MLB

MLB trade deadline: Dodgers, Yankees upgrade; Cubs, Nationals clear decks

By Sports Desk July 30, 2021

The Los Angeles Dodgers fortified their chances to repeat as World Series champions by acquiring starter Max Scherzer and shortstop Trea Turner as MLB teams completed a historic trade deadline scramble that saw 10 different 2021 All-Stars change teams.

The Dodgers, who trail the Giants by three games in the highly competitive National League West, were able to orchestrate a blockbuster deal to plug the hole in their rotation left by Trevor Bauer, who remains on leave as he is investigated for sexual abuse.

Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner and eight-time All-Star, steps into a formidable rotation that still features Walker Buhler, Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urias – plus left-hander Danny Duffy, who was acquired from the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.

Turner is batting .322 this year with 18 home runs and has 21 stolen bases, earning him his first All-Star selection earlier this month. He will add his combination of speed and power to a Los Angeles lineup that already leads the National League in runs scored.

In return for the two All-Stars, the Dodgers sent four minor league players to the Washington Nationals, including a pair of top-50 prospects in catcher Keibert Ruiz and pitcher Josiah Gray.

The Nationals were among the biggest sellers at the deadline, sitting in fourth place in the NL East and having just announced that 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg will undergo season-ending neck surgery.

On Thursday, Washington sent relief pitcher Brad Hand to the Toronto Blue Jays and dealt slugger Kyle Schwarber to the Boston Red Sox. The fire sale continued on Friday, with the Nationals sending catcher Yan Gomes and infielder Josh Harrison to the Athletics and trading veteran lefty Jon Lester to the St. Louis Cardinals.

The other notable sellers at the deadline were the Chicago Cubs, who gutted nearly the entire core that helped them win the World Series in 2016.

Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo each played a vital role in that championship five years ago but were sent packing this week with all three playing in the final seasons of their contracts.

The New York Mets added Baez, who will likely start at shortstop until Francisco Lindor is healthy then play second base, as well as pitcher Trevor Williams in exchange for 2020 top draft pick Pete Crow-Armstrong.

Bryant, who had previously said he would consider re-signing with the Cubs this offseason, yielded a modest return in a trade with the NL West-leading Giants.

The Cubs also had the leading closer on the market, sending Craig Kimbrel to the crosstown White Sox for second baseman Nick Madrigal and pitcher Codi Heuer.

Rizzo was the first to go, traded Thursday to the New York Yankees, whose first basemen have slugged an MLB-worst .323 this season.

The Yankees are in third place, thanks mostly to an anemic offense that has scored the second-fewest runs in the American League, but took huge strides at the deadline. Earlier on Thursday, the Yankees secured towering slugger Joey Gallo in a trade with the woeful Texas Rangers, giving the Bronx Bombers two new power threats from the left side of the plate.

Despite entering Friday fourth in the AL East, the Toronto Blue Jays dealt two prospects to the Minnesota Twins for right-handed starter Jose Berrios. Even if Toronto misses the playoffs this season, Berrios is still just 27 and remains under team control through 2022.

The Atlanta Braves drew attention around the league for being buyers, despite star center fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. being out for the rest of the season. The Braves made multiple deals on Friday and since the All-Star break have added catcher Stephen Vogt, pitcher Richard Rodriguez and four outfielders: Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler and Eddie Rosario.

Elsewhere in the NL East, the Philadelphia Phillies also strengthened their position by acquiring All-Star pitcher Kyle Gibson from the Rangers and by re-uniting with infielder Freddy Galvis.

Add in earlier trades that sent Nelson Cruz to the Tampa Bay Rays, Adam Frazier to the San Diego Padres and Eduardo Escobar to the Milwaukee Brewers to reach 10 of this year’s All-Stars moved at the deadline, the most ever.

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  • Watt: Cardinals' playoff defeat to Rams a massive failure Watt: Cardinals' playoff defeat to Rams a massive failure

    J.J. Watt reflected on the Arizona Cardinals' 34-11 playoff defeat to the Los Angeles Rams as "a massive failure".

    The Cardinals ended their season with a whimper at SoFi Stadium on Monday as the Rams dominated the Wild Card round clash between the NFC West rivals.

    Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford ended his wait for a first playoff win, throwing touchdown passes for Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp while running in another.

    Los Angeles will face defending champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Florida next Sunday in the divisional round. 

    The Cardinals, on the other hand, are left to lick their wounds following a fifth defeat in seven games that brought their campaign to a juddering halt.

    Watt returned from a shoulder injury to face the Rams and the defensive end pulled no punches with his verdict on the Cardinals' performance.

    He said: "It was a massive failure from what we were capable of doing and from what we showed we can do [up until the game Monday], there's no other way to describe it than as a failure.

    Quarterback Kyler Murray endured a game to forget, passing for 137 yards and throwing two interceptions in the Cardinals' first playoff game since 2015.

    He said: "I play to win the Super Bowl. That's the goal, that's the mission, is to win the Super Bowl not to make the playoffs or go to the second round. We fell short."

    He added: "It's disappointing that we didn't make it a game and come out and play the football we know we're capable of playing, that's really the most disappointing part.

    "Losing is one thing, but when you don't even make it competitive, it's another thing.

    "I put a lot on my shoulders, put a lot on myself and to dream of this moment and then be in the playoffs, the first game of the playoffs and then to play the way I did, to play the way we did, it's, like I said, disappointing."

    Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury: "When you're dropping back against that that group, it's not a good recipe.

    "And that's what we've found ourselves in. So, we just made it a tough night."

  • 'We wouldn't be here without him' – McVay hails Stafford after QB ends wait for playoff win 'We wouldn't be here without him' – McVay hails Stafford after QB ends wait for playoff win

    Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay is thrilled that quarterback Matthew Stafford will no longer have to face questions about never winning a game in the NFL playoffs.

    NFC West rivals the Arizona Cardinals were convincingly swatted aside by the Rams in the Wild Card round on Monday, the hosts triumphing 34-11.

    The Rams will now move on to face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a huge Divisional Round game with a place in the NFC Championship up for grabs.

    Stafford had only previously reached the playoffs three times in 12 years with the Detroit Lions before his trade to LA ahead of the 2021 campaign and had been winless in each of those postseason appearances.

    "I thought he did a great job leading the way," McVay said, per ESPN, after Stafford threw touchdown passes to Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp.

    "He's still the same great player to me, and he always was before this game.

    "So I think it's good so you guys don't have to talk about [him not having a playoff win] anymore. So he can get that one out of the way. 

    "I am really proud of him. Just so lucky to be able to do this with him. He's our leader. We wouldn't be here without him."

    Stafford only had to throw a season-low 17 pass attempts, but he was impressive in completing 13 of them, with three of his four incompletions being dropped passes.

    The Rams' defense played a big part in the win too. The Cardinals were 21-0 behind before they were even able to record a first down, while cornerback David Long had a three-yard pick six on Kyler Murray, the shortest in playoff history.

    "I'm just excited for our team to get the win," said Stafford. 

    "What a team effort. Our defense played outstanding, special teams basically set up a score with [punter] Johnny [Hekker] pinning them down there, we did a great job on field goals. 

    "And we were good enough on offense to score some points and come away with the win. Just happy to be moving on."

    The Rams must now beat the defending NFL champions on the road to progress further in a postseason schedule which will culminate with the Super Bowl being hosted at their own SoFi Stadium.

    LA were one of only three teams who beat the Bucs in the regular season but Stafford is under no illusions over the size of the task facing them.

    He added: "It is a huge challenge. Obviously, a fantastic quarterback, great defense, a really good football team.

    "I think their team is different than when we played them last [in Week 3], and I think we are, too, both [in] personnel and scheme a little bit. You always evolve throughout the season. 

    "So it'll be interesting to see what they look like here as of late, and we'll go out there, attack and see what happens."

  • Stafford ends playoff hoodoo as Rams blow out Cardinals Stafford ends playoff hoodoo as Rams blow out Cardinals

    Matthew Stafford celebrated the end of his long wait for an NFL playoff win as the Los Angeles Rams sealed a stress-free victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday.

    The quarterback produced an immaculate performance as the Rams won 34-11 at SoFi Stadium, the venue for this year's Super Bowl, in the first match to be played on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

    Stafford was 0-3 in playoff games over 12 years with the Detroit Lions but threw touchdown passes for Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp while running for another to ensure there would be no disappointment this time.

    His reward is a showdown with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Florida next Sunday in the divisional round. The Rams were one of just three teams to beat the reigning champions in the regular season – a 34-24 win back in Week 3.

    A 52-yard drive in the first quarter ended with Stafford finding OBJ with a four-yard pass for the opening TD of the game, the latter's first in the postseason.

    It marked what would prove to be a display of efficiency from Stafford, who threw 13 of 17 passes – his lowest of the season – for 202 yards but did not commit a single turnover.

    Von Miller – playing in his first postseason game since being MVP of Super Bowl 50 – sacked Kyler Murray as the Cardinals failed to respond, and in the first drive of the second quarter, Stafford found Beckham again for a 31-yard gain that led to his chance to run in touchdown number two.

    Things went from bad to worse for the Cardinals as a Rams punt ended on the Arizona 1, and Murray thought he finally had a first down when he threw to AJ Green, but Nick Scott tackled the ball away from him to what was eventually called an incomplete pass. On the next play, Murray was panicked into rushing his throw from his own endzone, leading to a pick six as David Long intercepted and ran in for the TD.

    It took until more than halfway through the second quarter for the Cardinals to get a first down as they fell 21-0 behind at halftime, and they were not back on the scoreboard until a little over four minutes remained in the third quarter.

    Having surrendered a 17-0 lead over the San Francisco 49ers last week, the Rams were determined to avoid a repeat, Beckham making NFL history as the first player in the postseason to finish with 30-yard receptions and completions in the same game.

    Stafford's seven-yard pass let Kupp, who finished with a team-high five catches for 61 yards, quell any fears of a late Arizona response.

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