including right-hander Henry Williams, who has performed well in A-ball. And then there’s Nelson Velazquez, who is slugging better than .600 since coming over from the Cubs in a deal that sent reliever Jose Cuas to Chicago. Is it sustainable? Probably not. But it’s worth watching. The minor deal to send Nicky Lopez to Atlanta for Taylor Hearn is still a tad curious, but the Ragans deal was one of the best at the deadline. — RD

Trade deadline re-grade: A

30. Oakland Athletics

Record: 46-103
Last Power Ranking: 29

Joe Boyle has impressed in three starts for Double-A Midland, and he’s a 6-foot-7 obelisk who throws 100 mph. If he can throw strikes, he’ll get the A’s a grade of … well, an A. He has the potential to be a literal A-plus.

Still, the A’s didn’t have much to trade, which means they didn’t get a ton back. It was a sleepy deadline for them, and it sort of had to be. — GB

Trade deadline re-grade: ?袄冲(ツ)冲/?

(Photo of Justin Turner: Mark Blinch / Getty Images)

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