Every general manager in baseball will hate this column, because they know what so many of us fail to understand. Trades of major magnitude aren't made impulsively or instinctively or without input from all facets of the baseball operation. Shape-shifting swaps affect so many elements -- both calculable and otherwise -- of play on the field both in the present and the future that they take time to adequately analyze. Same, in fact, goes for the decisions to stand pat.
So when some goober with the benefit of time and hindsight and Internet bandwidth pens a piece on the Trade Deadline fallout only a month or so after it passed, it's understandably annoying to any exec who actually does this for a living.
That said, those of us with time and hindsight and Internet bandwidth simply can't help ourselves. So with all apologies to all involved, let's reassess what the Deadline wrought, shall we?
Here are five clubs who might have some semblance of Deadline regret right about now.
1. Oakland Athletics
Their key deadline moves: Acquired Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes for Yoenis Cespedes and a competitive balance pick.
Easily the most-debated deal of the Deadline, so it has to be discussed here.
Look, if the A's hadn't made this trade, there's a chance we would have spent August and early September talking about the A's pitching regression, as Scott Kazmir, Sonny Gray and Jason Hammel all looked vulnerable at various points. Lester, with a 2.30 ERA in nine starts, has been everything the A's expected him to be, and that is important to point out.
What they gave up for Lester, however, was a feared -- albeit flawed -- middle-of-the-order bat in Yoenis Cespedes. He doesn't draw walks (.303 OBP at the time of the trade), but he was the one guy in that lineup that pitchers had to be particularly careful with on a consistent basis (the A's had a .635 winning percentage the last three years with Cespedes in the lineup and a .389 percentage without him). And while the end-of-August addition of Adam Dunn helped offset that absence, Dunn, who is, like so many other A's players, best-suited to a platoon role, arrived too late to save the A's plunge in run production and slide into second place. He also hasn't impacted how foes view of the A's.
"You get up on them, and you start to see some very uncharacteristic errors or little guys trying to swing big," one such opponent said. "They've got a different mindset over there."
Indeed, the A's have been a fundamentally different team in the second half, and that is not a good thing. Was there a way to add Lester without surrendering Cespedes? We don't know. Would they have remained the A's of old and won the AL West had they kept Cespedes? We'll never know. The only way the second-guessing of the Cespedes swap will cease is if the A's pitch themselves to, through and beyond the Wild Card round.
2. Seattle Mariners
Their key deadline moves: Acquired Kendrys Morales from the Twins, Chris Denorfia from the Padres and Austin Jackson from the Tigers.
The Mariners made a serious effort to land David Price and came up empty. That seems to be coming back to bite them, as the comeback king Chris Young has, perhaps understandably, looked like he's running on fumes of late (5.88 ERA over his last four starts), Hisashi Iwakuma has given up 22 runs over his last 21 1/3 innings in the heat of the Wild Card race and Roenis Elias was removed from Tuesday's start with an elbow issue. The M's might have a lot riding on the rookie James Paxton as they try to reach the postseason largely on the might of their pitching.
We also have to talk about what the M's ended up with in their search for a "big bat." Given that Cespedes was the only such bat that changed hands before July 31, one can understand why the M's had to go with more of a fill-the-gaps approach. Alas, Jackson has struggled to get on base, and Denorfia hasn't shown much power. The lack of impact wasn't totally unexpected, as the average AL outfielder at the time of the trade had a .727 OPS, while Jackson and Denorfia had .730 and .602 marks, respectively.
The real complaint here, though, is that the M's might have acquired the wrong power bat from the Twins. Morales had a .356 slugging percentage through his first 47 games with Seattle, which, also, was not totally unexpected, given that he had a .325 mark in 39 games with Minnesota. Josh Willingham, meanwhile, has been a nice and relatively cost-effective addition for the Royals since his Aug. 11 arrival, posting a .270/.378/.444 slash through 21 games. Even though he's battled a nagging groin strain in recent days, he might have been the better target for the M's.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
Their key deadline moves: Crickets.
You, me and our mothers all thought the Dodgers would add yet another front-line starter to their arsenal. Ned Colletti's family probably thought so, too.
Instead, the Dodgers did precisely the thing you wouldn't expect the $238 million behemoth to do. They held onto prized prospects Joc Pederson, Julio Urias and Corey Seager and decided Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu would be enough to get to and through October.
Hey, they might be right. And far be it from me to criticize a club -- any club -- for showing restraint and for understanding that young talent is, ultimately, the greatest currency in the game. We can't simultaneously rip the likes of the Yankees and Phillies for not thinking ahead and burn the Dodgers for not going for the throat.
Still, it was a shock to see the Deadline pass without the Dodgers landing a Price, a Lester or a Cole Hamels (who, of course, wasn't dealt). And it was uncomfortable to see Greinke deal with a tender elbow and Ryu a strained buttocks in August (I'm sure it was really uncomfortable for Ryu).
Now, Ryu is shut down for a few days with shoulder inflammation. The Dodgers are 26 games over .500 on days when Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu pitch and six games under when anybody else takes the mound. So they clearly have a lot riding on the continued health and effectiveness of those three arms, especially given that their offensive output is so inconsistent. "No. 3 starter Dan Haren and No. 4 starter Roberto Hernandez" is an iffy proposition for October.
4. Toronto Blue Jays
Their key deadline moves: Acquired Danny Valencia from the Royals.
In other words… crickets. Depending on what you read or believe, general manager Alex Anthopolous either had his hands tied financially or simply didn't get close enough on anything to actually ask ownership for more money. Whatever the case, the end result did not play too well in the Blue Jays clubhouse, and the Blue Jays didn't play too well in August, going 9-17.
That August funk ensured that when Toronto did win nine of 11 from Aug. 30 to Sept. 10, it reeked of too little, too late not just in the AL East (where they trailed by just 1 1/2 games going into August) but in the Wild Card pursuit.
Was there one trade that would have altered that equation? Debatable. But you can't tell me Lester, for instance, wouldn't have improved upon the 4.83 ERA Toronto starters posted in August, the third-highest mark in the bigs that month. The Red Sox were reportedly open to dealing Lester, a pending free agent, within the division, but it probably would have taken a package centered around a promising young pitchers Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez (maybe both) to land him. A gut-wrenching haul in the long-term, no doubt, but this is a Blue Jays team whose primary pieces -- Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Adam Lind, R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle -- are all in their 30s.
The window to win, for an organization that hasn't been to October in two decades, is right now. Toronto showed an understanding of that before the 2013 season, which made the lack of aggression at this Deadline all the more puzzling.
5. Milwaukee Brewers
Their key deadline moves: Acquired Gerardo Parra from the D-backs.
Is there anything the Brewers could have done on July 31 to prevent the NL Central collapse that followed? Frankly, it's hard for us to say.
Parra's been a solid contributor on both sides of the ball, but obviously he alone could not impact the bottom line, which is that a Brew Crew club that had a two-game lead going into August had fallen six games back of the Cardinals by Sept. 9. In a perfect world, the Brewers would have found somebody -- anybody -- to improve their woeful first-base production (especially considering Mark Reynolds had a .493 OPS in the aforementioned stretch), but the only first base candidates who wound up changing hands were the aforementioned Morales, who has been miserable, and Dunn, who realistically would have only been a marginal upgrade over Lyle Overbay, if that.
It seems, in retrospect, that the Brewers' best chance at preventing the collapse that transpired would have been to land a stopper for the starting five, which put up a 4.49 ERA from Aug. 1 to Sept. 9 and lost Matt Garza for a month. We've seen Doug Melvin go for the throat in this department before, with CC Sabathia in 2008, so it was no shock to learn he did make an effort on Price. If keeping 25-year-old Jimmy Nelson, who posted a 4.43 ERA in seven August and September starts and is now in the bullpen, was the biggest impediment to a deal, then, yes, that's a topic worth revisiting. But we're obviously not privy to the details of those conversations.
All we do know is that the Brewers stunk up the joint for much of August, and it cost them a division they once had in hand. So if they are looking back at the Deadline and wondering what they could have done differently, it would be entirely understandable.
One last note: Price has had some shaky moments for the Tigers (such as when he lost two leads and was forced out in the sixth Wednesday night), and there have also been concerns about their center-field defense after Jackson's departure and Drew Smyly's surge in Tampa Bay. But Smyly, who was shut down by the Rays last week, would have ventured into dangerous innings territory in Detroit, and the value of Price's presence is all the more apparent now that Anibal Sanchez likely won't be rejoining the rotation and Justin Verlander remains a shell of his former self. Truth is, it will be a long time before we can adequately and accurately assess that trade, just as it will be a long time before we can adequately and accurately assess everything else written above.
Regrets in this game can be frustrating, but they can also be fleeting.
Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor and MLB.com columnist. Follow him on Twitter @castrovince.