MLB Power Rankings Week 18: Who's No. 1 post-trade deadline?

Thursday, August 3, 2023

A fair number of MLB teams look a little different than they did just a week ago.

With the 2023 trade deadline behind us, there are some faces in new places -- and others in familiar ones, most notably Justin Verlander, who returned to Houston in the biggest deal on deadline day Tuesday. Mets teammate Max Scherzer fits the former category, as he was traded to Houston's American League West rival Texas prior to Verlander's move.

With all the movement over the past week, where does your favorite team stand now? And how was it impacted by this year's deadline?

Our expert panel has ranked every team in baseball based on a combination of what we've seen so far and what we already knew going into the 162-game marathon that is a full baseball season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with an observation for all 30 teams.

Week 17 | Second-half preview | Preseason rankings

1. Atlanta Braves


Previous ranking:1

There was speculation the Braves might trade for a starter, which made sense because the rotation hasn't been anything special the past two months, with a 4.82 ERA in June and 4.59 in July. Instead, Atlanta just added around the edges with relievers Brad Hand and Pierce Johnsonandinfielder Nicky Lopez and took a flier on Yonny Chirinos, who allowed four runs in 3 innings in his Braves debut. Instead, the team will rely on Max Fried, who could rejoin the rotation Friday, and Spencer Strider to get into a more consistent groove. Strider is still racking up the strikeouts -- he just passed 200 -- but has a 4.23 ERA over his past 14 starts. -- Schoenfield

2. Baltimore Orioles


Previous ranking:2

The new balanced schedule was supposed to benefit the American League East more than any other division, mostly because the teams wouldn't have to play each other as often. Indeed, the fact that all five teams were over .500 entering August suggests this has been the case. But is the new slate actually working against the Orioles? Maybe, if you want to read into Baltimore's remarkable intradivision record. After beating the Blue Jays on Tuesday, the O's improved to 7-1 against Toronto this season. Meanwhile, they're 6-3 against the Rays, 3-3 against Boston and 7-6 against the Yankees, whom they will not see again during the regular season. -- Doolittle

3. Texas Rangers


Previous ranking:5

If they didn't win the winter, they might have at least won the trade deadline. Or perhaps they won both, as the Rangers continue to show a flair for stealing headlines. With Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery now in the fold, there's less pressure on Nathan Eovaldi to return from his injury and other starters can move down a notch in the rotation. Texas probably needed the energy boost the new players should bring, considering it got swept by San Diego over the weekend on the heels of losing a series to the Astros before that. Holding off Houston for the division crown might come down to the two aforementioned pitching additions. The race in the AL West is just getting started. -- Rogers

4. Houston Astros


Previous ranking:6

Baseball is a funny game, in the best way possible. Framber Valdez was the AL's leading Cy Young contender into June and had staked a claim as the best right-now starter in the majors. After that, though he remained solid, his numbers ebbed. Over eight starts, he went 2-3 with a 5.17 ERA. Gerrit Cole of the Yankees probably seized the front-runner role in the Cy Young chase during that window. And when the Astros swung big at the deadline and reacquired future Hall of Famer Verlander, it looked like Valdez had once again become a quality No. 2 starter. Not so fast. In the immediate aftermath of the Verlander news, all Valdez did was go out and no-hit the Guardians on 93 pitches. So much for the slump. -- Doolittle

5. Tampa Bay Rays


Previous ranking:4

Perhaps no player has mirrored the trajectory of the Rays' season more than Randy Arozarena. But while the Rays have shown signs of emerging from their midseason funk, Arozarena's trend line continues to point down. After starring in the WBC, Arozarena looked like an MVP candidate over the first couple of months of the season. Through the end of May, he was hitting .297/.407/.513 and was on pace to top 30 homers, 100 runs and 100 RBIs. Since then, Arozarena has hit .209/.310/.352. There is plenty of time for Arozarena to rediscover his early-season form. If the Rays are to get where they want to go, his ability to do so is crucial. -- Doolittle

6. Los Angeles Dodgers


Previous ranking:3

The Dodgers' trade deadline can't be summed up as anything other than a disappointment. They wanted Nolan Arenado, but he ultimately wasn't made available. They thought they might land Verlander, but then the Astros swooped in. They had a deal in place for Eduardo Rodriguez, but he used his limited no-trade clause to nix it. In the end, the Dodgers had to settle for depth: two platoon infielders (Enrique Hernandez and Amed Rosario), one struggling starter (Lance Lynn), one bullpen arm (Joe Kelly) and one hybrid pitcher (Ryan Yarbrough). The Dodgers hope that those additions, plus the return of Clayton Kershaw and the potential return of Walker Buehler, will make them a World Series representative within an inferior National League. -- Gonzalez

7. Toronto Blue Jays


Previous ranking:7

As accomplished as George Springer has been during his career, he has always tended toward streakiness. In terms of bad streaks, he has never been deeper than the one he's in right now. After going 0-for-4 against the Orioles on Tuesday -- and before getting a hit on Wednesday -- Springer had gone 31 straight at-bats without a hit, the longest hitless streak of his career. Springer is 4-for-55 in his past 14 contests and, as a result, his OPS+ has plummeted to 95, the first time in his career he has been below league average. His worst end-of-season figure thus far is the 114 OPS+ he posted in 2018. -- Doolittle

8. Philadelphia Phillies


Previous ranking:8

The Phillies acquired starter Michael Lorenzen from the Tigers. The veteran right-hander, who was the Tigers' All-Star rep this season, has been on a roll of late with a 2.50 ERA over his past seven starts. "I feel like I've been throwing the best ball I've ever thrown," he told reporters. "I feel like there is still room to grow and I'm getting better. Hopefully when I get to Philly, I can apply that and they get the benefits of that."

Lorenzen has both started and relieved during his career and Cristopher Sanchez has done a nice job as Philly's fifth starter with a 2.66 ERA in nine starts (although somehow with no victories), so we'll see how the Phillies use Lorenzen. Sanchez has certainly not pitched himself out of the rotation, but maybe he goes to the bullpen or perhaps the team goes with a six-man rotation. -- Schoenfield

9. San Francisco Giants


Previous ranking:13

The Giants did next to nothing before the trade deadline, merely acquiring a right-handed-hitting outfielder -- AJ Pollock, batting .173 this season -- who would have probably been designated for assignment anyway. But there weren't that many high-impact players available, and many of the others would not have represented clear upgrades. The Giants don't have much in the way of high-end talent, but they sure are deep. And though they didn't acquire anybody who would necessarily put them over the top, preserving that depth should serve them well over the next two months.

"Looking at the National League, I don't really see a seismic shift based on the trades," Giants President Farhan Zaidi said. "A lot of it's going to just come down to who plays the best down the stretch." -- Gonzalez

10. Boston Red Sox


Previous ranking:10

Starting pitching will be the key for the Red Sox down the stretch. To put it another way, their rotation will be the unit most under scrutiny after the front office failed to add a starting pitcher before the deadline. While Boston can hope Trevor Story's looming return will be the upgrade the lineup needed, the rotation will be hoping for good injury news over the season's final weeks. Tanner Houck is scheduled to start a rehab stint this weekend, while Chris Sale has already begun one of his own. Garrett Whitlock also isn't far away from testing his arm against minor league competition. If things go well, Boston's approach at the deadline will look less like an oversight and more like foresight. -- Doolittle

11. Milwaukee Brewers


Previous ranking:9

A bad loss Wednesday to the Nationals added to a rough week for the Brewers after they got swept by Atlanta over the weekend. Milwaukee's vaunted pitching staff gave up a total of 29 runs in the three losses, but that might say more about the Braves than the Brewers. Still, the brutal week on the mound led to a 7.16 ERA, highest in baseball in that span. Opposing hitters posted a .311 batting average during that time. The good news is Milwaukee had an under-the-radar good trade deadline, adding lefty Andrew Chafin along with hitters Carlos Santana and Mark Canha. All three should be factors in the NL Central race down the stretch. -- Rogers

12. Cincinnati Reds


Previous ranking:15

A minor addition to the bullpen is all Cincinnati decided to do at the deadline, mostly because it's getting Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo back from injury soon. Besides, the Reds are a year ahead of schedule, so whatever they do in the stretch run is gravy. Either way, they could use a better pitching performance than the one they received from Ben Lively on Tuesday. He gave up 13 runs on 13 hits in just four innings. That's the most earned runs given up by a Reds pitcher since ERA became an official stat in 1913. The point is, the Reds are going to have to hit their way to the playoffs -- unless Greene and Lodolo are the second-half answers to their mound woes. -- Rogers

13. Arizona Diamondbacks


Previous ranking:14

The D-backs slogged through an 8-16 record in July, going from two games up in the NL West at the start of the month to 3 back by the end of it. They're hoping reinforcements can provide a much-needed boost. The D-backs added right-handed-hitting outfielder Tommy Pham to help balance out the lineup and acquired closer Paul Sewald to fortify the back end of their bullpen. But they didn't add a starting pitcher. And they certainly needed one, especially with Zach Davies and Tommy Henry on the injured list.

"That market was really tough," GM Mike Hazen said. "There weren't a lot of starters out there available. Some of the starters that were out there got held, some got traded. We didn't end up acquiring one. We were willing to overpay, in our mind, for a starter." -- Gonzalez

14. Los Angeles Angels


Previous ranking:17

You might have heard by now, but the Angels didn't just decide to keep Shohei Ohtani -- they decided to go all-in with Shohei Ohtani. In a trade deadline that was generally devoid of action, the Angels -- an unlikely playoff team, with Mike Trout still injured and Ohtani on the precipice of free agency -- stood out for their action.

Over the past month or so, they added a first baseman (C.J. Cron), two other infielders (Mike Moustakas and Eduardo Escobar), an outfielder (Randal Grichuk), a starting pitcher (Lucas Giolito) and two relievers (Reynaldo Lopez and Dominic Leone). All of them cost prospects from a system that was already thin. They were added in an effort to win in what could be Ohtani's final season in Anaheim -- and perhaps to convince him to stay. Now we'll get to find out if it works. -- Gonzalez

15. New York Yankees


Previous ranking:11

The Yankees haven't had a losing season since 1992. Expect to hear that factoid a lot over the next few weeks unless New York is able to get on a roll soon. For one thing, it is one of the most remarkable streaks in sports. For another, the Yankees' passive approach at the deadline will come under increasing scrutiny if things go south from here. Most of their key players have underperformed projections, with Gerrit Cole being the notable exception. Aaron Judge has also been on point when he has been in the lineup, something that is essential to the Yankees' chances down the stretch. That much was evident during his absence -- the offense more resembled a dead ball era Highlanders attack than what we've come to expect from the 21st century Bronx Bombers. -- Doolittle

16. Miami Marlins


Previous ranking:16

It was a busy week for the Marlins as they added relievers David Robertson and Jorge Lopez and then first baseman Josh Bell, third baseman Jake Burger and pitcher Ryan Weathers on deadline day. Gone are Garrett Cooper, Jean Segura, Dylan Floro and some interesting prospects in Jake Eder, former first-round pick Kahlil Watson, Marco Vargas and Ronald Hernandez. The switch-hitting Bell will help balance a lineup that has been too right-handed while Burger provides power (25 home runs), albeit with a low OBP (.279). They should make the Marlins offense a little better. Unfortunately, Robertson blew the save in Tuesday's loss to the Phillies, allowing three runs in the ninth after Sandy Alcantara had pitched eight scoreless innings. -- Schoenfield

17. Chicago Cubs


Previous ranking:21

A winning surge right before the trade deadline changed the Cubs' fortunes -- they held onto Cody Bellingerinstead of trading him, and thus they have a shot at the postseason in the NL. Their one deadline addition, Jeimer Candelario, is playing first base for the first time in three years but Chicago simply wants his bat in the lineup. He became the first Cub since at least 1900 to have four hits in his debut, after playing for another team in the same season, during Tuesday's 20-9 rout of the Reds. Six different Chicago players homered in that game, tying a franchise record. The Cubs' offense isn't the problem right now. Starters Marcus Stroman -- who was placed on the 15-day IL on Wednesday -- and Drew Smyly need to find their game or adding at the deadline might turn out to be a mistake. -- Rogers

18. San Diego Padres


Previous ranking:18

There were rumors at various points last week that the Padres might essentially punt on 2023 by trading Blake Snell and Josh Hader. Then they swept the first-place Rangers and instead GM A.J. Preller augmented the roster, acquiring a new DH platoon in Ji Man Choi and Garrett Cooper, a starter in Rich Hill and a back-end bullpen member in Scott Barlow.

The approach wasn't as shortsighted as it might appear. The Padres have a favorable run differential, grade out well defensively, have been pitching well for most of the season and have been done in by what might be considered fluky events, most notably a poor record in one-run games, an even worse mark in extra innings and a brutal performance with runners in scoring position. They believe they're a legitimately good team. Now they have to prove it. -- Gonzalez

19. Seattle Mariners


Previous ranking:19

The Mariners went 17-9 in July to climb back into the playoff race but traded away closer Paul Sewald to the Diamondbacks, believing they have enough depth with the likes of Andres Munoz, Matt Brash& Co. Infielder Josh Rojas came over in the deal, leading to the departure of Kolten Wong, who never got his bat going. Outfielder Dominic Canzone is a lefty hitter with contact skills and the Mariners look like they'll give him a chance to play. That could mean less playing time for Teoscar Hernandez, who leads the majors in strikeouts. -- Schoenfield

20. Minnesota Twins


Previous ranking:12

Last year's trade deadline did not work out for the Twins. It's more obvious now than it was then that they would be better off with the prospects they traded (Yennier Cano, Cade Povich, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Spencer Steer) than the veterans they acquired (since-traded reliever Jorge Lopez and injured starter Tyler Mahle). Did that unfortunate outcome impact the Twins' 2023 deadline approach? Because Minnesota did nothing at the deadline, it's a reasonable theory, though probably not what actually happened.

GM Derek Falvey told reporters, "We see the internal guys as being as good or better than what we could access at that time." We'll find out if Falvey's assessment is right, but one thing to keep in mind: The trade deadline, for all the attention it receives, is not the make-or-break moment for a franchise. If the Twins are able to get into the playoffs and play competitive baseball once there, we'll look at Falvey's words as prescience. -- Doolittle

21. Cleveland Guardians


Previous ranking:20

Cleveland made some interesting deals, leading with sending Aaron Civale to the Rays for Triple-A first baseman Kyle Manzardo. That now means the entire Opening Day rotation is either injured or with another team -- and the Guardians are still hanging with the Twins. They also traded Josh Bell to the Marlins for Kahlil Watson, a shortstop who was a first-round pick in 2022. He hasn't torn it up in the minors but has the tools and upside to take a gamble on. The Guardians also called up shortstop Brayan Rocchio, the team's top prospect, and he should get an extended run the final two months. -- Schoenfield

22. New York Mets


Previous ranking:22

One thing's for sure: The trade deadline would have been a lot less interesting without the Mets. With so many teams on the bubble deciding to play it safe and not make any big moves, the Mets traded away Scherzer, Verlander, Robertson, Canha and Pham. They included a pile of cash in the Scherzer and Verlander deals, essentially buying prospects from the Rangers and Astros.

The biggest name there: Shortstop Luisangel Acuna, the younger brother of Ronald Acuna Jr. Luisangel was hitting .315/.377/.453 at Double-A with seven home runs and 42 steals, obviously lacking his brother's power. With Francisco Lindor at shortstop, plus Ronny Mauricio in Triple-A (although he's played some second base and left field), it will be interesting to see what the Mets do with Acuna. Some speculate on a move to center field, although he remained at shortstop in his first game with Binghamton. -- Schoenfield

23. St. Louis Cardinals


Previous ranking:23

The Cardinals will play out the final two months of the season doing something they rarely do: auditioning players for next season. Moving on from Montgomery, Jordan Hicks and Jack Flaherty means openings for others, such as Matthew Liberatore, who should get some meaningful developmental innings. Speaking of pitching, lefty Steven Matz has quietly put together a nice run. He posted a 2.17 ERA while giving up just 21 hits in 29 innings during July. Teams had a hard time squaring him up, leading to a .197 opposing batting average during that time frame. Matz is signed through 2025, so the Cardinals could use that kind of production moving forward. -- Rogers

24. Pittsburgh Pirates


Previous ranking:25

Pittsburgh produced back-to-back series wins last week, taking down two teams vying for playoff positions: San Diego and Philadelphia. The Pirates pitched as well as they have in some time. Against two good hitting teams, they only gave up 37 hits in 46 total innings over a seven-day span ending on Wednesday. Johan Oviedo threw the best of the bunch, going seven innings against the Tigers on Tuesday while allowing just one run on six hits. Mitch Keller also threw well last week, reminding the league of what Pittsburgh did early in the season -- before its season regressed. -- Rogers

25. Detroit Tigers


Previous ranking:24

There is a lot to ponder around Rodriguez's decision to exercise a no-trade option. E-Rod told reporters that he wanted to stay closer to family on the East Coast than would have been possible with the West Coast Dodgers. Rodriguez's contract allows him to veto deals to 10 teams, one being L.A. It also allows him to opt out of the final three years and $49 million of his deal with the Tigers after this season. Should the Tigers have tried to deal Rodriguez to an East Coast contender like the Orioles or Red Sox? (Of course, they may have tried.) Will the fact that they tried to trade him at all cement his decision to exercise the opt out? We'll find out.

Meanwhile, on the field, after pitching like a Cy Young candidate early in the season, Rodriguez has been a more tepid 2-3 since then with a 4.91 ERA, a figure inflated by some bad BABIP luck. Whatever happens, one thing hasn't changed since E-Rod signed his contract with Detroit: The Tigers' future rotation looks a lot better with him in it than without him. -- Doolittle

26. Chicago White Sox


Previous ranking:26

By most accounts, the White Sox did well in their trade deadline deals, as they said goodbye to the current iteration of the team that won just two playoff games after an extended rebuild. Of course, the same could be said of their deadline deals the last time they traded away veterans -- and that obviously didn't work out the way they hoped. The only question left for the White Sox this season is if ownership will look to a new front office to take over baseball decisions. It's not likely to happen, so the organization will move forward with an unclear future. One note from the deadline: There was a lot of chatter about pitcher Dylan Cease. He didn't move this week, but he could this offseason. -- Rogers

27. Washington Nationals


Previous ranking:27

As expected, the Nationals traded Jeimer Candelario, although they ended up keeping outfielder Lane Thomas. In return for Candelario, they acquired High-A shortstop Kevin Made and lefty starter DJ Herz from the Cubs. Made was a high-profile international signing a few years ago who has struggled to hit in the minors, although he has pretty good contact skills and the ability to remain at shortstop. Herz is in Double-A where he's racked up high totals of both strikeouts and walks and looks like a probable bullpen arm. Neither are certain big leaguers but both have some potential, so it's a solid return for a two-month rental. -- Schoenfield

28. Colorado Rockies


Previous ranking:28

The Rockies -- in what some would consider a surprising turn of events -- actually did what was expected of them before the trade deadline, shedding five would-be free agents in C.J. Cron, Randal Grichuk, Mike Moustakas, Pierce Johnson and Brad Hand.They yielded seven pitching prospects. Now the Rockies need to figure out how to develop them. -- Gonzalez

29. Kansas City Royals


Previous ranking:29

There were rumors of a Salvador Perez trade to the Marlins, and Perez reportedly was open to a deal to Miami, where he has an offseason home, but no deal was put together. That left the Royals with a couple of small trades:Nicky Lopez to the Braves, Scott Barlow to the Padres and Ryan Yarbrough to the Dodgers. On the field, the Royals won their fourth in a row on Tuesday against the Mets, thanks to a walk-off balk. The first win came on Bobby Witt Jr.'s walk-off grand slam for an 8-5 win over the Twins on Friday. -- Schoenfield

30. Oakland Athletics


Previous ranking:30

The A's were clearly in "unload" mode leading up to the trade deadline, but they wound up trading away only three veteran players in a span of 12 days. The reason is quite simple: The A's don't have many players that other teams want. There's a reason they're last in winning percentage, run-differential, OPS, ERA and, of course, our Power Rankings.-- Gonzalez

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