Major League Baseball's trade deadline passed on Tuesday evening, putting an end to a frenzied period that saw Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander (among others) change teams ahead of the stretch run. (You can click here to relive all of the deals.) As is often the case, most of the immediate attention was given to the stars, like Scherzer and Verlander. We've learned time and again that stars alone do not make a team good. Contenders need to have to have a quality supporting cast, too, otherwise they're liable to find themselves falling short of the postseason.
With that in mind, CBS Sports has chosen to highlight five under-the-radar deadline acquisitions who we think could surprise folks. Our focus here is on established players who joined contenders. (If you want to read more about the prospects that were dealt to the sellers, you can do so by clicking here.) Do note that the players are presented below in no particular order.
Let's get to it.
1. Luis Urías, INF, Red Sox
Urías celebrated his 26th birthday in June. He has several years of team control remaining. He's accumulated more Wins Above Replacement (6.2) since 2021 than the likes of Whit Merrifield, DJ LeMahieu, Eugenio Suárez, and Jonathan India.
It's more than a little surprising, then, that the Brewers were willing to bail on Urías after 49 bad games split between the majors and minors following a hamstring injury. Perhaps there's a deeper story here, or perhaps they just wanted to secure a return ahead of non-tendering him this winter. Either way, it seems like a smart buy-low gamble by Chaim Bloom that could pay dividends later this year and into the future.
Urías' marks are certainly down this season compared to those he put up in 2021-22. His average exit velocity remains around 87 mph overall (it was around 84 mph in 20 big-league games), but he's hit a fewer share of balls over 95 mph. He's also become more accustomed to whiffing, and he's shown reduced speed. It seems possible that he's entering a decline phase earlier than you'd expect.
Even if that proves to be the case, this will go down as a worthwhile swing by the Red Sox. It's not often a player with this kind of youth and track record at the big-league level becomes available at this price point (a non top-30 prospect).
2. Rodolfo Castro, INF, Phillies
Castro is best known for being the only MLB player ever suspended after having his cellphone fall out of his uniform pants during play. It's going to be difficult to displace that cherished memory, but we think Castro could become an important member of the Phillies bench if he's deployed in an optimal manner.
Castro, 24, has hit .226/.299/.396 (90 OPS+) with 22 home runs in 180 career MLB games. He's been particularly good against lefty pitchers, amassing a .900 OPS when he's been granted the platoon advantage. That makes him a clear upgrade over veteran utilityman Josh Harrison, who has since been bumped off the roster.
We think there's some chance that Castro unlocks something more now that he's paired with renowned hitting coach Kevin Long. To wit, Castro's top-end exit velocity numbers this season are in line with those posted by Nick Castellanos, J.D. Davis, and Jeimer Candelario, among other quality hitters. Even if he doesn't, he should be a fixture in Rob Thomson's lineups against southpaws.
3. Ji-Man Choi and Garrett Cooper, 1B/DH, Padres
We're pairing Choi and Cooper because we suspect the Padres will do the same. A.J. Preller gambled on a pair of late-stage veterans over the winter, in Nelson Cruz and Matt Carpenter, but neither emerged as a suitable DH option. The Padres, in turn, have the fourth-worst OPS from the DH position in the majors. Add in Jake Cronenworth's disappointing output at first base, and it makes sense that Preller dipped into the pure-hitter market not once but twice ahead of the deadline.
Even marginal upgrades can make a big difference in a tight race. Padres fans should be tickled that Choi's 90 OPS+ and Cooper's 96 OPS+ are 1) beneath their normal standards, yet 2) leaps beyond the figures posted by Carpenter (69) and Cruz (89). As noted above, we think there's a good platoon to be had here, too:
- Choi career OPS vs. RHP: .810
- Cooper career OPS vs. RHP: .766
- Cooper career OPS vs. LHP: 802
- Choi career OPS vs. LHP: .584
This is analytical malpractice, but we will note that an .800 OPS would represent the seventh-most productive DH spot in the majors. A Choi-Cooper pairing would seem to have a chance to approach that mark if deployed wisely by Bob Melvin.
4.. Ryan Yarbrough, LHP, Dodgers
Yarbrough represents a step down in starpower from the likes of Justin Verlander, Dylan Cease, and Eduardo Rodríguez, to name a few other Dodgers deadline targets. Q score isn't all that matters, though, and we think that Yarbrough does enough things well to qualify as a sneaky-solid deadline addition -- even if he ends up falling short of cracking Los Angeles' eventual postseason rotation.
Yarbrough doesn't have loud stuff by any measure. He doesn't throw a single pitch higher than 87 mph on average, and his current strikeout rate (5.1 per nine innings) would be a new career-low. Nevertheless, he's quite good at inducing swings outside of the strike zone. That skill enables him to keep his walk rate down and to suppress the opponent's quality of contact. Consider these numbers:
- 2023: 85.8 mph average exit velocity against;
- 2022: 85.1 mph
- 2021: 84.8 mph
- 2020: 82.6 mph
For reference, the league-average exit velocity against for pitchers with at least 10 starts this season is 88.8 mph. Yarbrough, who missed time after being hit in the head by a line drive, would rank in the 99th percentile if he qualified.
If the Dodgers want more swings and misses from Yarbrough, they can attempt to unlock them by tinkering with his pitch mix. (This is the first time in his big-league career he's thrown his sinker as his top offering, and it generates a laughable 7.6% whiffs.) They could also just leave him alone and let him generate softly struck balls by the truckload, the way he is wont to do.
5. Dylan Floro, RHP, Twins
The Twins obtained Floro in a right-handed reliever challenge trade with the Marlins in exchange for former All-Star Jorge López. Whereas López throws harder and has an additional year of team control remaining, Floro is the better pitcher in every quantifiable respect. Take a look at how they stack up this year:
We expect that Floro's seasonal marks will improve the rest of the way. All of his component measures are in line with those he posted from 2020-22, when he amassed a 146 ERA+ in 149 appearances. His ERA is worse because of some batted-ball misfortune. In the table below, you'll see that Floro's results on batted balls that had a launch angle of 0 degrees or lower are completely out of whack:
Blame it on Miami's infield defense, blame it on bad luck, blame it on the boogie. It doesn't matter. We think Floro is going to make Minnesota look wise.