MLB trade deadline superlatives: Weirdest trade, most improved teams, GMs who shined and more

Have you caught your breath yet? This trade deadline didn’t disappoint. We waited and waited and waited for moves, and then they came, fast and furious.

Now that the dust has settled on the 2022 trade deadline and I’ve shared my grades for all 30 teams, let’s have some fun with deadline superlatives.

So, here are my 39 picks for the best, worst and everything in between from this year’s trade season, starting with the historic blockbuster that captivated the sport. 

Best trade: The Padres and the Nationals. The best player ever traded at the deadline (Juan Soto) for the best haul of prospects ever moved at the deadline. What more can you ask for?

Worst trade: The Angels. They traded their closer, Raisel Iglesias, whom they signed to a four-year, $58 million deal last offseason, to the Braves for a middle-relief journeyman (Jesse Chavez) and a sixth or seventh starting pitcher on a winning team (Tucker Davidson).

Biggest surprise deal: The Yankees and Cardinals, who came together on a trade right before the deadline that sent left-handed starter Jordan Montgomery to St. Louis for center fielder Harrison Bader, who is on the injured list.

Weirdest trade: The Mets, who traded J.D. Davis, Thomas Szapucki, Carson Seymour and Nick Zwack for Darin Ruf. I’m not sure why they had to give up four players for a platoon power hitter with huge holes at the plate.

Best buyers: The Padres, Yankees, Mariners, Astros, Twins and Phillies, in that order.

Best sellers: The Nationals, Reds and Orioles, in that order.

Best buyer and seller (at the same time): None. The Red Sox and Giants tried to do this and failed.

Best job of standing pat: The Guardians. Yes, I gave them a low trade deadline grade, but at least they held onto all of their prospects. Cleveland’s future is bright.

Worst job of standing pat: The White Sox. I think they needed to add offense or improve their pitching staff to give this team a jolt.

Best position player traded: Soto. Here’s why.

Best starting pitchers traded: Luis Castillo and Frankie Montas.

The Mariners went all out to land Luis Castillo. (Brad Penner / USA Today)

Best relievers traded: Josh Hader, Iglesias and Jorge López.

Most “under-the-radar reliever” traded: Scott Effross, who went from the Cubs to the Yankees.

Best lineup fit: Soto, who will eventually be sandwiched between Ferando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado in the Padres’ stacked lineup, so teams won’t be able to pitch around him like they did when he was with Washington.

Worst positional fit: Tommy Pham with Boston. The Red Sox have Alex Verdugo, whose best position is left field, and J.D. Martinez is their DH. Pham is just not a great fit defensively.

Power hitter who will benefit most from a trade: The right-handed-hitting Trey Mancini, who left the spacious left field in Camden Yards for the cozy confines in left at Minute Maid Park.

Pitcher who will benefit most from a trade: Castillo, who no longer has to make half of his starts at Great American Small Park.

Teams that improved their defense the most: The Yankees, who acquired Gold Glove outfielders for left field (Andrew Benintendi) and center field (Bader), and the Phillies, who added shortstop Edmundo Sosa and center fielder Brandon Marsh.

Teams that improved their rotation and bullpen the most: The Yankees, who landed Montas for their rotation and Lou Trivino and Effross for their bullpen. The Twins, who added Tyler Mahle to their rotation and López and Michael Fulmer to their bullpen, and the Phillies (Noah Syndergaard, David Robertson) also did well.

Most creative GM: Padres president of baseball operations A.J. Preller, who found a way to move Eric Hosmer to Boston after San Diego had to substitute Luke Voit into the trade with the Nationals because Hosmer used his no-trade clause to nix the original deal.

GM who did the best job of rebuilding without having Soto to trade: Nick Krall of the Reds. My final hire as Reds GM in 2003 was to hire Nick, who had been an intern with the A’s, as baseball operations assistant. He made me proud this deadline, especially when he executed the significant trades with Seattle and Minnesota, which put the Reds on the right path to rebuild their franchise.

Best use of unlimited texting: Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who made four impact acquisitions that put the Yankees in their best position to win a world championship since their last one in 2009.

Manager who benefited the most: Bob Melvin, who now has Soto, Josh Bell, Brandon Drury and Josh Hader at his disposal. Not too shabby.

Best contract extension: The Braves, who signed third baseman Austin Riley to a club-friendly 10-year, $212 million deal. Riley is one of the best right-handed power hitters in the game and a complete player. This extension should also help the Red Sox in their ongoing contract negotiations with third baseman Rafael Devers.

Worst contract extension: The Rockies, who extended reliever Daniel Bard (two years, $19 million) instead of trading him and then re-signing him as a free agent after this season.

GM who asked for too much in trades: Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and GM Carter Hawkins. They missed an opportunity to cash in when they couldn’t trade All-Star catcher Willson Contreras, who will be a free agent after this season.

Player who should have been traded but wasn’t: Carlos Rodón. Based on the returns the Reds received for Castillo and the A’s got for Montas, the Giants might have missed out on significant prospects for a pitcher they likely won’t be able to re-sign after this season, if he opts out as expected.

Player who was traded who shouldn’t have been: Christian Vázquez. The Red Sox were caught in between buying and selling, but I think they were close enough in the wild-card race that they needed to keep Vázquez, given his value to their pitching staff and clubhouse.

Best job of getting other teams to pay players’ salaries: The Giants, who were able to move Matthew Boyd to the Mariners and Trevor Rosenthal to the Brewers even though both players were injured.

Best early return: Drury, who hit a grand slam in his first at-bat for the Padres.

Team that did the most damage to clubhouse morale: The Red Sox, who had team leader Xander Bogaerts publicly uncertain about what his front office was doing.

Team that did the most to improve clubhouse morale: The Padres — no further explanation needed.

Best player traded who was on the IL: Bader, who has plantar fasciitis in his right foot and is not close to returning.

The fastest player traded: Jose Siri, who went from the Astros to the Rays as part of the three-team trade that also involved the Orioles. Siri ranks in the 100th percentile in sprint speed. He can flat out fly.

Best base stealer traded: Whit Merrifield, who went from the Royals to the Blue Jays. Merrifield has 55 stolen bases in 62 attempts over the last two years.

Player most frustrated by the deadline: Eric Hosmer, who was initially part of the Soto package headed to the Nationals, but they were on his no-trade list and he refused the move. Then he was traded to the Red Sox. He didn’t want to leave San Diego.

Best hairdo dealt: It’s a tie between Syndergaard and Bader.

Fan base that popped the most champagne: Seattle. For the first time in 21 years, it appears they’re headed to the postseason after acquiring Castillo, arguably the top starting pitcher who was traded.

Fan bases that heard crickets: The White Sox (one trade), Guardians (one) and Rockies (zero).

OK, now I need your help. Please join the fun and add to this list of superlatives in the comments section.

(Top photo of Juan Soto: Orlando Ramirez / USA Today)

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