But the winners thus far are clear: the Phillies, Yankees, Dodgers, Padres and Rangers all strengthened themselves for stretch runs at division titles or Wild Card berths. As of Sunday, all five either led their respective divisions or are in the playoff hunt.
Six months after being sellers, the Padres became buyers as first-year general manager Jed Hoyer obtained Miguel Tejada from the Orioles and Ryan Ludwick from the Cardinals.
So did the Yankees, who have the most 2010 wins (66), the highest player payroll ($213 million) and the most World Series titles (27) while generating the most local revenue (upwards of $400 million) of any team in baseball.
The Yanks acquired Lance Berkman from the Astros and Austin Kearns and Kerry Wood from the Indians. And when Andy Pettitte's strained groin heals sufficiently for him to return from the disabled list, they will have an experienced Major League-caliber player inhabiting every spot on the 25-man roster, as they strive to repeat last year's World Series victory.
"You measure for your team needs," Yanks general manager Brian Cashman said. "As I approached the Deadline, I was looking to see if I could secure players that were upgrades over what we currently had. We feel that all of these [trades] do that.
"We wanted to protect the farm system to the highest levels we could, and I think we've done that. We wanted to improve our club, and I think we've done that. We did a lot of hard work in terms of assessing who was available in the marketplace and what were the price tags attached to those players."
What effect this all may have on the American League East race is not so subtle.
The Rays, just one game behind the Yanks and in the AL Wild Card lead after Sunday's action, were able to acquire reliever Chad Qualls from the D-backs at the Deadline but made no other additions.
Qualls was an effective closer last season until he dislocated his left knee on a freak play to end a game at Chase Field. The right-hander, with an 8.29 ERA, four losses and four blown save opportunities this season, didn't go bad overnight. Having undergone serious knee surgery in September, he may have worked his way back too soon. At times this season, scouts have said he's had problems planting his front leg as he followed through toward the plate.
The Red Sox, languishing 6 1/2 games back, weren't big buyers, either, getting Minor League catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia from the Rangers. Saltalamacchia is a .244 hitter with 11 homers and 33 RBIs in the Minors this season.
The Red Sox have been thunderstruck by an uncommon rash of injuries to key players. But the fact is, their season could be determined for good next weekend at Yankee Stadium during a four-game series against their arch rivals. Boston needs to win at least three of those four games.
The Rays, a highly talented team with a $73 million payroll, may watch their window close after this season, when stars like left fielder Carl Crawford, first baseman Carlos Pena and closer Rafael Soriano can all opt for free agency. A World Series loser two years ago to the Phillies, the time for Tampa Bay is now.
"We've talked about this a lot," Rays manager Joe Maddon said recently. "Look, Carl and Carlos are terrific players. But I really do believe that if those guys go away, it's not going to make us a lesser team. We're still going to be a contender. We'll just have younger guys in those spots making younger-guy-type of mistakes. Do I want to keep those guys? Absolutely. But this is the way we're going to be doing things here for years to come."
The most interesting phenomenon this trade season has to be the Rangers, whose ownership situation has been in flux for more than a year and are currently in bankruptcy. Despite this, they've played division-leading baseball, and with a $65 million player payroll, to boot.
Free agency and age finally caught up with the perennial AL West-winning Angels, who are not the same team sans Francisco Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, Chone Figgins and John Lackey. The Rangers ran out to a 4 1/2-game lead at the All-Star break and have nearly doubled it since then.
Thus, acquiring Cliff Lee from the Mariners, Bengie Molina from the Giants, Christian Guzman from the Nationals and Jorge Cantu from the Marlins only strengthened the Rangers' resolve to win their first division title since 1999 and fourth in club history. Texas has never been to the AL Championship Series, much less the World Series.
"I think we're all excited the team is doing what it can to improve," third baseman Michael Young said. "Obviously, Cliff and Bengie have already made a huge impact on this team. The other two guys, I've played against them. Both are good players and will be good additions to the team."
It is one of the strange anomalies of the past two trade seasons that three of the top veteran pitchers -- Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt -- have all gone through the Phillies organization. Lee was obtained at the 2009 Deadline from the Indians and then was flipped last offseason to the Mariners after the Phils traded for Halladay. Oswalt just came over from Houston.
The Phillies traded out a parcel of Minor Leaguers and prospects in an attempt to match 2008 and win another World Series. Despite Lee's fine pitching last postseason, they lost to the Yankees in six games. It makes one wonder why they simply didn't hold on to Lee last winter. Oswalt will instead be asked to shoulder that load.
"We tried to do what we can to get back to the World Series and win it," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We think we acquired one of the premier starting pitchers in baseball. To add Roy Oswalt to Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton, as well as Kyle Kendrick, I think we give our staff one of the best rotations in baseball."
The Padres and the Dodgers were the big dealers in the National League West, while the Rockies and Giants basically stood pat. The Padres, back in the hunt for the National League West title after two down seasons, answered a need for more offense by obtaining a veteran infielder in Tejada, and Ludwick, an outfielder who has hit 70 homers since 2008. The Padres added to a $37.7 million payroll, by far the lowest of any of the playoff contenders.
The Dodgers, at $102 million, have been looking for a regular second baseman and legitimate fifth starter since training camp and took care of both in one swipe by obtaining Ryan Theriot and Ted Lilly from the Cubs. They also added Scott Podsednik for insurance help in the outfield.
The Dodgers entered Sunday tied with the Rockies, trailing the Padres by seven games and the Giants by 5 1/2. Asked if he thought the new acquisitions would be enough to close that gap, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said, "I do, based on our track record and the records of the players we have here and the players we've added."
Colletti will learn immediately how much of a difference his three new players might make. On Monday night, the Padres open a four-game series at Dodger Stadium, as we spin into the final nine weeks of the season.